I spent the first 6 years of “official” adulthood on Active Duty with the United States Navy where I trained as a Hospital Corpsman. I think back to those years with an awe and respect for myself and the men and women I served beside. In one of these moments of nostalgia, I began to think about the large Naval vessels that patrol the open seas across the globe.
As I walked down memory lane I began to think about the ships and their anchors and an idea came to me, so I dug out my old “Bluejacket’s Manual”, a dog-eared paperback book I had since Boot Camp. The Bluejacket’s Manual is a handbook that is issued to all United States Navy enlisted personnel and it covers basic naval procedures (and a lot more).
I was amazed at how much I had remembered from so long ago, and I soon found what I was seeking: Navy parlance on a ship’s chain and anchor. Although I could not have recalled this from cold memory, I quickly reacquainted myself with the statistics on links (each one weighs 350 lbs), fathoms (a fathom is ~6 feet long) and shots (a shot is comprised of 57 links and is ~15 fathoms long).
Each shot is stamped with an identifying serial number – it “belongs” to a specific anchor chain on a specified ship. Anchors on larger ships weigh 60,000 lbs and despite popular belief, it is the the length of the anchor chain lying on the seabed that anchors the ship, and not the anchor device itself. How much chain needs to be laid out to anchor a ship? This is determined based on the depth of the water you’re in: the amount of chain to put down should be equivalent to around 5-times the depth of the water.
A ship that is anchored is not underway; it’s not moving forward (or backward). It is staying where that anchor chain has been laid. The sea is constantly moving, and a ship will circle the anchor if only 1 is laid, so depending on the captain’s preference and other factors, 2 anchors may be dropped – 1 from each side of the foc’sle to prevent this rotation.
The engineering and design of modern day anchors and chains make it rare that one would get stuck under something at the bottom of the sea and need to be cut loose, but there’s even a contingency for those circumstances: the chain is dropped from the ship and a buoy is set with the coordinates so that a salvage team can come pick it up at a later time.
So what does any of this have to do with spirituality?
How often have you felt “stuck” in your life – not moving backwards, necessarily, but also not making the progress you had hoped would be yours at this point in time? I’ve been there, and I suspect that many of you have, too – anchoredsomewhere that we don’t want to be, and while we can feel the sea of life moving around us, we’re rotating around stuck to our chain. What we need to remember is that like these US Navy links in a ship’s anchor chain, we “own” the links in those long anchor chains that are keeping us stuck.
We have forged the chains with our beliefs in lack and limitation; in what we see as evidence (the “what is”) instead of our desired state. Many of us have fathom after fathom of chain links; beliefs that are keeping us anchored in place, unable to move forward. If we catch ourselves soon enough we can sometimes pull up the chain and anchor by refining our perspective, and redirecting our thoughts. At other times, we need to let the entire anchor and chain loose. Interestingly, on a US Navy ship, letting this go can be very dangerous if unchecked as the large chain can gain momentum and become an uncontrolled heavy weapon, whipping around on the inside of the foc’sle, causing serious damage and injury to the sailors in the vicinity. Doesn’t it feel dangerous when we’re letting go of thought patterns, and paradigms that we’ve held on to for years, perhaps even decades?
Regular spiritual practice, including meditation, along with examination of our strongly-held beliefs is the best preventive maintenance we can do on our spiritual lives to make sure that we’re not forging chains stamped with our serial number to lay heavy on the seabed of life, keeping us stuck where we are, unable to move forward.
When we recognize the links of thoughts and belief that we have forged, we must be willing to do the heavy lifting and pull up that anchor and heavy chain; reexamining those beliefs and perpetual, habitual thought patterns that are keeping us stuck. We may even need to make the hard decision to let go of this anchor chain, and move on. We’ll need to replace it since a ship cannot go underway without anchoring equipment, but with new knowledge and a more enlightened perspective we can forge a new anchor and chain with thought patterns and beliefs that support us, and allow us to move forward in life, accepting our Good and growing in new ways.
We need to be patient with ourselves, too. In the same way that the depth of the sea determines how much chain is needed to anchor a US Navy ship, if we’ve been thinking one way for many years, we’re going to need to give ourselves some time to replace old thought patterns with new ones. Wayne Dyer’s “change your thinking, change your life” is a simple statement, but the process is not easy. There’s no magic wand or special pill that can immediately reverse years of thinking and thought patterns. And like those large US Navy vessels that can’t turn on a dime in the middle of the sea, and charge full-speed ahead on a moment’s notice, our transformation is a process and not a point in time.
The good news is that once we pull up or cut loose the chains of limited beliefs, replacing them with the foundations of right thought, we can chart our course forward into better seas, choosing when and where to anchor with our new foundations of belief – forged in possibility, potential and positive thought.
If you feel stuck, examine your beliefs, your thought patterns and behaviors. Make the decision to start pulling up that chain, and Anchors Aweigh – new adventures are waiting on the open sea of life!