In Western astrology, the first house is the most important House. It’s the house where your Ascendant is found, and the planet which rules your first house is often called your “chart ruler.” It marks the hour of your birth, and determines the placement of every other house in your chart. It represents you as an individual, and it sets the stage for all of the other elements in your life.
Your motivations, your objectives, and the overall course of your life are all signified either by the planets in your first house, or by the planet which rules it. Some astrologers have even said that the first house determines your physical appearance, right down to your height.
Perhaps more interesting, though, is that your first house is also sometimes called “the ship that you sail in.”
This idea of your body or your “self” as a sea-faring vessel is an old one, with nautical comparisons stretching back at least as far as Hellenistic times. One of the titles for this house in Greek can be translated as “helm.”
You can also see this “self as boat, life as ocean” metaphor outside of astrology. You might have heard about the “Breton Fisherman’s Prayer,” which United States President John F. Kennedy had on a plaque which he kept on his desk in the Oval Office.
“Oh God, thy sea is so great and my boat is so small.”
It’s a powerful image for a powerful metaphor, and one worth exploring with a bit of meditation.
The Captain at Sea Meditation
This meditation is designed to realize and use this nautical connection between yourself and a ship at sea. It is very easy to follow, and should only take a few minutes to get into. Once you’ve become familiar with it, though, it can be a powerful tool for navigating life’s many storms.
To get started, find a relatively quiet, comfortable place to sit or lay down. You should feel at ease, with your back straight, but otherwise there are no real requirements for your posture. Just make sure that when you breathe, you are able to completely fill and empty your lungs. Slouching can make that difficult. If you want to listen to some sort of “white noise” or other audio, a good idea might be a track containing sounds of the ocean. It’s not strictly necessary, though.
Once you’re comfortable, and are sure you won’t be disturbed for a few minutes, you can begin.
Close your eyes and take a long, slow, deep breath. Then, exhale, long and slow, letting your body relax.
Do this again, taking in another slow, deep breath and letting it out. As you exhale, feel the tension leave your muscles.
Pay particular attention to the muscles of your face. Let the area around your eyes relax. Feel the tension around your cheeks and your jaw release.
Keep breathing and keep feeling more and more relaxed. Your neck muscles are becoming looser, your shoulders are easing down, your arms are heavy and soft like clay.
Breathe in, slowly and deeply. Exhale, slowly and fully. Until your entire body is fully relaxed, heavy, and at ease.
Let yourself breathe normally, now. Calm, relaxing breaths. And focus on the sensation it gives you. The rising sensation as you inhale, the falling sensation as you exhale. Breathing in, breathing out. Let the gentle rising and falling of your breath become the gentle rising and falling of your body.
Feel this sensation for a minute or two, this rising and falling, then allow your mind’s eye to take in your surroundings.
Fading in, you begin to see details. Wood, ropes, masts, and sails.
You are standing on the deck of a tall ship—a first rate ship of the line, of the sort which ruled the seas during the age of sail. Masts that were the trunks of tall, straight trees stand against the sky, immense sails which catch the wind suspended and stretched upon them. A sturdy hull and decks which have born uncountable sailors, and weathered hurricanes of untold force, lay beneath your feet.
Look all around you at the ship, its rigging, and its crew. You are the captain here, ruler of this vessel upon the sea, and all that you survey is for you, and answers to you alone.
Stand here for a while, feeling the gentle rise and fall of this ship, the ship in which you sail, and let its every detail become fixed in your mind.
The wheel, the rudder, the sails and rigging. What sort of flag are you flying? What sort of figurehead is on the bow
What is your ship’s name?
Who are the crew? What do they look like? What are their names? Which responsibilities does each one have? Who swabs the deck? Who repairs the sails? Who is your “first mate?”
You are only just now realizing this ship exists, so don’t worry if you can’t get every detail this time. You can always return again. Now that you know it’s here, you can see the ship whenever you want. And you can always choose to return from it when you want, confident that both the ship and its crew will carry out your orders and intentions just as you command.
Remember, though, that each member of your crew possesses their own wisdom. They each have their own set of skills and their own experiences, which may, of course, be your own experiences and wisdom, just seen in their proper perspective—or perhaps they are more.
Your first mate has been at sea for a long time, and could tell you many tales and give you excellent advice.
Your navigator knows the sea well, and can read any chart or map.
In your captain’s quarters are your ship’s logs, diaries, and many secrets. Maps to buried treasure? Letters from lost loved ones? Powerful artifacts found and collected on your previous journeys?
The ship is yours.
The ship is you.
It holds everything you need and only what you wish.
After you have explored, begin to more deeply feel that gentle rising and falling of the sea.
The details of the ship begin to slowly fade as you begin to realize that rising and falling is the rising and falling of your breath.
Slowly, taking as much time as you need, allow yourself to come back to that comfortable, quiet place where you started your journey. Breathe in, breathe out, slowly and deeply. Feel yourself return to your body, still fully relaxed and at peace.
Do not rush, but only once you a ready, open your eyes.
Using this meditation
I really enjoy this meditation and find it immensely useful when I feel myself “adrift” or “battered by storms.”
If you find yourself feeling “stuck” or without energy or motivation, slip on board and take stock of the situation. Are your sails tattered? Is the rigging failing? Has your ship sailed into a “dead calm?” Talk to your first mate and get the crew moving.
Feeling overwhelmed by a dozen different tasks hitting you all at once? Batten down the hatches, get together with your navigator, and come up with a fresh course to see you through.
Unsure what to do, or looking for a bit of inspiration or advice? Retire to your captain’s quarters and read over some “letters from home,” or maybe take a look through all those chests and crates you’ve been collecting down in the hold. Maybe there’s a strange idol that could use some investigating.
The sea may be great, and your ship may be small, but once you get to know it and its crew, it’ll take you anywhere.