Five Went To Sea and Had a Great Adventure!

Five Go To Sea

Kay Laurence has just announced that registration is now open for the 2015 Five Go To Sea Conference Cruise. This time we’ll be sailing to Alaska. Visit for more information on next year’s cruise.

After our Caribbean adventure in April of 2014 I wrote a series of posts for my on-line course detailing some of the presentations.  I’ll share some of the cruise gems here, beginning with a description of the ship and the overall cruise experience.

Five Went To Sea and Had a Great Adventure!

I’m back from the Five Go To Sea conference/cruise/adventure.  I’m not sure what to call it.  I think I’ll just settle for amazing!  That describes it the best.

I’m not sure where to begin or what to include in this report.  Going into the cruise I didn’t know what to expect.  I knew cruise ships were enormous, but the Celebrity ship we were on dwarfed anything I had imagined.  I looked up its dimensions.  It’s 127 feet wide and 1047 feet long.  Some people think in terms of football fields.  I translate dimensions into riding arenas.  The ship is twice the width of my indoor arena and more than eight times as long!  Now take those dimensions and stack up 14 floors of guest accommodations, restaurants, theaters, pools, meeting rooms, dance floors, lounges, spas and all the other amenities a cruise ship has to offer, and you’ll begin to get a sense of the size of the ship.  And however big it is from the ground floor up, there’s that much again below to accommodate the crew, kitchens, engines, fuel, water, food storage and everything else that it takes to provide for well over 4,000 people.  My barn looks like a big building sitting by itself on the side of a hill, but it would be easily swallowed up inside the belly of the Reflection.

I know heading into the cruise many people were concerned about being seasick. I can now tell you that yes, you do feel the pitch and roll of the ocean.  Were people sea sick?  On the first day some people were definitely feeling a bit queasy.  The experienced travelers like Ken Ramirez had taken precautions and were wearing motion sickness patches.

What did I experience? I can now say that I loved being out on the open ocean.  Was the rolling of the ship fun?  Absolutely! I loved it!  It felt like riding!  I might have a different tale to tell if we’d been crossing the north Atlantic in a winter gale, but I loved the rolling of the ship.  When you ride, you let the motion of the horse take you.  It’s not about blocking or keeping yourself rigid.  You let your joints follow the forward and up of the horse’s back. The ship was like that.

There’s an exercise I teach called the “four points on the bottom of your feet”.  It’s a Feldenkrais exercise.  You begin by noticing how you move, how you shift your balance as you roll around the four points on the bottom of your feet (inside toe, outside toe, outside heel, inside heel).  How do you shift your balance forward and back, side to side?  How do you send and receive these shifts in balance?

On the first day of the conference I gave a talk that I titled “Questions”.  It was an amalgam of several other talks I’ve given this year.  It included several short video clips that sum up beautifully how I work with horses.  It began with a clip from Mia Segal, a Feldenkrais practitioner.  In it she talks about how she asks questions through her hands.  When she’s working with someone, she doesn’t provide the answers.  She doesn’t tell the person what to do – bend your knees, turn your head this way or that.  Instead she asks questions – how does this feel under my hands?  Where does the movement begin?  Where does it stop?  How does it stop?

In the “Four Points” exercise you are asking those questions of yourself.  Where does the movement begin?  Where does it stop? What blocks it?  What could I release, what could I find that would let me flow more easily around the four points on the bottom of my feet?

The roll of the ship let me explore those questions.  I loved the feel.  The ship would pitch to the side and I would roll with it, catching my balance at the top of the swell and rolling down with it.  I kept thinking how boring it was going to be to be back on land that didn’t roll and sway under my feet.  I loved “riding” the ship.

I suspect the people who were feeling a little “green around the gills” were wishing I would stop grinning like a Cheshire cat each time the ship pitched up over a wave.  There’s nothing so annoying as someone who is having a good time when you’re feeling miserable – especially when what is making you feel sick is the very thing they are laughing about.

I do think it is a great example of we create our own reality.  I went into the cruise expecting to have a great adventure.  I could have stiffened against the pitch of the ship and made myself miserably sick.  Instead I flowed with it and had a grand time “riding”.

I love exploring balance.  On that first day at sea I had a hard time staying balanced.  I could roll around the four points just fine, but I couldn’t stand with my feet together.  I had to keep stepping out wider to catch my balance. There was also no walking a straight line down the endlessly long corridors back to my room.  I swayed from wall to wall looking like I’d just downed a bottle of Caribbean rum.   But a couple of days later, not only could I stand feet together, so could everyone else.  I led the group through the beginning steps of learning to stand balanced over your feet.  On day one this would have been a challenge for all of us.  But on day three of the conference everyone had gained sea legs.

We do create our own reality.  Kay Laurence discovered she likes cruises, so she created this conference cruise to celebrate her 60th birthday.  I’m very glad she did and that she included me as one of the presenters.  It was such good fun, and such a great conference.

Unlike other conferences we didn’t have a set agenda with program titles announced ahead of time.  Instead each of us managed one of the four conference days.  We set the days up in a way that suited our style of teaching.  Every day included formal presentations, but there was also time for questions and discussions.  We each had talks that the others had given that we wanted to hear again.  On the day I managed, I told Jesús I was going to put him to work.  I wanted to hear his talks on resurgence and negative reinforcement again.

I’m not even going to try in this one report to go through all the programs that were presented.  That would make it one of those impossibly long posts that everyone wants to read, but no one really has the time to.  Instead over the coming days I’ll given you some of the “Five Go To Sea” gems, some of the highlights of the presentations, discussions and adventures.

I will just share this.  Going into the cruise the four of us weren’t sure what we were getting ourselves into.  Would a conference work on a cruise ship?  Would the four of us work well together as presenters?  Was it something we felt was productive and worth doing?

On the sixth night of the cruise Kay, Ken, Jesús, and I had dinner together.  Kay asked the question – should we do it again?  The answer was an unhesitating and unanimous “yes”.  We each voiced the same thing.  We would feel very sad if we thought this was the only time we would have a conference like this.  So start practicing the “four points on the bottom of your feet”.  We are planning another “Five Go To Sea” adventure for August 2015.  This time the cruise will take us up the Alaska coastline through some spectacular scenery.  Kay has just announced that the registration is open.  Visit for details, and come be one of the Five going to Sea in 2015!

Alexandra Kurland