Why there's more to fly fishing than meets the eye
I've been talking about the difference between reactive living and intentional living for some time now. If this is your first time reading the Downstream blog, well, scroll back to previous posts and you'll see plenty on the upside of living intentionally vs reactively. You've also (or can also) read our theories on escapism vs being clear, present, and mindful. Escapism = reactive living. Mindfulness = intentional living. I'm not at all arguing against the simple notion that ditching your normal, everyday routine for a day or two or a whole weekend of play. There's such a positive that comes from breaking the cycle. All I'm saying is, if this is how you're showing up in your pursuit of nature, you're only reaping a small portion of the benefits.
Meditation is a practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.
When picturing meditation, most will conjure up images of a small gray-bearded man near the river in Kolkata... legs crossed in the "quarter lotus" pose... hands resting on the knees, palms up, thumbs and forefingers touching at the tips. This is not wrong, it's just a small snippet of the whole picture though.
Re-read the above definition. Think about how you feel when you're standing in the water, shin deep, the very real force/pressure/flow of the water on your legs, and nothing else in the world matters but you, the current, the rhythm of the cast, and the drift of the fly (no matter the speed or stillness of the water). When you are truly in the zone, when you are truly fly fishing, you have moved outside of your ego. You have moved into a natural state of being. You are meditating.
Thought begins to fall away. Practice takes over. Even those who are not as practiced in fly fishing, those who are just learning or continuing to hone their skills...this is still meditation. It's no different that when practicing meditation in the traditional sense. At first, your mind will wander... and often. It's harder than it looks and sounds and seems like it should be. But when you fall out of the present/
mindfulness of traditional meditation and the mind begins to chatter, you simply catch it... re-adjust... and get back to the practice. Over time, it gets easier. You become proficient. You can enter meditation easily and for prolonged periods.
Fly fishing is the same. It takes practice at first. You'll mess up. When you do, you pause... clear your head... start again. With time it becomes second nature. When this happens, you'll be able to turn off the mental chatter and become very present in the place, in the moment, in the rhythm of the natural settings around you.
It's not really hard to see now how fly fishing should be, can be, and is a meditative practice. This is why I fly fish. This is why, even as a kid, I was drawn into the mystique of the pursuit. I started off as a spin fisherman at a very young age. I have friends who spin fish. I have friends who bait fish. That is their journey. It is not for me. I am not out there to simply catch fish. I am out there, not simply to escape, but to understand myself better. I am out there because nature, the wilderness, the water, they are in my blood. I am out there to truly see and feel the very real power and energy of the world in which we live. The world that we can easily take for granted living in such a removed state with high-rise buildings, instant gratification, social media, fast food, etc, etc, etc. I am out there because it is my meditation.
Friends, I implore you... meditation is one of the most essential ingredients I've found for living a more mindful, more clear, more joyful life. In such an age of information I still find it hard to believe that some will still resist something new like meditation because it's outside their norm... because it sounds "foreign" and "hokey." There is so much science to back up the practice of meditation. If you're fly fishing, well, you're already meditating whether you were aware or not.
We live our life through our emotions. We see them as reality. In practicing mindful fly fishing* and meditation, I can say with confidence that I am able to choose higher emotions than I used to be able to. I am able to clear the mental clutter and feel more purposeful, more mindful in my every day. It doesn't matter whether I'm wading the river or doing my morning routine at home before a work day. Doubling down has an exponential effect.
Speaking of doubling down, bring a yoga mat next time you go fishing, camping or hiking. If you don't have one, no worries...just find a soft spot to sit. Begin a meditation practice (and even follow it with a yoga session) right then and there. Creek-side, beach-side, mountain-side, fire-side... no matter. If you're a reader of these blogs I'll assume you already find great beauty, power, and connection in nature. So the simple act of adding in a traditional meditation session will bring such a surge of clarity and joy, you just might get goosebumps. I feel all tingly just thinking about it!
As always, thanks for your continued support. It is our mission to help you feel a stronger sense of happiness, purpose, and connection through your love of nature.
*meaning I am still out there to have fun but I don't bring the noise and chatter of work, relationships, hardships, to do lists with me in my head... rather I spend my time being present in the place and connecting to the beauty that is all around me
Coming Up: Fly Fishing and Yoga, and revisiting the Story of How and Why Downstream Came Into Being.