Tips for Fishing and Living # 60

Tip #60:

“There will be days when the fishing is better than one’s most optimistic forecast, others when it is far worse.  Either is a gain over just staying home.”

                                                                Roderick Haig-Brown, Fisherman’s Spring, 1951

While I rarely buy lotto tickets, the folks who sell them are correct to say “you can’t win if you don’t play.” This thought has universal application: you can’t enjoy the sweetness of life unless you engage in life. I don’t mean going about and getting more and more stuff. I’m talking about really engaging – engaging in ways that light you up so that you cannot wait to get out of bed each morning.

It isn’t simply a matter of doing only what is joyful and pleasurable either. I’m describing tuning into what your purpose in life is and following this path wherever it leads you. But before we can do this we must – and I know I’m becoming a broken record – slow our lives down to become intentional and live with a greater clarity of purpose.

All of our thoughts have energy. What this means is that scattered or negative or out-of-control thoughts produce out-of-control energy. The opposite happens with managed or channeled thoughts, producing controlled and managed energy.

Here’s a bit on negative and out-of-controlled thoughts. Whenever we are:

  • Trying to gain control of the unknown by dwelling on and attempting to guess what will happen next.
  • Wrestling with and obsessing about past actions.
  • Busying one’s mind with problems from work or home or with any negative thoughts without allowing positive or hopeful possibilities to also enter into our thinking.

Life is challenging. Sometimes it is pretty nice and lovely and sometimes it is bitter and down-right crappy. Slowing down and meditating enough, or jogging enough, or eating perfect food will not make one’s life perfect. We cannot control life and if we try to do this it becomes the kiss of death.

But slowing down does help us to experience life fully regardless of how life happens to be showing up, and to enter into our life with awareness. Slowing down and doing nothing for a while saves us the energy that otherwise gets lost from negative and out-of-control thinking.  Unfortunately we have learned to do out-of-control thinking automatically.

Slowing down also helps us biologically. We can get that blood pressure to drop by breathing slowing and calming down. And here’s another benefit that’s especially valuable at this present time of the Covid-19 pandemic, slowing down strengthens our immune system. Getting anxious only exacerbates our health problems. Remaining calm aids our body to do what it is designed to do – to fight off infections and alert us to areas we need to address.

Then there’s all the emotional benefits that result from stopping our reactivity that comes from excessive worry, anxiety and fear. The possibility for tapping into the energy we are no longer wasting can provide us with new clarity, surges of energy, and new insight and creativity for all sorts of matters. We do not have to be simply thrown by the various circumstances of our lives; instead we have a capacity to respond to the circumstances. Often this is proves to be our saving grace.

Perhaps you’ve heard or said the serenity prayer:

Lord, give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Buddhists have another word for serenity: Mindfulness. We need to develop a capacity to empty our mind due to the fact that what we too often do is just the opposite. Perhaps a better word would be mindlessness. We are constantly thinking thoughts, thinking thoughts, thinking thoughts. While we are doing this thinking we end up believing that WE ARE OUR THOUGHTS. We are not. Rather we simply have thoughts. There is me and there are my thoughts; but I am not my thoughts. This is critical to breaking out of old unhelpful automatic patterns.  

To go further: whenever we think a thought without questioning if this thought is true or accurate, and most often we then are prone to feel a certain way as a result of this unquestioned thought. We don’t recognize how this automatic way of thinking ends up running our life. Since our thoughts directly affect our feelings, and our feelings directly affect our behaviors, we end up in places that are not always the best.

As an example: Say I think my boss is going to yell at me today for what I did or didn’t do yesterday. This thought will likely cause me to feel weary or afraid. When I feel weary or afraid I may then decide I should stay home and not go to work. I might as well just pull the sheets up over my head and remain in bed for the day. All of this because I have unquestioned thoughts.

Perhaps this seems bit too dramatic, but you get the idea. In his book, Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life, author Brian Tracy, tells us “You become what you think about most of the time.” He goes on to encourage the reader to consider that “we are not what we think we are, but what we think, we are.”  Give this distinction I moment to sink in.

I’m both excited and somewhat anxious by the demonstrations of late to stand up to confront the on-going systemic racism within our nation. I am excited because I see many more people than ever coming together to make a difference. I hope and pray we are truly at a turning point – a tipping point – and that we are committed to rout out racism in our Selves, our institutions, and Society at large. But here’s the thing; we cannot just be against racism. We must also be FOR something different – all those things that are the opposite of racism and social injustice. Things like being for: equality, fairness, civility, goodness, impartiality, Justice for All. How about love of all fellow humankind?

Saint Teresa of Calcutta was known to say she would never attend a war protest. She would, however, go to peace rallies. She knew how important it is regarding what we focus upon and how this makes for an immensely different outcome.

There are some who are quite worried by people coming together and standing up united for what they want. And this should be worrisome. For too long some leaders have used every conceivable method to divide people rather than unite them. They divide people in order to control. Right now people are uniting and there is great power in such uniting. Each of us does need to first look within ourselves and recognize that racism has infected us all on some level and we need to look at how we carry this transmitted distortion around with us. One cannot say “there is racism within our society but it doesn’t affect me.” It has to affect everyone. The current public discord and the marches are hopeful beginnings to generate a much needed vaccine for this social pandemic.

Others have called racism a pandemic, as well, as it has been a chronic condition sadly ignore and/or tolerated. Right now more and more people are becoming intolerant and this is a very good thing. A great person is very hard on him/herself. A small person is hard on others. This gets us to thoughts about who we each are. All of us are created by our God and each one of us is made in God’s image. We are all images – expressions – of the Creator.

Slowing down helps us to find within our hearts a “purity” that is founded upon God’s mercy and kindness; God’s very identity as Love is the task for us to embrace. This purity is already embedded within each of us. It mostly gets hidden through our self-centeredness and deluded images we have of ourselves, plus all our exaggerated estimates of our own capacities. These “sins” cause us to be blinded and unable to obey God’s will as it comes to us in the difficult demands of life with its exacting truth. This is a fundamental problem we must confront in order to move forward.

To realize our true identities as images of God requires a purification of our desires and an honest assessment of our inability to see our deepest selves with clarity. We become transformed when we come to see it is our sin and illusion that has keeps our will from being one with God’s will.

I trust we are going to move the bar toward a more just society. We will not and cannot make this into a quick and total fix. We will – together – make some immediate gains; hopefully important and large gains. But we must commit toward continual growth and keep moving forward. To do any of this we’ll each need to realize that our true identity lies hidden in God’s call to our freedom, and to our response to him. Thus we’ll then use our freedom to love with full responsibility and authenticity, by directing our love to the personal reality of our neighbors, and by embracing God’s will in its mystery.

We are going to make some new mistakes and some new failures. This will either stop us in our tracks by these setbacks, or we’ll get up once more, and try again. “Fall down seven; get up eight.” And it’s going be a whole lot easier if we reach out and help one another on goingly to stand back up again.