Why Fish for Zen? #2: Practicing Patience


©2022 Cari Ray, The Fisher of Zen

I firmly believe that fly fishing within a context of mindfulness practice is immeasurably beneficial for mind, body, & spirit. Sometimes by offering low-hanging fruit like fly casting and being in nature. Sometimes by offering situations that border on tedious or frustrating, presenting us with the choice to get bogged down or to rise above. Like most healthy choices, it gets easier with practice. In the “Why Fish for Zen?” series, I’ll highlight just a few of the opportunities offered by the pursuit of fly fishing that give you a chance at that sort of mindfulness “practice” and help you become more balanced and centered in your daily life. Mastery is never about your relationship to anyone or anything else, it’s always between you and you.

It was the knot-tying portion of one of my beginner workshops. I think it was Lefty’s Loop in this case. I demonstrate each step of the knot and wait until everyone else completes it before moving to the next. All but one student was with me, and as he struggled and restarted the step several times his frustration was palpable.

Learning fishing knots at a “Try The Fly” Clinic

As I always do, I had told the class that I had pretty much a bottomless pit of patience on their behalf, so it wasn’t me he was worried about. It was his own lack of patience with himself that he was wrestling with…along with likely other internal messages he was making up about being the last to complete it and pondering what everyone must think of him. 

“Hey,” I said gently, “Look at me. Now breathe with me. That’s right. We’re not in a hurry here. We’re all sitting under a shade tree next to a crystal clear lake on a beautiful Spring afternoon in Texas with nothing on the agenda but being here. Now, let’s go through that step together. Slowly.” In that very moment I watched his shoulders drop, his eyes soften, and the redness in his cheeks begin to fade.

Much of our frustration in life isn’t about “what is,” it’s about what we tell ourselves about what is. In fly fishing, there will always be something new to learn. Some of those skills are easier than others. When faced with a particularly frustrating “other,” we can use it as an opportunity to change our internal narrative and cut ourselves some much-needed slack. We need only choose it.

I had someone tell me the other day that they just didn’t have the patience for fly fishing. I say that sounds like as good a reason as any to take it up.

To listen to the whole series, check out our podcast:
“A MOVING MEDITATION: Fly Fishing & Mental Health”

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