How Fly Fishing Can Help You Meditate
By Berni Kozlowski, RYT-200, Certified Meditation Coach
You probably know how to make a delicate presentation when you cast, to approach a stream with patience, and to match the hatch when picking your fly. And you probably understand the mind-body connection of a fly fishing practice, but what you might not know is how you can use a simple and easy 10-minute vision meditation to enhance that connection.
I’m a meditation coach and fisherwoman, and when I was learning to fly fish, I struggled with the technique because I was too tense and not very patient. With some coaching, I learned the value of patience, of being more relaxed in my body, and being more fully present to the experience.
Meditation was the same way. I was focusing really hard on something that was boring and felt hard to do. It didn’t feel natural because it wasn’t. I struggled with racing thoughts and the idea of sitting cross-legged on the floor, and I spent most of my meditation time wondering “Am I doing this right?”
I learned that my natural meditative state was outdoors, so why not use that same approach to my meditation practice no matter where I was. According to the Yoga Journal, “There’s nothing like nature to bring you back to your self and connect you to your senses.”
One of my favorite natural meditative moments happened on a fly-fishing trip on the San Juan River in a remote corner of New Mexico. I listened to the water flowing, felt the warmth of the sun on my face, and watched for the slightest of movements on my line. I was a beginner and was learning to sync my movements so I could cast the line so it unfurled just so.
The guide helped me to read the water and feel the subtle tug on my line. The urge to muscle the fish was strong, but thankfully, the guide walked me through having soft hands and being patient and I was able to land a beautiful trout.
Why is Fly Fishing a Natural Meditation?
Do you feel truly present to nature and life when you are fishing? You are gently engaged in the act and art of fishing and you don’t worry about solving or fixing anything that may arise in your mind. It can wait. You are fully present.
What if you could take that same soft awareness to your meditation practice? The trick is to use your senses. People that meditate using their senses say it makes their practice feel inviting and delightful.
You can build a practice that is based on something that you love, calling you back again and again. The secret is to find a meditation technique or two that you simply LOVE. Meditating with sensory awareness builds mindfulness and your ability to sustain attention on something.
Busting a Meditation Myth
There’s a myth that meditation is hard work.
That’s not quite true.
In fact, there are several key principles to getting the most out of your meditation without making it feel like hard work, using lessons learned from fishing.
#1: Practice your technique. Find a meditation technique that you love and practice it. The more you practice, the deeper the experience becomes. Your relationship with nature and yourself deepens the more practice both fly fishing and meditation.
#2: Individualize your practice. Time, weather, and water conditions affect which fly works best. What you need in meditation will vary depending on your life at that moment. Meditate in a way that suits you, your body, and your personality. Depending on the day, you might need to incorporate breathing, or gratitude, or movement into your meditation.
#3: Develop a soft touch. When you have a death grip on your rod, fishing can be challenging. When you try a technique in meditation that worked for someone else but that you find challenging, you’ll struggle. Find a meditative technique that requires almost no effort, and you are more likely to keep coming back.
Especially this winter, when you are trying to beat Holiday Season Stress by taking deep breaths, eating better, and exercising more, you might want to consider finally adding a meditation practice to your self-care toolkit.
Meditation is one way to have less stress, thereby reducing the chance of cancer recurrence according to Johns Hopkins.
You might not be able to fly fish every day but you can meditate every day, using sensory opportunities as easy gateways into relaxation and greater awareness.
Try This Vision Meditation
So, how do you actually do that? Well…it’s simpler than you might think. Keep on reading, and then give it a try with this free audio meditation download.
Just like fly fishing, it’s important to get some coaching when you start out with meditation. So, let me walk you through a sample sensory meditation.
Wherever you are right now, say to yourself “I am aware of seeing.” Let go of control and let your eyes move wherever they want to go. Rest on something that draws you in.
Then practice each quality of vision with a sense of child-like curiosity.
I am aware of color. Let your eyes move to some color that calls you and rest there.
I am aware of texture.
Be willing to be surprised by the surface of something that you see. Perhaps it’s the bark of a tree or the smoothness of river rock.
I am aware of movement.
Maybe you are drawn to the rustling of leaves in a breeze, the graceful flight of a bird, or the floating of the clouds above.
I am aware of the play of light and shadows.
Get curious about the reflections and patterns caused by how light falls.
I am aware of space.
Space is the distance between me and something I am observing. Or perhaps, I notice the space between two objects.
I am aware of the shape of things.
Maybe you notice the outline of a tree or the contours of a cloud.
With practice, it becomes easier to pick out subtleties of your visual world and this can be very relaxing. You will be literally re-wiring your brain to see the world in a richer way.
Shake it up a little bit
Try this meditation while seated, walking, wading in a stream, or floating in your kayak. Practice this indoors or with a memory. Experiment and see what works for you. Maybe you rotate through all the qualities of vision or maybe you settle on a favorite. There are no rules.
Ready to try it? Click here to download the audio walkthrough of this visual meditation.
Fly-fishing is a friendly and accessible sport and so is meditation if we find something enjoyable to rest with, leading to grace, ease, and greater self-awareness.
Berni Kozlowski helps people ditch the overwhelm and profoundly shift their lives using instinctive meditation to bring more joy and wonder into their days. Based in Asheville, Berni is the founder of Berni-K’s Rest Revolution. Connect with Berni at www.berni-k.com