The Trawler

Far View
If a Taoist sage were to stand on the temple steps and
gaze through the stages of antiquity right up to our present day he would
notice changes. 
Though the fish in the sea are still the same, Man would appear
to have evolved. Certainly Man’s outer world is evidence of this evolutionary change
and development. In all of this change, our understanding of the cosmos and our
place in it has certainly evolved through the distillation of learned knowledge.
There are things we know now without having to consider whether, why, or if.
Yet, in the midst of all this evidence, the sage
would also notice Man’s inner world – and the sheer volume of turmoil taking
place within the infinite confines of our minds. And the degree to which we are
able to cope with this volume is THE key factor in the quality of our lives.
at metaphors
Many of us – in terms of our mental processes – certainly
don’t go rod and line fishing, let alone tickling trout. We have a tendency to
match and be led by the pace of modern life and so our fishing is more of an
industrial process, whereby we might go out in our trawlers with nets at the
ready, targeting shoals of thoughts.
Yet fishing, in our daily lives, was not always like
this. When we take steps back along the timeline of history, life back then was
simpler; not necessarily easier, but certainly simpler. And that applied to everyone,
from princes to paupers, from Machiavelli to Saint Joan. Part of that
simplicity is down to the perceptive and imperceptive mental processes that we
label up as thinking, or the power of thought.
Out there in the mental seas there are millions of
fish. They are there all day and all night. When we are awake we have an
awareness that they are there and, though we may not see them when we are
asleep, they are still there then as well.
Of course, if we run our lives on the basis of “seeing
is believing” then we’ll believe they are NOT there when we sleep, even though
they are. This is the point when we believe our perceptions, which tell us that
the fish are ONLY real when we see them, and that in that reality they become
OUR fish and not just fish.
In his far view, the Taoist sage will notice that
more traditional methods of fishing have changed with modern times. Modern Man
in his man-made modern world has chosen quantity above quality in – arguably –
almost every area of life.
From greed and the accumulation of wealth through
exploitation and manipulation, right down to the minutiae of life, we garner,
we hoard, we fill our lives with clutter, we overeat, we overdrink, we overdo,
we consume more and more. We are driven by must and need, want and get.
And all of this lemming-like buy-in on the outside runs
parallel with what is going on for us on the inside. More thought processing is
required – we need it to cope with the world we have created, don’t we? So we
abandon the rod and line, or the subtle nuances of ‘tickling’, and set out in vessels
more fit for purpose. And those of us that lead lives at the upper end of the
stress scale will naturally opt for the ultimate fishing tool – those vacuums
of the high seas that are the factory ships.
Now, for the majority of us who trawl, all seems to
be well and good when our sea is calm and grounded, for we can land our catch
on deck, process it and freeze it, and return to harbour when fully laden –
eagerly setting to, harvesting our catch and taking it to market. When the sea
of wellbeing accompanies light breezes and small waves, then all is well with
our world – and it is all about a calm sea leading to a prosperous voyage.
However, the sea is not always calm and the breezes
are not always light. Life is never like that. The winds get up, we get tossed
and turned, and life throws stuff at us.
Yet beneath the foaming and turbulent surface the
fish are still there.
This year has started badly for our Westcountry
fishermen. Violent storm after violent storm came across the Atlantic and
forced them all to stay in port for weeks which put a strain on each of their
livelihoods. Balanced against that strain was the understanding that to go to
sea in such weather would risk lives. Against a matter of life and death, the
strain on their livelihoods was an acceptable trade-off.
As mental fishermen however, the majority of us
ignore the risks – because society drives us to keep setting sail. The risks
are still a matter of life and death, but through varying degrees of bravado,
helplessness and ignorance we fire up our engines, leave harbour, cross the bar
and set course for those mighty canyons and crashing, foamy peaks – with our
loved ones watching us in trepidation as we drop out of sight beyond the
A very dear client spoke to me about waking in the
middle of the night and being unable to get back to sleep. She was beset by
vast torrent of thoughts, each clamouring and demanding her attention. Each one
was amplified by the fact that – as we all know only too well – the middle of
the night is THE most fertile time for our thoughts to invade our inner world, because
our outer world has slowed right down. Real as we have made our thoughts
anyway, at that time of night they become super-real, are HD in sensual terms.
I gave her the means to understand what was happening and how she was doing her fishing,
and she proceeded to then have the most refreshing and renewing sleep she had
experienced for a while.
When she spoke to me she was tied up at the jetty,
knowing that later she would be all at sea once more. She chose to trade
bravado knowing that help was near at hand, and discovered her own sustainable
perceptions and move on
So how are you doing your fishing?
Once we know it is the surface that is always
susceptible to change, then we can return to catching smaller quantities of
fish below the surface.
Once we know it is fine to just catch what we need
to sustain just ourselves, or what we can cope with bringing to shore in a
meaningful and purposeful way, then we can get back to going for quality over
When we trawl we’ll always catch a whole load of small,
trivial and meaningless stuff along with some real quality fish.
Oh – and wider mesh nets are not really the answer either, when we look to switch
over to fishing for “positive” fish. We are still trawling, and trawling will
only ever yield bringing a quantity back to the surface.
The understanding comes when we know that it is not
necessary for us to trawl.
Have you noticed the imagery associated with
self-development, personal change, life coaching, hypnotherapy, etc? There is a
theme, more like a leitmotif, running through the conveying metaphors and
anchors. It may appear to be positivity, growth and freedom – however, look
and space, calm and grounded, clarity of vision and atmosphere.
And these are all a very far cry from inner turmoil, torrents of thoughts and cluttered decks.
Another client recently said that “Once I feel I’m
free of these physical shortcomings then it will be a load off my mind.”
To which I replied, “So clear evidence of being physically ‘all clear’ will then
give you the mental ‘all clear’ as well?” He looked at me a little sideways,
realising that I was not so much holding up a vocal mirror, but rather I was waving
a red flag.
Verbal imagery is often covert, especially in the language we use with
ourselves. For my client to hasten his physical wellbeing, he needs to have the
mental ‘all clear’ first, and part of his mental ‘all clear’ involves how he
does his fishing.
The way we fish serves us best when oriented towards
quality and not quantity. We should only catch what is necessary for ourselves,
and not for others, and certainly not in the way that society demands.