On this mid-August morning, sixty-one was the temp when I pulled my fishing pole from the back of my pickup and headed to Meadowcreek’s fishing pond. Sure nice to have cool nights after the hot days. Even nicer to be fishing.
The type of fishing I do is more like meditation. I cast the bait and watch the white and red bobber float on the water reflecting the trees and cliffs. Focused attention meditation involves focusing on something intently as a way of staying in the present moment and turning off your internal dialogue. Many people find this type of meditation easier to practice than classic meditation where you focus on nothing to quiet your mind. With focused meditation, you can choose to focus on almost anything that involves the senses, including sounds, tactile sensations, tastes, smells, your own breathing or an object like a fishing bobber.
I’ve been meditating on and off for about 40 years. I started when a friend decided I needed to chill out. She sent me to a transcendental meditation course where I learned to repeat a mantra until my mind is cleared of all distraction. I’ve also used the technique of focusing on my breathing. Nowadays I like to concentrate on the bobber while fishing.
The benefits of mediation for reducing stress and living longer are well-established. Believe it or not, there is pretty good evidence that meditation can add years to your life.
Medical researchers have even identified the biochemical process which makes this happen. As any organism gets older or undergoes a lot of stress, the ends of it’s chromosomes (telomeres) are worn away. When the telomeres get short enough, the cells can no longer divide and the organism dies. An enzyme called telomerase is responsible for maintaining the telomeres. Meditation has the effect of increasing telomerase activity as the body reacts less to external stressors.
So there is a reason all these yogis and gurus and meditative Christians live so long.
If you don’t like fishing, I guess you should stick to standard meditation practices, but for the average Arkansas redneck, I think fishing is the ticket.
At our fishing pond, there is a problem with meditating-by-fishing: the pond has too many fish that love to bite your hook. So just when you get in a nice meditative state, the bobber starts moving and you have to start reeling it in. Having nearly every cast result in a bite is great for the fisherman, but does interrupt the meditation.
Our pond also features a type of fish which spices up the meditation. The pickerel jumps like a Northern pike. If you like to see your catch leap out of the water, pickerel is the fish for you. Then you land him, release him, cast again and re-start your meditation. It probably takes an hour of fishing meditation on our pond to get 15 minutes of true meditation. But that hour passes so quickly you will probably fish longer.
This morning I finally quit after two hours when one pickerel was so strong he broke my line.
Probably two hours a day is enough to get my telomerase activity up and keep my chromosomes healthy.
Though I know I have convinced you that fishing will lead to more resilience and a longer life, I’d still like to be able to cite a scientific study to support the idea. So far no one has studied how many years fishing adds to your life. If you want to do that study, I’ll be glad to volunteer.
For more on effect of meditation on telomerase activity, see this link from University of California-Davis.