The Great Fish

Meditating is like gazing into a pool and our busy, distracting thoughts are like the ripples disturbing the surface of the water. Slowly we become aware how, below the surface, everything is still. Once the turbulence dies down and the water becomes clear we can see into the depths.

The most vivid example of this process is one that happened when I was leading a retreat in a large country house in Suffolk. On a cold day in March a group of us were sitting, swathed in blankets, around a large ornamental pool. Our meditation was to gaze into that pool. In it the grey-blue sky was reflected, its stillness disturbed at first only by the passage of a bird reflected in the water, a crow making its way to the nearby woods. Then, beneath the surface of the mirror, among the dark roots of water lilies, we became aware of a large carp moving slowly, appearing and disappearing. At the heart of every pool the Great Fish lies waiting but we cannot command it. It appears of its own will and in the same manner disappears. When the mirror reflects nothing but the empty sky, even then, the Great Fish is there, deep beneath the surface.

We sat on, watching and waiting. We saw the mirror change colour as the sky became green and then, softly, snowflakes began to fall and we watched as each met its image in the water and was dissolved in the Great Pool, becoming one with the infinite. ‘When you fix your heart on one point,’ said the Buddha, ‘then nothing is impossible for you.’ At the heart of the Pool the Great Fish lies waiting.   

2 thoughts on “The Great Fish”

  1. Dear James, thank you so much for your gentle wisdom and the stories you tell, which are just a little bit out-of-the-ordinary but completely to the point. This is your great gift as a teacher!
    I do hope to see you soon,
    with much Love and a song, Sarah

  2. John Donne had trouble with distractions: “I throw myself down in my Chamber, and I call in, and invite God, and his Angels thither, and when they are there, I neglect God and his Angels, for the noise of a fly, for the rattling of a coach, for the whining of a door. . .

    A memory of yesterday’s pleasures, a fear of tomorrow’s dangers, a straw under my knee, a noise in mine ear, a light in mine eye, an anything, a nothing, a fancy, a Chimera in my brain, troubles me in my prayer. So certainly is there nothing, nothing in spiritual things, perfect in this world.”

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