How To Build a Meditation Practice: The Little Fish and The Fisherman

Marc Chagall

Five months ago, I started a meditation streak. I set out to meditate for 10 days in a row. Then I upped my goal to 30. I just hit 150 days and I don’t have a specific goal anymore. I just want to see how far I can take it. One day at a time. Little by little. Baby steps toward Buddha’s feet. A practice we can extend to much else in our lives, especially in moments when the possibility of change or progress feels very far away indeed.

Jean de La Fontaine captures the spirit of our task here, with his talking fish:

Little fish grow big, if the universe allows. But to release one in the meantime, well I count that as folly, because to re-catch the grown fish is none too certain.

A carp, who was nothing more than minnow-sized, was caught by a fisherman on the banks of a river.

 On seeing his little catch, the man said: Every little thing counts. Here is the beginning of a feast and a party. Put it in the cooler.

The poor little carp said to him, in his manner: What will you do with me? I can barely provide a half mouthful. Let me become a full-grown carp. Then you will re-catch me. Sell me for good money to some grand customer. Instead, you’ll have to search for maybe one hundred more my size to make a meal. What meal? Believe me, worthless.

The fisherman said: Worthless? Whatever. Preach all you want, my fine fish friend, you’re for the pan. Say what you will, tonight you’ll be fried.

As they say: An “I have” has more value, than two “I will haves”. One is certain. The other is not.

When I started this streak, I sat for 10 minnow-minutes a day. I knew that if I demanded a meal-sized-carp-sit of an hour that I would fail. There have been days when I’ve only managed 8 minutes of surfing the big waves of my mind. The bonus—often I am more open to a longer meditation when I’ve given myself the grace of a short sit the day before. What abundance.

I’m not asking for one immediate feast of lightning bolts sizzling with spiritual insight or an instant hookup to the great source of all wisdom. The day I started this streak, I participated in a meditation workshop and the teacher suggested that all we needed to do was notice during our sits, be mindful of our noticings, all those little minnows darting around in our minds. So that’s what I’m doing. Fishing little bits of insight from the roiling waters.

Here are 7 minnows I’ve made a meal of:

  1. I’m in a constant state of re-learning what I already knew, but somehow forgot or thought I had changed.
  2. Practicing daily makes it easier to drop intoa meditation.
  3. Noticing feeds itself, so I notice more details when I’m not meditating.
  4. There’s a lot of dogma around meditation, which we should not be dogmatic about.
  5. The inevitable woo-woo can be daunting.
  6. I think a lot of non-contemplative thoughts when I’m meditating.
  7. Meditating regularly enables me to be kinder with myself.

All of these noticings are small fry, to be sure. Yet significant enough to feel like a feast of a streak. I’m going to keep gorging, one little bite at a time, enjoying the abundance.

And that’s a recipe for much of life. If we feast on every little joy and pleasure, the smallest bits of progress, as they come, even in times when life feels parsimonious and insufficient, we will be surprised by how nourishing the mindset of abundance can be.


Other musings about this meditation streak: Back on day 45, I narrated a succession of interior design thoughtsand then around day 100 there’s this piece about a puppy in India and a glimpse behind the veil.

What are these Fableogs?


Fable en Français








Be the first to get new writing and news, as well as hear about latest happenings. 

Thanks so much for joining our community!