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The Fish on the Camel

--by Gail Gustafson (Jun 09, 2014)


As Hafiz says, "First, The fish needs to say, “Something ain’t right about this Camel ride – And I’m Feeling so damn Thirsty.”

Most of us come to practice meditation for exactly what Hafiz points to in this poem. We get an inkling that something just isn’t right about our lives. We cannot exactly say what it is that isn’t right. All the externals may look great, yet the fish on the camel feels that it is not in its natural environment, and it is thirsty. There is a yearning to connect to something deeper or higher or different. “Is there something beyond being thirsty on this camel?” This thirst, this niggling feeling, becomes the initiator to start seeking. What we seek is not yet known. This is how the path begins & continues; following a feeling and seeking something that will start to quench that thirst.

In my own life, I came to practice through this kind of seeking. In 1986, I was a dancer -training and auditioning in that competitive world. I had studied with the “greats” of my time: Martha Graham, Trisha Brown, Laura Dean, etc. I landed a coveted position with a prestigious dance company. I was filled with the sense that I had “made it”. In the third week of rehearsals it dawned on me, I was at the top of the world & yet I was “feeling so damn thirsty”. Something wasn’t right. All the glamour was not touching what I was seeking.

I did something crazy. I resigned. I had no idea what I was going to do, but I knew I could not continue on the camel ride. I spent many gloomy weeks doing my usual ritual of movement classes. Technique was no longer fulfilling, other dancers avoided me & my internal critics had a heyday. Then it dawned on me: though I did not yet know what I was seeking, I did have the use of a large old room at a local church in exchange for caring for their alter. For three hours daily, for one year, I locked myself in the empty room, with the intention to move, listen & engage what I was seeking.

For a year I listened. Sometimes I was inspired by movement, often I laid on the floor wide awake. At times my mind drove me crazy and periodically there was complete peace. After a year, I said goodbye to this practice & sought a teacher who would be able to engage what I now knew & guide me in ways to follow what I yet did not know. It a took a few years to find such a teacher. When I found one, my heart spun; like a compass that has finally found north, like a dog, who finally understands that a person’s language means something & the possibility of a whole new world awakens. And so it has continued for me. I practice, I reach impasses, I listen, I contemplate the seeking heart and a new teacher appears. This is why many practice meditation, to learn to engage what we seek.

Meditation practice is not about ignoring some part of your life. It starts like the fish on the camel; recognizing something isn’t quite right. Then it proceeds to asking your questions, engaging your seeking heart and learning tools to bring this heart into your life.

Gail Gustafson triggered ​an abiding interest in mind-body awareness while pursuing theatre dance. Determined to follow the ‘mystery-of-being’ through movement, she worked with her own questions: Where is the source of thinking?, Can we inhabit change?, What is emotion?, What is stillness in motion and the movement in stillness? 

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On Jun 21, 2014 Ed wrote:

Wrestling with a traumatic brain injury for now over 30 years, I have experienced a litany of neurological symptoms.  The last 4 years have been particularly difficult as I have been forced to take disability from a very successful and beloved profession due to frequent incapacitating migraines (currently 80% of my life).  By far, the greatest medicine, strength, comfort, and optimism come when I focus on others and their needs.  When I lose myself in the lives of others, I truly find myself and vice versa.   It is a fundamental Christian doctrine and I am a devout Latter-day Saint (Mormon).  Obviously, I daily fall short in this regard, but I regularly have the opportunity to serve and care more about others and their trials as I am a husband to a very strong wife and father of 7 remarkable kids, all at different stages in life. Also, as part of my Faith, I have been blessed to be assigned as a "home teacher" to an elderly widow.  This is a pri  See full.

Wrestling with a traumatic brain injury for now over 30 years, I have experienced a litany of neurological symptoms.  The last 4 years have been particularly difficult as I have been forced to take disability from a very successful and beloved profession due to frequent incapacitating migraines (currently 80% of my life).  By far, the greatest medicine, strength, comfort, and optimism come when I focus on others and their needs.  When I lose myself in the lives of others, I truly find myself and vice versa.  

It is a fundamental Christian doctrine and I am a devout Latter-day Saint (Mormon).  Obviously, I daily fall short in this regard, but I regularly have the opportunity to serve and care more about others and their trials as I am a husband to a very strong wife and father of 7 remarkable kids, all at different stages in life. Also, as part of my Faith, I have been blessed to be assigned as a "home teacher" to an elderly widow.  This is a primary way the Lord takes care of His children, via others.  Whenever I am able to visit her and provide even the little service that my health allows, I am reinvigorated.  It is nothing short of miraculous.  Like the "camel and the fish" analogy, this principle is much more easier said than done.  Yet, it is a true principle and I hope and pray that I will have a greater desire and disposition to put it in much greater practice.  My head pain remains, but my capacity to endure it increases immeasurably, not to mention forcing my selfishness away from my own tribulations.

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1 reply: David | Post Your Reply
On Jun 15, 2014 annila wrote:

 I too was at that point in my life after my husband of 43 years passed on after a lengthy illness. It took me many months to embrace YOGA and " mindfullness technique " of meditation . Now like the fish who was thirsty , I try to quench my thirst daily with inner reflectioning . All we need is inside each one of us ...we simply must seek it regularly .  Will now indulge myself with your readings on this site... THANK YOU!!!



On Jun 11, 2014 Léa wrote:

 It is a beautiful story. Right now I don ´t want to share a situation when i though i was a fish on a camal.  i prefer to share some situation when my heart start to melt and my eyes being wet : it was in India when I was with beautiful people. My heart was telling me I was on a right place, listening to my self is an amasing gift



On Jun 10, 2014 Matangi wrote:

 I don't know when and how or what I was seeking but one thing was sure that whenever I was reading any positive quotes or spiritual book I enjoyed space within me , I was raised in India so spirituality was not new to me but having experience the stillness was rewarding in fast paced world . 
My first experience was when I did my art of living course known for its breathing techniques  sudarshan Kriya which totally brought me to this new world and I learned meditation techniques and have been practicing for 11 years and I feel blessed to have found purpose in my life . 
Loveandpeace
matangi



On Jun 10, 2014 Ammi wrote:

Fish riding a camel, dancer lying on a church floor, the images of being on the Path are so vivid and alive. Why do we live so confined when there is so much to explore? I take the time to dance and get thirsty again for this thirst is what makes us alive. 



On Jun 10, 2014 onlyfittin wrote:

 Two young fish are swimming along when they meet a big fish coming the other way.  The big fish says, "Hi, how's the water today?" as he's passing by.  After a little while one of the younger fish says to the other, "What the heck is water?"  

That can be the start of the quest.



On Jun 10, 2014 kara wrote:

 I really needed this...my life seems so perfect on the outside but I am really a fish on a camel.
thank you 



On Jun 10, 2014 Kristin Pedemonti wrote:

I too, needed this reminder for my own practice, which had been daily and recently waned once again. I have been a fish on a camel several times in life and fortunately have been able to make the leap off when needed. Probably the biggest time was when I quit my full-time job, sold my home & most possessions to create/facilitate a volunteer literacy project in Belize Central America and become a fulltime Storyteller in 2005. That leap led to so many other possibilities than I ever imagined. It also immersed me in a world where time was viewed so differently than what I was used to in the mid-Atlantic US. In Belize, the pace was calm, people mattered Most not possessions. I stopped wearing a watch. I learned to let go and BE because that's what nearly everyone around me was doing and they seemed far more at peace than people back in the US. Perhaps they had fewer things in Belize, but wow, they had a lot more Deep relationships with each other. And in the end, that's what matters.  See full.

I too, needed this reminder for my own practice, which had been daily and recently waned once again. I have been a fish on a camel several times in life and fortunately have been able to make the leap off when needed. Probably the biggest time was when I quit my full-time job, sold my home & most possessions to create/facilitate a volunteer literacy project in Belize Central America and become a fulltime Storyteller in 2005. That leap led to so many other possibilities than I ever imagined. It also immersed me in a world where time was viewed so differently than what I was used to in the mid-Atlantic US. In Belize, the pace was calm, people mattered Most not possessions. I stopped wearing a watch. I learned to let go and BE because that's what nearly everyone around me was doing and they seemed far more at peace than people back in the US. Perhaps they had fewer things in Belize, but wow, they had a lot more Deep relationships with each other. And in the end, that's what matters. That and finding a sort of inner peace that then sustained me as I carried their beliefs along with me through life. Thank you for the reminder, I feel I am at another leaping point. To where, I am not sure. :) HUGS from my heart to yours!
Kristin

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2 replies: Aj, Kristin | Post Your Reply
On Jun 10, 2014 Jacqueline wrote:

 As there are no coincidences, this was a wonderful reminder for me that I have jumped off the camal, knowing that I am leaving our home with my children on June 30th, and not knowing concretely where we are going at this moment in time.  I am yielding to the calling that it is time to move and let go of all logical thought.  To trust and believe at a whole new level that "what I'm seeking, has been seeking me"  or another way, "what came first the chicken or the egg?"  So I let go, and truly thank the energy of the free donated BRACO Gazes of Peace  (Braco-Europe.tv)  this week to strengthen my inner core, my soul, which knows my path, my children's path, and all that I'm meant to do in service.  In gratitude and love.  



3 replies: Todd, Ammi, Ed | Post Your Reply
On Jun 10, 2014 Yahsoul wrote:

This article came to me...and now I sense that it is the answer to my un articulated question. where to I go from here?  I acknowledge like, the fish something is not quite right here! I inquire, practice, listen and obey. Thanks for sharing.



On Jun 10, 2014 david doane wrote:

 I think the author's observation that a new direction starts like the fish on the camel is right on.  We have times that we are successful, externals are in place, others think we are doing great, and on the inside we aren't happy, aren't fulfilled, are thirsty.  Those are significant times in life that could result in giving up what I have to seek what I'm missing, even though others and even myself think I've got it made.  Such times are potentially calling me to the hero's journey, calling me to follow my bliss, to use Campbell's language.  I'm reminded of Nietzche's statement that "those who were dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."  A major fish-on-the-camel experience for me occurred a long time ago.  I spent the first two and a half years of college in a Catholic seminary in Pittsburg, wanting to be a priest.  I was doing well, was getting praise, and could have gone far on that life path.  But,  See full.

 I think the author's observation that a new direction starts like the fish on the camel is right on.  We have times that we are successful, externals are in place, others think we are doing great, and on the inside we aren't happy, aren't fulfilled, are thirsty.  Those are significant times in life that could result in giving up what I have to seek what I'm missing, even though others and even myself think I've got it made.  Such times are potentially calling me to the hero's journey, calling me to follow my bliss, to use Campbell's language.  I'm reminded of Nietzche's statement that "those who were dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."  A major fish-on-the-camel experience for me occurred a long time ago.  I spent the first two and a half years of college in a Catholic seminary in Pittsburg, wanting to be a priest.  I was doing well, was getting praise, and could have gone far on that life path.  But, I became thirsty.  The calling that I had inside of me wasn't fitting in that setting.  I felt hindered in my growth, and after weeks or months of internal anguish I made the difficult decision to leave, not knowing where I was going in life.  I wandered the streets of Pittsburg for a couple days in a state of confusion or psychosis, and then came out of it feeling clear that I had made the right choice for me  I felt free and alive.  And I moved on.  A major thirst was quenched.   

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On Jun 10, 2014 Bradley wrote:

I used to feel like the fish often. Wondering, questioning: What is it really all about? Since I have begun "meditating" (I don't think I'm very good at it, yet), it's given me time to ponder these questions, and more. I think our main reason for being here is to do kind acts for one another and help each other out along our journey. I've stopped trying to be happy; instead, I try to make others happy; brighten the day of a stranger. This has given my life (more) meaning and in turn, makes me happy.



On Jun 10, 2014 anashree wrote:

i meditate on a few mantras every morning and i feel a lot more relaxed and calm for the day. 



On Jun 9, 2014 aj wrote:

I once met a fish on a camel.  He looked at me as if I were a fish swimming a stream/river/lake . . . Perhaps, bigger still, a deep blue ocean.  No thirst.  Inhabiting a water I was born to, a well satisfied fish!   He looked at me one day as if I were different than he.  Without "words" he gave me the impression he was thirsty, and was suffering as a result of it.  I've watched and prayed for this fish (who, by the way, did/does appear to have times of refreshment "in the water") over the course of nine years now.  In this observance, I have found this fish to be quite valuable.  (Blessed is he who hungers and thirsts . . . he shall "see" God).  His thirst is a gift.   How might I know this?   I, too, thirst. i look forward to the day I can go home . . . to Heaven's water. in the mean time, we fish have to swim beside each other!  No one fish greater or lesser than another in our Maker's  Eye.  Let us love one anot  See full.

I once met a fish on a camel.  He looked at me as if I were a fish swimming a stream/river/lake . . . Perhaps, bigger still, a deep blue ocean.  No thirst.  Inhabiting a water I was born to, a well satisfied fish!  
He looked at me one day as if I were different than he.  Without "words" he gave me the impression he was thirsty, and was suffering as a result of it.  I've watched and prayed for this fish (who, by the way, did/does appear to have times of refreshment "in the water") over the course of nine years now.  In this observance, I have found this fish to be quite valuable.  (Blessed is he who hungers and thirsts . . . he shall "see" God).  His thirst is a gift.  
How might I know this?  
I, too, thirst.
i look forward to the day I can go home . . . to Heaven's water.

in the mean time, we fish have to swim beside each other!  No one fish greater or lesser than another in our Maker's 
Eye.  Let us love one another for loving is of God. (John)


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