Life of the ‘Gotto’ Fish

There is a breed of people swimming in the ocean of life called the ‘Gotto fish,’ though it is best pronounced “Got to.”

There is always something for them to do; there is always somewhere they need to be.

“I’ve just ‘gotto’ do something for work” one would say before running off from his wife and children.

“I’ve just ‘gotto’ get this done around the house,” another would say before they might actually stop for long enough to deeply connect with others or themselves.

They can relax by switching off when they “Just gotto watch TV, just gotto catch up with a friend.” They can recharge when they “Just gotto grab a cup of coffee, just gotto grab a snack” and when they are really, really tired, they rely heavily on “Just gotto get this finished.”

They would say they move through life easily enough, but in reality there is little real ease in their movement. Each time their body comes to a rest, something kicks in that either requires a complete switch off or the next ‘gotto’ task to be completed.

The ‘gotto fish’ are driven by anxiety and nervous energy: a type of fuel that prizes movement over presence and switching off over connection. Even though they can get amazing amounts of work done, the reality is that living this way is draining.

Yet most are raised by other ‘gotto fish,’ so living in this way is so familiar and common that they never really see that anything is wrong.

For one ‘gotto fish’ life was becoming too hard to keep living in this way. He had become tired to a point where no amount of sweets, caffeine or alcohol could boost him for long enough. His health suffered, even though he had studied all manner of complementary and energetic therapies. His relationships suffered because there was no way of having a conversation that didn’t start from this point of anxiety.

He was committed to getting it right but couldn’t keep swimming through life this way. The hard part was finding another way to move through life, which was a quest he had been on for a number of years, but to little effect. On one level the ‘gotto fish’ became quite depressed.

“Surely there is another way to be?” he asked from a place deep within.

The interesting thing about life is that when you ask a question from this deeper place, life has a way of responding. Not everyone asks the question in this way and not everyone acts on the answers they get, but thankfully this ‘gotto’ fish was open when the answer came.

He came across the ‘Universal Fish,’ a wise fish who has swum the waters of life for many, many years. There was nothing the Universal Fish had not seen, done or tried, yet there was a twinkle in his eye and an ease to how he moved.

The Universal Fish suggested to him that his anxiety and drive to always be on the move was not where the issue started – that we only become anxious or use nervous energy as a form of fuel when we lack one thing… connection to ourselves.

The Universal Fish explained to him that connection was first and foremost an energetic connection. Anxiety in fact was simply our body’s way of letting us know that we are not connected. “It’s a bit like a car driving on the edge of the road – it will feel bumpy, because we are not meant to be driving there, but if you have never learnt to drive in the middle of the lane, it will feel normal,” the Universal Fish said one day.

The Universal Fish encouraged him to explore not only energetic connection but the different qualities of energy that we might connect to. “Anxiety comes from one form of energetic connection,” the Universal Fish offered.

The Universal Fish introduced him to the Gentle Breath MeditationTM, explaining that it was a way of establishing a connection not just to energy but to a deeper part of ourselves. It was a way to find a place within that was deeper than the anxiety and nervousness.

The ‘gotto’ fish didn’t instantly like this kind of meditation: he would wriggle, itch, twitch and move as he tried to practise the technique. Not only that, when he did become more still he would begin to feel things within that were both beautiful and unsettling.

Then over time, he began to feel gentleness and for the first time in a long time he felt connected to himself – his true self. He learnt that the issues he had been running from for much of his life were driving his anxiousness, and that understanding and working on this gave his body a feeling of more space. The ‘gotto’ fish got help and worked with people that swam through life with that same gentleness he was connecting to.

The Gentle Breath MeditationTM was not a way of escaping life but building enough honesty and room in his body for the gentleness to grow. Over time he found that his body was capable of swimming with enough gentleness that he began to move through the waters of life with stillness. He had a smile on his face, enjoying the feeling of moving in stillness.

Nowadays, the only thing he ‘gotto’ to do is stay connected to himself. He’s not mastered it yet, but when he stays connected to this, the rest of life takes care of itself and anxiousness is no longer what drives him.

By Joel Levin

Related Reading:
Beating Anxiety Gentle Breath Meditation®
What’s Happened to the Joy of Life?
Anxious Much?

580 thoughts on “Life of the ‘Gotto’ Fish

  1. One of the things that exposes the ‘Gotto fish’ in me is being sick. I can handle not doing anything (or as much) for a day then I expect myself to magically get better, so I can get on with things again. Yet when I stop I get to feel so much more, and I know this isn’t the way to live. Focussing on doing means I am actually living less than my potential as I am not bringing a quality of inner stillness to everything I do.

  2. This has reminded us all that deep down within we actually do know what it is that we are looking for and that we do know that there is something innate within us that needs to be connected to and expressed out in all relationships and in every scenario.

  3. We put so much pressure on ourselves with “got to…” or have to or must do. Its like we have an expectation of ourselves to do all and be all to everyone. It’s not always an easy one to get out from. When we come back to feeling how we are in all that we do, we start to feel that the way we ‘got to’ do things is simply exhausting and that we can actually move through life doing all that we do, without that occurring at all. But this comes down to the how we are in this.

  4. And it’s worth mentioning that the Universal fish can move fast and he can work enormously hard and do everything he’s Got-to do, but understands it’s the quality he does it in rather than the task itself.

  5. There are so many levels of anxiety and to go through the process of admitting and feeling it is running is step one, then realising that this is not a way you want to live your life you get to a point where you go, ‘ok lets commit to me’. I haven’t looked back and this relationship has deepened and deepened. The more I do the less anxiety and I am recently coming to a point where most of the time it is not there. How freeing is that!

  6. I hadn’t thought of anxiety as being induced by a lack of connection with ourselves – a symptom of disconnection rather than the thing that needs fixing and addressing. The gentle breath meditation – simply focusing on one’s breath in and out- is a tool that really supports the building of a deeper connection with the body.

  7. I sure can relate to the movements of the gotto fish and how we can push our bodies to keep going because that is the world we live in and the reflection we get each day. But as is said here – if we are open to another way then we are able to see it is possible to move differently and to have more balance in how we are.

  8. We say we don’t have enough energy for life but what you show so clearly Joel is that we’ve been running on anxiety, not our true power. Unlike the everyday bunny – this ‘gotto’ stress ball eventually runs out.

  9. Just even reading the phrase “I gotto do this or that” brings a tension in the body. When we “gotto do” something we are disconnected from the truth of why we are doing it in the first place.

  10. There is often a pull to get caught in having lots of things we’ve gotto do, but when we stop and notice it…hang on, it is so much better to feel the flow of the Universal fish and feel what is the energetic connection that feels different here.

  11. Being driven by the ‘gotto’ fish, which is always focusing on the future, creates blinkers to all else life can offer us when we are open and present with the here and now.

  12. There is often a pull to get caught in having lots of things we’ve gotto do, but when we stop and notice it…hang on, It is so much better to feel the flow of the Universal fish and feel what is the energetic connection going on here.

  13. I have been one of these ‘gotto fish’ and like the one ‘gotto fish’ that you describe, I too wriggled and twitched when I started the Gentle Breath meditation. I too persevered and uncovered a gentleness and a stillness. When I connect to this, I feel much more steadier and able to be me in life and respond to all the ups and downs.

  14. The tension and pressure of the ‘gotto’ is completely foreign to the natural way of harmony, balance and grace within our bodies.

  15. There is such a contrast between being driven in life by the ‘gotto’ fish… and moving harmoniously through life in a way that expresses who we truly are – and everything and more still gets ‘done’.

  16. The ‘gotto’ fish has got to be honest, absolutely honest that the life they living is not truly ‘it’ and that they in truth do not feel comfortable simply being themselves. This honesty opens the door for greater wisdom, awareness and insight into what life is truly about and how to truly be yourself.

    1. So true Joshua… the ‘gotto’ fish isn’t comfortable with themselves, constantly striving for something ahead of themselves that will make them feel ‘better’ which never happens… however they always have a choice to not be a ‘gotto’ fish and come back to their innate inner wisdom at any time… and yes honesty is the key in making this choice.

  17. ” that we only become anxious or use nervous energy as a form of fuel when we lack one thing… connection to ourselves.” Now this is a real and reflective statement of truth and offers us the opportunity to change everything in our lives by swimming as the universal fish in true connection and flow and something well worth bringing into our lies our movements with a dedication consistency and joy.

  18. The gentle breath meditation is certainly one that exposes what energy we have been in – if and when we have trouble doing it then it shows how far we have ventured from what we know to be a natural way of being.

  19. The drive to do things is a common theme we can all get caught in, and it takes a lot to break out of this as a habit and begin to live with true purpose.

  20. Getting caught into the “Gotta fish” mode is deadly. I always find myself being gently nudged off track when I get stuck into projects to the extent that I disregard the daily rituals that help me make the day about Love. It always mean I end up spending twice as much time getting back on track often with very little to show for it.

    1. I agree Rowena, getting caught in the ““Gotta fish” mode is deadly! With that push and drive I harden my body and increase my nervous tension so that my body aches. To re-learn how to get everything done in a quality that supports the body is a work-in-progress, but it is those daily rituals that support the consistency.

      1. The hardness doesn’t work! We just have to read the levels of exhaustion and thyroid condition sky rocket worldwide!

      2. With that hardness we compress and tighten ourselves, and are less able to connect to what we can feel: it’s like a veneer over the top of everything else. It’s easy to keep pushing and keep driving when we’re in that state because all we can then feel is the push, the drive and the sense of achievement from that-surface and temporary feelings that mask what our body is copping and dealing with underneath that. Moving with gentleness and bringing presence to our every movement feels like the antidote to all of this: an inroad into starting to maintain a sense of connection and steadiness within ourselves, as we move about our day.

      3. True Bryony when we harden it is like a veneer and it does act as a barrier to what we feel… perhaps that’s the purpose of hardening… to deaden what we don’t want to feel so that it becomes easier to ignore. But this does not make what we do not want to feel go away, only each layer builds and before we know it the body becomes stagnant with suppressed feelings that gets locked in. Gentleness and presence allows the body to open and clear, quite miraculously so.

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