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Flow With Life – Be Like Water

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Be Like Water

Water, as it courses through streams and cascades down mountains, symbolizes adaptability. Delicate, yet with an undeniable might, it weaves around obstacles, only to create new paths for itself. As Bruce Lee once mused, “Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water.

In a universe marked by impermanence and unpredictability, there’s a peculiar refuge in rigidity. It’s almost a defense mechanism — we categorize, compartmentalize, and confine. It feels safer, clearer, like an anchor in the storm. But when this rigid thinking becomes an unbending mindset, we trap ourselves, blocking out the myriad possibilities that life has to offer.

Contrary to this constrained viewpoint, water teaches us the art of boundless perception. It takes on the shape of its container, flows where it finds space, and over time, erodes even the most steadfast rock not by fighting it, but by persistently washing over it.

Lao Tzu, in his unparalleled wisdom, held up water as the pinnacle of virtues. Through Daoist  philosophy, he revealed that true power doesn’t always roar; sometimes, it’s in the gentle, persistent drops of water that reshape mountains.

Observing nature from this Daoist perspective brings forth a ballet of opposing forces – yin and yang. Yang celebrates the fervent energy of life: its zest, momentum, and determination. Yet, in its stark contrast lies the yin: the contemplative pauses, the embracing silences, and the gentle embrace of life as it comes.

Today’s society is in awe of the yang. The relentless pursuit of more, the unwavering opinions, the resistance against changing currents. It’s an age where adaptability is sometimes mistaken for indecisiveness. It’s essential to have a foundation but equally important to be malleable.

If we refuse to evolve with the ever-shifting tides of life, our rigidness makes us brittle, like a tree that refuses to sway with the wind, ultimately snapping in the storm. But by adopting the characteristics of water, by being resilient, adaptable, and fluid, we not only navigate life’s challenges but also mold them into opportunities.

When one gazes at water, they bear witness to nature’s incredible dance of resilience. Take, for instance, water in a glass. In that vessel, it assumes the form, obediently conforming, reflecting the shape around it. At the seaside, as part of the vast ocean, water transforms into majestic waves, displaying both its might and grace. When subjected to extreme heat, it transforms into vapor, rising above; when chilled, it solidifies, becoming an emblem of stillness.

Water’s resilience lies in its adaptability, its readiness to undergo transformations yet remaining fundamentally unchanged. Just as a tree bends with the wind, ensuring it doesn’t break, water’s malleability ensures its survival across diverse situations.

Lao Tzu profoundly encapsulated this notion: “Be like water which nurtures all things without trying, flows through places that others disdain, moving in ways that others cannot fathom, and accepting the cycle of life.”

Anything that lacks adaptability, that remains brittle, is often either lifeless or on the brink of lifelessness. Similarly, minds that are too rigid, too stern, often find themselves grappling with the unpredictable waves of life. Such individuals crave stability in a world defined by its impermanence.

Yet, as Lao Tzu wisely notes, life is an ever-shifting panorama. If everything was static, it would lack the essence of life itself. By rebelling against this innate nature of existence, we engage in a futile struggle, wasting invaluable energy battling the inevitable tide of change.

To further this understanding, consider life as a river. Its gentle bends might symbolize the smaller, everyday changes we encounter – a shift in routine, the introduction of a new colleague, or the start of a fresh project. On the other hand, its dramatic shifts in course could be likened to profound life transitions – a career pivot, migrating to a new country, or even the profound experiences of love and loss.

Regardless of the twists and turns, the river, much like water, keeps moving. It molds itself according to the landscape, navigates around barriers effortlessly, and even in the face of its eventual merging with the vast ocean, it does so without resistance, with a graceful acceptance.

Such should be our approach to life: moving seamlessly, adapting to challenges, not letting even the gravest of shifts deter our spirit. Even when confined, much like water in a jar, we must learn to stay still, be patient, understanding that circumstances are ever-evolving.

Delving deeper into the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu illustrates the superiority of softness over hardness. He extols the virtue of water, which though soft and yielding, wields the power to wear down the toughest of materials.

To emphasize: “To the soft and pliable, nothing is impossible, but the hard and inflexible find challenges insurmountable.

The Daoist philosophy underscores the essence of ‘wu wei’ or non-action. This isn’t about sheer passivity but about not forcing events, flowing naturally. In life, while moments might arise when assertiveness is necessary, it’s often the gentle, consistent effort that reaps lasting rewards and conserves energy. Such an approach doesn’t just lead to external successes but also cultivates internal peace.

Consider, for instance, a martial artist who utilizes their opponent’s energy against them, channeling it rather than confronting it head-on. Or, think of a diplomat who, instead of engaging in heated debates, chooses the path of dialogue and understanding, thereby achieving more harmonious outcomes.

In our journey to be like water, we must learn, understand, and embrace the power of resilience, flexibility, and adaptability. We must know when to flow and when to remain still, understanding that every situation has its rhythm, and moving in harmony with it ensures a life lived in equilibrium.

In J.K. Rowling’s beloved series, Dumbledore consistently emphasizes the power of love and kindness over brute force. Even when faced with the dark and often overpowering threats from Voldemort and his followers, Dumbledore’s guidance always leans towards understanding and compassion. His belief that love is a force more potent than any spell or curse underscores the water-like principle that softness can indeed overcome hardness.

The narrative underscores the idea that it’s not always about confronting and overpowering obstacles with force. Sometimes, it’s about understanding, patience, and the subtle art of persuasion – all of which can be likened to the behavior of water.

In a world obsessed with the race for the best, sometimes, what’s deemed “lesser” can turn out to be the most powerful asset. Traits like vulnerability, simplicity, or being sidelined are often looked down upon, but they can carry unexpected strength if harnessed correctly.

Consider this: being considered “plain” can mean being underestimated and overlooked, but it also provides an opportunity for genuine relationships based on character rather than superficiality. Likewise, having fewer financial resources might mean lesser worldly distractions, leading to a richer, more authentic experience of life.

In Aesop’s fables, there’s a story about the oak and the reed. A mighty oak tree stood tall and proud, looking down on the neighboring reeds that bowed to every wind. The oak boasted about its strength and criticized the reed for its weakness. However, when a powerful storm came, the oak was uprooted by its force. In contrast, the reeds bent with the wind and were left unharmed. This tale reminds us that what might seem weak or flexible can often endure when might and rigidity fail. The reed, with its perceived fragility, demonstrated resilience by bending and adapting, while the oak’s inflexibility led to its downfall.

What others label as ‘uselessness’ can be a hidden blessing, ensuring longevity and peace. What society shuns might be the very thing that protects and sustains us. A sense of ease, freedom from societal pressures, and authenticity can be the unexpected gifts of being “imperfect” in a world chasing perfection.

Water, with its fluidity, always finds its path, even in the most challenging terrains. It embodies the essence of adaptability, strength in gentleness, and persistence in its journey. Bruce Lee, an iconic martial artist and philosopher, put it succinctly: “You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup.” Embracing adaptability and finding strength in softness can be transformative in navigating life’s complexities.

In our contemporary world, there’s a compelling body of research that echoes these ancient philosophical insights. Consider, for instance, a study from the Journal of Applied Psychology which found that individuals with greater cognitive flexibility — the ability to adapt one’s thinking to new situations — are better equipped to handle stress, problem-solving, and complex tasks. It’s akin to the way water flows around obstacles rather than directly confronting them. When faced with a challenge, instead of breaking under pressure, they bend, adjust, and find alternative paths forward.

This cognitive flexibility isn’t just a mental trait; it manifests in the way we approach the world. If we think back to the ancient Greeks, they too celebrated this fluidity of thought. Heraclitus famously remarked, “You cannot step into the same river twice.” The essence of life, he believed, was in constant flux and change, and our resilience stemmed from our ability to move with this change, not against it.

Now, where does this flexibility come from? Some might argue it’s born from experience. A recent study from Harvard Business Review highlighted that diverse experiences make us more adaptable. Much like the reed in Aesop’s fable, those who have faced various challenges in life, who have been tested by the winds of change, often have a more profound ability to adapt and flourish.

Yet, philosophy argues that it’s not just experience but reflection on those experiences that truly grants us wisdom. In still moments, much like the stillness of water in a pond, we find clarity. By reflecting on our challenges, successes, and failures, we gain insight into our behaviors, reactions, and patterns. Stoicism, another ancient school of philosophy, champions the notion of introspection. Marcus Aurelius, a Stoic philosopher, believed in the power of journaling and self-reflection to attain true understanding.

In an age of speed and relentless pursuit of achievements, perhaps we should all pause, take a step back, and reflect. Are we trying to be the mighty oak, proud and unyielding, only to be uprooted by the next big storm? Or can we find strength in flexibility, in adapting and flowing like water, to face whatever challenges come our way?

To truly be like water is not just to be adaptable, but also to be reflective. It is to recognize the power in stillness, the strength in yielding, and the wisdom in understanding that true resilience comes not from resistance but from embracing change with grace and humility.

In closing, perhaps it’s apt to revisit Lao Tzu, who once said, “In the world, there is nothing more submissive and weak than water. Yet for attacking that which is hard and strong, nothing can surpass it.” This is the paradox and the profound lesson of water — that in its softness, it finds unmatched power. And so can we. 

If this exploration of life’s fluidity in Be Like Water has sparked your curiosity, join us on our journey. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for more insights, become a member of our Patreon community for exclusive content, and visit our Shopify store to find products that embody the spirit of change and growth. Dive in and let the currents of transformation guide you.

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