Be Like Water

Speaking with a client this week we came to the topic of resistance. This is something we all deal with in our lives. We resist circumstances, emotions, thoughts, even people. I’m partial to resisting the weather–when it rains or is cold I create suffering. But weather, in and of itself, doesn’t bring suffering. Rain is rain, cold is cold, there is no inherent suffering there.

It is when we resist what is happening that we create suffering. (Yes, some people actually like cold, wet weather).

Now, when I’m coaching I draw on many things, my ability to listen without judgement, the teachings of my certification program, the writings and lectures of Alan Watts, Viktor Frankl, Werner Erhard, and others, as well as my own life experiences. Throughout my career as a coach, I’ve dived into the resistance conversation with clients many times, and, of course, even with my own coach (because, from time to time, I resist more than just rain).

But, for the first time, what came to me in this particular conversation on resistance were the words of Bruce Lee. Yes, that Bruce Lee. The man who made Kung Fu famous in America. Though I’ve not thought about Bruce Lee in a long while, his words, “Be water,” popped into my mind.

What Lee was referring to is being unattached, going with the flow, not resisting. Like water.

The full quote is:

Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless…like water. Now, you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can flow or creep or drip or crash. Be water, my friend.

In Lee’s writing on the topic he mentions the philosopher Lao Tzu’s quote as the starting point for his philosophy:

Nothing is weaker than water,
But when it attacks something hard
Or resistant, then nothing withstands it,
And nothing will alter its way.

You see, water doesn’t care if there are rocks in its way. It is not stopped by circumstances or fear. And it can, over time, reshape granite.

You can read more about Lee and the origins of his philosophy at this Brainpickings post.

And so with my client, I suggested that she “be like water.” And I also thought it would be good to notice the many ways we use water throughout the day. I said, “Be with water to learn to be like water.”

What can you learn from water? Where in your life could you be like water and not resist circumstances, thoughts, feelings, and/or people?

I’d love to hear what you’re getting out of this. The comment section is open. Also, feel free to share this post if it speaks to you. Many thanks for reading.

Here’s the original Bruce Lee quote used on a TV show called Longstreet (1971):

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Like An Arrow

Sometimes you read a sentence in a book or hear a phrase said and it just hits you like an arrow shot through the center of your being. While reading the book, Become What You Are, by the incredible genius of Alan Watts, this one sentence had that kind of impact on me:

IF I DID NOT DISLIKE FEAR, IT WOULD NOT BE FEAR

As I lingered over the impact of that arrow of pure and simple wisdom, the next thing that occurred to me was a question. If fear were not fear, then what would it be?

For context, I went back to read the previous sentences:

Our resistance to these emotions is as natural as the emotions themselves. Indeed, they are really the same as the emotions, since emotions appear only as manifestations of a state of tension and resistance. If I did not dislike fear, it would not be fear.

Given that emotions are a naturally occurring phenomena in human beings, what I got out of all this is that it is not the emotions themselves, but the resistance of them that creates conflict – or as Watts puts it, tension.

So, what to do with this information? Allow it. Allow the arrow to go through you and shift who you think you are in this world. Allow fear to be there, allow love, allow anger, allow joy. See them all as part of what it is to be human.

Resistance is futile. It would be like resisting breathing or your heart beating. The one emotion that is fleeting is happiness because we don’t resist it. No one has ever said, “I don’t have time to be happy right now.” Yet we say that about other emotions as if it were possible to control them. Ultimately, we control nothing. We only think we do.

What would happen if we didn’t resist the other emotions, the strong ones, the ones we don’t like? Might they too be fleeting?

I would love to know what you’re getting from this. I’ve fixed the issue with the comments section and would greatly appreciate hearing from you.

Being Present (Or Not)

This morning on my run (oh, doesn’t that sound as if I’m just such a healthy person. Full disclosure – this was my first run in a very long time) I experienced something I want to share with you.

It was 87-degrees and sunny when I started running. There is no shade where I am and it is a dry heat. I brought no water or money to buy any. I’m 51 and I smoke around a pack-a-day. Like me you may be thinking, a coach should take better care of himself. I agree, which is exactly why I went for a run.

I had a commitment to run a mile. As it was ¾ of a mile just to get to the park, I knew I’d be out longer. Given the circumstances (the heat, my current health, etc.) I began slowly, pacing myself and feeling out my body. Back in 2008, I ran the NYC Marathon. Not fast and not without some pain, but I finished. That was then and this is now.

The first few minutes my ankles were complaining. They wanted to know just whose idea this was and could we stop allowing them to make decisions. Noted, and I adjusted my footfalls accordingly. After a while, I stopped running and walked a bit (I would do that a lot over the next 50 minutes).

So I spent the time running, walking, running, then walking again…and sweating. On my return to the house where I’m staying (a very nice house with a pool in the backyard) I caught the voice in my head saying: just think about the pool, a quick dip in the cool waters will feel so nice.

And that is when it hit me. I was not present. I didn’t like sweating, being out of breath, my legs tired, the hot sun beating down on me and being thirsty (remember I didn’t bring any water along). And that’s what we do when we aren’t happy. We go to the “happy place” in our head.

I don’t know about you, but for me I know that often times I think I’ll be happier elsewhere, doing something other than what I am doing (like not sweating under the hot sun more than a mile from home). Yet when I get there it isn’t as great or as happy as I imagined. Because I’m not often present there either. What I realized on my run is that I practice being not present more often than I practice being present. Any uncomfortable feeling (physical or emotional) and my thoughts go elsewhere fast (much faster than I can physically run). I also thought that by practicing being not present I’ve created a habit that is probably working against my living a great life rather than for it.

So, I took it all in. The sun, the heat, the sweat stinging my eyes, my body not wanting to continue. I got present. Just like that (snaps fingers).

It didn’t get any cooler, my body didn’t feel stronger, I didn’t burst forth with newfound energy. My circumstances didn’t suddenly change for the better (in fact more sweat went into my eyes and stung even worse).

And I laughed out loud.

What shifted was my perspective and what I got access to was my sense of humor. By being present, by taking in and experiencing what was happening and not judging it or myself (remember, I was the one who left during the hotter part of the day and didn’t bring any water or money to buy any either) I was free.

Free from the tyranny of my circumstances, of the judgments and opinions rambling in my head. Free to be present in the face of circumstances.

Still, I saw my mind wanting to jump ahead. Yeah, but the pool will be so nice…

I focused on what was happening in the moment, bringing myself present again. The babble in my head continued, but more like a low hum instead of the Marshall amp on eleven*, which is its usual volume.

I smiled as I jogged and walked the rest of the way home.

How much of your day are you practicing being not present? And I don’t mean that you are just not present (that’s another thing and another blog post entirely). I mean how often are you actively thinking to yourself this sucks, let’s think about something else?

I do it, a lot. And now that I’m aware of it, I’ll be watching for when it comes up. What do you see for yourself? I’d really like to know. Your comments are welcome.

PS – the pool was refreshing and I was completely present while in it.

*Footnote: for those unfamiliar with the movie reference of an amp going to eleven, here’s a minute of Spinal Tap for you. Enjoy!

The Most Important Relationship You Are Ignoring

There is a relationship you have that you aren’t aware of and it is killing off your ability to thrive in life. The amazing thing about this relationship is you’ve had it your whole life and it is the one that will be with you until you die. You may not be doing much of anything to nurture it because you’re not aware it even exists. It’s the one relationship you cannot avoid, but you can try to ignore. And far too many of us do that on a daily basis.

I’m talking about your relationship to yourself. Are you aware that you have a relationship with yourself? You do. There are things you think about yourself, say about yourself (to yourself), and say to other people about yourself that make up a big part of your relationship to yourself.

Some of those things we think about ourselves may not be very nice or supportive. Some were given to us by people in our lives, and we’ve made them our own. Others we decided when we were young and have kept them with us to this very day. Often they came from adversity, and a decision got made, and that is who we say we are.

Most of us aren’t even aware we do this. We just assume those thoughts are true. You know the ones I mean. Thoughts about your weight, your age, your job, your finances … all those things you say to yourself everyday. That’s your relationship with yourself.

If I asked you to make two lists of the good and bad things you say and do to yourself, you could come up with at least 10 in each column. Right there, that’s your relationship with yourself.

Are you aware you do this?

Are you aware that you talk to yourself? Even if you don’t do it out loud, you talk to yourself. We all do. It’s that voice in your head. The one that, right now, is telling you that you don’t have a voice in your head.

It’s the voice that warns you of danger, tells you what you think about your sister’s choice of boyfriends, stops you from spending money you don’t have on things you don’t need (or convinces you that you deserve that expensive pair of shoes, even if you can’t afford them).

Useful, for the most part. Until it’s not.

The most cunning and dangerous bit is that it has you convinced that it is you. It has you convinced that what it fears, you fear, what it desires, you desire. It’s not true that you fear what it says, it just has you convinced that that’s the case.

Freud referred to this as “The I” (not as the Ego, which was a term imposed by his English translator). I call this “The I that I think I am, but not the real me that I am”. Many people, far smarter than I, have written about this and the myriad ways to transcend the ego or The I. The important thing to get here is that the ego can be transcended. The work is to get beyond who the voice in our head tells us we are. To allow for our identity while not being unconsciously controlled by it.

Here’s an interesting clip that explains this in under 2 minutes:

I’d love to hear what you see for yourself in this. Comments are free, please join the conversation.

A Model For Living A Fulfilling Life

“Do -> Have -> Be”  VS  “Be -> Have -> Do”

In our society there is a long-held concept that needs re-thinking. This is not a new idea, nor is it originally mine, I simply want to put this in front of you for consideration. Either to remind you of it if you’ve heard it before or to introduce it if you’ve not. My hope is that it at least provokes a new thought (or thought pattern) and something opens up for you that you hadn’t seen before. I’d love to hear your thoughts after reading. Please feel free to discuss further in the comments section.

“Do -> Have -> Be”

Most of us believe that if we do enough we will have the life we want and then we will be happy (or fulfilled, or satisfied, or insert your own phrase here). That model has served us for centuries and gotten us as far as it has gotten us.

And now, we find ourselves at a crossroads. After centuries of doing we are no more happy or fulfilled. With all the amazing technological advances of the 20th and early 21st centuries, human beings are less and less connected to what it is to be human. We have much easier lives than even a few decades ago (think back to a time before cell phones, home computers, or even ATMs) and yet we are no happier than before (and in fact may be less so now).

Everything moves faster and easier than ever before. Which has many benefits. And, perhaps, one major downside. With all the doing getting easier and faster we’ve forgotten what it is to simply be.

I assert that all this doing is covering up who we really are. If you think about all the doing that’s supposed to have gotten us to having the life we want and being happy, it almost always turns out there is just more doing to do and we rarely get to the having and even less to the being.

Think of the mouse running on a wheel. It’s running fast (read: doing) and it isn’t getting anywhere. It’s burning off a lot of energy, so at the end of the day it’s exhausted. Then it gets up again the next day and does it all over again. We’re like that mouse, all doing and exhausted. And neither of us is being human.

“Be -> Have -> Do”

Now let’s look at another concept that flips the first on its head:

What if we looked at life as first being, not based on any particular circumstance, but simply for the fact of our generating a state of being? Think about that a moment. Generally, we think of being as given by our circumstances. But what if the opposite were possible? What if there were our circumstances and who we chose to be about them, instead of our circumstances dictating our state of being? What would your life look like then?

I assert you would be free to have the life you really want. One of freedom, joy, and true power (not force, but the actual experience of living powerfully). Finally, what there is to do would be obvious and a natural, authentic expression of who you truly are.

Human beings have gifts beyond what most of us can imagine. As we cover up being by doing we lose sight of what it is to have a fulfilling life.

And now, I want to share with you a fantastic blog post written by a woman who spent years as a palliative care nurse. This is why you want to leave doing at the end of the equation and begin with being. If you’ve not read The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying you should. It may change the way you live the rest of your life. Click Here to read it now.

Beginning

What is it to begin, to start something? For me the feelings are a mixture of excitement and a bit of apprehension. The truth is, like most people, I want to be liked and admired. It is a driving force of many of the words and actions people take (myself included).

If you take a moment now to think about it, what is the thing that drives you more than anything else? More than money, more than even sex?

I’ve always loved how Jeff Goldblum’s character in the Big Chill describes this motivation and how it manifests for him.

Here it is in 64 seconds :

Now, what I’m starting here is a conversation. It is also, to be honest, a way to introduce my new blog, which in turn is a not-so-subtle way to promote my new coaching business. So there is that. But this blog isn’t going to be about coaching. No.

This is going to be a place for questions and reflections of a higher level than what many of us deal with or think about on a daily basis (again, myself included).

So here’s the thing, it is only when I am in conversations and asking questions that I really get who I am as a fully alive, awake, and conscious human being. Most of the time I’m worrying about money and time and work and doing the right thing (which means looking good and surviving whatever I think is happening).

In those moments when I let go of doing the right thing and looking good while doing it, when I’m connected to what it is to simply be alive in this moment, that is when my life has greatest meaning.

I’m curious what it is for you? When are you most connected to yourself and the world around you as a living being? What does it mean to you to be truly ALIVE?

This goes beyond any external factors, beyond large sums of money (Fun Fact: most lottery winners aren’t any happier a year after winning the lottery), or sex. This really goes deep into the heart of each of us.

If I could do anything in this life it would be to help shine a light on the darkest reaches of your mind and expose those things that we are all afraid will destroy us (the caveat being that you are willing to make this discovery). In my experience it is only when we bring those things out and see them as simply a part of what it is to be human, that we can truly live free of our constraints. I’ve seen the other side of continuing to hide those parts of ourselves that we do not like and can tell you they are actually doing more damage in the dark than when they come into the light.

I’ll be writing more about this in future posts. If you got something out of this, I hope you will join me on this journey and comment along the way.

What We’re Talking About When We Talk About The Weather

If you live in the north and / or eastern parts of North America I don’t have to tell you it’s been a long cold winter. In New York, as in most of the country, there are many conversations about the weather. Here, we get to hear each other’s conversations. On the bus people talk on their cell phones, on the subway to their friends, and sometimes, walking down the street, head bent to the bitter cold being carried on gale force winds, to themselves.

It is a lively town and filled with complainers. Most of us don’t think of ourselves as complaining. We think what we’re saying is the Truth. As in the sky is blue, water is wet, and this winter is brutal.

But the weather isn’t what we’re really talking about. What we’re talking about is our experience of the weather. We are talking about our thoughts and feelings. There is nothing wrong with this, and most of us think we are talking about what is happening instead of our experience of what is happening.

The distinction I want to illustrate here is this: something happens and we think and feel things about what happened – then we confuse what we think and feel with what actually happened. So our thoughts and feelings about what happened become (to us) what happened, or our reality. Then we repeat that to people, gathering agreement, making it that much more real.

Except it is not. It is only our perception.

So what if you consider, for just a moment, that the weather is doing whatever it is doing, separate from you and your thoughts and feelings. What opens up for you when you look at the weather as just what is happening separate from you?

Now apply that same distinction (what’s happening from what you think and feel about it) to other areas of your life, like your job, your relationship, your bank account.

What opens up for you when you look at these things as they are and not what you think and feel about them? What do you see is possible now?

I’d love to hear from you, please feel free to comment below or click here to e-mail me now!

Thank you,
DJ

What Do You Want Out Of Life

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela

What Do You Want Out Of Life?

This is usually the first question you’ll answer in coaching. My name is DJ Eldon and I am a personal coach. Whether you know what you want right now or not, coaching can help you to live the life you really want.

Freedom

The collaborative process of coaching puts you in action around the things you want. Feeling stuck in your career, with a creative project, your relationship, your fitness? I can coach you to get results you never thought possible.

You can read more about my transformational coaching on the following pages, then contact me for a free session to see if coaching is right for you.

I’m committed that people live the life of their dreams.

So What Do You Want Out Of Life?
Together We Can Get You There

Click here to e-mail me now!