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):

4 thoughts on “Be Like Water

    1. I hear you on that. Next time you feel yourself being like the rock, stop and ask yourself, “What would water do here?” Let me know if that opens anything up for you.

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