Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Life Like Water

I don't generally have much time to think about whether or not I'm being productive.  I'm sure I'm violating some rule of productivity that demands attention to such things, but I'm frankly too busy most of the time to give it much thought.  I do what I have to do...every moment to the next...just like everyone else, I imagine.  When things go well, I breathe a sigh of relief; when they crash spectacularly, I admit my part of the fault...and I do it quickly, because there's almost certainly something else I'm supposed to be doing while I'm standing there feeling yucky for messing something up.

I used to try to control my life a lot more when I was younger.  I needed to be in charge...needed to always take the lead...needed to master my own destiny.  I was, as my friend Adam describes it, "being epic."  I can still see shadows of that girl from time to time...but most of the time she's kind of standing there in a blinking, bewildered state wondering how in the hell life got to be so complicated beyond her control.  Meanwhile, I'm busy doing whatever's next on the list...tossing her pointed sideways glances and not-entirely-politely suggesting she get off her bewildered butt and lend a hand already!

(Yes.  I have a lively internal monologue.)

I found a quote this week that I really like.  It's attributed, best I can tell, to Bruce Lee and is probably fifty years old and has likely been all around the internet ten times and is totally "oh, that old thing."  Whatever.  I still like it.
Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.
Water analogies always catch my eye because of some conversations Reid and I had early in our getting-to-know-you phase.  This quote stood out to me, not because I've achieved a Zen-like state of mind is not by any stretch of the imagination "formless"...but because I realized that "control freak" inner voice has been growing increasingly faint.  I'm more tolerant of the various shapes my life takes.  I'm less concerned about the state of perfection I've always expected from myself.  I'm learning to relax a little (maybe sometimes only a little).  I'm learning to just...go with it.

(Side note:  the word nerd in me loves the double-entendre of the last sentence:  is it "Be water my friend" as in he's asking the water to be his friend and help him achieve this fluid state?  Or is it a recommendation to the implied "you" of the sentence, only it's missing a comma:  "Be water, my friend."  Who knows?  I think that's grand...)

I never figured myself as one who would take an interest in Bruce Lee, but it turns out there's a lot of overlap between what's required to master Jeet Kun Do and what's required to master the life of a busy parent/worker/student/partner/human:
Do not be tense, just be ready, not thinking but not dreaming, not being set but being flexible. It is being "wholly" and quietly alive, aware and alert, ready for whatever may come.
And that's really what it's about.  Relax.  Be ready.  Be flexible.  Be quietly open to whatever comes and be prepared to let yourself flow into the shape that you need to take to deal with the Next Big Thing(tm)....and then be ready to flow into the one after that...and the one after that.  Have I mastered it?  Not entirely...but, as it turns out, I no longer expect to.

Maybe a mind like water is the start...but a life like water is the result. 

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