Week 632: Being Water

As I write this, I’m in Amherst, Massachusetts, having just completed a small professional workshop. One of the things I always share with colleagues is the power of “being water” when working with clients, moving through life in general and, especially, when facing challenging situations. As I talked about being water, it reminded me of how dynamically helpful this metaphor can be when engaging in life’s daily activities and glitches.

The process of being water, for me, is often about generating or discovering options in situations that arise unexpectedly. For example, the day of the evening of the beginning of the workshop, the train I took from New York City to Northampton, Massachusetts was held on the tracks midway along in the journey. There was a police action of some kind, so we were told we would be waiting “indefinitely” until the situation was resolved and we had permission to go forward. In the old days, this kind of situation would have made me tense and worried about getting to the workshop on time. Having spent a number of years now practicing being water, I found myself able to relax into the flow of things as they were, giving up any need to struggle or insist that things be different from what they actually were.

It’s taken me a number of years of practicing mindfulness, “softening”, “no struggle”, and other approaches to be able to drop into being water as easily as I did the other day. What I’ve found is that it’s a great gift to sense into what’s happening and then have choices as to how to respond. In earlier years of my life, the only option available to me was anxiety and an internal pressure to have things be different from how they actually were.

As I write this, I’m reminded of the 12-step affirmation that includes the wisdom to know the difference between what can be changed and what can’t. Being water becomes one way to explore whether change can happen and, when it can’t, eliciting options as to what kinds of responses and options are possible.

For this week’s experiment, I invite you to play with your own relationship to being water. I’ve offered this experiment a number of times over the years, and I continue to return to it because it’s such a powerful way to enhance your internal quality of life. There’s a certain kind of resourceful creativity in being water, as it orients you to be curious about what possibilities may exist and, when there don’t seem to be any immediate openings, to settle like a pond or lake until something opens up the flow again.

Of course, this doesn’t mean not to take action when action is called for. That goes without saying. Keeping ourselves safe and healthy is a priority. That said, much of the stress we encounter in our busy lives these days has to do with things we really can’t control—the traffic jam, the late train, the line that seems to go on forever, someone we love becomes ill. In situations like these, being water can offer moments of quiet, settled being rather than agitation, and that can contribute a great deal to your internal quality of life.

As with all these experiments, be sure to bring along curiosity as your constant companion and allow any judgments that may arise to simply move through and move on. The invitation here is to pay attention to how you feel when you soften into the present moment or situation and allow yourself to find your way through it in the same way water finds its way from a mountaintop to the ocean.

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