Be Like Water: Life Lessons Ebb and Flow

Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.  – Bruce Lee gets it right as usual!


One of the biggest lessons I’ve had over the past few years is slowly understanding that all challenges in life are simply learning experiences – nothing more and nothing less. Attitude and perception are everything. Like the saying, life sometimes takes you into troubled waters not to drown you but to cleanse you. So true! Struggle has a way of demanding that we dig deep and pull out resources we never knew we had.

Sometimes we endure a catastrophe that forces us to reevaluate ourselves and how we’re living; other times it’s just everyday obstacles that add up. A few years ago I decided that I needed to, once and for all, stop feeling terrified of not being ‘perfect’. It was leading me to so much anxiety, stress, and shutting out life. I had to accept myself and where I was with total honesty, free of any and all judgment. Allowing a safe space to be vulnerable and opening my mind to new ways of thinking and feeling were the first steps in creating change. I still experience challenges, like we all do, but I’ve grown to be able to handle any obstacles that grace me with their educational presence in healthy, life-enhancing ways, rather than through unnecessary torment.

The ebb and flow of water teaches us valuable life lessons.

It sometimes takes a whole lot of awkward and uncomfortable struggling to peel off the layers of grit we accumulate from life experiences and harmful societal constructs and everything else. As I strip them off through mindfulness, yoga, meditation, and other positive tools, I feel my authentic self slowly reveal. This is what I’m striving for, maybe what we’re all striving for in the end. Truth. Peace within. A taste of unadulterated beauty. Fluidity.

Water helps teach me the importance of being mutable, of shifting and re-shaping according to circumstance and self. Let’s take a look at what we can learn from liquid about living our best lives… Without the bitter, there is no sweet.

Be still – ever experience a feeling of calm wash over you when looking onto a serenely still lake? It’s one of my favorite ways to decompress, if I happen to be lucky enough to be near such a place. The quiet strength in stillness is not to be underestimated. We need calm to be able to hear our own inner voices. Meditation or just sitting quietly can also create a sense of peace. As much as the waves of an ocean can roar, the tranquil times are equally essential.

Find stillness from meditation or a tranquil lake.

Be flexible – By nature, water is uber-flexible: it has to be to fit through tiny crevices and navigate vast spaces. As human beings, we can sometimes be stiff in our thinking and feeling. When we’re asked – or demanded! – to step out of our comfort zones to do something that scares us, sometimes our initial reaction can be to recoil inward or try to weasel our way out. I speak from experience on this one!

Happily, there is definitely an alternative. When confronted with the need to bend a little, ask yourself what can I learn from this experience? What can it teach me? By being receptive to newness, we can create opportunities from otherwise uncomfortable situations.

Be intuitive – “Water is the primal element from which we all spring and that to which we ultimately return as we break apart and become part of Earth’s great system,” Dr. Brian Clement eloquently reminds us. Water is instinctive, intuitive. It does what it needs to do, when it needs to do it. People are similar. Our primal instincts are our unique calling cards. Using my intuition is the best resource I have for making decisions that will benefit me. As long I’m going with my gut, whatever happens will at least be coming from a place of authenticity; my mistakes are my own and that’s a beautiful thing.

As we step forward, be open to new experiences and trust our instincts.

Be powerful! - Conversely, what happens when you’re at the shore of an ocean looking out onto gigantic waves of fury? I feel shocked and awed, taken aback at the innate power of nature. I remember living in Victoria, British Columbia (oh Canada!), sitting by the water and feeling everything fall into perspective. It’s easy to understand how small we really are in the grand universal scheme of things when we’re standing at the foot of a great body of water. It also shows me my own innate power, the waves that we’re all capable of making.

Be adaptive – Water is constantly adapting to the circumstances of its environment. Mental health guru Byron Katie talks about this concept and loving what is. This takes being flexible to the next level! Instead of trying to force what you want to happen, choose to simply allow what is. By accepting reality, whether or not we agree with it or like it, we can feel more peaceful in the moment and grow as people. Adapting to our surroundings rather than making our surroundings adapt to us is a key to living peacefully.

When you hit an obstacle, adapt yourself to find the beauty within it – and within you.

Be personal – Another H2O gem from the good doctor: “How can we deny that water possesses character and energy? This wondrous substance has the potential to stir us, calm us, frighten us or awaken us.” To quickly catch everyone up to speed: our quote man, Dr. Brian Clement, is a doctor who sometimes makes insightful blog entries on Kris Carr’s health-tip-filled website. (Who is Kris Carr, you might ask? Why, she’s an incredibly inspirational woman who beat the odds against cancer and used the frightening experience to turn her whole life around!) As humans, we also have the potential to create waves of change, to rock n’ roll others, to do anything we want. The trick? Dig into your own special character, into your own innate energy. No thinking, no analyzing. Trust your distinct individuality. Embody your personal style and prowess, moving to your own rhythm.

Going with the flow helps everything move freely.

Well, the last one sums up just about everything: Go with the flow! In order for us to truly take life as it comes, we need to make like water and flow freely. Be still, flexible, and adapt to whatever the heck’s going on in our crazy, beautiful world. Using our intuition as guide, nurturing our authentic energy. Each of us knows in our guts when it’s time to float, dive, swim like a fish, or when we’re ready to go deep. Like water, we need to do what we need to do, when and how we need to. Going with our own flow will also empower others to do the same!

Ready to dive in? Need time to keep floating? Be like water and go with the flow of intuition.

You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend. – Bruce Lee