mindfulness

No 11. Move Like Water

I have been a late bloomer in life in many ways; particularly in areas related to physical and emotional maturity. The day I started high school, I measured five feet tall (no inches) and weighed a startling 100 lbs. A freshman trapped in a fifth-grade body.

I could write a blog exclusively on the suffering I chose in early adulthood based on the story I created around this subject. One of the most troubling parts of that story was that I never believed I was capable of standing up for myself in high school, in a myriad of embarrassing situations. The result was a mountain of frustration and rage, stacked on top of an existing mass of standard-issue, teenage confusion. 

Solution: Learn to kick some ass. 

Income martial arts. Combine a God-given, world-class stubbornness, a double dose of late adolescent aggression, and hand-to-hand combat training. Thankfully, I never really liked being hit or hitting other people, but I was committed to becoming a force to be respected. I was going to become a man and learn to fight.

I studied two Korean disciplines, the stances, and forms of which suited my tall, lean body type. Tang Soo Do was for striking and Hapkido, for self-defense. In essence, Hapkido is a derivative of Aikido with low leg kicks, and the art of leveraging the momentum of an opponent’s energy against them. I studied for three years before I ran out of classes to take at Junior College. Underwater Basket Weaving sounded intriguing, but I knew deep down it was time to move on.

An interesting aspect of Hapkido, which loosely translates to “move like water”, was its opposite approach to what I was seeking. Softening was the last thing I imagined would devastate my aggressors. For the first time in my life, a healthy dose of eastern culture first taught me that conflict and physical altercation were to be avoided unless absolutely necessary and, that one way to navigate through a contentious or dangerous situation is to give into and accept what you are offered, even if it involves a punch or weapon with intent to hurt or kill you.

I guess the metaphor didn’t totally stick. For years, with some exceptions, I have been fighting, resisting, pushing back, pushing forward, responding to the world and acting from the fear of the small, frightened ego, instead of listening, feeling and being mindful of what the environment around me is offering.

The last three years have been full of examples of situations that could have been more fluid and involved far less suffering, had I been willing to soften instead of swimming against the tide. 

Lessons learned (hopefully not repeated): 

  • Instead of the futility of trying to change reality when my children are crying and expressing frustrated/painful emotion, welcome it, embrace them

  • When a relationship is not working or a disagreement arises, get ahead of it immediately, first seek to understand, take responsibility for your part, try to find common ground, and a win-win. If a resolution is not feasible, end the relationship or agree to disagree

  • If a business or strategy is not working, step back, consider all possibilities, even if you can’t imagine how they might work, pivot.

Of course, this is easy to say now. Hindsight is 20/20

There are times in life, particularly in entrepreneurship, that require fighting fire with fire and pure perseverance. In the moment, it is often challenging to distinguish when to pivot, and when to press onward. Most worthy endeavors and certainly creative projects that do not fit the status quo, almost always require climbing over significant hurdles. 

Here are some questions I now ask myself to help distinguish whether to push or “move like water”. 

  • Is this situation or relationship coming to me or, did I create it?

  • Is the situation working easily, is it flowing?

  • If not, is this common in this industry or type of relationship?

  • Am I centered in my meditation and spiritual practices?

  • Am I willing to and have I surrendered the outcome I have imagined?

  • What story am I telling myself about this situation or person?

  • What feedback is the world offering me at this moment?

  • What are the facts? What is the present reality?

Today I consciously choose my past and my present. I am creating possibility from the nothingness and emptiness that is before and beneath all the labels, expectations and shoulds my ego-mind confuses for “self”. I forgive myself and all those with whom I have held resentment. I am moving forward and doing my best to practice softening, listening, and surrendering to what comes. I remain a proponent of human potential and doing the best with the gifts and talents we have been given. I will keep opening my heart. I will continue to pursue challenging projects that exist at the intersection of sustainability and design. Perfection is a myth. Evolution and growth are only possible as a result of irritation and friction; thank you, thank you, thank you. 

I am grateful for the abundant blessings in my life and the learning that comes in so many unexpected forms. From the joy and reflection of being a father to the suffering of loss, it is a precious gift to experience life and connect to the love and creation inside of us.