Water flows and it will always find a way to move forward. Sometimes it flows over or around, sometimes it wears down the obstacles; it will always find a way to move. Water fill empty places and then continues its flow. This verse tells us about living as water.
Water can be like a sweet caress and it can be a strong force, destroying all in its way. It can carry enormous vessels as well as sink them. You can’t grasp water, it will flow through your fingers. Water is the strongest, yet the softest element and everywhere we see the traces of water; from the meandering tiny stream in the forest till the huge dried out riverbeds in Luxembourg. (Where did all the water go?) Water can, drop by drop, wear down the hardest rock and it always returns to itself. Without water the world dies, water is life.
Living like water is applying strength when needed and at other times yielding. When we run into an obstacle we need to find our way over, under, through or around, just as water does. Take a deep breath and flow like water…
Under heaven nothing is more soft and yielding than water
Yet for attacking the solid and strong, nothing is better
It has no equal.
The weak can overcome the strong
The supple can overcome the stiff
Under heaven everyone knows this
Yet no one puts it into practice.
Therefore the sage says:
He who takes upon himself the humiliation of the people is fit to rule them.
He who takes upon himself the country’s disasters deserves to be king of the universe.
The truth often sounds paradoxical
The Tao of heaven is like the bending of a bow
The high is lowered, and the low is raised
If the string is too long, it is shortened
I there is not enough, it is made longer.
The Tao of heaven is to take from those who have too much and give to those who do not have enough.
Man’s way is different,
He takes from those who do not have enough, to give to those who already have too much
What man has more than enough and give it to the world?
Only the man of Tao.
Therefore the sage works without recognition
He achieves what has to be done without dwelling on it
He does not try to show his knowledge.
This was one of my earliest lessons, many years ago when I was young and more stubborn than a barn full of donkeys. 🙂 I am still stubborn but have over time learned to yield, not only to people or events but also to myself. Sounds weird, doesn’t it…Yielding to the self? It is not as strange as it may seem; oftentimes we don’t follow our inner voice and we overrule ourselves. Hindsight is usually the place when we realize this – too late. The same goes for others; we don’t personally carry all the answers, so maybe we should listen to others and accept their take on things, we don’t always have to be right – we can’t always be right and our attitudes and preconceived notions do not serve us well…They do not bend in the wind…
This is true also on a physical level; when we stay strong and supple our bodies might bruise but not break when we fall. A yielding outlook in a supple body is the way to go!
A man is born gentle and weak
At his death he is hard and stiff
Green plants are tender and filled with sap
At their death they are withered and dry
Therefore the stiff and unbending is the discipline of death
The gentle and yielding is the disciple of life
Thus an army without flexibility never wins a battle
A tree that is unbending is easily broken
The hard and strong will fall
The soft and weak will overcome
(pic from: http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/4700/4782/king_16.htm)
This verse was directed at the leaders of countries, but it is accurate also for the rest of us as we are all “leaders” of somebody. Ironically the first 3 lines are prophetic of the stress we are surrounded by today; when we overtax ourselves, we’ll wear ourselves out and when we overtax others, we wear them out.
When we guide somebody; a child, co-worker or by any kind of teaching, we need to allow space for mistakes, growth and understanding. The people we are responsible for should, under our guidance, become strong and independent. If they don’t, we have failed. Demanding more or better is often not productive, as it creates a stressful situation effectively shutting down creativity and lust. Sometimes the trick is to step back and communicate, finding the best solution possible. Then our “charges” will find the best in themselves – this always comes from feeling trusted. When people feel confident and excited about themselves they will also feel excited about life and the work they are doing, making them want to excel. This is human nature.