May 10, 2016

Be Like Water

"Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it."
Lao Tzu, Ancient Chinese Philosopher and Founder of Taoism

In the midst of any interpersonal or personal struggle among or within humans, inevitably there comes a moment when we realize with crystal clarity there is only one sure fire, never fail way to resolve the conflict and restore the peace. Surrender! We immediately recognize and intuitively know the power of it’s truth, because, quite frankly, it’s the same answer every time and has been for time immemorial.

No matter the nature or form of the conflict, and without respect for whether the urge to surrender arrives from within our own selves, via a close friend or even from a virtual stranger, the answer to conflict is always: “Surrender.” Lay it down. Let it go. Stop fighting against it. Stop digging and step away from the shovel. Surrender!

Still, despite the sheer and obvious simplicity of the answer, many times, we humans are sometimes more comfortable with the conflict than we are with the peace promised in the act of surrender. The masculine tendency is to resist the concept of surrender, because of how the word is typically defined in a competitive world of winners and losers. To the masculine, “surrender” is akin to something worse than losing, because it implies that you are also a quitter. You couldn’t stay the course. You didn’t have what it takes to go the distance.

Surrender Is For Quitters

Before we become men, we are taught as boys in various ways, to never surrender, give no quarter and most of all never quit. For many men, being a quitter is worse than being a loser. It is engrained in us that it is more noble to fight to the death than to surrender, unless of course you like being branded a coward.

The white flag of surrender is a challenge for the masculine warrior.
The white flag of surrender is a challenge for the masculine warrior.

From the perspective of the warrior paradigm, “surrender” implies weakness. Surrender is the absolute last resort for survival, only appropriate after rationally assessing the situation and determining there are insufficient resources to fight through to the victory. Even so, for the masculine, the act of surrender, even for survival’s sake, will likely be judged as giving up or quitting, which holds a high potential to experience shame.

No self respecting man wants to be labeled a quitter, so the concept of surrender uniquely threatens the very core of masculine identity. At its extreme, surrender can feel like a death of sorts to the masculine, which of course will be resisted with great will. In the context of our personal relationships, especially with the feminine, the system of thought that could literally save our lives in physical battle, or assure our success in a competitive world, is virtually worthless and can even do serious damage in our attempts to create intimate partnership with the feminine.

Surrender & The Art Of Intimacy Maintenance

Men with a fight to the death, never surrender attitude are not likely to experience much intimacy in their most intimate partnerships with the feminine. For trust and intimacy to be established, honored and maintained, the act of surrender is an essential practice that must become an art form. Yet, it cuts directly against the grain of the masculine warrior paradigm.  It can be, and oftentimes is, very confusing for men.

Silver Intimacy Masks
Surrender is essential to learning the art of intimacy maintenance.

The feminine demands the masculine be present, be in his authority, while all the while testing the masculine to see if he will abdicate his power. In meeting this challenge by the feminine, the physical warrior aggressively counsels never surrender, while the spiritual warrior counsels non-resistance. Likewise, the physical warrior shows strength through force, conquest and domination, while the spiritual warrior demonstrates strength via a non-resistant assumption of safety.

For the masculine, the idea of non-resistance offers a unique challenge. It is very easy for the masculine man of the world to view “non-resistance” as being passive. From the masculine perspective, passivity is a contrary impulse, and like surrender, is commonly viewed as weakness among the masculine fraternity. However, in its highest, most divine sense, non-resistance is actually the conscious choice of taking no action to protect or defend, which is not passive at all, and is in truth a potent act of masculine authority and true power.

So, what does all this have to do with water?

Finding the balance that allows a man to succeed both in a world based on competition and in the art of intimacy with the feminine, is the work of the spiritual warrior. It is a work that at times can feel like the equivalent of walking a tight rope across the Grand Canyon.  Resisting surrender is required for competitive success, while surrendering is conversely required for creating intimacy and trust with the feminine. The masculine impulse is to fight against surrender, while the feminine will not surrender to the masculine fully, unless the masculine surrenders first. It’s a tight rope to be sure.

Earlier today, I discussed some of these ideas with a trusted friend. After listening to me articulate some personal challenges I am having on this front, he said, “Be like water. Don’t resist. Seek your own level and let everything else form around you.” I thought to myself, “How very Zen of you!” However, the advice hit its mark and it immediately shifted something for me. It was one of those instants where you know the whole conversation had been divinely architected for just that one piece, that simple message to be delivered to its intended recipient. In this case, me! “Be like water.

We hung up soon after that moment, after which I spent some time meditating on the nature of water. I thought about puddles, streams, waterfalls, rain, rivers and oceans. I thought about floods, hurricanes, monsoons and tsunamis. I even thought about a glass of drinking water, the fact that our bodies are comprised of about 75% water, our blood about 90% water. As I continued to meditate on water, I began to think about how powerful, yet completely flexible and malleable it is.

Water can be completely passive, flexible and assume the form of any container.
Water can be completely passive, flexible and assume the form of any container.

It is essential to our survival, yet at the same time possesses an overwhelming power to devastate and consume any physical environment. In contrast, it will conform to any shape or form in which it is placed, a symbol of its absolute flexibility.

As I continued to meditate, I moved beyond the idea of being “like” water to the spiritual realization I am water and my peace returned. I glimpsed a new sense of surrender that empowered the masculine. As a spiritual principle, this is not a new idea. But today, I heard it as if for the first time, in a new way that helped me with an important personal challenge.

And, that made all the difference in my day.

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