Mind like Water: Definition and How-to’s

I heard of this phrase “Mind Like Water” for the first time when I was reading Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen back  in 2008.

In karate there is an image that’s used to define the position of perfect readiness: “mind like water.” Imagine throwing a pebble into a still pond. How does the water respond? The answer is, totally appropriately to the force and mass of the input; then it returns to calm. It doesn’t overreact or underreact. -David Allen

Then in the same year, Kung Fu Panda 1 was out and about. What’s appealing was Master Oogway’s statement about the same concept.

Your mind is like the water. When it is agitated it becomes difficult to see, but when you let it settle, the answer becomes clear. -Master Oogway in Kung Fu Panda 1

When I saw Kung Fu Panda 2 recently (twice in two days), this concept made a comeback reviving and thriving within me. A quick search on the web seemed to reveal that the pioneer behind this extremely appealing concept is Bruce Lee.

“Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.”

Water has no fixed form. It accords with the nature of circumstances and conditions. It has no intent but just flows and adapts. The state of Mind Like Water appeals for calmness and peace so that the physical form of you is ready for any thing. With Mind Like Water comes organisation, productivity and creativity, and vice versa.

Mind Like Water

Now that I have had Mind Like Water defined (of course, by these figures whose quotes I raised above), let’s move on to our next question: How can we attain the Mind Like Water state in our daily life, at work and at home? There are many ways you could think of but the two very important tips I would like to share in this post are…

First, be very well organised.

There are a lot of ways to be well organised depending on the type of person you are and the context you are in. Some practice minimalism. Others develop a system to help themselves organise “stuff” they need to take care of and emptying their head so that we can focus on more meaningful life. If you’re the first type of person, I’d recommend you read The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential…in Business and in Life by the blogger of fame at ZenHabits.net. The second type of person may be more appropriate to read Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, a best-seller by personal productivity guru David Allen.

By being well organised and knowing what to do, when to do and how to do it, we will achieve the Mind Like Water state.

Second, practice non-action.

Non-action derives from the Taoist concept of wu-wei (effortless action). It suggests you be less resistant in life, never react, over-react nor under-react. “This is very much in line with modern notions of personal development and business thought that advocate a motivational focus on personal strengths, passions and meaning instead of profit and other external forms of reward. Action that is in line with our talents or level of skill, is exciting, and/or meaningful cannot be said to involve effort in the sense of struggle, tedium or moral torment,” Alan Furth wrote on his blog.

Another quote from his wonderful post to finish mine…

Dyer’s commentary:

[The principle of non-action] is clearly seen when you look at great champions as they perform their chosen activities. The greatest golfers are effortless in their swing… they don’t use force, nor can they find words to describe how they do it. The most talented artists dance softly, without effort; paint quietly, without force; and write easily, without struggle, by allowing the words to come to them.

…Some marathon runners say that they’ve learned to relax and stop pushing, letting their legs, arms and torso simply be as their bodies begin experiencing extreme exhaustion with only only a few miles to go. They report that when they shut down the mental interference and instructions they magically cross that finish line.

Apply this way of seeing everything in your world: Tasks will be simplified, your performance level will increase, and the pressure to be better than others by using superior hardened strength will cease to be a factor.

That’s it. Please share with me what you have to say about Mind Like Water concept. Thank you in advance.

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