FOR WEEKS THE PHRASE “you can’t push the water” kept popping up in my thinking. I ignored it. I admired it. I wondered where it came from, and finally, I gave up and decided to explore the concept.
First the obvious. I tried imaging pushing water. I discovered that internal voice was right, you can’t push the water. What can you do instead?
I used to be a fish, or at least that is what my dad called me. I swam everywhere. My favorite was the week we would spend every summer at the ocean. Definitely, you learn to not push the water of the ocean. When a wave comes at you, you can dive into it and feel the exhilaration of popping up on the other side. Or you can ride the wave into shore and experience the sensation of flying, if only for a brief moment.
Definitely, can’t push that water.
While pondering the message, I watched our resident crows take turns bathing in the birdbath. They patiently waited on the rim of the birdbath and while the bathing crow splashed and flapped. They weren’t pushing water; they were playing with it.
We can freeze water, drink water, bathe in it, swim in it, attempt to control its flow, but we can’t push it.
So what? What does it mean in life?
As the idea of not pushing the water kept pushing at me, I first saw it as a metaphor for not fighting. Isn’t all forms of fighting, and yes, I am talking about the game and business of war – pushing the water?
It’s impossible. Go back to imagining pushing water. What happens? Isn’t that what happens in any war or fight with each other or with life itself?
Our Women’s Council has been spending the past few months focusing on the art of surrender. Surrender does not push the water. In this kind of surrender, we practice accepting the flow of life. Instead of fighting it we can dive into it, ride it, splash it, bath, float, all to our benefit. All ideas that produce a feeling of peace, or joy, or even exhilaration.
Surrendering is not giving up, or becoming a victim. Exactly the opposite. We become in control of what is happening by accepting that it is happening. We let the water, life, guide us to the best possible solution.
For a year Del and I tried selling our house while searching for one that we liked more. We were surprised that no one wanted to buy our house. But we were even more surprised when we couldn’t find one we liked more.
Have you ever sold a house? People have to walk through it to see it. Which means periodically I would have to leave the house and wait for the walk-through to be over. It was hard for me to surrender to that, but I did, not always graciously I admit.
One day I came home at the right time, and they were still there. I decided to practice surrender. Not push the water. It was hard. As I waited, I saw how much I wanted to go home and have them leave. Perhaps in the half hour, I managed to surrender only for a minute or so.
The outcome of even that small surrender? They bought the house.
That meant we had to surrender to the idea that we didn’t have anywhere to go. We decided to make it an adventure. Within a few days, I had many alternatives for us to choose from if we didn’t find a house in time.
A few days later we both had the impulse to surrender to the idea that the sale would not go through.
In fact, we discovered, we would be happy to stay in our house. And that is what happened.
The sale fell through; we were happy. The potential buyers were happy. And we decided to stay where we are and do something with the house we are in instead. Not pushing the water; riding the wave instead.
That phrase still won’t leave me alone. Probably because I have so much more to learn about the art of surrendering and letting life lead the way. I admit, though, as hard as surrendering can be, I am enjoying learning how to be a fish in life.
The outcome is much better than I could ever make happen by attempting to push the water.
A wonderful book about surrender by Michael Singer: The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life’s Perfection