Be Water My Friend: The True Teachings of Bruce Lee Written by Shannon Lee Daughter of Bruce Lee
A must-have guide to the foundational thoughts of martial arts legend and movie icon Bruce Lee.
Bruce Lee’s daughter illuminates her father’s most powerful life philosophies, and how we can apply his teachings to our daily lives.
‘Empty your mind; be formless, shapeless like water’
Bruce Lee is a cultural icon, world renowned for his martial arts and film legacy. But Lee was also a deeply philosophical thinker, believing that martial arts are more than just an exercise in physical discipline – they are a perfect metaphor for personal growth.
In Be Water, My Friend, Shannon Lee shares previously untold stories from her father’s life along with the concepts at the core of his teachings. Each chapter reveals a lesson from Bruce Lee, expanding on the foundation of his iconic ‘be water’ philosophy to reveal a path to an enlightened way of being.
This is an inspirational call to action to consider our lives with new eyes and a testament to Lee’s unique power to ignite our imaginations and transform our lives.
The Water Way
“ Water is gentle yet powerful. Soft yet strong. Flowing yet deep. And so it is with life.”
Life can be joyful and sad. Beautiful and ugly. Exciting and terrifying. And yet, these are the extremes of the whole situation. If we resist on one end of the experience, we will never reach the heights of the life rewards or the contentment of life balance.
Let’s look at the entire ecosystem of our being and humanity. Like water, we can flow quickly or slowly. We can work or train hard while allowing ourselves to be gentle. The journey of flowing toward self-actualization and wholeness shouldn’t be taken lightly. It requires your dedicated attention. So now let’s have our toes in the vast pond of the universe and go a little deeper. Come on… the water is fine…
The Empty Cup
“Who is there that can make muddy waters clear? But if allowed to remain still, it will become clear of itself. Who is there that can secure a state of absolute repose? But keep calm and let time go on, and the state of repose will gradually arrest.”
The practices of mindfulness and meditation are similar in that they bring you back to the presence, the ‘now’. They’re both excellent for learning to empty our cup. If you practice them everyday, even just for five minutes, you’ll develop a full sense of energized relaxation and there’ll be more room in your cup for all sorts of meaningful activities.
Remember emptiness is a process. There’s no way to achieve mastery and there’s no end to it. Once you start noticing your inner dialog going, the process becomes a part of you. And there’ll be times you’ll forget about this process altogether. When that happens, start again. Start over if necessary. Our whole mission here is to let go of that binary thinking.
“To live with ‘what is’ to be peaceful. There’s ‘what is’ when there’s no comparison at all.”
The Eternal Student
You don’t need to live in the new age section of the bookstore. Although ‘self-help’ material can be your mental food, you’re the only one who can help yourself. Even in asking for someone’s help, you’re helping yourself. Self-help, however you come by it – reading books, journaling ,seeking a mentor, going to therapy, talking things out with trusted friends, meditating – is simply you sleuthing for your solution, looking for your discovery, learning what works or doesn’t work, understanding your strengths and weaknesses. It’s a process of self-empowerment.
As we position ourselves into curiosity, we must be courageous in the face of our fears and ready to integrate our understanding into our experience. Every day there can be a revelation or a new discovery you can obtain. You just need to be curious, courageous and keep that state of coexistence. Learning is boundless.
Instead of opposing force with force, one should oppose by accepting the flow of energy from the opponent and defeat it by borrowing from it. In martial arts, this law could be akin to the idea of using someone’s movement to create an opening for your own action. This means being so attuned to your opponent’s energy that you can sense an opportunity almost immediately. In a challenging personal situation, you can borrow the energy the other side is giving you and adapt appropriately.
“The great mistake is to anticipate the outcome of the engagement. Instead of thinking whether it ends in victory or in defeat, you should see through an illusion that there’s no one to fight. “
In looking at our opposition, we must not be afraid to uncover our true self and let that be seen. In being comfortable enough in our own skin to be vulnerable, we suddenly begin allowing others the comfort of their true identities as well. Opposites isolate us and create false distance. In reality, there’s no distance. Everything is connected like one fluid motion of a wave.
You’ll never have all the answers to begin. Sometimes you have to begin to find the answers you’re looking for. We have some serious stuff to unpack and deal with the task we feel daunting. Yesterday was the best time to act, but now is the second best time. Learn, create and align your words with your deeds. Or stop talking and get busy doing.
“When you drop a pebble into a pool of water, the pebble starts a series of ripples that expand until they encompass the whole pool. This is exactly what will happen when you give your ideas a definite plan of actions.”
You are the means. All goals aside from the means are an illusion. There’ll never be means to ends, only means. You can train and practice but never live. Life is a process, not a goal. A means but not an end. A constant movement rather than an established pattern.
There’s always something to learn if you look closely and especially within our obstacles. Our obstacles are among some of our greatest teachers. They’ll show us how to benefit most from our strengths and our weaknesses. They’ll open us up to new realms of understanding and help us develop new skills if we allow it.
“Do what seems wise to be done, forget it and walk on. Walk on and see a new view. Walk on and see the birds fly. Walk on and leave behind all things that would dam up the inlet or clog the outlet of experience.”
Life is an ever-flowing process and somewhere on the journey some unpleasant things pop up – it might leave a dent. But then life flows on like running water. If it ever stops, it grows stale. Go bravely on because each experience leaves us something. Keep blasting because life is such that sometimes it’s nice and other times it’s not.
“Do you know how I like to think of myself? As a human being. Because under the sky, under the heavens, there is but one family.”
Live your life as if this is the life you’re living right now – not the life where you think you’ll be living one day. This is it. With every moment and every day that passes, this is your life. You’re not striving to be anyone but in the cultivation of you, you become someone who is skilled and fully present, someone who has great energy that uplifts everyone you come in contact with.
It doesn’t have to come with a name attached – such as greatest martial artist on earth, the youngest Nobel prize winner, the employee of the year, best mom ever. Names create limitations. Those labels only describe one aspect of your total humanity.” But if we have to have a name, then let it be ‘human, fully expressed.’
“I have to leave you now my friend. You have a long journey ahead of you, and you must rave light. These paragraphs have been merely ‘a finger pointing at the moon.’ Please do not take the finger to be the moon or fix your intense gaze on the finger and thus miss all the beautiful sights of heaven. After all, the usefulness of the finger is in pointing away from itself to the light that illuminates the finger and all.”