What superpower did you dream of having when you were a child? I teeter-tottered between flying and invisibility, until I realized it would be better to be a psychic like Professor X or Jean Grey because then I could accomplish both those feats and so much more. When Harry Potter became my obsession, I decided I would become a wizard – a Gryffindor, specifically, although several personality quizzes have placed me in either Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw. No matter.
I’ve flown a few times since then, but that was in an airplane. I did develop a knack for becoming relatively invisible when need be, but not exactly in the literal sense – but that’s a story for another time. It’s funny, in a way, how when you look closely enough at life, you see you get what you wanted as a child, though not in the fashion you might have expected. As is the side-effect of age and experience, my desires have changed, my hopes and dreams have assumed more “tangible” forms for the most part.
I’ll be the first to admit, though, every now and then I will still go to sleep at night imagining myself in all the fictional worlds I once held so dear, with all their strange universal laws and supernatural workings. It’s good to have dreams, don’t you think? Once the imagination dies… we shouldn’t speak of such morbid things.
If you could make your wish now, knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that it would come true, what would be your request? If you had a catalog from which to select any superpower you could imagine – any superhuman attribute, special ability, what-have-you – what would you choose? Me? I’d wish to be like water.
Get your pinky out of your ear and quit trying to clean out the wax collected from the past week; you heard me right: Water. I would choose to be as water is.
… what exactly does that mean? It’s imagination; it means whatever I want it to mean, I suppose. But think about it. Think about water. Remember when you were in elementary school and your science teacher told you that water is the only substance on earth that exists naturally in three forms (solid, liquid, gas)? How cool is that?! Water can become hard like a rock. It can become liquid, and who can cut, thunder-punch, or body-slam a liquid? And a gas? Evaporation. Water can fly. Water is the ultimate survivor; it takes whatever form is necessary to adapt to whatever conditions it finds itself in, and is constantly recycling itself so it never dies. Water is bad-ass.
Immortality? That’s enough for most people I know to sign their names on the dotted line. Think of all the cool stuff you could do if your superpower was to be like water. Lock yourself out of your car or home? No problem. Simply transmogrify into liquid form and slip easily through the cracks. Missed your flight to LA, Rio, or Paris? Easy-peasy. Evaporate, slip through the air vents into the sky, and race the clouds – or the flight you missed – across oceans (last one there is a rotten egg!). The possibilities are endless, endless I tell you!
When it comes to superhuman capabilities, water is the bee’s knees. Water also has a pretty great memory, which will come in handy in decades to come when younger folk than myself expect me to start going senile.
But think about it, water doesn’t worry about controlling the conditions of its environment. Water doesn’t say “the world around me must look like this or things must be like that for me to be happy and successful.” Water is the most malleable, passive substance on the face of the earth, and yet it has power to shape the face of the earth, carve mountains, cut rivers through continents. And it gives, gives, gives. It gives life to all living creatures. Water is basically the world’s biggest and best philanthropist. Everyone loves water, and for good reason. Who wouldn’t want that?
All those wicked-cool superpowers aside, I think the most recently mentioned attributes are exactly why I would choose to be like water. Are you still with me? Allow me to explain.
When I was a child, I loved Toys-R-Us. I would go every year after Christmas. My concerns were the most recent gadgets and gizmos the childhood entertainment industry had to offer. The extent of my conscious desires was making sure I got to see the newest Pokemon episode. Nowadays I have a different list of concerns and interests. In my younger years of adulthood (because I’m so advanced in years now), I spent a lot of time trying to force the appearance and shape of the world around me to emulate what environment I thought I needed in order to succeed. This consisted of a lot of resistance and empty wishing, which resulted in a constant disposition of frustration and crankiness. It took years of suffering at the hands of depression and anger for me to realize that the world was never going to just snap into place for me because I thought it should or even because I thought I needed it to. That environment I thought I needed to be successful: it would never just come about. I was stuck here, trapped in a world I didn’t want. It was awful.
But if I could be like water, I would be free, right? Free to roam wherever I want whenever I want. Free to flow down mountains and cascade over the highest cliffs into the unexplored depths of the roaring seas. But how could I ever become like water? How in the world could I ever become so free? Step one: I could lighten the fuck up.
Being at odds with my surroundings on a day to day basis, I was a grump all the time, and I mean all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I still had my charming smile and witty sense of humor, but I was a game of chance. You did not want to be my co-worker back then. You never knew from day to day how I was going to walk into work. I had made myself a slave to my environment, so the fortunes or misfortunes of my environment were the dictators of my mood. I’m a very expressive individual. Enough said. Even I got tired of myself. So tired of myself that I realized one day that something had to change, like immediately.
So I started to become like water.
After the example of water, I began to make peace with my surroundings, to accept the world as it was and not hold on so tightly. The greatest skill you can ever learn is the art of letting go. That sounds very idealistic, doesn’t it? Be at peace with the world. Learn to live and let go. Sounds like a bunch of limp-dick hogwash. Maybe, but the world really isn’t the focus. I am. You are. The art of letting go came to me in the form of meditation; five minutes a day, ten minutes a day, forget to sit for three days, five minutes a day, etc… Watching your breath teaches you how impermanent everything is and how pointless it is to grasp so tightly. So I became like water through my practice. I let go, and I began to flow. When I meditate, I’m in liquid form.
A natural side-effect of not being so god-damn stressed all the time (a result of the meditation), is how much easier it was to feel happy, to feel light, like air. Meditation isn’t the easiest practice (especially because the key is to not try – I know, WTF?), but there were days when sitting and watching came so easily and I felt I could sit and stay there forever, watching the ebb and flow of my breath. On those days I would float around like a cloud, feeling joy just from noticing the unique shape and color of blades of grass or the tender kiss of sun-heat on my neck. People liked me in those days, and I liked people. I would unashamedly share my joy with others in fat-smile greetings, authentic complements, reassurance and emotional support, etc…. I just got joy from giving. I was a breath of fresh air.
I was also known – especially by my darling grandmother – to have pretty poor short-term memory. I just forgot things. I used to say to Grandma, “What’s going to happen to me when I reach your age?” A great side-effect to my practice: My memory improved.
The best part of all of these great side-effects of getting turned on to meditation? I felt like a brand new person and nothing in the world around me had changed, and yet everything in the world around me had changed. In yesterday’s post, I talked a bit about perception. I’ve learned along the way that perception is everything. I had started to become just like water. I could exist solidly in the physical world, in a peaceful liquid form while sitting, and as a breath of fresh air in public. My whole view of the world began to change. And most importantly, I became happy again. I did that. Now that’s superpower.
I think humans like the idea of superheros and supernatural powers because we like to fantasize about changing the world around us. I dare to conclude that the supernatural becomes, well, natural when we realize that the secret to changing the world outside, is to change the world within.
… think about it, water doesn’t worry about controlling the conditions of its environment. Water doesn’t say “the world around me must look like this or things must be like that for me to be happy and successful.” Water is the most malleable, passive substance on the face of the earth, and yet it has power to shape the face of the earth ….