In his book, Artist of Life, Bruce Lee discusses his ideas about presence and, though he doesn’t call it this, enlightenment. In addition to being a great Kung Fu Master, Bruce Lee was a driven and deeply contemplative man. His martial arts practice, his attention to healthy living and eating, and his drive to act and make movies were all reflections of his longing to be the best he could possibly be. His essays also revealed a man who longed for peace within by connecting to the present moment.
Bruce Lee is said to have attained enlightenment while on a solo boat trip. He was contemplating water, and when he punched it, he realized that water is the strongest thing on earth because it is also soft. Water is fully present and so it moves with the present moment. We must learn to be like water, Bruce Lee said, so that we can flow freely in the moment. We should not try to hold ourselves or our minds still because life, like water flows. In the mind Bruce Lee referred to this concept as “Wu Shin” or no mindedness.
I imagine wu shin to be like samadhi or enlightenment, which I will freely admit I have not attained. As a mere mortal walking the path of the yogi, I think this idea of wu shin is a means of flowing like water within the mind. When disturbances of the peaceful mind arise in life or in the practice of yoga, wu shin means to allow the thoughts to flow, to move, and to pass… to not hold back the river. Fighting water is pointless, water will always win. Wu shin is a way of letting go of the need to control and accepting what is happening in life right here and now; we treat ourselves with softness.
The paradox is that water is strong and so we too must be willing to be strong. Bruce Lee turned all of his life into a practice, and in his short life, he became a great river. Our world needs great rivers who are living lives that push the boundaries of compassion and peace. Our world needs great rivers who understand that all rivers come from the ocean, and all oceans are one.
Be a Great River!
Aum Shanti, Shanti, Shanti