Life is shaped by moments of great difficulty.   One of the central tenets of Buddhism puts it this way:  Life is marked by suffering, and that suffering is inevitable.   This perspective may seem bleak, but growth happens out of difficulty and suffering.

Here we are in the throes of early Summer surrounded by lush greenery and flowers everywhere.    This beauty is comforting and yet it is the product of struggle and difficulty.    All of those vibrant flowers had to push upwards through the soil and rocks and other obstacles to emerge, sprout, and unfurl.   What we see and take enjoyment in is the result of struggle.

The principle of the Five Elements describes this process when it associates Spring with the element of Wood (whose character is growth) and the emotion of anger (frustration) since growth must push through difficulty, and the result is the joy and illumination in the lushness of Summer, whose element is Fire.

Truly  some of the most painful aspects of our life have been the catalysts for great personal transformation—sometimes out of necessity and sometimes as an unintended byproduct.   Yet, even though such difficulties are inescapable, what can we do to accept this difficulty  and move forward?

The best example of how to deal with such problems can be found in nature also, which Bruce Lee, the famous Martial Artist and Movie Star, explains this way:  “Be water my friend.  Do not be assertive but adjust to the object and you shall find a way round or through it.”

The lesson of water is to adapt and change and find the best way to not become stuck and stagnant.   Avoid trying to muscle through or to change what cannot be changed, but flow naturally with the current situation.    To be water is to relax, soften, and accept and thereby continue to press through despite a world fraught with obstacles.   It is to learn how to flow dynamically and still smoothly.

The practice of T’ai Chi Ch’uan, which is often called Swimming on Land, is a great way to learn the lesson of water.   In T’ai Chi we better navigate the swirling currents of the world by learning how to relax body, mind, and heart and then to use that relaxation, known as Song, to deal appropriately with the issues at hand.

T’ai Chi goes beyond improving health and well-being—although it is masterful at that too—and it is more than just a marital art of great prowess and self-defense.   It is a valuable tool to learn how to live more fully and with great strength and flexibility by recognizing obstacles and learning how to continue forward despite them.  T’ai Chi teaches how to adapt to the currents of change while continuing to move forward.

To address the inescapable difficulties of life, the solution is simple: embrace the way of water, follow its example of flowing around and through obstacles, and move in harmony with the currents of the world.