What Shape is Your Vessel…this Moment?

Several years ago, while attending a training in leadership, I saw a most remarkable demonstration.   The primary point was profound.  The materials used were familiar.  And the contrast between the profundity of the point and the commonness of the props gave great amplification to the impact of the demonstration.  It was incredibly simple — with straight forward results.  And yet I knew, in a very specific and memorable moment, that I would forever see and experience life differently — from that reference mark forward!

The materials used included two individual, uniquely and specifically shaped clear glass vessels, as well as one large pitcher of water.  The first vessel was about a foot tall and narrow, about two inches wide and square in its cross-section.  The second vessel was short – about six inches tall, pear-shaped and approximately six inches in diameter at its widest point.

Without saying a word, the demonstrator lifted the pitcher of water and proceeded to carefully and slowly pour the water into the first glass vessel.  When the water level reached the top, she stopped, returned the pitcher to its original resting place — and stood still for what seemed like an eternity.  It was probably only seconds really – but the anticipation was thick — and the exercise simple — and we all kept waiting for the “magic rabbit” to pop out from some unexpected place…

No rabbit appeared.  Instead, the demonstrator, lifted the water pitcher from the table for a second time, again moving slowly and deliberately – and this time, proceeding to fill the pear-shaped glass vessel, until, like its predecessor, it too was full to its rim.

Once again, the demonstrator slowly returned what was left of the pitcher of water to the table from which it originally came.  What followed was another long pause.

All in attendance wondered what the point must be?……..As silence and stillness continued, the intensity of the room’s emotion progressively swelled ….and transform….what had built as great intrigue began to compress — as impatience pushed its way in… and we all began to wonder if we had been duped…?

But then came the magic moment – the one that changed my world view and experience forever…  What happened next remains frozen in the museum of my mind…

The demonstrator lifted the pitcher of water and said, “content”…  She then set pitcher down and pointed to the vessels and said, “context”.  She then repeated the distinctions with clear and distinct enunciation, “content…, context”.  Finally, she asked the obvious, rhetorical, and most profound question, “what shape does the water take?”

The answer hit me like a ton of bricks!  Of course!  — The water takes the shape of the vessel it fills!  It’s the same water, capable of assuming an infinite variety of shapes – all determined by the vessel present.  Soooo obvious — and yet soooo profound!!!!

The water by itself, has no inherent shape… “What if human beings are like water” —  I wondered!!  And in that moment, a flood of realization occurred, a lifetime of dots connected, an ancient history of examples aligned, an infinite future of  possibilities vibrated with potential………all brimming at once!!

So, here’s the punch line:  Human Be-ings ARE like water….   And they WILL take on the shape of the vessel they live in.  And the “vessel”, as it relates to human experience, is the energetic “field” that creates a  “space” that we “hold” for each other…”the vibratory Petri dish” ripe for the development of the potential that is being expected and supported.

Authentic martial artists practice “holding intentional space” in a variety of ways.  One of the most common perhaps is the diffusion of anger and chaos by “holding a space” for compassion and calm thereby transforming one potential into a much preferred and healthier “other”.

It is the simple application of the obvious — to change the shape of the water, PROVIDE a newly shaped vessel.  Likewise, if you want to change the shape / behavior / way of being / actions / attitudes / achievements, etc.,…of a human be-ing —– then change the “space” you “hold” for that human be-ing to realize.

Want to see her anger and volatility soften?  Then appreciate her beauty and see her as content and hold a space for calm.

Want to experience him as dependable?  Then appreciate his capability and expect him to perform…Keep asking yourself, “what shape do I want the water to take?”……….And then clearly define the vessel!…

Practice this simple miracle, — every day, — with a variety of people, — in a wide range of settings —  and in the process — discover the martial artist in you!…

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