Learning from the elements around us is perhaps the biggest and the brightest classroom that we can ever walk into and it is in these open classrooms that the greatest and the most richest of learnings happen! Join me here as we explore to understand how by being formless, we can create within ourselves formidable power to bring to life the manifestations and dreams that we hold within!
If you have been ever inspired by nature- say, the great beach fronts or the lofty mountains that are sprinkled around the planet- it’s always worthwhile to remember that each of these magnificent and beautiful works of nature have only been possible through the power and perseverance of the elements who have remained formless for long stretches of time (continue to be so always) and have chipped away bit by bit what came in their way to create what inspires us today! This perhaps is the most fundamental of all learnings that we can ever collect and follow as humanity! It is this simple yet powerful fact that- it’s never about that great act done on one fine day- rather it is the efforts and smaller contributing acts that have gone to create that one big day- when the order was changed or the narrative was changed in a way that created a new lens to look at the same things in a different manner!
Even the great warriors of medieval times, knew this secret and often, nature and the terrain played a vital role when it came to devising strategies of war- when kings got them right- nature rewarded them by being on their side and ensuring a victory for them and when they got it wrong- nature became as ruthless as it can be and lessons learnt even by those costly mistakes went on to make permanent amends in the way wars were fought later! Such is the power of the formless forces of nature- water, light, wind and thunder. It’s no wonder that humanity has always been fascinated by them- their power and the pursuit to tame them to ones’ advantage is even today the centerpiece of all conflict across the world! So what is formlessness all about? What is there that we can learn from all this?
The word, “formlessness” is deceptive, the reason being that the moment we hear the “less” part of the word- our brain automatically gets programmed to discount the first part of the word and that’s where many of us end up doing a fatal mistake! We don’t understand the word “form” in its entirety to begin with and thereby completely miss out on gauging the depth and importance of the power that ” being formless” can bring along with it!
Form- as the word implies gives definite structure and dimension and this is what always makes us comfortable- as humans we are hardwired to deal with the finite that comes our way and depending upon our individual or collective capacity decide how to tame the finite or the form that stands in front of us – whether its about encountering a big animal or a small hostile group or its about taking upon an enemy group at a war theatre- the moment we are able to determine the “form” as humans we are equipped to devise strategies to defeat, delay or divert the challenge in front of us – all with one motive of “we” being the survivor at all costs! The moment this definite “form” gets ambiguous all hell breaks loose and this is where “formlessness” assumes proportions that baffle humanity even today! Consider this, we are more relaxed as we deal with dogs and cats- even if they are untamed- now suddenly you come across a snake- what happens- it still has form- it still is definite- but yet- the instant reaction (and in most of the cases the best one to have) is to move away as quickly as possible and just get into a zone of complete avoidance and fight only if no other option exists! So what just happened here- even when there was form- just because it is an “unknown” and completely new form to deal with- our brain takes us straight to the primordial, flight or fight response and this survival technique works well and has been perhaps the only reason why humans have been successful and survivors until now!
It is when the unknown becomes- formless that the real test begins and that is where the power- the ultimate power to create lies! If you have ever seen water flow down a stream and then see it grow as you hiked along to see it changing form from a serene mountain stream to a fast flowing stream then onto become a roaring river- complete with rapids and then descending down dramatically through waterfalls, gorges cutting across valleys and finally making itself as vast and as deep it can as it flows through the flood plains onwards to merge onto the Sea or an Ocean- what is happening here- well at every stage- water- which is finite- assumes radical formlessness by altering the way it behaves given the kind of obstacles and challenges that it faces enroute through its flow! This is what empowers formlessness- the strength of formlessness comes not from being formless but rather being able to alter oneself to meet the challenge head on and overcome it by becoming a completely new version of oneself! This is the essence and soul of the concept of formlessness- the ability to alter- stay dynamic and being able to prevail in face of the adversity that stands in front of you in the path that you have chosen to walk upon!
As with water, so with wind, so with fire- as long as we know the finiteness and the dimension of these entities we are comfortable to deal with them, the moment they present themselves as something which we are unsure how to deal with, these very elements become menacing problems and have the potential to etch new order simply by the power that their formlessness brings along with them! Think about it! The fire that you see bruning softly in the fireplace or the flame on the stove is the same element as what constitutes the forest fire! The fires erupting in the forests are no way techncially different then the ones’ that you have tamed and which have provided you life with are- yet the moment the element of fire- gets loose- it becomes one formidable entity which you really want to get away from- as far as possible! What does this all say about us and what is there for us to learn and take away from this space?
If you analyse the worldly problems that you face, day in and day out- you will see a similar trend- as long as you seem to have the ability to tame, deal, manage the problem that you are dealing with, everything seems to be just fine- this is the space where you are still holding the water in the jug on the table and this is the moment wherein your lighter still obeys you and lights the cigar when you command it! The moment you start to run out of ideas ort deal with your existing problems and as they start to transform into something else that what you have anticipated them to be- their finite forms quickly start to transform into something unknown and something far formless, then what you have earlier bargained for and this is where the water in the jug is threatening to run off as a flash flood and that lighter is threatening to set you ablaze, even without you trying to turn it on! So now the million dollar question what do you do? How do you deal with everyday fluidity and formlessness around you? Well the answer is deceptively simple, yet powerful! You attain formlessness in an equal measure to mitigate the power of the problems that you face! This alone is the wise way ahead- attain formlessness and create form- once you have mastered this element, no matter what the challenges that you come across- you will always find a way to stay a step ahead, over or above what the challenge seems to be and eventually will be able to create a definition for that problem so that it loses its potency of being a formless headache and this can be achieved only by you becoming formless and formidable! but how exactly do you attain formlessness? What’s the trick here?
Being formless, or becoming formless is all about being fluid, adaptable and responsive (not reactive) to the what’s happening around! It’s about changing your currencies, your priorities and being able to take those quick seemingly unworthy detours to ensure that you stay away form the grips of the problems that plague you, but you are always within striking distance to hit back at the problems and challenges and more importantly you get to choose when you hit back, how and with what intensity! This is the power that formlessness alone can bring to you- the power to choose when you deal with the challenge at hand and how exactly you deal with it! Once you have reached this space of being able to remain or stay formless- you will realise that it is this very space where you can co-create magic- you can create forms- alter narratives and create lasting impact by giving new directions to societies and individuals- on how they gho about dealing with what they face and suddenly your formless energies have acquired form by new acquired behavioral patterns that the society now adapts to and adheres to! In a way, the formlessness of an individual which gives vital power to deal with seemingly overbearing challenges creates and directs form to be developed within chaos and ambiguity which further empowers societies and communities at large! This is the true power and way to create form by assuming formlessness on an ongoing basis and when leaders do this- magic happens and you have responsive and vibrant societies that thrive on the power of individuals to steer them away from harm no matter how high or how deep the challenge that they face- individually and collectively!
The real essence of formlessness is being able to remain fluid and focussed to create forms and outcomes that serve the greater good and serve them well in time, so that the formless leaders are ready for the next challenge and today’s challenges are converted to routine tasks which people are left to manage with- to grow- learn and progress!
I leave you here with these thoughts for now; think about the last time when you acquired formlessness, what was it like! What purpose did it serve and how did that help you as an individual and how has that impacted the society that you work for? If not yet, when do you propose to assume formlessness and for what purpose? What is the form that you want to create by being formless yourself!
Ciao for now, will be back soon with another article, until then stay wise and stay sublime!