Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Yield and Overcome

曲则全

These opening characters of chapter 22 of the Tao Te Ching can be translated several ways. The first character can mean bend, deflect, yield, twist, or curve. The second character links the first to the third, meaning thus, then, becomes. The third character means complete, whole, perfect, preserve intact, or in a looser sense, overcome. My favorite translation is “yield and overcome,” but the essence of all the meanings is that being flexible preserves one’s wholeness.

This concept was brought home to me with an exercise that my tai chi teacher used in class.

The teacher would stand face to face with a student, about half an arm’s length apart. Feet were stationary and could not move. The student would try to push the teacher back, forcing the teacher to take a step. As the student pushed on his shoulders, chest, or hips, the teacher simply melted away from the touch without avoiding it or resisting it. As the student withdrew, the teacher’s body would flow back into a neutral position. It was like trying to push water.

At some point, the student would be so extended that the teacher, using only his thumb and forefinger, would lightly touch the student’s wrist and with a gentle twist of his waist throw the student to the ground. No matter how many times we participated in this exercise and vowed not to be caught off balance, our efforts to push invariably resulted in a quick trip to the floor while the teacher remained serenely unaffected and unmoved.



I kept thinking that the point of this exercise was to learn how to push without losing my balance while finding the right spot to push that would make my teacher take a step. I’m a slow learner. It took me a long time and many trips to the floor to figure out that it was the pushing itself that led to my imbalance. My teacher yielded and never lost his balance. The result of pushing was to end up on the floor. The result of yielding was to remain upright. Yielding overcame pushing. Every time.

As with many martial arts principles, this applies to our lives in general. Can you think of a time when you “pushed” and “lost your balance,” or when someone “pushed” against you and by yielding you were able to stay “upright”? I hope you’ll share some stories in the comments.

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win. ~Mahatma Gandhi

And here is a second quote in honor of the new season of Game of Thrones:

“What if the wolves come?" – Lommy Greenhands
"Yield." – Arya Stark

8 comments:

  1. "Yielding overcame pushing."
    Galen, there was an incident years ago when my principal decided that I, along with a few other select victims, would feel the brunt of her wrath, none of which was deserved by any of us. When she took me to task, brutally I might add, I just let her rant. I didn't defend myself, just listened. She expected me to push back. I yielded. And you know what? She quit her barrage as soon as she realized she couldn't elicit a battle.
    So what to do when the wolves come? Yield! Turn the other cheek.
    Blessings to you!

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    1. That is a great example, Martha. How wise you were at a young age! I have only learned this lesson in recent years. Thanks for commenting.

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  2. Many years ago in my Judo class our Teacher taught a similar lesson. Our class was shown the lesson over and over and over again without the Teacher speaking very much except at the very beginning of the lesson. The students (Including me) became very agitated. The more frustrated we became the easier it was for our Teacher to bring us down. Finally a young man faced the teacher and took a breath and just bowed to the Teacher. The teacher waited a very long time while the student kept the bowed position. Finally the Teacher bowed to the student and that was the end of our lesson. No words of explanation. I just got it! Thank you for sharing this story!

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    1. Betty, I love this story! I wish I had had the wisdom to do the same instead of ending up on the floor so many times! What a great example. Thanks for your comment.

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  3. You think we could teach Congress that concept?

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    1. No, sadly I don't. But the current election is a great example of this principle. Regardless of your party or candidate allegiance, it seems clear that within the Republican Party, the harder they pushed against Trump, the stronger he got, while the attackers fell by the wayside. Thanks for your comment, CW.

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  4. Wow, I did enjoy learning about this one. I do think there is a profound lesson here. I am going to reflect on it and see where I have an experience in this area.
    Blessings and sending loving thought your way for helping me have another moment of reflection. Hugs~

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    1. Thanks, LeAnn. I think you will find that this principle applies to many situations in our lives. Let me know if you encounter a good example. I appreciate your comment.

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