“So, he says to me that he has more experience than I do…that he knows more about it. And I’m thinking, ‘Oh, really? So it’s already starting, huh? How he knows more than me. It’s already starting…”
My friend is looking at me with raised eyebrows, her head nodding in affirmation of her words with a little tsk-tsk in her tone. She might as well have her arms folded across her chest because I can hear it in her voice. She’s planted her proverbial feet in a solid stance. She’s ready for a fight.
She’s talking about her boyfriend, and their relationship, she admits, is tumultuous. I sense that this incident she describes is not uncommon. In this moment, as she details their exchange, I can see that she very clearly believes that he is wrong, wrong, wrong in saying that he knows more. And that she is right, right, right in saying that he doesn’t.
She presents this scenario to me formed in a kind of question. Like, what do I think about all of this?
For one, I’ve been standing in her same lead-footed posture myself. I’m certainly not immune to being stubborn or self-righteous. But experience has shown me that oftentimes digging my heels in on a dispute will quickly turn my firm footing into quicksand.
In the emotions of an argument it can be hard to see this truth, though the struggle that almost invariably ensues (i.e. a war, of sorts) makes it obvious that if my stance were genuinely strong, there would be no struggle.
Sitting across the table from my friend, this is all quite clear.
“So, why don’t you just agree with him?” I ask. “He says he knows more. And he has done it before and you haven’t, right?”
“Right.” She nods with some hesitation.
“Why not just agree with him? You can say, ‘You’re right. You have more experience at this than I do.’ Then that’s the end of it. You just yield. There’s no fight.”
“Well, I guess the time for sarcasm will come…”
“No, I’m not talking about sarcasm. Really. It’s just the facts. He says he knows more. He wants to hold that over you as a prize or something. Let him. It’s the truth. He has more experience. Ok. You can agree. Give it to him, no fight. And then, if he knows so much, let him show you how it’s done. You can say, ‘Hey, can you please help me here, you know more.'”
As I speak the words to my friend, I know they are for me. The freedom of a weight lifting is actually palpable, as I suggest simply letting go of defending her position.
This is not a doormat mentality that I’m proposing. It’s more like the Aikido approach. Aikido (translated as “the Way of unifying with life energy”) is a martial art that aims to “blend with the motion of the attacker and redirect the force of the attack, rather than opposing it head-on. It requires very little physical strength, as the practitioner ‘leads’ the attacker’s momentum using entering and turning movements.” (thanks Wikipedia)
This conversation with my girlfriend and my rudimentary knowledge of Aikido philosophy have been rattling around in the back of my mind for a few days now.
And then this morning, I come across a post from The Daily Groove by Scott Noelle. He offers daily perspectives on progressive parenting. Today, his “Unconditional Presence: The Oak Tree” came into my Inbox. It describes the essence of the strong and powerful oak tree. How it just is, with no need to defend.
“Now imagine that you are the Oak Tree… How does it feel to be so powerfully positioned? Isn’t it nice to know that no one can uproot you? Would you even bother to resist? Or would you simply relax and enjoy being right where you want to be?
Next time you feel “uprooted” by your child’s behavior, emotions, or any other conditions, remember the unconditional presence of the Oak Tree. Stand rooted in the ground of infinite Well-Being.
There is nothing to resist… All is well.” (Scott Noelle’s entire post can be read here)
This morning, I see the strength of the yield and the power of being rooted, as one and the same, though my words can’t seem to pin this essence down.
Perhaps it is that yin-yang. The Tao that has been written around, but not about, because as soon as you start to define it, you’ve missed it. Now that’s mighty!
Powerfully present. Rooted, yet yielding.
I was once in the presence of a ‘healer.’ People came from around the world to be with him. My experience, was indeed, mystical and healing, though he spoke very little. At the end of our group’s time with him, he had some parting words. And since he had hardly spoken, I was soaking in every syllable he uttered. Desiring some new bit of information from him – some radical revelation – I listened intently as he delivered a few brief sentences.
“If you want to know about the meaning of life, look to a tree.”
To be honest, I wanted something more than that advice. But I was so moved by being with this teacher that I contemplated these simple words for days. Years later, here they are again.
Thanks to The Daily Groove for the Oak tree reminder, too. And thanks to my friend for fighting with her boyfriend and complaining to me about it. I needed this prompting!
The beauty of the amorphous dance of the Oak tree and the Yield.