Yielding vs. Letting Go

“Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.” - Lao Tzu

Let me start this off with a question. Pay attention to any triggers the question may spark for you - feel the question in your entire being.

How do you feel when you're wrapped up in your emotions, whether it be from a traumatic experience or from a day to day irritation and someone suggests to just "....let it go." How do you feel when you tell yourself, "You should just let it go.."

For me - its icky. All jumbled up in tightness. And that shit sucks..

It insinuates that there is something to fix. Something that needs changing. Something is wrong with me. This idea that we can completely let go of a thought that is bothering us completely disregards the fact that we are human - wholly analytical and emotional beings whose minds operate like waves in the ocean; thoughts rolling in & thoughts rolling out.

What if I told you that in our lives we never actually have to fix anything? That things are unfolding in the precise moment that they should, with lessons embedded throughout all of it?

If you aspire to be great advice givers, for yourself first, and secondly for others, you must consider your language when doling it out. I fell in love with this idea when I first heard it, and feel compelled to share:

Yielding vs. Letting Go

Lets start with Letting Go. Letting go of a thought that haunts us or a habit that perpetuates within our actions assumes that we are capable of releasing an emotional experience and it is never coming back. 

How about an example. Remember that cringe-worthy thing that you did back in 7th grade? You know it - that thing that just as you were about to drift comfortably off to sleep pops into your mind to keep you awake for the next 12 hours? Yeah - thats it. Well, here's the trick: just let it go.

Ahhhhhh...if only life were this easy!

That the moment a disturbing thought jumps into our mind we could eradicate it all with those three little words. Here is a hard truth for us all: stating you will let it go does not make it go away

That horrifying thought reappears primarily because you desire to wish it away, but also because there is a message or experience still to be had around it. Hyper-focusing on letting it go does not uncover truth. It does not heal the wound of the ego. It does not divulge the experience's deeper meaning.

Now forget about that weird 7th grade memory. Think of some experience in your life that is a part of your spiritual path, a lesson you may be struggling with or a memory that is wrought with emotion. Those three little words, let it go, just don't seem to be doing the trick.

Letting go is active - it requires work, struggle & internal debate. It requires you to do something about it. You should just let it go. This implies you shouldn't be experiencing 'it'. Which implies you are broken, strange, weird. Which implies you need to be fixed. Phew - that is exhausting just typing about it...

Instead, lets consider the practice of yielding.

Yielding is the passive practice of allowing things to occur as they are - just as you'd patiently wait your turn in line, yield to oncoming traffic, or be the last dog in the pack that enters the house calmly. 

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Yielding is allowing your cup to overflow. Letting the soft water caress your hands, cool your body, & experience the vulnerable experience of it, all while trusting that the water is not so strong it will sweep you away.

Yielding does not require you to do anything about your cosmic entanglements. Yielding quietly asks you to sit with what is, to experience 'it' as 'it' is - as simply an experience.

Yielding does not require you to delete your so-called disturbed 7th grade memory out of your head, because in fact it is not cringe-worthy. It does not have the inherent qualities of embarrassment or shame. It is simply an occurrence that happened at a specific point of time.

It is our perception, or saṃjñā, of the event that creates the story: that it needs to be let go. Our Saṃjñā, among the other 5 skandhas, attaches emotions like shame and guilt to an experience. These skandhas, or aggregates, falsely disillusion us during the process of consciousness, without any true meaning or substance.

All that is to be learned, all that is true, reveals itself through yielding. Many do not enjoy meditation for this very fact. Sitting, standing, lying or walking; it is all the same to the individual who does not wish to yield. It can feel anxiety-ridden, or overwhelming, to allow these thoughts to bubble up to the surface. But if this is where the thoughts so desire to be, let them happen, not let it go! 

So, how does one practice yielding?

It is simple really. When your mind drifts to that nagging thought, the one that keeps you up at night, listen to all the facets of that experience. Allow it to happen.

Check into your physical body. Where do you feel this experience you so desperately wish to annihilate? Is it in your heart? Does it live in your throat? How about your belly? Sit with the physical sensations. Do you feel tightness there? Knotted-ness? (Hey, its my blog...I can make up words if I want to!)

The first step of healing is yielding to the physical sensations. Allow them to show themselves for a time that you are comfortable with. Maybe 30 seconds. Maybe 1 minute. It isn't a contest, but an experience. Yielding means to stay; to wait your turn, just like that patient and kind person merging onto 295.

Then, what? Well, that is a story for another day. For now, I am practicing yielding. To allow things to be as they are - without my incessent need to tinker with, or to consume my entire being. To be OK with things not being OK.

“As the soft yield of water cleaves obstinate stone, to yield with life solves the insoluble.  To yield I have learned is to come back again...." - Lao Tzu
    I'd like to thank Shambhavi Sarasvati for her inspirational podcasts which led to this blog post.


I'd like to thank Shambhavi Sarasvati for her inspirational podcasts which led to this blog post.