Esteemed Reader | November 2020 | Esteemed Reader | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine

We must accept the evidence that the means so far employed to induce people to "love one another" have failed and will always fail. Something new is needed that will capture the imagination before it satisfies the intellect, and this "something new" must enter unobtrusively on a small scale and prove itself before it seeks wider acceptance.

—John Bennett, Witness

It was a perfect autumn day and I was sitting on the porch of an acquaintance. He had many stories to tell, projects to discuss. I could see he was one of those who have been in such extreme isolation in recent months that he had an intense inner pressure to speak to another human being, in the flesh, and not through a computer screen. 

Meanwhile, I felt my own pressure, impelled by a list of a dozen tasks that needed attention and work. As I listened to the man speak, the to-do list flashed in my mind. I saw my head nodding in response but my body was tense, as though poised to leap from the chair, to move on to more important business. 

It was at that moment that I was brought back to myself. I noticed my breath and beheld the tension in my shoulders, chest, and hips. I stayed with it for a moment and then a word came into my mind, like a sign at an intersection: YIELD.

I saw what was required. Regardless of my agenda and whatever I thought I needed to do, the true, present need was to listen to and speak with the person in front of me. This was the task my life presented, and I was obligated to put aside my preferences and give full attention. The pull of the to-do list resurfaced during the couple of hours we spent together, but the grace of the initial insight continued to give the help and energy I needed to stay with the moment. 

Since that time, the sign has often flashed before my mind's eye: YIELD. It pops up when I feel myself bristle or smart, when I become irritated or outraged by something in the news, when the car in front of me is too slow, when I'm anxious or impatient or disgruntled. Then I notice the tension in my body, a contraction away from what is taking place here and now, and I begin to relax and follow.

The experience of yielding to what is, not submitting but staying present and engaged, has led to the conviction that this is a singularly important effort. I see that the imposition of preferences, opinions, and knee-jerk reactions leads to a vicious perpetuation of negativity. 

Whatever arises, whatever eventuality unfolds, I have to be able to accept it as it is. This doesn't mean that I don't act to improve or refine a situation, but if I am able to yield to what is, then I can freely respond in a way that opens a new direction that is free of reactive dyads. If I can yield, even for a moment, I open a door through which a new possibility can pass. 

It is perhaps counterintuitive, but to yield is to evolve. True evolution comes in response to what is, and is impelled by a full and deep encounter with what appears as an obstacle. I am given energy to strive and discover by precisely that which I find most difficult to bear. 

The Muslim tradition offers 99 names for Allah, each expressing a quality or facet of the totality. One is al-sabur, The Patient. This patience is not the opposite of impatience. It is a steadfast commitment to be with, and stay with, what is, as it presents in each new moment. 

From yielding comes acceptance, and from acceptance comes love. To yield is to love. 

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