Saturday, January 1, 2011

Word of the Year 2011


This word has been dancing around my awareness for a few weeks. I thought it might be my word, but I wanted to keep my mind open. However, no other word came. By New Year’s Eve, I knew this word was here to stay. So here are some initial reflections on “yield.”

What first came to mind was a passage from the Tao Te Ching.

Yield and overcome
Bend and be straight
Empty and be full
Wear out and be new
Have little and gain
Have much and be confused

I like the idea of yield and overcome. It reminds me of my tai chi teacher years ago. 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 to maintain his balance. As the student pushed on his shoulders or chest, the teacher simply melted away from the touch without avoiding it or resisting it. 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 grasp the student’s wrist and with a gentle pull 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.

It’s like what Bruce Lee said about water. “Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

As I sat with the word, other meanings began to enter my thoughts, at first just a trickle, but soon a stream.

A fertile field yields a bountiful harvest.
A branch yields to wind and does not break.
We yield the right of way.
We yield to God’s will or to our inner wisdom.
We yield as a gesture of courtesy or respect.
We yield (or resist yielding!) to temptation.
We yield in surrender or defeat.

By midnight I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by my word. Then the word whispered in my soul. Yield. I don’t need to understand it all right now. I only need to ... yield. Yield in faith. And so I do. I yield.


  1. Galen,

    I love the way that you receive and engage with your word. The high point was when you felt overwhelmed by your word and the word itself came to your rescue.

    Yield - What a beautiful world. Receptivity is often such a missing element in the modern world. I look forward to seeing your journey this year following your guidepost "yield."

  2. what a great word... I am eager to read about where it takes you this year. May your journey be blessed!

    Happy New Year!

  3. This is an important word for me to try to follow in my life right now. Your post has helped me to understand why it might help. I need to let go, 'yield' and let happen, allow, not resisit.
    Thank you.

  4. From what you've said already I look forward to the courage of yielding along too! Thanks!

  5. Yield to negative remarks. In other words, just let them go til they have passed.

    Awesome post!

  6. Hi Galen,

    Yield is a great word to have for 2011. I am reminded of the story of how a mighty oak got destroyed by a thunderstorm because it would not yield. Yet a tiny blade of grass survived because it knew how to yield. I love that Bruce Lee quote on water. I once wrote an article on being like water to solve your problems based on those very words.

    I think that with this word "yield", 2011 will be a great year for you. This reminds me of a passage from the I-Ching:

    "The superior man lets himself be guided; he does not go ahead blindly, but learns from the situation what is demanded of him and then follows this intimation from fate."

    Thank you for sharing! :)

    Irving the Vizier

  7. Welcome back! Glad you found your word. I think that its a good word for me. I find that I can get so frustrated and angry quickly. If I was to just Yield to things, I might be able to "flow" better.
    Happy New Year!

  8. I think my word is flow - like water, just working to be in the moment and finding joy in that concept. There are lots of ways that water moves and channels that it moves through but one will not have success if one PUSHES...

    I am a river pusher from way back!

  9. Thank you all for the lovely comments.

    alwayswellwithin--Thank you for that perspective. I had not thought about how the word rescued me from ...itself!

    Alida--I'm eager to find out myself where my word will lead me this year.

    JackSamMum--Knowing from your blog some of the challenges you face, I do hope this word is meaningful to you. I hope you will keep in touch.

    Karen S--Happy to have a fellow yielder along!

    ryoko861--What an interesting example. I had not thought of that. It's a bit like the tai chi exercise. Thank you for your comment. I will try to put that to practice.

    Irving--I look forward to your comments because you always add something to take my thoughts one step further. Thank you.

    omemixedbag--See Patricia's comment after yours. You are both thinking about flowing like water.

    Patricia--I hear you. I spent a lot of my life pushing rivers!


  10. Hi

    I followed over from Ann’s

    First, the pushing water story – an amazing analogy.

    Your word “yield” is a powerful one. I get it.

    I would like you to know that I have prayed for this year of “yielding” that Our Lord help you yield to overcome, that your branches yields to his wind, that you yield to God’s will, that he help you to yield as courtesy and respect.”

    My year is named the year of “connection” – moving inside circles instead of always staying outside, thinking of others, being with them, caring about them.

    God Bless you and all of yours. Happy “Yielding” New Year

  11. Welcome, Craig. What a lovely prayer on my behalf, a treasured gift. Thank you. Connection--that is a great word. And now we are connected!

  12. This is a word I really need in my life. Thanks for the reminder.


Your comment is valuable and valued. Comment moderation is enabled to block spam, so please excuse the brief delay until your comment appears on the blog.