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A reader of yesterday’s blog post emailed me with a question last night. She wanted to know, after learning that I’ve just registered for two Buddhist Faith Fellowship education events, am marching in a political protest this weekend, am maintaining two large food gardens, work full time, care for a husband and two dogs, study at Wesleyan, am learning Tibetan, have three college degrees, am a Reiki master, a UConn certified master gardener, and a state certified horticultural professional, if I ever have time to just relax. She wanted to know – do I ever give myself the gift of doing nothing?
All the time, in fact. It may look like I’m crazy busy, but I’m definitely not. Most of the accomplishments listed above were realized over the course of years. Today, I’m engaged with a joyful marriage, Asian and language studies, veganism and veganic gardening, volunteer work and activism, as well as a full-time job, but I’m not a Type A personality at all. No, this girl loves to kick it as often as possible.
But I have a reverence for learning and experience that I doubt will ever go away. A long time ago, I learned to say ‘yes’ more than I say ‘no’. By saying yes to whatever events or energy shows up, the good things and the bad things all become teachings – opportunities to learn, to grow, and to be humbled.
Recently, my husband and I lost a loved one to cancer. And while being with a loved one as she dies from such a ruthless disease is saddening, the truth about such loss is that if we say yes to it, the experience helps us wake up.
Instead of rejecting what was happening, my husband and I integrated it into our lives – we ministered to our loved one for many months, didn’t struggle in vain to keep her alive when she was ready to go, didn’t reproach her medical caregivers when they made mistakes, and didn’t ignore the fact that she was on her very last journey here. We acknowledged it, accepted it, allowed it, and even blessed it. We journeyed with her as far as we could, and then she carried herself the rest of the way - as we all do someday.
Our experience of her death was sad, but not tragic. Had we fought it each step of the way, saying ‘no’ again and again, her pain and our pain would have been greatly amplified.
This is the power of saying ‘yes’. I believe in walking through life saying ‘yes’ over and over. Saying yes opens up trust within us: trust that everything is going to be all right. Saying yes opens up creativity by teaching us new ways to express ourselves. We relax with whatever energy comes our way and whatever people bring into our lives. Saying yes brings up a lot of incredible new experiences. We receive visions, ideas, and inspiration.
There is one caveat: by saying ‘yes’, we often need to say ‘no’ to others. By that I mean that if I’ve decided on a life based on ‘yes’, and people arrive who practice ‘no’ – people who aren’t evolving; who are addicted to anger, conflict and confrontation; who causally lie and engage in deception; and who rob our energies. Whether it’s people from the past who don’t understand present boundaries, or people in the present who are not caring and supportive and who take no responsibility for their actions, they can be real threats to our safety and well-being, and it's vital that we say ‘no’ to them.
We also often need to say ‘no’ to circumstances as well. A relationship (job, family, friend, or intimate) that isn’t serving our highest good, an environment that doesn’t inspire us, or a person with whom we have bad alchemy. By alchemy, I mean whatever energy shows up between you and another. Sometimes, it’s inherently great; other times, it’s not.
But also know that alchemy changes. Someone who was good for you then might not be good for you now. It doesn’t mean that that person became ‘bad’ and deserves blame. It just means that the alchemy has changed. By saying ‘yes’ to that, we can lovingly end our journey with them and open ourselves to new experiences that serve who we are becoming.
Just keep saying ‘yes’. Say ‘yes’ to opportunities to grow through travel, education, new challenges, giving away stuff, loving completely, voicing opinions, changing jobs, dong what you love, living in peace, and forgiving completely.
Say ‘yes’ to love, compassion, diversity, the unknown, and the untried. Say ‘yes’ to letting go of the past and truly creating a life that brings you joy. Say ’yes’ to actualizing your dreams through concrete action. Move to a new part of the world. Study a new discipline. Make a new friend. Take up a cause.
Just keep saying ‘yes’. Let ‘yes’ fuel you. Say ‘yes’ to pain, disappointment, disease, and loss. The good things and the bad things will all become teachings. Let it all roll in.
Live in peace.