This one small, simple word
I was sitting cross-legged in the meditation hall about to begin a seven-day silent retreat. There were about twenty of us on cushions laid out on the wooden floor when our teacher asked, What’s one word that summarizes your intention for these seven days?
My word came rushing in.
When it was my turn to share, I said yes.
My teacher smiled. She knew I was working on this. She knew all the infinite little meanings I had wrapped up into that one small, simple word.
What if, for just one day or one hour even, all you said was yes to your internal experience, anything and everything happening within you?
You said yes to anger.
Yes to sadness.
Yes to pain.
Yes to tears.
You said yes to a smile.
Yes to joy.
Yes to curiosity.
Yes to a giggle.
And yes to the mundane.
Yes to the expected.
And the extraordinary.
Most of us are used to saying no. We are used to shutting down or fixing our experience. It shouldn’t be this way! I want to get rid of this! What’s wrong with me?! We are more comfortable trying to get out of our experience than actually being with our experience.
The other day I was venting to friends about my postpartum anxiety and how surprisingly hard motherhood has been so far. I was telling them how I couldn’t seem to calm my nervous system – I was jumping out of my skin overplanning and overthinking. I told them I had tried everything and still I didn’t know how to get rid of this feeling!
I came home that night, took some time to look out my window, and made my favorite tea. That’s when I saw it. I saw how I hard I was working. I saw how I was trying to get rid of the anxiety, spending much of my day yelling, No! Go away! I don’t want you here! You suck!
Typically, we don’t give our experience space, or get curious about what’s happening for us. Instead we go to battle. We go ever so hard on ourselves. And you know what never looked so good? Comfort food. Numbing out on social media or Hulu. Those things in my Amazon shopping cart that I/we don’t really need.
That night I made a commitment. No matter how uncomfortable or big the anxiety felt, I would start to say yes to it. For the next several days I said yes probably a hundred times, as I unloaded the dishwasher, brushed my teeth, or rushed out the door. I said yes when I didn’t want to. I said yes even when I was sick of saying yes.
It was helpful for me to remember that I’m more committed to my truth than my comfort – to remember I value connecting to my authentic experience – no matter how painful or hard the feelings might be – versus fighting myself.
In a matter of a few days the anxiety loosened some. I wasn’t free of the anxiety – no, it was, and still is, alive and well. But, now that anxiety knows it has room, it doesn’t have to fight for my attention by becoming a boulder on my back. It can now be a pebble in my hand.
When we say yes something scrumptious happens. We let life in. We let life move through. We work with what is. We see all these highs and lows and ebbs and flows that are part of the human experience. We connect to the full range of emotions and thoughts that are this life.
This is not about being passive if that’s what’s crossing your mind – it’s quite the opposite. This is about actively being with what is. Then you’re working with the truth of it, the rawness of it, your unfiltered reality. So won’t you join me? In saying yes.
Whatever you’re feeling today, yes.
Whatever you’re resisting today, yes.
Whatever comes tomorrow, yes.
Observe the places where you might be saying, well, I can say yes to ____ but never to _____. Can you say yes to the never?
At the same time, it doesn’t have to be a big yes. It can be just an ounce of willingness – leaving the light on, or the door slightly cracked – a small gesture of openness to be with what is, fully, unconditionally, without judgment, freely.
I am with you,