I indulged my introverted nature over the holidays, enjoying a deep rest from all of the outward focus my work requires. And it was lovely. I sat in nature just breathing. I played with the puppy. I built fires and stared into them. I reconnected with my son. I walked quietly through the bright winter woods with my beloved.
My immersion into Beingness during this season required that I say No to the usual default urges to shop for gifts, send out cards, cook and bake, and reach out to friends. If these impulses came from a place of joy, I said Yes and acted upon them. If I felt even the barest itch of obligation, I said No and continued resting. I even stopped decorating the Christmas tree after the lights went on, deciding that it was beautiful enough just as it was.
So after all of that rest, I woke up in the wee hours of the New Year filled with anxiety. HOLY SHIT!! IT’S TIME TO GET BACK TO WORK!! My tension rose as I felt an avalanche of ‘To Dos’ threaten the delicate internal spaces I had been nurturing. I felt the rumble of tons of ‘I Shoulds’ as they started their slide down from the mountaintop above. I lay there in the dark for a while, barely breathing, paralyzed by It All.
This crush used to be a very familiar daily experience and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. I’m grateful for its brief return as it caused me to revisit one of the topics I wrote about in my book Hatched: How Nine Little Chicks Cracked My Shell (Lesson 1: The Power of Yes). Hatched begins with a transcendent moment of Yes that changed my life, but the truth is that I might have missed it entirely. Like many in our modern times, I was completely overwhelmed by the too-many things I’d said Yes to. I’ve come to see that before we can take advantage of our fortuitous moments of Yes, we must learn to say No to the things that don’t matter to us. Yes and No are actually two sides of the same coin, each making the other possible in perfect harmony as we learn to follow our intuition.
Like any swing or pendulum, our progression from No to Yes will always naturally fall the other way at the end of its stroke. In fact, our true nature requires that we alternate between No and Yes, between Being and Doing, just as all things in nature ebb and flow between periods of rest and activity, sleep and alertness, tranquility and growth. These natural rhythms become a great gift to us when we can consciously choose between them, but we humans too often say Yes when we need to say No or No when we need to say Yes. We tend to favor and get stuck in one or the other for too long. This is the error we make. Nature never gets stuck and neither should we.
I was briefly stuck this morning. I felt the urge to joyfully swing into action yesterday, but ignored it. No, I’ll give myself one more day, I thought lazily. It was one No too many. The season of Yes had begun and I was in danger of missing my ride as the tide turned. Thankfully, my whole system cranked up the distress until I let go of No and reach out for Yes instead.
It helps to start by intentionally saying Yes to the simple things in your day. I put a log on the coals. I made tea. I sat under the stars with the sleepy puppy. Then I joyfully opened my computer and started writing to you—a big outward thrust after my season of quiet.
Whenever you are uncomfortable, ask yourself where you might be stuck and what a new choice might look like. The pendulum will always swing back for you, but the levels of discomfort will increase until you are forced to make a refreshing shift. You may as well learn to shift while it’s easy.
Becoming aware of this cycle of Yes and No helps us honor the Yin and Yang of our hours, our days, our lives, for this balance is the key to total well-being as one flows into the other—ensuring the healthy growth of our body-mind, our ability to live on purpose, and the sustainable nurturing of the planet we all call home.