Yes and No

IMG_4705Sometimes an anger surges up in me about how abysmally this culture guides and takes care of its members around transitions. We expect engaged women and men to put on a happy face from proposal through honeymoon, ignoring their innate need to grieve the loss of their singlehood and honor their fears about getting married. We applaud pregnant women and new mothers for not allowing their baby to interfere with their regular life. (My heart sinks when I see a mother with a one week old baby at the grocery store.) And just when the body wants to turn inward to slow down or come to a complete stop at the year’s end, the culture orchestrates an overwhelming time filled with the outward energy of consumption and socializing.

The theme in my work with clients last week was exhaustion. Despite all of them knowing that their bodies needed rest, they unilaterally expressed how difficult it was to say no to the stream of busyness that defines these days. “It’s just overwhelming and I’m choosing not to fight it,” one client shared. “I’m noticing it but I don’t feel like I can choose against the current.”

We say yes and yes again. We smile and laugh and spend and dance, and eventually the body collapses on the other side of the new year. It may collapse in the form of illness or depression, but it will find a way to slow you down; it always does. When we miss the cues that help us balance the “yes” with the “no”, our body-mind-wisdom finds a way to re-balance for us.

Yes is a beautiful energy. When you open yourself to yes you’re receiving the stream of love, caring, compassion, giving, and connection. Those of us in the helping professions are naturally oriented toward yes as we give ourselves to seeing and helping and guiding others. We are aligned with yes-flow when we’re giving to others.

But no is beautiful as well. And in order for the stream of yes to come from a balanced and full well inside of you, it must be balanced by its counterpart of no. No sets boundaries. No carries the current of discernment and healthy judgement. No is the sentry that stands at the gate of your heart and lets you know when you’re giving too much. No says, “I can’t attend the holiday party” and “I can’t bake homemade cookies this year; I’ll have to buy them at the store.”

Yes and no are twin poles who meet in the center of a full heart. Yes runs dry without its counterpart of no, and too much no without the warm flow of yes creates a cold and rigid chamber. Yes is the stream of flowers that you receive through an outstretched arm. No is the firm hand that casts a circle around you to protect your time and space.

And yet how difficult it can be to say no in a culture that reveres the yes. We associate yes with the happy face, and the happy face is a god. We associate yes with the extrovert ideal: the person who is always up for the party, the happy hour (there’s the word again), what our culture calls “a good time.” Yes is the person who goes with the flow, who extends herself tirelessly for her kids, who bakes extra cookies for the bake sale, and strives never to disappoint others.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with yes, of course. The problems arise when you say yes but you really mean no, when you sideline that quiet whisper that says, “I would really rather stay home in my pajamas and watch a movie.”

This week, as we descend into January and what can often be a time of depression for many as they come down from the busyness of December, I want to be a whisper of strong permission to listen to your no. Notice where that small or loud voice communicates in your body. Notice what happens inside when you ignore your no. Notice how you feel when you honor the circle of protection and step proudly inside of it.

January, as a liminal month of nothingness, is a time for deep rest. Many creatures in the animal world are in hibernation right now, and that’s where we need to be both psychically and physically. We often keep saying yes as a way to ward off the nothingness of this time, as we don’t know that we can handle the difficult feelings that may arise when we slow down into silence. Loneliness, vulnerability, and sadness may appear at your doorstep; invite them in. In saying no to the outside world, you will be saying yes to your inner world. And that’s where the energy needs to be right now if January is to shift from being a month of dread to a month of quiet excitement as you’ll carve out time to get into bed early, light a candle, take a hot bath, reflect, read poetry, and, mostly, just be.

***

The Guest House by Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

31 comments to Yes and No

  • Marybeth

    Could not agree more-
    I am flat out amazed how people travel at the holidays-
    Between all the holiday prep before leaving, the travel itself (and all its variables-and expense), the constantly being ‘on’ for everyone and all the goings on…
    I swear my favorite thing is to just be home.
    We enjoy alot of festive things around the holidays, but the actual dates of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we just enjoyed each other and the downtime.
    We were offered to join my husband’s relatives in DC this year-
    Graciously declined and after the recharge I felt after our downtime, I had zero regrets.
    We were also talking about how travel to be woth family can certainly be rewarding, there are MANY circumstances (let’s say, my own dysfunctional family!) where it is downright painful.
    So one can exhaust themselves traveling, spend a fortune, run around w/o downtime using precious vacation time only to sit around a table with people who are possibly tortuous to your inner peace (and sometimes flat out abusive). But many people do it. Amazes me.
    Everyone is different, but I would rather be alone, honestly-
    To me, holidays should be a time of year for warmth and recharge-
    I can see where people easily lose control over that (I have been there).

    Happy 2015 btw:)

  • ckm06

    Sheryl,
    could you possibly post about the so called “backdoor” spike of relationship anxiety/intrusive thoughts. I’m really struggling with it right now and can’t find much on the internet about it… Your blog is such a blessing, thank you.

  • Sarah

    I love that poem! And this post. I am with you on the baby thing too. I’m always amazed at people getting newborn pictures taken. I think at four days postpartum I was engorged, crying most of the time and no one had shirts.

    I think though, overall your post called me to think about the yeses. I have worked so hard on saying no, and it’s been so hard and good. I’m realizing though, that I am just starting to feel like exploring spirituality again , and stretching out to some new community. So thanks for addressing both sides of the coin! Beauty!

    • Ah, yes, no shirts at four days postpartum! Just how it’s supposed to be ;).

      Yes, yes is so beautiful, especially when it comes to exploring spirituality and community after being inside the cocoon of motherhood. I look forward to hearing more about this for you as it unfolds.

  • Sara

    Thank you! This was such a beautiful post to read at the end of the first weekend of the year. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve feel more comfortable with listening to my No and staying home if I feel the need for some restorative alone time. I’ve passed this along to my mother as she has just retired and I have found that her generation is much less comfortable saying No and doing more for themselves. I hope she will find this article as helpful as I have.

  • Sarah

    This poem popped into my head the other day when I was feeling down and now to see it in your post reaffirms that I need its message now. So well timed as always ☺️Xoxo

  • WOW!

    Very very well said. I found myself super busy this year wanting to give the whole spirit of Christmas thing that I was so gracefully programed to subscribe to when I was young to my new wife from Israel. I scrambled to make enough money, buy gifts, attend holiday parties and then the time came for my family gathering, one in which I usually will write long winded cards and praise until all hours of the night, and I found myself stepping back, taking a deep breath, and saying no, I am just going to show up relaxed, we rested and in my heart from a good nights sleep. This began my now 2 week inward journey that will continue for another few more weeks of re-alignment and calibration. Thank you so much Sheryl for always speaking my language and reflecting my highest truth.

    With love and gratitude,

    Daniel

  • Angela

    Dearest Sheryl, January is my favourite month… It’s the month I like to relax and unwind, I happily and easily say yes to relaxation. It’s family time and me time.. I think everyone should have January off. and think of nothing. I say no without difficulties these days.. Especially if I don’t feel like doing or going somewhere I don’t like. I have set healthy boundaries, it’s an awesome feeling. I don’t hold back to what I really feel. I’ve been a teacher and a dental nurse for many years..and I enjoyed carIng and attending to people’s needs. Nothing is more profound than loving yourself first and others second. It hasn’t been easy for me to let someone love me because my parents didn’t demonstrate it to me and my brothers. That’s why love has been a frightening thing. They didn’t know better I guess, there parents were just as worse.my only wish is I become a better parent very soon.

  • Kate

    Hi Sherryl,
    I love this post and poem. Last January I did a 3 week healthy cleanse cutting out sugar, alcohol and coffee and I happened to start reading an amazing book, I had recently been through a breakup and my Gran so very I’ll (we knew any day it would be her last) but in that month I felt amazing! I went to bed early every night to read the book, listened to amazing music (some of it very cathartic), I started a journal which I still keep to this day, and I went on lots of walks/runs around my favourite and stunning park at dusk which is when I loved to go.
    It was such an amazing time for me! I was on my own at home and just couldn’t wait to get to bed every night to snuggle up, read my book and rest!
    So I’m aiming to duplicate that this year. Certain things are not quite the same as I moved house so I’m not so close to that park which I miss dearly, and I now live with two friends, so I had less alone time, but from tonight I’ve said to myself I will start the early nights and looking after myself with warming foods and eating my dinner earlier so I can get to bed/sleep earlier!
    It’s been a difficult year for me, starting my own business, moving (leaving an apt that felt like home), loosing my Gran, and the relationship break up dragged on this year – we got back together, I lost all of that amazing energy I had in January, and by May I was at my lowest. Since then it’s been up and down. I’m finding it very hard to let go of my ex boyfriend and the past, and every time I feel like I’m finally making an energy shift to move on and accept, he gets intouch again! So this poem is perfect timing for me as I’d just woken up after having a very realistic vivid dream about Dan, and lately every morning that is the case. Yesterday I woke up after have an upsetting dream about him meeting someone else, and then felt so sad and also paralysed at all the things I need to do this week for my business and the day job I’m still working whilst I get my business off the ground, I felt really alone and lost and all I wanted was my Gran, my old apt back and/or Dan. I reached a big low again, but I called out to my good friend who has always been there for me, and to my Sister and they were amazing – such lights and I started to feel more within myself again.
    However this poem has really helped me this morning after waking up again to another dream about Dan. It’s hard to move on when he’s in my head as soon as I wake up but as Rumi’s poem says, maybe this is just clearing something I need to clear. Thank you for your amazing newsletters, I really feel when reading them as if we’re connecting back to Mother Nature xxx

  • Celeste

    Thank you! I love your ideas for how to be in January…..wonderful poem too!

  • Stella

    Dear Sheryl, but how do you know when to say yes or no to your relationship? Obviously when everything goes well you say yes but after months im doubting if it should still be yes. I dont even know if the way i see my boyfriend is a projection or if it’s just reality. I feel the pressure of saying no as im so confused of what my fear mind perceives as who my boyfriend is or if it’s just the wat it really is. It’s very confusing and even tho the anxiety is less strong and hardly there the way i see my boyfriend hasnt changed… So im constantly ruminating on the yes or no question…

  • Erin

    New Year’s Day came with a sore throat, congestion, and aches. I’m feeling the side effects of a busy holiday season, and my inner world demanding I stop and pause. I’m not proud of ignoring the little cries from within saying to rest or be still; however, years past, depression snuck right in alongside the new year. I’ve come a great deal in my journey of healing, but this cold, I fully believe, is signaling for stillness. I’ve felt the hollowness this month can bring and I’ve experienced the thoughts, the fears, the dread, the worry. I’ve gone through the whole gamut. For anyone suffering with anxiety, depression, and/or the holiday/winter blues, it’s going to be alright. This time is much needed for reflection, pause, and stillness. Embrace it, and embrace anything that comes knocking at your door. And Sheryl, thank you for this much needed post. It’s a reminder I too often forget.

    • Yes, the body always makes its needs known, one way or another. It sounds like you’re listening now and ready to drop down into the invitation that this month offers.

  • Kathleen

    As always, your posts are so timely and sensitively worded. Thank you, Sheryl. And, the poem is also one of my favourites.

  • Desperate

    Sheryl, is it a red flag the fact that my fiance is not as educated as I am and the fact that he has been previously engaged ? This didn’t bother me before since he is quite intelligent although he’s not well educated as I am and one very hard working man. And about the second one (his previous engagement) I know that he didn’t feel the same way for her as he feels for me, I am quite sure about his love for me but I kind of feel guilty because we started seeing each other immediately after he broke up his engagement. These two things have been bothering me and causing me feel anxious about marrying him, I’m scared that i won’t be able to get over them. By the way, he is an amazing man, full of understanding and love for me and I don’t want to lose him.

  • Desperate

    Sheryl, you are a life savior !!! Thank you so much!

  • Rae

    Love this post Sheryl! I was a bit ahead of the game this year, having been in a liminal stage that started in early August. For a while, I felt like I had fallen into a deep, dark pit and couldn’t see the top. When I could see the top a few months in, I tried to crawl out but kept slipping back down. What helped tremendously was accessing healing messages from others like yourself (even when you don’t realize you are sending vital messages – you are so thank you). I would hear the whispers: “what is your intention…are you trying to control or learn….are you showing judgment or compassion toward yourself….is your heart open or closed?” I realized that the point for me was not to crawl out of the pit, but to just sit there in stillness and take it in. There is beauty in the pit. It will be clear when it is time to crawl back out. In the meantime, let the pain transform you – don’t try to transform it. Also, it is true what you have shared on your site that healing happens in layers. I wouldn’t have been ready for this pit two years ago.

    • Every time you comment you also send healing messages into the invisible web, so thank you. It sounds like you’ve been doing very deep work on yourself in allowing the pain to work itself through without pushing too hard.

  • bebby

    Dear Sheryl

    I hurt when my partner said that he afraid that he didnt love me enough n have a thought that he could love another woman more, its hurt when Im in the state of lost my awareness of love inside, I felt fear of rejected
    and when Im in the state of grace n self love, I really appreciate him even I dont care he love me or not I love him with all my heart, n he attracted to my self more he love me so much, but I can’t be always in that state. sometimes lot of obstacle that make me forget n too hyper focused on him, and leave my self.
    Im confused, he confused too, does we can be together or not
    what is real love, I want real love not only infatuation
    please give me an enlightment
    thanks

  • Tina

    I have come to think of “no” as a kind of “yes” to myself. Which is lovely for about a half second before the self-criticism starts in: “selfish princess!” I’m working on it and finding it gets easier with practice. The deliciousness of staying home in my pjs, doing what I want to do is so worth it.

  • Angela

    So very true Tina, life is so fast why not spend time at home in your pjs.. Nothing compares to that.

  • Kevin

    Sheryl, I’ve been facing problems in my relationship relationship, mostly concerning the emptiness and questioning whether she is right for me. As a result I really haven’t felt much of a connection with her and it has been a chore to keep texting her, although to be honest, I never enjoyed texting. But I also really don’t want to leave and it pains me greatly to think about giving this up, yet it is also really a struggle to keep going, I’m at my wit’s end and I really wish that someone on this wonderful community could give me some advice, thank you guys so much!

  • Kevin

    Also, I am really starting to question whether we ‘get’ each other and honestly, I don’t really understand what that means either, but either I’m over thinking things but I’ve often felt unfulfilled with my conversations with her, that I wished it could have been deeper, more thoughtful and meaningful, and although it sometimes is, but due to her childish nature (which I found adorable when we first got together) now I honestly don’t know, I’m on the verge of tears as I honestly had hoped I could build a wonderful relationship with her and now, I don’t know if she is the one to be with, especially when she is, as stated by some of my friends and is accurate to a degree, close minded. But in the end, I love her, and i really hope to sort things out, I just want to be at peace and enjoy this relationship, please help 🙁

  • N

    Dear Sheryl,

    I have been following your blogs for a while and in the past year they have helped me – and continue to help me – a great deal.

    Not necessarily to do with this post, but I wondered if you have ever read the poem To Love Is Not To Possess by James Kavanaugh. It echoes a lot of what you say and I always find it a wonderful reminder (I tend to have hang ups over what love is!). I thought you might like to hear it too.

    To Love is Not to Possess
    James Kavanaugh

    To love is not to possess,
    To own or imprison,
    Nor to lose one’s self in another.
    Love is to join and separate,
    To walk alone and together,
    To find a laughing freedom
    That lonely isolation does not permit.
    It is finally to be able
    To be who we really are
    No longer clinging in childish dependency
    Nor docilely living separate lives in silence,
    It is to be perfectly one’s self
    And perfectly joined in permanent commitment
    To another–and to one’s inner self.
    Love only endures when it moves like waves,
    Receding and returning gently or passionately,
    Or moving lovingly like the tide
    In the moon’s own predictable harmony,
    Because finally, despite a child’s scars
    Or an adult’s deepest wounds,
    They are openly free to be
    Who they really are–and always secretly were,
    In the very core of their being
    Where true and lasting love can alone abide.