The Dance of Yes & No
Baron Baptiste shows us that sometimes our ability to say no actually serves our bigger yes.
We are either a “yes” or a “no.” For a lot of us, somewhere along the way, we started out a “yes” and became a “no.” A natural skepticism is, of course, healthy and necessary. When I was younger, I was very wary of gurus and New Age teachers, and I think that reluctance made me more purposefully think things through and choose the path, teachers, and life direction that best served what I needed at each point. My suspicion allowed me to take a stand for what I felt was right for me.
Sometimes our ability to say no actually serves our bigger yes. There is no claim to virtue without the clear-cut ability to say no to things that don’t support what we’re up to. If you’re a “yes” for possibility that means you’re also saying no to resignation, cynicism, and self-sabotage. If you’re a “yes” for honest and true communication, you’re a “no” for things such as gossip. Closing off one opens the other; this is the dance of yes and no. Those points of “no” are important for grounding. If you’re a “yes” all the time for everyone in your life—which I hear a lot of people say they are—what authentically matters most to you is harder to distinguish and likely isn’t getting served. Thus, “no” can be a valuable tool for setting boundaries.
Having said that, and without realizing it, a lot of us tend to be overly wary—even cynical—to a point that limits what’s possible and holds us back from growth. It’s part of our routine to automatically and rigidly say no to life, “No, I can’t do that. No, that won’t work...I’ve tried it before. No, that’s not possible. This is just the way things are/the way I am.”
I see this all the time in yoga students. They’ll say, “Oh, I can’t do that. No, I’m not flexible enough. I don’t do headstands (or whatever their ‘no’ pose is).” They get so conditioned to “I don’t do that,” that years and years can go by and they never even attempt the pose. But then maybe some teacher challenges them in a different way or they’re suddenly inspired to try the pose, and it’s, “Whoosh, up you go!” They didn’t even know they had moved past whatever physical or mental block was in their way. They went from a rigid, limiting belief about themselves into a revelation that something more was possible.
Our thoughts, feelings, and actions are shaped by our context. We can only act within the boundaries of that existing environment. Our so-called weaknesses or inabilities can often be products of some disempowering limitation that blinds us to our real power. We limit what’s possible when we look at the world from inside the comfortable box that we call our familiar reality or “the world as I know it.” Wherever we’re restricted in life, we’ve created a situation that’s holding that limitation in place, even if we can’t see it. We have a blind spot.
The problem is that most of us come from being a “no” when it comes to this kind of self-inquiry, so we automatically reject the idea that we have blind spots and never see these hidden limitations. We feel that we’re trying our best in life, and while things might not be great, they are as good as they can be for now. This subtle resignation further keeps our obstructions held in place.
My questions for you are, “Can you be open, especially in the areas where you’re currently closed, and be a ‘yes’ to uncovering your blind spots? Can you hold in your heart the idea of being a ‘yes’ even if it feels uncomfortable and make it a moment-to-moment routine? If everything you’ve been doing so far has only gotten you to where you are, can you see the wisdom in attempting something that perhaps you’ve already tried but doing it in a new way? Are you open to listening from a new place within yourself?”
From Being Power: The 9 Practices to Ignite an Empowered Life by Baron Baptiste © 2013.