Monthly Archives: February 2016

Every ‘Yes’ is a ‘No’ and every ‘No’ is a ‘Yes’


How many of you have heard someone say, including yourself: “I have a hard time saying no”? On the converse side, how many have heard people say: “I always try to say Yes”?

Yes and no are flip sides of the same coin. As a life coach, I often remind my clients that to live a more purpose-driven life, they have to consciously say ‘no’ to in order to fully commit to a new ‘yes’.

A Bigger Yes
Imagine life is like constantly preparing a many course meal. You have something marinating in the refrigerator, something baking in the oven, and 3-4 pots and pans on the stove. These courses are family, work, exercise/fitness, creative projects, home, recreation, friends/community. There could be many more. Each of these important areas require you to use both a recipe and your intuition. When, for example, I decided to increase my coaching practice (a bigger yes), I moved that pot to the front burner and turned the heat up, which meant I had to watch it more carefully. I had to move my health and wellness business to the back burner and turn the heat down.

My impulse, as an Aquarian, is to turn the heat up in an area of my life without consciously turning the heat down somewhere else because my resources are both wonderful AND limited. We have to reallocate our time, passion, and enthusiasm regularly. If we don’t, the result of avoiding the ‘no’ behind every ‘yes’ leads to: BURNOUT. The stovetop is a perfect metaphor for what happens when I don’t flip my coin – burnt tortillas, burnt cast iron skillets, and lots of burnt popcorn.

The good news is, as Susan L. Taylor,  African-American editor, journalist and Founder & CEO, National CARES Mentoring Movement said: “In every crisis there is a message. Crises are nature’s way of forcing change — breaking down old structures, shaking loose negative habits so that something new and better can take their place.”

It’s Not the Load
What are some of these old structures and negative habits? I will name two and leave you with two questions to do your own life scan. For many of my clients, they see and personally experience a world full of inequities and suffering. What they don’t see is that their unfettered ‘yes’ to social justice often comes with a ‘no’ to doing justice to their own capacity to do the work with a joyful heart and contented spirit.  As Lena Horne, a singer, dancer, actress, and civil rights activist said: “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.”

A second reason people keep the heat up and the load heavy is their sense of making up for “lost time”. For myself, that phrase covers up regret. I remember thinking at one time that I had “wasted” my thirties. Why? Because I hadn’t yet embraced my passion as a writer. Because I had played “too” much soccer. Because I did not yet understand the importance of managing my money to create time and financial freedom. I broke down my regret and assessed my ‘yes’ and ‘no’ decisions of that decade until I understood my choices. Recognizing my feelings freed me to share what I have learned with younger people so they can have more information and options than I knew about. Rather than carrying a heavy resentment, I walk lighter with wisdom to share with others. As Ella Baker, an African-American human rights activist said: “Give light and people will find the way.”

Saying Yes and Saying No
In sharing my lessons learned on the two-sided coin of ‘yes’ and ‘no’, I leave you with two questions to consider in all the important parts of your life:
What do you say yes to out of learned habits that no longer, if ever, served you?
What are you saying no to that could bring joy to you and therefore to everyone you touch?

This quote from Audre Lorde, who self-described as “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet”, says it all: “Once we recognize what it is we are feeling, once we recognize we can feel deeply, love deeply, can feel joy, then we will demand that all parts of our lives produce that kind of joy.”

Explore your “go-to” Patterns


Think of a destination you are used to getting to by a very particular route. Imagine that as you approach the offramp, you see there is another road that might take you there is a more direct way. You don’t really know, so you decide to go your known route even though you have an intuition it takes longer. Exploring our set patterns in any area of our life activates our internal GPS. We can then press the ‘-‘ button to look at the bigger picture to see if there is indeed a more direct route to our fullhearted goals. In doing this, we both create options in case the route we are familiar with fails us and we may discover a more direct, more energizing path to achieve our dreams.

Having been intentionally car-less for over a year, I have been forced to open my phone GPS numerous times when a bus didn’t show up or I misread the ferry departures on Super Bowl Sunday and had to find another way back to Marin from San Francisco. When this happened early on in my car-less journey, I would freeze and decide I needed to buy a car, my “go-to” pattern for 40 years. Each time, I was forced to open up my thinking as I did not, in that moment, have a car. Yes, I went on some crazy public transportation trips and often called Uber or Lyft.

Failing Forward
Yesterday I knew the “plan” (God/dess is laughing) and I knew my other options from so many previous “failing forward” experiences. The first bus never arrived so I called Lyft to get to the ferry. Heading home, I didn’t read the fine print on the ferry schedule that the later ferries added for Super Bowl festivities DIDN’T run on Super Bowl day until I was at the ferry building and there were no ferries to be had. Ni modo. I found a new bus to Marin I didn’t know about and got home safe and sound.

Every time I wanted to rant, I switched the channel to “what can I do?”, which was to read a memoir by Benilde Little called: Welcome to my Breakdown. No pun needed. No breakdown needed. Just gratitude for every moment of clarity and commitment to well being which buddhists call bodhicitta, defined as the complete wish to overcome our emotional afflictions and delusions to realize our full potential to bring all beings to an enlightened state free from suffering. That is a more direct path my internal GPS loves to point out, again and again.

Trusting Your Intuition


Who in your life told you not to trust yourself? Usually it was an authority figure in your childhood. If you can find the cause, you can interrupt the effect of not believing your intuition, which is an internal guiding system we all have. “People usually experience true intuition when they are under severe time pressure or in a situation of information overload or acute danger, where conscious analysis of the situation may be difficult or impossible,” says Prof Hodgkinson of Leeds University Business School. In my experience, that is also when we are most likely to ignore our intuition.

Feeling overwhelmed and anxious can become an unconscious habit that separates us from our intuition. When frozen with fear, a healthy response is to breathe into the pain and remember we deserve protection and support. Instead of zoning out, we can ask: “What is the real or perceived danger?” This helps me go from effect (overwhelmed) to cause (when did I first begin to zone out?)

A Light at the End of a Tunnel
There are always many options to any situation and that is where our intuition is so critical. It is like the light at the end of a tunnel, giving us guidance as to where to begin seeking the best option. We trust we are good enough and know enough to simply take the step in front of us and pause. This pattern of action and reflection allows us to take in small pieces of information with both our heart and our mind so we aren’t rushing forward without our innate wisdom.

Often we jump headlong into actions and reflective activities geared toward spiritual and emotional growth “have” to be canceled. The idiom of having a “hair up your ass” is a hyperactive discomfort that drives us into obsessive actions to avoid our intuition.

Pema Chodron synthesizes this perfectly:  “Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.”

Our intuition is raw, unfiltered truth and it is helpful to see fear as a step in the right direction rather than a sign to turn away.