November 2011 Life constantly throws us opportunities to grow and expand if we would but say that three-letter word. The more we say it, the more swiftly and smoothly does our authentic life unfold, says Aparrna Sharma WHEN I SAID ‘YES’It took me two months to struggle with this article.What is the most natural reaction when somebody commands “Say Yes”?Of course, you automatically say “Yes”But then…. How often do we say a “Yes” while we do a “No”?Being a timid person wary of taking on challenges, it took me a long time to even start imbibing the idea. But from the moment I said “Yes,” my life started gaining momentum. Long-standing deadlocks started opening up, the inertia in my mind started to melt. At the same time I received the news of the Spiritual Master, Mohanji, visiting India. A chance came up to organise a meditation session for him in Chandigarh. I was alone, contemplating this in my mind. The voices around me discouraged me: “No, you can’t do it all alone.” “Why would he come to Chandigarh?”, “How can you manage to organise things after your long office hours?” I turned to poetry, my eternal friend, philosopher and guide.In her poem, The Journey, Mary Oliver says: One day you finally knewwhat you had to do, and began,though the voices around youkept shoutingtheir bad advice–…But little by little,the stars began to burnthrough the sheets of clouds,and there was a new voicewhich you slowlyrecognised as your own,that kept you companyas you strode deeper and deeperinto the world,determined to dothe only thing you could do–determined to savethe only life you could save.I decided to live the only life I have, and said “Yes” where everything around me was saying “No”. Last month, we had a meditation session where over 100 people meditated together, and then I travelled with the Master for the next three days. What I can say from the deepest core of my heart is that those three days of interaction with a living guru became the most sublime experience of a lifetime that will shine forever in my life… resplendent, even on the other side of the grave. It has been the most amazing journey. I recently saw the movie, Yes Man. Carl, a withdrawn, sullen, negative, banker (played by Jim Carrey) attends a motivational seminar where he meets an inspirational guru, Terrence Bundley (Terence Stamp). Terrence grabs Carl, shakes him up and forces him to take a good long look at his contracted life.“You’re dead, Carl,” thunders Terrence. “You say “no” to life and therefore, you’re not living.”He then browbeats Carl into making a covenant with himself to say “Yes” to every request and opportunity.“I want you say ‘Yes’ to your lives. I want you to invite ‘Yes’ into your life, because it will RSVP ‘Yes’. When you say ‘Yes’ to things, you embrace the possible. …”Carl reluctantly promises to stop being a ‘No Man’. Thereafter, it is a hilarious story of the experiences that come his way when he says “Yes” to everything. These include learning Korean, taking flying lessons, learning to play the guitar and dating a Persian woman amongst many other things.Intriguing? The movie made me laugh and reflect at the same time. I wondered, Am I a “Yes” person, or a “No” person? Or, more accurately, am I a “Yes, and…” person or a “Yes, but…” person? Could I be missing out on exciting possibilities by saying “No” to opportunities that present themselves to me? Would saying “Yes” to everything in life accelerate my inner growth? Doors openingThe poet Mary Oliver says:Who can open the door who does not reach for the latch? Who can travel the miles who does not put one foot in front of the other, all attentive to what presents itself continually? Let me repeat, “…what presents itself continually”It is, in fact, so. Life is presenting us with things continually, non-stop, in an unbroken stream, if we only look. Think how many fliers in the Sunday newspaper you drop in the trash can without even looking at them. How many invitations do you Saying “No” requires no effort. It comes to us spontaneously, almost like a natural defense mechanism. On the other hand saying “Yes” requires courage and a deep level of commitment. decline? How many times do you say “No” during the day? There is a hilarious moment in the movie when Carl’s girlfriend yells “Go jump off the bridge’ and the next shot we see is of Jim Carrey on a bridge, obediently clad in bungee jumping gear! Think, what if someone told you to take dance lessons or baby-sit their child, or take care of them during an operation? How “Yes” a person would you be? “I was not very interested in animals,” disclosed Nina Mittal, “and someone gave me a cat. I somehow felt that it was God himself who was giving it to me so I accepted it. Bringing up a cat over the next 15 years has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. It opened me up to the animal world and has really made me an animal lover. I am so glad I agreed.”Archana was a reluctant merchandiser who didn’t want to work with fabrics. Six months into her first job, in a handicraft company, she was shifted to the fabrics division. Based on this job profile, she got her next job which was entirely fabrics and handlooms but, much to her distaste, in a retail chain. A year later, because of this experience in retail, she found her next opportunity in the state office of one of the country’s biggest retail chain companies. A case of ‘Yes-by-default’ I’d say, but it worked for her anyway.Have you ever asked a friend to do something and they quickly responded by saying they will try to make it? Well, that is a polite way to say no. In most cases, they won’t show up at all. Even Facebook gives you an option to say ‘Maybe’ on an invitation to an event. Every time we say “Yes” to a request – we mentally choose the level of commitment that is connected or related to that yes.The fear factorBut how easy is it to say “Yes”? I have probably been an ambitious but terribly fearful person all my life. All my bravado and fiery, short-tempered persona was largely a cover-up for the timid, fearful girl inside. Needless to say, I always found security in routine, in a stable social setup, in a dry but ‘secure’ job. I am so afraid of change that I’d rather stay in a stressful environment than go out and explore another option. The Gosho says: “Insects that live on smartweed forget how bitter it tastes; those who stay long in privies forget how foul the smell is.” (Writings of Nichiren Daishonin)This fear of taking the step forward manifested in a chronic ache in my legs and joints. I realised that my pain stems from my unconscious ‘No’ to life, instead of taking a chance and going with the flow. John Lennon explained it by saying: ‘There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance.” Mike Michalowicz (pronounced mi-CAL-o-wits) author of the cult classic book, The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, started his first business at the age of 24, moving his young family to the only safe place he could afford – a retirement village. With no experience, no contacts and no savings he systematically bootstrapped a multi-million dollar business. Then he did it again. And again. His experience building three multi-million dollar companies fostered a philosophy rarely taught to entrepreneurs: the lack of money, experience and resources is, in fact, your greatest asset. All he needed to do was to grab a “Yes” when he saw one. Here is Mike’s little formula for living without regret (or at least with a whole lot less regrets):“If your heart says “Yes!” and your head says “No!”, go for it! This is the clearest sign you will get from your soul telling you what to do. Your head is just going into the protection mode of keeping you in the “tried and true” past. Lead with your heart!” Taking the leapDo you know what happens when we get out of our comfort zones of ‘No’? When we learn to say a deep, passionate yes to the things that really matter, then peace begins to settle onto our lives like golden sunlight sifting to a forest floor.” (Thomas Kinkade)Every day gives us a chance to break out of our shells. The easiest way of doing this is simply by saying “Yes” to more things that come our way. Whenever you get invited somewhere, even if you feel uncomfortable about going, just say “Yes” and see where it takes you. As I explored more on this, I came across a number of people who actually tried the Yes Man experiment in their lives. Try it out, yourself, for a week, two weeks, a month…. One blogger wrote: So, in a single week of saying “Yes!” I managed to:• find friends to potentially do a Eurotrip with• get in touch with a skilled photographer• develop the habit of jogging every morning• have tons of fun J.D. Roth is an accidental personal-finance expert, a regular guy who found himself deep in debt. “For much of my adult life I’ve been shackled by fear. I’ve been afraid to try new things, afraid to meet new people, afraid of doing anything that might lead t
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