Saturday, April 30, 2011

Just say "Yes!"

A man who’d never before seen olives was given a bag of them and told they were full of oil. He took them home, sliced each one open, and was disappointed to find no oil at all. It was there, of course. The fruity essence was simply hidden within the pulp.

“So it is with God,” writes Paramahansa Yogananda, an Indian yogi who was one of the first to introduce eastern meditative practices to the west. “Everything in the universe,” he continues, “is saturated with His presence—the twinkling stars, the rose, the song of the bird, our minds. But one has metaphorically to “squeeze” God out of His material concealment.”

So how do we squeeze God from our everyday experiences? Since the Divine is omnipresent and we are multifaceted, there are an untold number of avenues. Graciously greeting whatever comes our way is one such approach.

Author and social activist Reverend Deborah Johnson encourages us to adopt a “sacred yes”. She points out that we tend to say yes conditionally and “on the backend”, after we’ve decided that a particular experience will feel good and comes with sufficient guarantees to make us secure.

“This concept of yes has to be on the front end,” Johnson explains. “The declaring of the yes opens up the doors…so that we can be more accessible to resources that are all around us.” In other words, by welcoming what comes our way, we greet the Divine within it all.

So does this mean we say yes to injustice, for example, and go about our merry way? Of course not. We can, though, say yes to this injustice arriving in our life at this moment. We can say yes to determining and enacting our unique response. And we can say yes to allowing ourselves to be transformed through a profound engagement with what is.

Welcoming every person and event, every pleasant and difficult experience, saying a resounding “Yes!” to them all, is undeniably a formidable practice. But the alternative is to live on life’s edges, never fully entering the stream. When we say yes, we open ourselves and step into that vast current. We present ourselves as we are and touch life as it is. In the process, we open ourselves to the Sacred.

“In joy, the devotee sees God playing hide-and-seek with him in the blossoms,” Yogananda writes. “When his eyes are spiritually opened, the devotee beholds, peering at him through the eyes of everyone, the eyes of the Infinite. Behind the kind or unkind voice of everyone he hears the truthful voice of the Infinite.”

The Sufi poet Rumi says it this way in his poem, The Guest House.

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’re 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 whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

In this column, we’ve traveled from India to present~day California and back in time to 13th century Persia. We now reach further back, to a village on the way to Jerusalem. In Luke 17:21, Jesus says“…for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

The message is the same. God is right here, right now. All we need to do is open our eyes to see, our ears to hear, and our hearts to be touched.

Yes! Yes! And a thousand times, yes!

Loanne Marie


monica wood said...


I have said yes to these essays, which at one time I would have skimmed over as "not my thing." I don't even know what that means, exactly, except that I probably thought of meditation and its "mindful" etceteras as naive, or futile. I doubt that I'll ever be a mediator (doesn't seem to be in my DNA), but I do slow waaay down to read these essays, and they always make me (dare I say) mindful, and they stay with me, and I read them over when I'm feeling overwhelmed. They are a form of meditation, I guess, at least for me. Thank you so much for your wisdom and kindness. xoxo Monnie

Loanne Marie said...

And thank you for that feedback, Monnie, though I'm not sure I buy that whole DNA thing. Most of us can and do meditate~~it's just the choice of subject matter that changes. I once knew a woman who could just 'be' for hours, binoculars in hand, waiting for a glimpse of a certain rare bird. My husband comes to total one~pointed meditation when he's riding a motorcycle down a mountain road.

The real delight is when we apply the focus of those practice periods~~whatever they may consist of~~to the small moments of our everyday life. Folks have done this for as long as there have been folks, and a structured meditation practice was never a prerequisite. It's about being fully alive. Nurturing our ability to do that makes profound sense.

Thanks for saying yes to being such a consistent part of these essays, Monica.

Anonymous said...

What if we enter the stream and sink? Or the current is too strong? Yes is a wonderful way togreet the day, if you are indeed ready.

Loanne Marie said...

Wow! Such great questions. Here is my response, though I really hope other readers will chime in with their reactions as well.

I don't think saying yes means that we allow yourselves to enter into, or remain in, a situation that feels harmful. We are supremely responsible for making wise choices for ourselves. In the type of situation you're alluding to, I think saying yes would entail saying yes to making the best choice possible for yourself in that moment, owning that that is your right and responsibility, and nurturing yourself through all the ramifications.

I didn't mean to sound Pollyanna~ish. Those difficult situations are likely going to occur in most of our lives and several times over. How we greet them, though, makes the difference between feeling powerless and victimized, or strong and engaged with life. Does that make sense?

I also believe that, when we get quiet enough inside to make our own true choice, the current won't be too strong and we won't sink. Sometimes, these really trying times do require us to reach out to others for support, though, and to find resources within and around us that we wouldn't have been open to otherwise.

Thanks so much for writing and for challenging what can seem rather simplistic and not~ready~for~the~real~world!

Val Stepien said...

Lovely, Loanne. Thanks for the reminders. As someone once said, "Greet the present moment as though you had invited it."
Be well,

Loanne Marie said...

Nice quote! And like the reader above pointed out, that doesn't mean we just swallow it whole and don't interact with life. The present moment gives us something. We take it and move it in what feels like the best, most helpful direction~~even if that means, at some moments, disengaging. Saying yes just might at times involve saying no!

Thanks for writing and giving us a phrase we can keep with us.

Rockey said...

Loanne, thank you for sharing again.

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

Wow. Deep. I am pretty sure the Sufi poet was not encouraging us to invite people or events into our lives that we know are dark, shameful or full of malice… light doesn’t associate with dark.

In my mind, though, I sometimes have those ‘negative’ feelings. If I watch them and make note of them, kind of ‘catalogue’ them, they get easier to handle in the future. To try and avoid the negative thoughts, or try to squash them, doesn’t work.

Life is what it is, and I am human. Getting in touch with those negatives such as sorrow or aloneness has made whatever moments of love and joy I am blessed with more meaningful to me.

Jesus taught us to love others as we love ourselves; that implies we love ourselves, even with our bad thoughts and shame and malice… sometimes it is easier to love others than ourselves.

Loanne Marie said...

Yeah, that poem makes ya pause, doesn't it? Say yes to malice and shame? Ya gotta be kiddin'!

When I read your quote of Rumi's words, what stood out for me was "meet them at the door laughing". Dark and light are all part of the Dance. It's how we meet the darkness that matters. As you point out, doing battle or ignoring it doesn't always work; often it simply grows stronger. But to meet the darkness with the lightness of our laughter or, as you mentioned, with the light of our awareness, is a much better plan. And to meet it all with Love~~now there's a practice!!!

Thanks so much for writing!

Anonymous said...

Rockey's comment has me thinking. "...light doesn't associate with dark." While I know exactly what you mean, Rockey, what I'm thinking is that, actually, dark is the ONLY thing light associates with. Light and dark are the yin and yang. As Loanne said, together they ARE the Dance.

Loanne Marie said...

Good point! We live in a world of duality, and part of the problem is that our language arises out of that world. Light and dark, good and bad, mind and heart, you and me~~all are part of the way things SEEM divided in this dimension.

But I believe that if we zoom out far enough (for a related essay, check out “Zoom~Zoom” January 2010), we get to the place from which both of these arise. One confusion is that, in our language, this can also be called ‘Light”~~though I usually capitalize it to try to make that distinction. This Light includes both the temporal light and dark.

This is what I was referring to in my reply to Anonymous above. If we can feel ourselves and this world of ours held within a larger Light, our challenges feel more manageable. We are better able to "meet them at the door laughing" since we can view it all as part of that grand Dance.

How you define that Light will vary with your belief system. My husband, who finds theological belief unnecessary, likely wouldn't use the word Light to describe what he sees as simply the way of the universe, All That Is, that totality of which human life is only a minute and inconsequential piece. Those of us with a belief in something that can be called God will conceive of it based on the particulars of our understanding. But I think it cannot be denied~~what occurs in this world of ours is only a small, infinitesimally tiny fragment of the whole. That alone can help us laugh!

But this is not meant to minimize the depth of pain we experience in this temporal world. I think a lot of spiritual folk and not so spiritual folk get in trouble when they try to avoid grappling directly with pain. Those feelings then can just go underground and twist things there. I find that zoom metaphor so helpful. We need the ability to zoom in and zoom out, whichever is appropriate to the situation~~zoom in to feel the pain, zoom out to recognize its larger context.

Thanks to all of you for writing!

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Leia Marie