Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Say It Like You Mean It

Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no. Anything other than this comes from the evil one. -Matthew 5:37, Common English Bible.

For many years I have wanted to grasp the precise meaning of this teaching. Yesterday the meaning came to me after giving a short talk on boundaries and authenticity. I "teach" to learn. Anything I am teaching is an exploration of what I am trying to learn.

Recently Kino Macgregor posted a brief lesson about Susima, a Sanskrit word for solid boundaries. An essential part of self-actualization is learning to walk the balance beam between extremes, finding the equilibrium of our inner authority so we don't over-extend ourselves on the one hand, or shy away from opportunities to grow and serve on the other hand. Kino wrote about people who always say yes, and others who always say no. Some of us are extreme people-pleasers and others are extreme skeptics, averse to any risk. Still others are balanced in their relationships and commitments. I have traditionally fallen into the "always yes" camp, and am learning the hard way that my "yes" really needs to mean "yes!" My best intentions fall apart when my "yes" is inauthentic.

How do we know which is right in any given moment, "yes," or "no?" Yesterday in class when we posed this question for discussion, a woman named Karen said it has to do with our inner authority--before giving an authentic answer, we have to go within to feel our way forward. We structured the remainder of our class around feeling our way through our yoga practice, taking the modifications that were right for us individually and connecting to our inner authority on our yoga mat. I loved watching the great variation in poses as people felt free to explore and do what felt to good them, sometimes saying "no" to a pose I offered, other times responding with an emphatic "yes," going deeper than usual in a particular pose.

At the end of class we drew a circle in our mind's eye around our mat, creating a mental and physical safe space to go within and rest in our seat of inner authority. Knowing, remembering what it feels like to be connected within, we're better able to create healthy boundaries in our daily life; like saying "yes" to helping a friend move, truly intending to extend ourselves in that effort, or saying "no" to a colleague when asked to replace someone on a project that's not a good fit for our talents or interests. You can think of your own real life examples. Just yesterday I said "yes" without thinking when a prospective client asked to book a next day private session, glossing right over my own doctor's appointment. This left me with a decision, do I cancel my own health maintenance appointment to keep a hastily made commitment? That's not a good place to be. My yes did not come from a place of inner authority, but from an autopilot program running in my mind. A no in that instance would have better served me and my client as well. Sometimes meaning what we say is simply a matter of slowing down enough to respond authentically.

As we learn to pay attention to our inner signals, like how we feel in our bodies and emotions when asked to do something, we respond with authority and presence, meaning what we say and saying what we mean.

Authenticity on and off our yoga mat, in our home, workplace and community, is the fruit of deep inner cultivation. The avoidance of broken and empty promises, missed opportunities and failed commitments is possible when we are internally connected, living from a firm foundation of inner authority.

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