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Monday, February 18, 2008

Saying Yes to No

Sitting at my desk this morning, reading through my morning email and Google reader deliveries, I glanced over at my work table and saw this.

I'm not exactly sure what question is being answered, but it certainly is emphatic.

Over the past several days I've been thinking rather more than usual about how I spend my time. And it's come to my attention that even in the generally mindful routine of our lives here, where almost everything we do is what we choose to do, there are days when I wish I hadn't said yes to one thing or another.

Typically the things I regret saying yes to are things that require that I step out of my comfort zone and stretch a bit.

Stretching is good. Stretching keeps you fresh and vital, and retunes your perspective. Trying something new demands focus, and when life gets a bit fuzzy, an injection of focus -- sharp attention to detail -- is a useful antidote. It sweeps away the cobwebs. When I learned to ski I remember focusing intently on every aspect of the task at hand, which was to make it down the mountain with some semblance of grace, all limbs still functional when I reached the bottom. I was paying such close attention to what I was doing I didn't have room in my head for any thing else. My mind -- a beginner's mind -- was scoured clean, and what a refreshing experience it was.

But sometimes I don't want to stretch. Sometimes I don't want to try new things, or leave my comfort zone. Sometimes my comfort zone is exactly where I need to be. Novelty for the sake of novelty is not expansive, after all, it's just time-consuming and wearying.

This is not so much a question of balance as it is one of discernment. When our creative souls are reaching out for delight and inspiration, we want to say "yes!" to all the opportunities that come our way. How else will we grow? We need to remind ourselves that growing is not the whole of life's experience. There is also ripening, and maturity, and dormancy. Every skill, every talent, every desire, has its own season. It is not always in our creative soul's best interest to stretch. Sometimes we need to relax our quest for new and better and more, and allow those talents and abilities and pleasures we already have to ripen.

It's true that saying "no" to the pressure to be more, do more, go farther, go faster, gives us room to say "yes" to those things that may serve our soul's delight in ways we hadn't considered. But I'm not even talking about compensatory benefit here. I'm talking about releasing ourselves from the need to always be growing and expanding, period. Let's just revel in ourselves -- and in those around us -- exactly as we are. And if this sounds like I'm encouraging idleness and sloth, good, because I am. Productivity is highly overrated. Go for the joy instead. In the immortal words of Kurt Vonnegut: "We're here to fart around. Don't let anyone tell you different."

1 comment:

  1. We need to remind ourselves that growing is not the whole of life's experience. There is also ripening, and maturity, and dormancy.

    So true, and something I need to be reminded of right now. Thank you!

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