We can make excuses for not doing the things we really want and end up missing out on life’s adventures. Don’t resist and yes more often.
The myths and folk tales of the whole world make clear that the refusal is essentially a refusal to give up what one takes to be one’s own interest. The future is regarded not in terms of an unremitting scries of deaths and births, but as though one’s present system of ideals, virtues, goals, and advantages were to be fixed and made secure. King Minos retained the divine bull, when the sacrifice would have signified submission to the will of the god of his society; for he preferred what he conceived to be his economic advantage. Thus he failed to advance into the liferole that he had assumed—and we have seen with what calamitous effect. The divinity itself became his terror; for, obviously, if one is oneself one’s god, then God himself, the will of God, the power that would destroy one’s egocentric system, becomes a monster.
One is harassed, both day and night, by the divine being that is the image of the living self within the locked labyrinth of one’s own disoriented psyche. The ways to the gates have all been lost: there is no exit. One can only cling, like Satan, furiously, to oneself and be in hell; or else break, and be annihilate at last, in God.
Joseph Campbell. The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
The Buddhist tradition describes three poisons of the mind—greed, aversion, and ignorance. We developed this task for Zen students who seem particularly afflicted by aversion, those who habitually resist anything asked of them and what comes forward in life. Their initial and unconscious response to anything asked of them is “no,” expressed either in body language or out loud. Sometimes the no is expressed as “yes, but . . . ,” and sometimes it is cloaked in reasonable language, but it is still a consistent and persistent pattern of opposition.
People who are stuck in aversion often make major life decisions based not upon moving toward a positive goal but rather upon moving away from something they perceive to be negative. They are reactive rather than proactive. “My parents didn’t pay their bills on time and our electricity got turned off. I’m going to become an accountant,” instead of “I want to become an accountant because I love numbers.”
When monks enter training at Japanese Soto Zen monasteries, they are told that the only acceptable response to anything they are asked to do in the first year of training is, “Hai! (Yes!).” This is powerful training. It cuts through layers of apparent maturity, down to the defiant two-year-old and/or teenager within.
Not expressing opposition helps us to let go of self-centered views and see that our personal opinion is actually not so important after all. It’s surprising how often our disagreement with another person is actually unimportant and only serves to increase our distress and the suffering of those around us. Saying yes can be energizing, since habitual resistance is a persistent drain on our life energy.
Final words: Cultivate an internal attitude of “yes” to life and all it brings you. It will save you lots of energy.
Jan Chozen Bays. How to Train a Wild Elephant