Be a Yes for Learning and Growth

I have trained with Baptiste Yoga.  So too has Margo.  We use Baptiste principles in our teaching and in our training of our teachers.  In Baptiste power vinyasa yoga we are asked to be a Yes.  Often when people hear this expression they wrinkle their foreheads or look confused.  They cannot quite grasp what is intended.  Let us filter out some of what is NOT intended to get to the essence of the phrase.

What “Be a Yes” is Not:

First, being a Yes does not mean to be a yes-man (or yes-woman).  It does not mean to be a toady always agreeing with and flattering others.  Simpering and ingratiating are behaviours intended to get you the approval of the person you are dealing with.  These behaviours, however, have the effect of creating contempt in the other person.  They see the ingratiating person as weak.  They see them as being capable of being used and exploited.  The yes-man immediately creates a hierarchical relationship with the other in which the yes-man is inferior.  This relationship does not change.  If not immediately, then at least at some point, the yes-man realises what the other knows from the outset; namely, that the yes-man is not worthy of respect.  This realisation is dispiriting and deprives the yes-man of power and personal expression.

Similarly, to be a Yes does not mean to be a people pleaser.  People pleasing denies us the experience of our true self.  People pleasing is based on phoniness.  Uncertainty whereby our sense of lack about ourselves needs to be compensated with winning the goodwill of others leads to people pleasing.  We do what we think others will like and, therefore, like us for.  It lacks truth and is ultimately defeating to our sense of identity.

Be a Yes also does not mean to say yes to everything.  No matter how helpful we may like to be and no matter how positive an outlook we may like to bring to life there are always times when we need the power to say “No”.  If we say “Yes” to everything we find ourselves over-burdened with obligations.  If we say yes to our children all the time they do not learn boundaries and appropriate social parameters.  If we say yes to everything we can end up drained with little time to say yes to ourselves.  In the end, this can create a sort of martyrdom in which we gain a perverse satisfaction in denying ourselves in order to do for others.

Learn to say “no” in order to be a yes.  This applies to our internal dialogues.  Just as a teenager may need courage to be a voice of reason, to overcome peer pressure and to say “No, I will not break into this car and go joy-riding with you”, so we may need courage to deny our inner doubts and negative tendencies.  To be a yes for growth and possibility and purpose we must be a no for resignation and self-sabotage.

This is called the dance of Yes and No.  To be a Yes for one thing is to be a No for something else.  The key is to exercise good judgment and wisdom in what we are a Yes for and what we are a No for.

Be a Yes Means be Open to Growth and Opportunity:

To be a Yes means to be open to growth and opportunity.  It means to be curious and interested in fulfilling potential.  Aristotle generally described our life’s purpose as being the fulfilment of our potential.  We begin life with latent potential in various areas.  Perhaps we can all learn how to play golf but some of us have the greater potential to be exceptional at playing golf.  Those with that potential may enjoy using their skill and may choose to pursue a career as a golfer, whether as a club professional helping those with less potential make the most of themselves to enjoy their weekly round, or as a touring professional pitting their skills against others to claim a share of the prize pool.

Others have creative potential to design or invent.  Others have potential to build and manifest a conceptual notion into a physical reality through the use of their hands.  Others still may have the potential to write or to speak or to teach.  In some way, we seek out that which gives us satisfaction and for which we are adept and we channel our energies in those areas.

Potential is limited in some areas and rather more limitless in others.  As a runner I trained hard, prepared as well as I could and ran to the limits of my ability producing a best half marathon time of 1 hour 16 minutes and a best marathon time of 2 hours 50 minutes.  I like to think I could have run faster than these times but I do not believe I could have run a 65 minute half or a 2:30 marathon.  My running potential was more limited than that.

When I resigned my partnership as a lawyer and became a house husband, I had unfulfilled potential as a lawyer.  My mentor in the law said of my departure from the practice of the law, “What a waste”.  Some members of the judiciary indicated to me that they thought it a shame I was not carrying on.  But to carry on as a lawyer, to be a yes for the legal career I had started, was to be a No to my family and to my truest self.  On reflection, I simply did not like who I was as a lawyer and to be a yes for myself meant being able to say no to practising the law.

The Example of Sebastian Coe:

To continue with an example from the sporting realm, Lord Coe was a fabulous miler and middle distance runner when known as Sebastian Coe.  He won Olympic gold and set world records.  He then turned himself, when past his prime as a runner, to a career in politics.  He became a Conservative Member of Parliament in Great Britain.  He was recognised for his various services to Great Britain with a peerage and became Lord Coe and sat in the House of Lords rather than the House of Commons.  He had potential as a governor and pursued that potential in politics.

He chaired the London Organising Committee for the 2012 Olympic Games.  Against expectations London won the bid and ran a very successful games.  Lord Coe had potential as an administrator and began fulfilling that potential through his role with the Games Committee.  In all this time he also demonstrated great integrity.  Accordingly, he was made chairman of the International Association of Athletics Federations charged with addressing the scourge of drugs cheating in athletics.  Lord Coe has potential as a diplomat, as someone with unimpeachable character and as someone who sees through the things they begin.  His role with the IAAF is to bring about the rectification of the reputation of international athletics and to expunge the curse of drugs cheating in athletics.

Through our lives we may exhaust potential and we may also gain more and more tools with which to further develop other areas of potential.  Our bodies may age and we lose the capacity to perform physically at the level we could in our youth.  Mentally we may continue to learn and with experience gain access to developing our potential in other ways.  For instance, where once we were mentored, we become mentors for others.

Be a Yes is a matter of Attitude:

To Be a Yes is an attitudinal concept.  In Being of Power Baron Baptiste refers to people’s internal commitment to create what is possible as their reality.  He describes it in these terms:

 This is not about positive thinking or sugar-coating anything in feel-good goo.  It’s about being confident in your ability to turn difficulty into possibility, upsets into positive energy, and breakdowns into breakthroughs.

Yes is an energetic place.  When you’re coming from this energy, it alters and impacts the way you see yourself, your life, your thoughts, and your feelings.  It shapes your actions right here in the present moment.

 Inherent in being a yes is clearing away the negative inner doubts and beliefs and the resistance we have to challenge and to change.  In this respect the story of the two wolves within us is relevant.  According to North American First Nations legend, we have two wolves within us – the good wolf, and the bad wolf. That which we feed grows strong and that which we starve dies.  If one wolf is yes and a commitment to create as reality that which is possible and one is no and a dragging, stagnating doubt, we must feed the yes and starve the no.  In response to situations in our lives it is useful to listen to the inner voice and be clear about whether we are hearing yes or no.  If we are hearing “I am not worthy” or “That is for other people but I am not good enough” or “I want to, but…” then it is necessary to defy that inner voice and get to yes.

Be prepared to face hurdles and upsets to get to your goals.  Do not expect the path to always be smooth and easy.  Do not let set-backs defeat your purpose.  The moment when the demon of doubt speaks to you most strongly is the perfect time to be a yes and take a stand for yourself.  You will feel great turmoil within yourself at times and this shattered energy can be confusing.  Give that energy a clear conduit of purpose by being a yes.  As you do so the fractured sense of disintegration will remodel itself into a centered feeling of destiny and life force.