Say Yes

If to say it once

And only once

To say: yes

And say it complete

Say it as if the word

Filled the whole moment

With its absolute saying

Later for ‘but’

Later for ‘if’

Now only the single syllable

That is the beloved

That is the world

Gregory Orr


This is a picture of me, taking a dip in an icy river pool in the highlands of Scotland, last September. My aunt and I were hiking a five day stretch of the West Highland Way, and our guidebook mentioned that we would be passing by the ruins of the priory of St Fillan, a monk who ministered there in the thirteenth century. The pool was thought to be a sacred place, where St Fillan was said to work miracles of healing, especially for mental illness. I packed my costume; my mind being in need of some refreshing and healing from the wear and tear of life. (And it seemed like a good opportunity for some fun.) We hadn’t planned on the fisherman, enjoying a quiet afternoon on the opposite bank. What he thought of the shrieking and laughter from us both, I have no idea. But this moment is one of my favourite memories of the walk, and of the entire four week trip. It was cold, inside the water and out of it, and getting into and out of my costume was a hassle. I was so tempted to just leave the whole idea and get back onto the trail. I’m so glad I took the plunge and made the memory; I’m so glad I said yes.

I have a very hardworking little voice in my head. It loves to tell me why I shouldn’t do things, or why I should. It’s quite good at reminding me of the many things that can go wrong. It assures me that it’s more important to be careful than adventurous, that caution and planning are my guideposts, and that fun is overrated. It second guesses every idea, every crazy thought, every spontaneous emotion, and puts them in a little box labelled “no”. Over the years, this voice has become more and more powerful, questioning everything I think, say and do. “Was that good enough, was that the right thing to do? It would be better if… you should have… what were you thinking?” It doesn’t take much for me to feel paralysed, incapable of  feeling any kind of presence or joy. That’s why I love moments like the one in that chilly pool. They interrupt that little voice, leave it speechless and gasping for breath. Saying yes breaks the pattern, just long enough for me to create a distance between the voice and pure experience. It allows me to immerse myself in something without getting stuck in my head.

So I am going to be saying yes a lot more. I know I need my voice of caution; it’s been good for me in so many ways. But it’s gotten way too big for its boots, and it’s time to put it in its place.


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