Yes doesn’t have to scream—it’s that powerful

 

There is this amazing story about the day John Lennon and Yoko Ono met: in the Fall of 1966, Yoko was in London for an art exhibition. Already an accomplished avant-garde artist, Yoko was displaying her works at the Indica Gallery as part of an exhibition called Unfinished Paintings and Objects.

John visited the gallery the day before the show was scheduled to open. He was skeptical about the displays, and the artist herself, who greeted him with a card that read, literally, “Breathe.”

A ladder and telescope

One piece got his attention, though: Yoko had placed a ladder that led up to a canvas on the ceiling on which some tiny type appeared. John had to climb the ladder and look through a small telescope to see what it said.

You might’ve expected the word to be “love” or “hope,” but as John stood there squinting through the magnifying glass on top of that small ladder, he could see that the word was “Yes.”

I heard this story a long time ago, and I never forgot it. What does it say about me (maybe about you too 😊) that this story would be so intriguing in the sense of being unique, memorable, thought-provoking?

What is it about yes that might matter so much?

Yoko’s message

Sometimes I play a game with myself (maybe not a game, more like a spiritual exercise): I ask myself if I knew my life would soon be over, what would be the one or two or 20 things I’d be most mad I didn’t accomplish?

Thinking about that list, I ask myself: “Am I making those things, or that one thing, a priority in my life? Am I saying yes to it and concentrating my best energy there?”

It’s a great reality check: am I saying yes to the right things in my life? The things that really matter to me and the people I love? Or (more likely when I check-in like this), am I cluttering up my life with a bunch of urgent stuff — the in-my-face unavoidable deadlines of life, the errands I have to run, appointments I need to keep, deadlines I can’t avoid — and not focusing on the goals that aren’t urgent but definitely important? My beautiful, amazing, super-critical-to-me goals and bucket list?

Like this:

Urgent Important
Get to work on time Plan my next career move
Pay bills Create a savings plan
Fix a cavity Get teeth cleaned
Make dinner Plan and buy a week of healthy groceries

The reason I love this reality check is that, like Yoko, I’m learning that what I say yes to is incredibly important, an idea I think her piece was signaling by making yes small and hard to see.

Yes doesn’t have to scream — it’s that powerful.

Trust your intuition

Why don’t we trust our intuition?

Sometimes, a choice may seem right, all the intellectual facts support going ahead with it…

  • He/she says all the right things.
  • The job in Chicago has great benefits, good opportunity for advancement, and the company is willing to pay for relocation.
  • The apartment we want to buy is close to work, spacious, and available for the right price.

Still, for some reason, we hesitate.

There’s the temptation to say, “What is wrong with me — this is so perfect!” But beautiful someone, when we hesitate, there’s a reason. Something is going on intuitively that we need to trust and pay attention to.

The stomach never lies

You know how we tell our kids that if they ever feel uncomfortable in a situation — afraid, queasy, weirded out in any way — they must trust that feeling and walk away, or say no, or call us, or all three? Lately with my own kids I’ve started to shorthand it: “Listen to your gut — it never lies.” And it’s true that our brains sometimes rationalize, “reason” things out, or make excuses, but our stomachs can’t. Which is why when our guts are talking to us, they are telling the truth.

Our intuition is a form of genius, something Albert Einstein once called “a sacred gift.” I’ve seriously got to put trusting my gut high on the list of lessons I wish I’d gotten much earlier in my life. Specifically, to know that when my stomach is twisting, or just giving me that feeling of yech, it’s talking to me, and this purity of communication, its simplicity, its wordlessness, its inability to make excuses, is often so much smarter than I am in my head.

Head and heart

We have both head and heart (intellect and intuition) because we’re supposed to use both in our decision making.

Our intuition, our Spidey senses, our gut feelings, our deepest memories imprinted on the hippocampus during times of great stress — none of these communicates to us rationally through cognition, through conscious thoughts and words. And yet each is incredibly valuable for making choices that lead to an awesome life — a healthy, whole, and sane one.

Sometimes, we need to just let the stomach win.