Saying Yes to ‘No’ – and reaping the rewards

I’m writing this from the tree tops in Byron Bay, after a good sleep, a strong morning yoga practice, a swim in the crystal clear ocean, and a hearty vegan breakfast. Sounds like paradise… and it is. Except that a couple of days ago, before leaving Melbourne, I was panging through a wave of sadness and disappointment. Because I ‘should’ have been getting on the plane to Bali – for an advanced yoga training with one of my favourite teachers and friends Tara Judelle, in the exotic ritual-filled land of sunshine, surf, rice paddies and rainforest, motorcycles and flowers, artisanship, gamelan and tempeh. Bummed? Yes!

But actually… No.

Buddhas in Byron

Sometimes the lessons we need to learn come to us so clearly. Especially when the same thing seems to come bowling in from all angles at once, only a fool would be fool enough to ignore it – and get bowled over. Surely enough, that was once me: the fool. It would take life’s sledgehammer to learn when enough was enough. And I’d be in a heap wondering how to put myself back together. But finally, as a friend so elegantly put it for me yesterday, I’ve been given the opportunity to learn how to say yes to ‘no’. And talk about gratitude…

Life has been full the last couple of months. Now I’m usually the kind of person who piles the plate high. But this time I piled it a little higher, knowing it would only be a temporary thing… and life somehow decided to bring it’s own banquet to the table.

So amidst 4 days of social work, 8 yoga classes a week and the slow but epic birth of my volunteer doula project ‘Birth For HumanKIND’, life somehow saw fit to add into the mix: my direct work colleague diagnosed with breast cancer and bravely going through chemotherapy (= emotional support and added workload); my mother being diagnosed with two degenerative muscular conditions, a rapid decline, and starting medical treatment which potentially could have killed her within days (it didn’t, hurrah!); uncertainty and tensions on the home front with housemates moving out and finding new ones to move in; and the university semester starting back up with loads of readings, discussions and assignments for my Master of Social Work.

And somehow through all of this, I’ve stayed genuinely positive, focused and strong. I’ve been in the deepest gratitude to my yoga and meditation practice. And I’ve been looking forward to the light at the end of the tunnel: Bali.

Until… two weeks before getting on the plane, my teacher wrote to tell me, far too late, that my ex-boyfriend would be participating in the training – after assuring me months ago that he would not be there. I won’t go into this peculiar story, but let it be enough to say that this news was enough to throw me off the cliff. I went from going through the hard stuff but genuinely ok, to ‘I’m not really ok’ as the only authentic response I could find. But needing to make a decision in less than two weeks, whilst finishing up my busy work contract, catching up on studies, finding new housemates, and wondering whether my mother would be ok or what might happen if I missed her April 10 birthday and it was to be her last one… and of course really wanting to do this incredible training, combining yoga and Body Mind Centering.

Now I’m also the kind of person who likes to face my fears. And so there was a deep part of me that wondered if the universe was giving me the perfect opportunity to face my fears, despite feeling already at capacity and emotionally exhausted. There was the usual part of me that said, “Yes! That’s the perfect time to face your fears!” And, “Why should I let him being there stop me doing what I really want to do?” And just wanting to be bigger, brighter, more compassionate, more forgiving, more fearless…

But ultimately I realised that it wasn’t about saying “Yes” and letting the rain turn into hail until I started to break. I realised that it wasn’t even about the fear of seeing my ex or the fear of missing out or the fear of making the wrong decision – which, I discovered ironically, I had to face anyway over those two weeks of making a decision.

What it actually was, was simply the fear of saying ‘No’… just to keep clinging onto the idea of what I wanted, what I should be doing, how I should feel, or how I should be. And it was about realising that saying “No” to something that is too much or too toxic, is actually about saying “Yes” to something wiser, something more nurturing, and something more honest. It is about listening to the wisdom of the body when it says “too much!” (ie. ‘stress’!), and knowing that nothing is lost and everything new will be gained. Because it’s actually true: you can’t flog a dead horse.

So here I am, in Byron Bay, celebrating something new: saying yes to ‘no’. Having a holiday. Resting. Catching up on work and study and projects. Spending time in nature and with old friends. Getting inspired. And going home early for my beautiful mother’s birthday to celebrate her being alive…

With love, heart, and as much authentic being as I can muster,
Mei Lai