The “Yes” to Life

I wanted to share something that’s amazing to me. It’s something, I’d imagine, that everyone knows at a deep intuitive level, yet seems to forget at some point, swept up in the long “blustery day” of life.

There’s a speech given at the end of the 2001 film Waking Life which is really astonishing:


…Actually, there’s only one instant, and it’s right now, and it’s eternity. And it’s an instant in which God is posing a question, and that question is basically, ‘Do you want to, you know, be one with eternity? Do you want to be in heaven?’ And we’re all saying, ‘No thank you. Not just yet.’ And so time is actually just this constant saying ‘No’ to God’s invitation…. there’s just this one instant, and that’s what we’re always in.”

And then she tells me that actually this is the narrative of everyone’s life. That, you know, behind the phenomenal difference, there is but one story, and that’s the story of moving from the “no” to the “yes.” All of life is like, “No thank you. No thank you. No thank you.” then ultimately it’s, “Yes, I give in. Yes, I accept. Yes, I embrace.” I mean, that’s the journey. I mean, everyone gets to the “yes” in the end, right?

So there’s kind of two sides to what the speaker’s saying. On the one hand he’s saying that there’s only one instant, one moment–this moment. That’s something that anyone can see if they just ‘stay with’ their present experience. The retaliation is, “no, there are a bunch of other moments. I was just in one and now I’m in another.” But when you were in that “past” moment, it was this moment. And when the “future” arrives it will be this moment. We only know about past and future because we can think about them. In other words, past and future appear as thoughts, also appearing in this moment. It is always Now.

So that’s one thing. On the other hand he’s talking about the relationship that we have with the one moment or the Now. And he’s saying that we say “No” to it. We have a problem with it. We have a story about how it should be different. We have a ‘need’ to get to a future moment that is more desirable. We have things about ourselves that we haven’t accepted–seemingly can’t accept–and things about the past that we haven’t come to terms with.

Finally he suggests, on behalf of the woman that spoke to him, that “this is the narrative of everyone’s life.” Wow, that’s quite a statement. Everyone is saying “No” until they say “Yes.” (It’s not an outward “No.” It’s an inner No that we hold in our minds in the form of rejection of ourselves as we are and of life as it is, of our narratives that it should be otherwise, etc.) And the “Yes”–to life, to existence, to this moment–is the liberating force, the momentum that ushers you into “heaven.” Heaven on Earth.

The amazing thing I wanted to share is that I find this teaching of “saying Yes” in so many spiritual and philosophical teachings, it’s remarkable, even uncanny how so many fingers are pointing to the same truth.

It’s important that the Waking Life speaker says “Yes, I accept,” “Yes, I embrace,” because those are the words that are used in many teachings. “Yes” in this context is also called “acceptance” and “letting go” and “allowing to be” and “letting go of struggle” and “letting be.” There are so many codes, so many ways of saying it. But what’s the truth, the feeling, that all these words are pointing to? Isn’t that what matters?

We know on an intuitive level that ‘allowing life to be’ or ‘not resisting’ or ’embracing’ life brings, immediately, a kind of peace and stillness. Even if we aren’t completely at peace, even if we let go of one thing, we feel it.

Moreover, if we merely imagine what it’s like to be in a welcoming, non-resistant relationship with life, where we aren’t arguing with it anymore (in our minds), then we can feel in our imagination that it would be peaceful.

What does one let go of, that gives rise to this peace? Everything that constitutes the “No,” all of which exists in the mind. What’s left is the “Yes.” Thus, ‘letting go’ and ‘saying yes’ are two sides of the same coin

The truth of “letting go” seems to pop up everywhere–in all of Buddhism, in Christianity (esp. the mystics), Sufi Islam, in the Toltec lineage, the Taoist scriptures, the Hindu scriptures, the teaching of Alan Watts, David Hawkins, Adyashanti, Gangaji, the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche (the sacred “yes to life”)…everywhere. It’s remarkable.

But it doesn’t really matter who says it, or even how they say it, so long as the message is heard, and people can experience the freedom in their own lives.

One thing about the practice of letting go is worth mentioning in particular, which is that it’s really simple. It’s been said, “the spiritual path is a simple path.” That is the truth if our practice is just letting go and letting go. It’s like breathing out…relaxing…trusting. This is life as it is. It doesn’t need to be changed. I don’t need to fight it.

…Despite my efforts, a truth like this can’t be conveyed so much through writing, as it can be through a “transmission of presence.” And yet, isn’t the transmission all around us?–in the peace of nature?–the sunshine illuminating the clouds, the river water undulating slowly, the leaves falling in autumn twilight.

It’s all calling, inviting us: let go…be free…say YES!


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