A Magnificent Yes!

My throat twisted in that familiar knot, and my stomach reached up and pulled it tighter. Why did I always assume I’d done something wrong when someone in authority called? But it turns out my boss only wanted me to take a new project because she felt I could do a dandy job. The mouse in me wasn’t so sure about that, and I already had several things going, but I said sure I’d be glad to and carried three three-inch binders back to my cubby.

Caught in the tension of a high-stress presentation, we might find ourselves playing out the same essential soul struggles we had as children with our parents or teachers, especially with those figures of authority who now dominate our work lives. ~p. 131

A few years later, another job, the CEO called, and I just knew I must be in huge trouble. But he was only calling to ask me to serve as interim director for a team of medical transcription editors. My head swelled with the thought of this “prestigious” title, and my heart pounded with the excitement and the fear of it. Even my broken foot throbbed more violently. But before I hung up the phone, I politely declined in my best lion cub voice and suggested another possible candidate. It was not long after that I quit the company altogether in order to pursue writing full-time.

I. Said. No.

A big deal coming from someone who has struggled with that word since childhood.

And so when I got to the part of chapter 4 (“Fire in the Voice”) of David Whyte’s Book The Heart Aroused headed “Saying No as a Path to the Soul,” I sat up right straight.

If we have little idea of what we really want from our lives, or what a soulful approach to our work might mean, then often the only entrance we have into soul comes from the ability to say a firm no to those things we intuit lead to a loss of vitality. This way is traditionally known as the via negativa, or “negative road,” not to be confused with those contemporary deadly sins in the organization of negativity or pessamism. The via negativa is the discipline of saying no when we have as yet no clarity about those things to which we can say yes. We take the via negativa when there is not yet any sign of the via positiva. But in the continuous utterance of the no is a profound faith that the yes will appear. ~p. 135


And I’m getting better at no.

Whyte talks about saying no in order to blossom at the right time. How saying yes too soon can cause us to bloom too soon. And I think about how I have to break the branches from the forsythia to force blooms to enjoy for a short time.

Then the branches die.

When we finally do blossom, he says, we can do so in surprising ways.

Better to prune while attached in order to eventually produce fruit and more fruit.

I love the story Whyte tells about the Poor Clare nun–the one who looked 27 though she was in her early 40s–who now served “Martha” nuns, exhausted from years of pouring themselves into others. She had spent over 20 years saying no to many things in order to spend much of her time in silence, in quiet contemplation. She had come to know herself and her God so well that she glowed with “an inexhaustible inner light.”

Out of those years of saying no blossomed a magnificent yes; magnificent because she would be nourishing much more than the physical health of those she would care for–a yes that could be followed fully because after all those years gathering her psyche into one single body of faith, every part of her would be uttering it. Yes! ~p. 139

My dad keeps a television going 24/7. When my mom was alive, they had two televisions on different stations going 24/7.


A lot of people do, I think, for the company, for the noise. We seem afraid of silence, afraid of being only with ourselves. Maybe we’re afraid of what we’ll see or feel or hear in the stillness.

But what if we sacrificed our yes’s?

What if we pushed fear aside, if even for a small time every day?

What if we worked in the quiet to hear His voice?

What if we sat in silence and made friends with our souls?

In order to say a magnificent YES?



Reflecting on Chapter 4 of The Heart Aroused by David Whyte. Reading in community with Tweetspeak Poetry friends–though they are further ahead than I am.




  1. says

    The book is on its way to my front door TODAY. And that is primarily due to your and Lyla’s excellent contributions to this meme, this invitation. This is just as good as the last – and so, so important. And so.dang.hard. Saying ‘no’ is a skill that must be learned as well as a discipline that needs to be regularly honed. Do you know anything about the enneagram? It’s a personality analysis tool that takes a long time to discern, but I am a number two. And I’m betting you are as well. “The Helper” it’s called. And that NO must be learned so that the YES becomes real and healthy. Beautiful work, Sandy. Thank you.
    diana recently posted..Only in California – A Photo Essay of Fun

    • Sandra says

      Oh, I wish I could think and write like Miss Lyla. No. Wait. I’m happy to be me.

      I’ve taken lots of personality tests, but not that one. But we have so much in common, I wouldn’t be surprised. Now I’m off to check it out.

  2. says

    I said yes too many times and burned out. Finally, I said no and now I am so much more peaceful, and more careful about when or if I say yes.

    I like silence when I read or when I nap, but when I am busy doing things, I like noise. Noise keeps me from relaxing so I can get things done. No noise…well…it’s naptime. LOL.
    Nikole Hahn recently posted..Today at @incourage “This Muddy Road”

  3. says

    Sandy, I love how you and Diana think and write. The both of you. Because you bring me in and help me think. And that means the world to me.

    That you’ve taken the time with these chapters, it makes me so happy. This book is just something else. I wish I’d had it 15 years ago. And read it every year since. This chapter, I don’t know if I liked it more than chapter 3 or not, but they were neck and neck. No allows a true yes. And it allows the unexpected. And that’s all I can really articulate about it. 😉

    So thank you. Truly.

  4. says

    But in the continuous utterance of the no is a profound faith that the yes will appear. ~p. 135

    Finding myself running to the homeschool finish line, I find myself saying no often these days. I am guarding myself for a special yes! Praying that I’ll recognize it when it comes…
    kd sullivan recently posted..On The Error of Rain Songs