"Life is difficult and beautiful, soft and hard. It's fragmented and whole. Within a single day, our cells are both dying and being born. Our tissue is disintegrating and rejoining, even while we sleep. Likewise, our consciousness and heartfulness is both fragmented and whole. Within each experience, our understanding of life is being torn apart so new perspectives and insights can rejoin. Like our cells, the very makeup of who we are is both dying and being born, through our moment-to-moment struggle in being human.

"In the face of this gritty, mysterious, and ever-changing dynamic we call being alive, it's nothing short of heroic that we are asked to choose life and living, again and again. Not just to put a good face on things while we're here, but because saying yes to life is how the worm inches its way through earth. It's how salmon leap their way upstream. It's how flowers grow out of stone. The word for such flowers, saxifrage, from the Latin, means stone breaker. Saying yes is the way the flower of the soul breaks through the stone of the world.

"But how do we do this? Some deep part of us knows and needs no instruction, while the part of us sore for meaning needs to uncover the practice of saying yes. . . .

Yes and No

"Ultimately, saying yes is synonymous with opening who we are and giving our attention to whatever is before us. Once open and attentive, discerning how to relate to what we meet is the ongoing challenge, especially when what we meet is painful.

"What often keeps us from the resource of aliveness, what keeps us from strengthening our own resilience, is how we inflate a particular experience into a code to live by, as if that will protect us from experience. We're caught in a squall while swimming and almost drown. It's traumatic. What do we do? Do we learn how to better read the weather and how to better swim in disturbed water? Or do we conclude that water is untrustworthy and banish swimming as dangerous? We're wounded in love and almost drown in the heartache. What do we do? Do we learn how to better read the weather of the heart and how to make better choices about who to love and how to love? Or do we rely on a worldview that people are untrustworthy and that love is dangerous?

"When we construct a philosophy out of our hurts rather than better understand the physics of how we were hurt, we cut ourselves off from any form of saying yes and shrink our world. To mitigate our want to do this, two recurring questions serve as the heart's compass: What are we saying yes to? And what do we rely on inwardly in saying yes?

"The saying yes that joins us to life is our openness to lean into the very pulse of existence wherever it finds us. The presence of such life-force is always near. It can touch us and in-form us and re-form us, whenever we can stop what we're doing, what we're anticipating, or what we're regretting — even briefly.

"This animated and dynamic presence waits inside every silence we ignore. We know this presence the moment we're born, before language, before our eyes even open. We know life directly by our innate sense of Oneness; our inborn sense that we and everything on Earth are already complete, if we just embrace being alive and let life embrace us. None of this will remove the difficulties we face or remove us from the endless disintegrating and rejoining that is being alive. But saying yes to the very pulse of life can hold us up, and make us buoyant and resilient.

"Saying yes to the human tangle is another thing. When we say yes for approval, to avoid conflict, to barter for a sense of belonging, or to put off fear — that yes is really a no. Anytime we give up who we are or muffle our own authority of being, we are stalling our chance to be fully alive. We all do this, because we want so badly to be loved or because fear sometimes gets the best of us. I have done this many times over the years, and can find myself in a moment of giving myself away, even today. Of course, anyone, no matter how dear, that wants us to be other than who we are does not truly love us or doesn't know how to love.

"Paradoxically, while a false yes to others is really a no to life, it takes an authentic no to others to free up our vulnerability. This, in turn, makes us available to say yes to all the majestic currents of life. Saying yes is the filament that connects us to everything."