I was sitting in my office coding a web site when the call came in. It wasn’t very good news. In fact, it was the opposite of what I wanted to hear.

I wanted to tell the person their offer was unacceptable. But a memory came back to me.

Without thinking, I said “Yes.”

Gulp. I said yes to something I didn’t want. Then I said, “And…” and I told them what I did want.

It seems contradictory. But it wasn’t really. It was the epitome of win-win. They got what they wanted, and I got what I wanted. And what I wanted made the “Yes” totally worth it.

What was the memory? Read on…

Can you say “Yes” all the time? Yes. Yes, you can.

Can you honestly say “yes” to everything that shows up in your life? How about IRS Audits? (I did.) How about saying YES to not meeting a deadline, breaking a promise, or even a crossed boundary? Yes.

Not only can you say yes all the time. Here’s why you should say yes all the time.

Yes is the only way to creatively manifest what you want.

Improvisation Class

When I lived in Chicago, I took an improv training at Second City. As you may know, Second City is a comedy center of the world, a place where some of the most famous faces of comedy have trained. I didn’t want to go into comedy or even acting, but I did want to play and have fun.

One of the things I learned was an exercise called “Yes, and…” The rule was you couldn’t say no to the person you were improvising with. You could only say “yes, and…” You had to say yes to whatever showed up in your reality, and then add something to it. Even if what showed up was the other person saying, “You are a giraffe.” The rules meant that you had to say, “yes, and…” You had to dig deep, often, even allow something even more bizarre to come out of your mouth. You had to add to what was already there.

If you’ve ever experienced this either as a spectator or participant, you know how hilarious it can be.

Saying “yes” to the absurd opened up creativity. You couldn’t stop what was happening by saying no. You had to creatively move with the energy of the moment. You had to work with whatever showed up. It took us to some pretty funny and outlandish places. It was like a giant brainstorming whiteboard where every idea was valid, even if the idea was completely ridiculous.

Years later, I’m finding this exercise more useful than ever. I’m seeing how it works with everything in life… in all manifestation. Even when what shows up is completely out of the range of desirable, you still have to say yes to it. The key, though, is the magic “AND.”

Aren’t we all just improving anyway? Something shows up in the improvisation of your life, and you have to roll with it.

When the IRS audit showed up in my life, I couldn’t phone in a “no thank you.” I had to answer it. I had to roll with it. I had to say “Yes. I’ll answer your audit.” My creativity led me to say, “And, here’s my enrolled agent who will be facilitating this whole process.” That ended up being not only good for the audit, but good for my life. My enrolled agent has been one of my favorite people here in Mount Shasta, and she’s helped me with a lot more than accounting and audits. She’s amazing. So my “yes, and…” became a win-win for everyone involved. Even the government.

What you resist persists
When I helped my good friend George Cockcroft (also known as Luke Rhinehart) get The Book of est ready for reprinting, I learned  as much through the process as I had gotten things done. One of the exercises in The Book of est showed exactly how what we resist persists.

The participant had a headache. The trainer takes the person into fully experiencing the headache. Not just assigning words or metaphors or labels, but really getting into the experience of the headache. Magically, or not so magically, the headache disappears.

Everything that shows up in your life is there as a stepping stone to somewhere else. If you resist the stepping stone, it persists until you get it. If you don’t get it, it shows up somewhere else until you’re ready to get it. It keeps knocking on the door until you’re ready.

The Magical “AND”

You see, “Yes, and…” opens up the creative process. We are creative creatures. We are meant to get in the flow of things, we are meant to create, build, and we are meant to move things around. We are meant to add to our communities, we are meant to give to others, we are meant to be a part of something more than what we are.

I’ve been using “Yes, and…” more and more frequently in situations where I would normally say no or resist. It requires:

  • I stay very attuned to who I am
  • Honor my own boundaries
  • Stay very present with where I am
  • clean regularly on my beliefs and programming

I often use tools like advanced ho’oponopono as Mark has taught me to do it.

So, here’s an example. I say something. Mark says something in return. He tweaks me a little, because I could take what he’s saying as either passive aggressive or a bit of a cut at me. I could react and say, “Hey that’s not really fair” and defend my boundaries. That’s my typical pattern of reaction, to challenge him to live up to the standards I hold of him. (Unfortunately for Mark, I have really high standards!) But as I’ve tried “Yes, and…” It creates a completely different feeling in my body and mind.

I say, “Yes” to whatever he said, then I add my own creative opinion on it. Sometimes it’s hilarious and comical. Sometimes it gets him tweaked a little. But what it does… it opens us both up in a place of playfulness with whatever has shown up.

Mark tells me that the “Yes, and…” is a NeuroLinguistic Programming technique. As we get older, we get stuck in either/or type of thinking. We get locked into judgments and beliefs in black and white thinking about what is true, and it locks us from finding creative tools to move beyond stuck thinking and stuck experiences. We think we’ve got it all figured out. And as Mark Twain said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

What goes after “and?”

Life is improvisation. As soon as we think we have it all figured out, life throws something unusual into the mix. All of a sudden, someone is calling us a giraffe, and this time they really mean it. We have to take what shows up, and we have to work with it.

We have to create.

We have to dig deep and open up the whiteboard of our reality and allow something new to come into our experience.

It might not make sense. It will often NOT make sense. But it sure will be a lot more interesting.