I was about 30 years old when I first took in fully how much I do not like to be told “no” – not even by myself. I was just entering the practice of law but in a job where I reported only to the owner of the company for which I then worked. I was married to my first husband who worked nights and I barely saw anymore and I did whatever I pleased. I can still clearly remember sitting one day and realizing that I had set up so much of my life so that no one could tell me “no” about anything. I was quite pleased with myself at the time and for some time after even as my life shifted and I quit working to get remarried and adopt my kids – it was still set up so that I did what I wanted. I just did not work outside the home and I had responsibilities to the kids but in my mind all my responsibilities were choices and no one was telling me what to do. Just wow. The ego driven mind. Because I celebrated this.
The more my resistance to NO increased the more unhappy I became actually. I just did not realize this was a huge part of the problem. I’m not sure where my resistance to NO came from. Maybe being on my own so young, maybe childhood trauma, maybe just a huge ego and mind problem, and maybe it doesn’t matter because it just was and often is although today I work on NO.
Looking back I can see how out of control I was. My outsides were doing ok at the time. I was not working other than taking care of the kids but that was full time because there were two of them and they were sick and I was quite busy keeping them alive and helping them grow. But I had issues. Eating disorder. Alcoholism (present even though there were long periods where I did not drink at all). Smoking. Overeating. Inertia and not taking care of myself. Suicidal quite often. And much if not all of the problem was me and my incredible resistance to NO. I don’t want to oversimplify too much because life and karma are more complicated than that. But in terms of my incredible unhappiness with me and life, the greatest part has been I think my resistance to NO.
Over the last several years in doing my personal work and healing I have had to bump up against this NO thing a lot. A therapist called what he was doing reparenting and a lot of that was in saying NO to me about things I wanted or thought I wanted so that I could learn how to say NO to myself. Its like a 2 year old child was running my life. Even as I write this I can feel how true that statement is and how much this inner child likes to be in charge. A child with too much power. This therapist would often say things like do you really want a two year old running your life? On the outside I would say that I did not but could feel the 2 year old inside getting very happy about being in charge.
I would internally lament about my lack of discipline – and sometimes complain out loud about this. But the minute even I tried to make a plan, a rule, a schedule to do things differently or improve myself somehow I would immediately revolt and then my mind would make up reasons for why I did not have to do whatever this plan was and I could stay in my old behaviors and let that 2 year old be in charge. A friend told me once that my issues with authority were so bad that if I were dictator of the world I would stage a coup. And its true. Thankfully less true than it was but still too true too often.
Mistrust and suspicion are the back story to my resistance to NO. I did not trust other people and under that really I did not trust myself. And my mind would gather evidence all the time about why others could not be trusted and it would tell me I could rely only upon myself. The trap was that I clearly did not trust myself either. So in this reparenting therapy, work on mistrust and suspicion have been vital. Its a work in progress today. Its a practice and I feel like I’m only on the beginning stages of this practice even though it has been several years of work now.
I read or heard somewhere that saying NO to yourself is a practice. Like a muscle that gets stronger every time you use it and the next NO you say to yourself becomes a little easier. So I started doing this practice a while ago. First with very small things and sometimes the NO was really me waiting even just a minute or two before giving in and doing whatever the thing was that I wanted to do but knew was not good for me. The giving in to my mind and its desires.
Wow, its hard. Saying NO to myself is really hard. Every time I do this I get to watch the gunas in action when I can actually sit back and just witness what happens in my mind and emotions. First the idea of what I want to do (eat the cookie, have a drink, cigarette, whatever the unhealthy thing is/was). Then the NO. Then my mind practically screaming with anger, frustration, the desire to DO something. Rajas. Then the NO again. Then the feeling of desperation and giving up, an internal collapse. Tamas. Then the NO to whatever the thing was again and the NO to doing something and the NO to the desperation and the giving up. Then sometimes, more often now than in the beginning, a little bit of balance would come in. Sattva. Maybe a minute or two of peace. Then it would start all over either with the same thing or some other thing my mind wanted to DO. My mind loves to DO just as much as it hates NO.
So what am I learning with this practice? NO gets easier and the more I let things be and say NO to my mind the more peace I have. Sure. Its true. I have been learning how incredible my ego is and that this NO practice is teaching me to trust myself and others some. All good things. But I think the biggest thing I am learning right now is that this is all a practice. My mind wants very much for it to be an event. It wants everything to be an event. But it is practice. All day every day. Even when I have yet again let my mind spin out of control and have not been focusing on NO. Its still practice. Noticing it, not judging it, pulling it back and saying NO yet again. NO has become a big part of my spiritual practice. The kriya I work with. Change is hard. I can hate it and still work on it. Another lesson. I don’t have to like saying NO. I don’t have to like the practice of it. I do have to keep practicing though. Its the only way that I grow and get any peace. And I only have this tiny shred of peace to work with right now. Its a new practice. I hate it. I love it. I tolerate it. I have become willing to do it. Even if that means one tiny little thing for one moment at a time. This war with my mind. This fight. This resistance. This NO. This practice. This opportunity to have peace.