Saying “no,” getting rid of boundaries, and saying “yes” to love & pleasure

When we’ve been through a lot of suffering, we think we have a good handle on our yesses and noes. We think we know what caused our pain and we organize our boundaries to make sure that type of person doesn’t get in again.

In my experience, this can be a slippery slope because when we put big boundaries around us, it tends to keep out much more than the pain & suffering we intended. It keeps out the good stuff as well.

In my personal experience as a professional Stay-Away-From-Me-Boundary-Builder, it has never worked. Instead, I find that it attracts the people I want to avoid and I end up missing out on so much pleasure.

An experiment in love and compassion

On my recent stay at Easton Mountain Retreat Center, I decided to try a new experiment. Instead of coming in with massive walls of fear, I was going to consciously choose to rest in the energy of love and compassion.

Easton is usually a trigger for me (which is why I keep going back). It is super challenging for me because as soon as you arrive you are met with a bunch of new people (usually gay men at the retreats I go to) trying their best to get to know one another.

Easton Mountain at sunset. (Photo by Adam Nicholson)

Easton Mountain at sunset. (Photo by Adam Nicholson)

I am particularly afraid of chit-chat and my personal favorite: Where are you from? What do you do?

But this time I decided that I would approach it differently. Instead of sitting in fear of those two questions (a fear that usually keeps me hidden in the corners), I would do my best to be open to everyone in love and compassion.

Consciously choosing to break this energetic habit was not easy, but… the results were incredible.

To be transparent, I was not able to get out of my fear with two people, and so those two men made a bee-line to me multiple times. And yes, they asked those questions.

But as for the rest - no one asked and I got to have so many meaningful conversations with so many great men.

Understanding my “no” opens up me up to say “yes”

An important piece of this experiment was in doing a lot of work to understand my noes more clearly. Before, I would have been so afraid of being bombarded with chit-chat that I would say “no” to all conversation.

But if I’m honest with myself, that was not what I truly wanted. I very much wanted to connect on a deeper level with other people - just without the chit-chat.

So, I worked to get really clear about how to say “no” to what I didn’t like.

Having clarity around my “no” gave me much more freedom to say “yes.”

Every “no” is a “yes” to the next step we are taking for ourselves

I use my example because it is simple and funny. But I see this pattern so often.

We get cheated on by our partners and our response is to say “no” to the whole relationship or to all men.

We get scared by one person at work and so we say “no” to the whole job or to the entire career track.

I don’t think it has to be like that. I think there are easier paths we can take.

Clouds rolling over the mountains in upstate NY. Easton never loses its beauty no matter the season or weather. (Photo by Adam Nicholson)

Clouds rolling over the mountains in upstate NY. Easton never loses its beauty no matter the season or weather. (Photo by Adam Nicholson)

I believe that by gaining more clarity around what our noes actually are, we can more easily navigate these challenging situations. We don’t have to blindly search for a new path. We can stay on the path we are on and simply say “no” when something doesn’t resonate with us.

And of course, if we are currently on paths that are way out of alignment, we may end up saying “no” quite a bit. But that’s okay.

It is okay because every “no” is actually a “yes” to the next step we are taking for ourselves. Our noes don’t have to keep people out, they can serve to open us up to even more love, peace, compassion, and pleasure.

If you feel stuck and are interested in exploring your noes further, find a time for us to talk. A lot of my 1-1 work with clients is around this issue and it is something I love working with.

Adam Nicholsonboundaries, yes, no, easton