Finding Your "Yes"

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I'm writing this in the spacious stillness of Thanksgiving weekend. My life has been moving at high speed, but over this holiday break an opening appeared. The phone barely rang, and a sense of deep peace naturally blossomed. My heart has been overflowing with spontaneous gratitude (or as Brother David Steindl-Rast so beautifully puts it, "great-full-ness".)

I'm grateful for many things—family and friends, my spiritual friends and communities, some inspiring creative projects, amazing partners, and my growing, vibrant communities of integral evolutionary spirituality and service. I'm especially grateful for the opportunity to serve humankind, and our current intensifying wild ride through what is certainly a kind of evolutionary whitewater rafting.

Optimism vs. Pessimism About Humanity's Prospects

Today at breakfast, Bert Parlee and I were discussing our multiple simultaneous emergencies (overpopulation, climate change, culture wars, and the new emerging design vulnerabilities of a single globalized human life-support system).

We considered how attitudes tend to polarize. Many extreme postmodernists feel very pessimistic. Their words are haunted by a quality of dread, a sense of impending calamity. They seem depressed, or even possessed by an overwrought sense of guilt, shame, and foreboding.

And we considered how some of our Integral friends, reacting to the self-fulfilling prophetic defeatism of postmodern anxiety and doubt, have attempted to opt radically for optimism. Since history and evolution are always developmentally progressing forward towards greater depth, complexity, and consciousness, they have installed optimism as an article of faith, perhaps even at the cost of going into denial of the likelihood of the global human economy being tested by some "500-year flood" type events—disastrous systemic shocks and large-scale socioeconomic dislocations.

The Core Existential Question

I told Bert that what I think haunts this discussion is a core existential question: Are we inspired or discouraged by an uncertain, treacherous human future? Can we use our fear productively? The prospect of a new dark age, of a "Mad Max" descent into warrior consciousness, or of human extinction is so terrifying as to be mind-altering. We don't want this for our grandchildren. Can we tolerate that possibility, and even be drawn to heroism by its potential eventuality? Is it worth working for evolution even if there's a significant likelihood of evolutionary regression?

For me, this all goes back to a stark confrontation I engaged in 2002-2003. For years I've pondered the koan of how to respond to this amazingly "interesting time" on planet Earth. During those years, I researched and wrote a (to be published) book, The Terrible Truth and the Wonderful Secret: Answering the Call of Our Evolutionary Emergency. I looked closely at all the futuristic projections, whether they were inspiring, alarming, or depressing. I made it a practice to transcend my tendency to go into denial about what upset me. I felt like I was "putting my eyeballs in a vice" and forcing myself to look at all the potentials I found most upsetting.

And at the end of the process, I realized that human knowledge was too incomplete, and my expertise was insufficient. The bottom line was that even though the world is out of balance, we just didn't know—and couldn't know—how bad (or good) things really are. We don't know how severe or sudden climate change will be. We don't know how much sea levels will rise. We don't know how disruptive the transition will be from our unsustainable global financial, food, and transportation systems to sustainable ones. We cannot and will not be able to know how much disruption, pain, loss, and degradation are in store for us—or not.

An Unconditional Commitment

We don't have to be caught in the dilemma of having to figure all this out, though. We don't have to handicap this unknowable high-stakes evolutionary horse-race. We can cut through all the mind chatter by asking a deeper and more essential question:

Can I find in myself a no-matter-what commitment? Under the worst-case scenario, can I nevertheless find inspiration to meet each new day with passion, resourcefulness, and self-transcending integrity? If, in my lifetime, beyond my control, no matter what I do, evolutionary history is doomed to pass some awful point of no return resulting in grim outcomes, will I still have a basis for going on? Can I, no matter what, find the spring in my step and the twinkle in my eye to come alive fully, to do whatever I can? And can I do it nobly, in service of something far greater than myself?

Can I make my evolutionary contribution, even if it seems tiny by comparison with the scale of deep time and a global 6 billion? Can I do whatever I can to further the emergence of a new humanity that could have turned the corner? Can I be inspired to do what little I can to bring forward the gestation of that embryonic next, even more sapient, homo sapien?

Can I bring care, compassion, and consciousness into life just for the sake of doing so? Am I willing to invest my heart in evolutionary creativity without a guaranteed return? Can I find it exciting to help the human flower come an iota more fully into bloom even if it might be destined to wilt?

Finding a "Yes"

I struggled with these issues for a couple of years, working to grapple them to the mat. And, pinned, I found my answer. It was, and is—yes.

And that yes makes all the difference.

So that's what I offer this month. A meditation: can you find your "yes"? Can you choose (again and again, every day) to live on the basis of an unconditional inspiration?

If you can, you'll step over a threshold into a different level of evolutionary responsibility and leadership. There's a community building out here on the skinny branches. This is a transformational community, a powerful agreement, an amazing fellowship of Evolutionaries. It's my experience that we seem to be in the process of summoning something miraculous into being. Are you called to be a part of that?


Hello Terry, I enjoy

Hello Terry, I enjoy receiving you newsletters and find them informative and interesting. Also when I work with the ILP book I appreciate you and the others involved. I wanted to mention something to you that is not connected to the newsletters but which you may find interesting. I help out in the community gardens near where we live. This is in and near the city of Christchurch in the South Island of NZ. We've recently opened up a new comm garden in an old established farm and park with old trees, buildings, lovely stream and picnic areas. They gave us a plot of land to begin the vegetable garden. Right by the new garden are two redwood trees. I know you work with redwoods, amongst your other work. They are not huge and I don't know how old but sizeable enough to appreciate their quality. The straightness and height and the lovely bark. And the colour of the bark. Majestic!
Regards, John

Thanks for the thought

Thanks for the thought provoking post.. I do have to say though, that I've said way too much "yes" to certain food over the holiday break.. now I have to start saying more "yes" to salad and steamed vegetables. The power of "yes" at work. ;-)

Hi Terry. I heard you on

Hi Terry. I heard you on Enlightenext & you are a beautiful teacher & inspirational speaker. I too believe humans are experiencing an evolutionary impulse, many of us now acknowledging the need to awaken & align, learn & expand our understanding & awareness of the highest consciousness, the intelligent & loving creative energetic force & source of all life, with minds unattached to any particular religious dogma. It is the highest imperative & priority. Regarding your intelligent comment about the power of "Yes"

I've noticed when I look at human faces including my own & say the word "yes" while thinking of a positive idea, or even "maybe" the face opens & lifts, expands, "allows", the eyes & mouth & whole face to smile & come alive, fear is replaced with optimism & the face reflects the beauty of the optimistic spirit within us. Faces close & contract, compress, sink, sqash, narrow & frown defensively & often fearfully when the word "no" is articulated, perhaps a reflection of the learned skepticism & socially conditioned mind.
Children smile & question & allow possibility much more than adults, & as we become indoctrinated into our skeptical culture, our seemingly natural positivity as children fades & atrophies. We hear "no" again & again & the child learns to be pessimistic & discouraged. Our children must be a part of this evolutionary process & their schooling systems examined carefully to encourage new thought & reverence for life, honesty, responsibility awareness & sensitivity if we are to evolve & change our future for the better.

Simply "allowing the possibility of positivity" is impossible when the mind is closed in skepticism, cynicism, pessimism & negativity, for negativity seems to be the oppisite of creativity, to use metaphor, it "bears no fruit" . "No" is an appropriate response to real threat, manipulation, dishonest or irresponsible behaviour, but all too often it's fear-based & faithless & self-defeating. A "Yes" attitude is most often open-minded, allowing consideration of new ideas, exploration of solutions & potential freedom from entrenched, inherited, stagnant practices, processes & systems. Saying "Yes" consistently to care, compassion & expanded consciousness, & reverence for life beyond our own egoic concerns with commitment to human evolution & reponsible stewardship of this earth is very powerful & transformational. Thank you for your thought- provoking article !

My Yes.


I loved the post... and of course to me the question is really a moment to moment choice to be Love. To be the God we are. To live as Love, giving Love in all it's diamond facets is the only fulfillment. It is essentially what Adi Da says is the end of the childish 'search' and the beginning of adult spirituality. to realize that the search is itself a confession of unhappiness. so to bring that to bear on global issues, we must realize that the search to fix in some ultimate way is futile and childish, isn't it? instead, we realize that just to Love and work on these things as an expression of our fullness and completion rather than as a search for it, is the only right spiritual orientation.

Recently Marc Gafni (who is coming to speak in the bay area soon, Paul Oertel of performance inventions, Sera Beak and her spiritual cowgirl blog, and many other people I enjoy and love have talked about the authentic self or being oneself. Paul said, "being true to one's self always involves the highest ethics." I love the quest for the true self because it always leads eventually to the Self. When we inquire into our true selves, we discover the immutable and irreducible Self, which, when lived, leads always to actualized action of fullness and Service, and never the search for utopia or relative immortality... which is simply an insane delusion of a childish, sleeping mind.

James Wagner

Finding "Yes"

Terry, thank you for sharing this post. You nicely state something that, for me and I believe for many, is foundational: We can and may choose inspiration over discouragement. And that choice makes all the difference -- in each moment, in our individual journeys, in our collective consciousness. This truth -- your evolutionary work and words here -- should be part of a new "public curriculum." Thank you. Peace.


Thank you Terry

its not easy to trust our

its not easy to trust our inner heart coz sometimes it always disturbed with our fear , so , reading your article give me a new boost , thank you

Yes, we all need days like that....

With three kids and a busy busy business practice, it is hard to find those days when the phone doesn't ring, the kids are not nagging me for something (especially the 2-year old one)...
Both family and my business keep me happy every day; while I also make sure to get a break now and then and go for a walk by myself... or do some gardening, which helps a lot...

Taking breaks from our busy lives is important, or else we end up with headaches, chronic fatigue, and all kinds of other "buggs"....


Yes is the most important aspect of activating what I call - the Optimizing Force - the evolutionary energy that will move your process and the unfolding of a relationship if one comes close to what is really there - has a yes and is allowing and open.

Andrew Cohen

Most if not all of the criticisms of Andrew Cohen seem to miss the point. His teachings about evolutionary enlightenment are (1) vacuous- playing around with high sounding words and concepts which have no empirical backing (no evidence is really provided that we are indeed moving towards an enlightened civilization-- it's a charming idea, but more proof is needed) and more seriously (2) the effect of internalizing such a concept as evolutionary enlightenment is to aggrandize the go further, to further strengthen the notion of in individual seeker who is on a journey to some future goal, with the implication that such a person is superior by virtue of the fact that they are leading the way for the human race to higher consciousness. The only enlightened response I think to all this is, "Oy Vey!" When one hears Cohen speak he does indeed radiate the sense of himself as being a superior super being on the leading edge ... - S. Rosen, PhD

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