Our daily ritual includes a morning and evening walk. Originally, these walks were less walks than a being-yanked-at-high-speeds-through-the-neighborhood. He is a good boy, friendly and loving and anxious to move his young body forward. But especially in those first couple of years, I simply could not keep up. At many a neighborhood corner, when other strategies and admonitions failed me, I would simply tell him to sit, lean into his ear and say, "Puppy, you need to slow down for your middle-aged mother."
I'm not entirely sure that he understood that last part, but in time I realized that better than just "STOP" and "NO" he understood "sit." He responded to "sit" immediately, as a matter of fact. It's as if before he understood what to not do, he first understood what to do. And even now when he's about to do something like knock over the garbage can or chomp down on the back yard hose, while a forceful "NO" hits the breaks, another command immediately afterward is infinitely more effective than the broken record of my frustration, which includes a series of "No's" and "Hey's" and "If you don't stop that right now, you little fart!"
I learn this every day with O: Defining what we no longer want in our lives is an essential first step in change. If "no" is not a muscle that you flex easily, it is its own valuable exercise in clarity, boundaries, and in self-acceptance. But it's also true that what you do want is equally as important to define, clarify, and openly communicate. It's as if "no" empties the vessel, and when you keep it empty just about anything can come in, including more of the same. Knowing what to fill this beautiful, clean vessel with, that's the "yes" part, and it's the part that we sometimes ignore to our own detriment.
It seems to me, then, that for every "no" there must be a "yes." For everything we know we no longer want, we must then define what we do want. And where there is an "I don't know," we must do the work of finding out. Otherwise, how can the universe know what to do in our favor?