One of the keys to a happier life is doing only what you want to do. We have been taught that is being selfish. That teaching comes from thousands of years of developing a domination over society. We have been taught to do things out of fear of punishment or desire for reward because that is how domination over occurs. So it’s going to be a struggle to push against that ingrained teaching and start to live life from the energy of memnoon.
Memnoon is a request that blesses the one who is asked. That takes a moment to sink in. In other words what someone is requesting of me is something that I want to do, and is actually a gift to me. You are giving me a gift by asking me to do something. That’s how much I want to do it. It’s like someone said, “would you do me a favor and take the day off and do whatever you want?” Hell yes!
This has come up at work for me. It started one Christmas with Secret Santa. I bet many of you have seen this occur where you work as well. I think I became painfully aware of how violent this can be a few years ago.
I worked someplace where everyone was expected to be part of Secret Santa. One of my co-workers drew the name of someone he really disliked. This person was actually very violent in words and deeds to my co-worker. He then had to spend the next several weeks giving gifts to this person with it culminating in the big reveal at a party where he had to give the biggest gift.
This was like constant torture for him the entire season. I swore I would never again take part in some sort of ritual that could require me to give gifts to someone that I was having difficulty even liking. I would only take part in activities that I trusted would allow me to give freely.
So starting last year, when Secret Santa time came around at my new workplace I said no. People were so surprised. They kept trying to talk me into it. It’s “fun” they would say. Why didn’t I want to? I explained I wanted to be able to give to others only from a true desire to give. It was possible that I could be given the name of someone I didn’t want to give to. I was worried what people would think of me, but honestly I found the world didn’t revolve around me.
Once the initial surprise over my refusal passed, everyone went on without me. And I really enjoyed the freedom of not worrying about following the rules of when to give and how expensive the gift would be. I have no doubt that many of my co-workers enjoyed the game, and I enjoyed my freedom.
It came around again this year, and there wasn’t the surprised response like last year. I’ve noticed they have kept up the game with a new version called Secret Pal, instead of Secret Santa, and I’m still happy not to play.
This all came up for me again when my husband told me about a co-worker of his who has been invited to a baby shower, and really doesn’t want to go. It’s the same thing in a different form. The hardest thing about saying no, is telling ourselves stories about what others will say. We tell ourselves they will think less of us because we’re not doing what we’re supposed to do.
We have two choices. We can either spend some time figuring out how to see that situation in such a way that we would be coming out of the energy of memnoon, or we can give ourselves empathy that we can’t get to that spot and the best we can do is to say no.
There is something freeing in giving ourselves empathy about it. Anytime we do something because we are supposed to, we are sending out an energy that is not life affirming. We tell ourselves that if everybody said no to things they don’t want to do, no one would give to anyone. But this is the biggest lie. Our greatest need is to contribute to others.
When we give ourselves the power and freedom to only give out of memnoon we discover how joyful it can be. We want to give more and more. Imagine a little child throwing fish food into a koi pond; the joy of watching the fish swirl and pounce on the food. That’s the joy we want to have giving to others. When we can find that in any situation, the giving becomes a gift. What are you going to find the courage to say “no” to?
Top photo: The koi pond at Glover Garden in Nagasaki, Japan (Wikipedia)
Heather Schlessman, PhD is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner who has spent her career either working with or teaching about families. She is also a mother who, like so many other parents, spent years muddling her way raising 3 wonderfully different children, one who happens to be experiencing a disability. Fortunately she has a life partner who muddled along with her. Spending most of her time trying to be perfect, as that would be the safest way to live, she became aware of a desire to be able to see people in a more compassionate way. Little did she know that the person she needed the most compassion for was herself. There is a saying that when you are ready to learn a teacher will appear, and so it was for Dr. Schlessman. She was introduced to the work of Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, the developer of Nonviolent Communication, and her world completely changed. She learned a way to have an intimate connection with herself and others, a way to truly contribute. Her passion now is to help others find their way to a more compassionate life. You can find more of Dr. Schlessman’s empathic expressions along with her husband’s, Rev. Mark Schlessman on their website.