Last night I had a very vivid dream about KEYS. I was staying in a hotel and lost the key to my room, so I locked myself out. When I finally found the key, it opened a door to the wrong room (on a woman in labour to be precise!) When I managed to sort all this out and get back into my own room, it was full of children I had never met. Apparently I was expected to baby sit them while their mother gave birth next door….

“Finding the key” and unlocking mysteries was a big theme in the workshop “Gnosis of the Land” my colleague Karmit Evenzur and I taught in Spain earlier this month. And it seems that our work continues in my dreams. I am not surprised because much of our work is done in dreams – we literally dreamed our Rock Art workshop in Andalucia into being last year.

But what I really wanted to get to was the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

I have been reflecting on the fact that these words, arguably the shortest and simplest words in the English language, are like keys, in essence.

The words ‘yes’ and ‘no’ have the power to open doors and close them. These words are the Gatekeepers to our Boundaries. We use them to indicate if we are willing to get involved, spend time on something, enter into a dialogue, take responsibility for something, or not. And because those words are powerful ‘keys’ they end up triggering shadows and projections.

How easy do you find it to say ‘no’ to things without feeling guilty? (I was brought up in a Roman Catholic family and it has taken me decades to learn how to make decisions without guilt coming into the equation – I still fail on occasion!)

Then again how easy is it to accept a ‘no’ when you had really hoped someone would say ‘yes’ to something?!

The word ‘no’ carries the shadow and fear of rejection.

I think it helps to realise that when someone says no, they are simply indicating a healthy boundary: “I do not have time right now”, “I have no wish to do this right now”. It does not mean the person asking is rejected on any personal level – it just means that a particular door stays closed for now. But it also means that there is clarity: the person asked gave a clear answer, so the person asking knows “where they are”.

Maybe I should mention here that I am Dutch. Dutch people are known for being ‘straight-speaking’ to the point of ‘blunt’ (or even rude).

In my own life I have observed that the biggest messes are generally created by half-hearted responses: saying ‘yes’ when you feel ‘no’ or vice versa (and yes, I have fallen into that trap many a time, but I handle this challenge better today. Today I am known as “a person who dares say no”).

I am writing this blog post today to make a passionate case for us reflecting on and re-valuing those simple words: YES and NO.

In a very real way they are like keys: they can open doors but they can also close doors. I have periods where I say ‘no’ to many invitations and requests, just to keep one hour a day free for me to be present to myself. To write in a my journal, or play the cello, 0r do something I enjoy – so I can get up the next morning and face my responsibilities and commitments again.

So saying ‘no’ to others often means saying ‘yes’ to ourselves.

Meditating on these words I see twin guardians or sentinels (a bit like Buckingham Palace  here in London, have you ever seen the Change of Guards?!) Used wisely and wholeheartedly the words YES and NO are incredible allies in our relationship with others and ourselves.

So next time someone says ‘no’ and you are about to feel (a little) rejected or triggered – take a moment to think a different thought: “Well done for operating clear boundaries, you inspire me!”

And next time you say ‘no’ following by that alarming fluttering feeling of ‘guilt’  or ‘mild panic’ – take a moment to say to yourself: “I stood my ground! Next time I say ‘yes’ it will really mean ‘yes’. I said ‘no’ but the world continued to rotate! Well done!”

I know that my younger self often fell into the trap of saying ‘yes’ (while wanting to say no) because I somehow felt I had to take the suffering of the world on my shoulders and take more than my fair share of responsibility for things.

Today I see the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’ more like scales: they help me keep my life in balance! So today, let’s celebrate the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’, if they exist in your mother tongue! They hold the keys to sanity, maybe even to happiness….


Here is an interesting page where someone has put together some information on how the concepts ‘yes’ and ‘no’ are expressed in various languages:


Imelda Almqvist