by Bunny McBride, from her book Earthshine: Gifts of Reflected Light

There is a life force within your soul;
seek that life.
There is a gem in the mountain of your body;
seek that mine.
~ Rumi

Some years ago, darkness came over me like a lunar eclipse. It began in the winter months with a vague gloominess that I assumed would just go away. But by the time spring arrived, it had become worse. As the days grew longer and life all around me reached toward renewal, I felt like a plant shriveling in a shadow. At night, I slept fitfully or not at all. Come daybreak, I was a sloth on a slow day. I could barely get out of bed.

I was away from home, guest teaching at a small midwestern college. Three weeks into the semester, when I’d sunk to what felt like my lowest point, my Swiss friend Pierre, a sociologist who’d spent two decades working on rural development issues in West Africa, arrived to give a lecture. I don’t recall the topic, but most likely it included his conviction that no development project can succeed unless love is the major motivation behind it.

That’s what he thought and what he lived – this man who divides his paycheck in three: a third to live on, a third to save, a third to give away. Pierre notices the needs of others. He feels compelled to help meet them. He’s the kind of friend who calls forth your empathy toward all life by example, not instruction. He leaves a deep imprint on hearts and a light footprint on Earth – getting about on foot, bike or public transportation and surviving on a plant-based diet prepared raw to avoid unnecessary energy consumption. The books and articles he writes are about living simply, listening deeply, finding your true spiritual path and building social justice.

Soon after arriving on campus, Pierre phoned and asked me to take a walk with him. Normally, any opportunity for us to spend time together filled me with joy. Now, despite the promise of discovery that every visit with him held, I barely mustered the will to say yes.

Leaving campus on foot, we made our way upward through fields toward the lip of towering limestone bluffs that overlook the majestic Mississippi River. Pierre is not a long-legged man, but he ascended the sloped backside of the bluffs as if he were, taking great strides, his bearded head leaning into the hill as if we were climbing his homeland alps. When we reached the top of the ridge, the sprawling drama of the river and its mosaic backdrop of farm fields came into view. As we walked along the winding ridge, I didn’t speak of my misery, but I knew Pierre sensed it because ever so gradually, he slowed his brisk pace. When we came to an especially lovely lookout point, he stopped, turned toward me and asked if I knew about the “Prayer of Yes.” I didn’t, so he told me. He said it was a simple practice. All you do is go about your day consciously looking for what you can say yes to – and when you find something, you say Yes. Out loud. I watched as he faced the vista and said YES.

Lying in bed the next morning, I buried my head under the comforter, resisting the start of yet another miserable day. Alone with my thoughts in that dark cocoon, I thought about Pierre and his “Prayer of Yes.” Some minutes passed. Tentatively, I pulled back the cover just enough to peek out. The window shades were drawn, but I saw a crack of light along the bottom edges. After a long pause, I whispered, Yes to the rising sun. One of the windows was partly open, and a breeze wafted through, slightly lifting the shade and revealing a bit more light. Yes, I said to the uplifting wind. Then I noticed birdsong. Yes, to singing for no apparent reason. Pulling myself up from bed, I ambled to the shower, stepped in and sighed, Yes, to the cascade of warm water sliding down my body. Later, biking to campus, I passed my favorite tree. Yes, to that sturdy sky-reaching friend. I turned down Lilac Lane and drank in the scent – Yes. In class, I found students eager to learn, and I could say Yes to the pull toward knowledge and understanding. And so it went throughout the day. There were many emotional slumps, but I yessed my way through them.

Walking home in night’s stillness, I said Yes to the serenity I longed for. Passing the lilacs again – Yes to them smelling even sweeter under moonlight. Taking note of the moon, I said Yes to that calm radiant presence. I became aware of a rhythm in all those yesses, a kind of musical beat that energized the movement of mind and body.

The following morning, I felt a slight bit of relief. It was barely perceptible, but enough to prompt me to practice the Prayer of Yes again that day… and the next… Within a week or two, I noticed that finding more to say yes to had become a lifeline of connection. Then it occurred to me that what I was saying yes to was Life itself, with its innumerable expressions. Was I one of those expressions? Was I being breathed forth by a Universal Life Force? I began to sense that each Yes was a shining ray casting light on Life’s beauty and purpose. In time, I grew so attuned to the light held in each Yes that I could sense it dissipating the darkness that had enveloped me.

As I experienced the gloom dissolving, I wondered what had caused it and why it had grown from a thin grey pall into something so dark and dense. Had it come from feeling closed in on a small, remote campus? Was it the world’s countless conflicts and sorrows pressing in on my heart? The deep hole of an old emotional wound never fully filled? Could it be a question of diet or chemical imbalance? Or might it be something totally unexpected, such as an ignored garden of blessings demanding to be noticed and tended?

The last idea in that inventory of musings took me by surprise. It felt intriguing, liberating, and eclipsed all the others. I sat with it for a while. Rather than looking for some situational or psychological cause for my entrenched heavy-heartedness, I suddenly saw my misery as a clarion call to seek out its opposite. It was as if the shadows were shouting, Look behind me; what do you see? – Light! As if questions were answers pulling me toward the full measure of my being, inviting me to tune into and turn toward the underlying wholeness and splendor of Life. Then came the idea that the Prayer of Yes could involve more than nodding at the obviously good natural wonders, people and events that crossed my path. What if I also said Yes to the pits, boulders and snags along the way – to whatever trips me up, slows me down and prompts me to recalculate my route? What if I journeyed forward expectantly, open to learning from whatever comes my way? What if, every time the path was dark, rough and cold, I told the Universe, Yes, okay, this, too, is part of the human experience and the journey of discovery that is the hallmark of our species. I say Yes to this. I say Yes to what it has to tell me. I say Yes to Life.

And so it went. Gradually, the Prayer of Yes in all its incarnations helped shift my gaze away from the shadow – the belief that I was an isolated being disconnected from that Universal Life Force. It turned me toward the light of my essential being as part of a wondrous whole. And therein, I found serenity and a source of deep, durable joy.

I cannot end this story without saying a direct Yes to Pierre for being so fully who he was that day on the bluffs and for remaining so all these years since. During our many decades of friendship, I’ve watched him foster social justice and spiritual growth in his global circle of compassion – whether working with nongovernmental organizations, teaching workshops, advocating for prison reform, or writing books rich with stories and insights that awaken hearts and minds. Well after that springtime walk, Pierre wrote a book titled, The Gentle Art of Blessing. It includes a line that echoes what I gleaned from him through the Prayer of Yes: “On awakening, bless this day, for it is already full of unseen good which your blessing will call forth, for to bless is to acknowledge the unlimited good that is embedded in the texture of the universe and awaiting each and all.”

You can find Bunny’s book ‘Earthshine’ here on Amazon

“Every morning on awakening, one of my very first thoughts is: “What grand and glorious adventure is awaiting me today?” Then I stand up next to my bed with outstretched arms and pronounce 7–8 times the most powerful word in human language (Dr. David R. Hawkins, MD dixit): YES, followed by: thank you! (to whatever is to happen).

I bless myself in my readiness to discover the incredible power of a YES that comes from the heart and said with total trust in the ultimate perfection of the plan You have already lovingly laid out for my life. YES, YES, YES.”
Pierre Pradervand
, from 365 Blessings to heal myself and the world.

photo credit – Priscilla Hamlin Ford