Deep Yes-And

Photo Credit: Carson Smith. Hans Honschar is an artist who leaves encouraging chalk messages for people to discover throughout the neighborhoods of New York City. This says, “fulfill your calling, HHNY.”

“How do we live and work as people who are connected to our whole selves?”

This was the very excellent question someone asked me this week.

Of course, none of us has a full, definitive answer to a question as large and expansive as that one, but it’s the kind of question that can sit with us for a while. Maybe it’s the kind of question that asks good questions of us:

What is wholeness? Who are we called to be, and how do we partner our deep-seated callings with the callings of others? How do we embrace our vulnerabilities? How do we give voice to our vulnerabilities and allow them to provide leadership as strengths? How do we give and receive care in relationship and community? How do we cultivate space for healing and wholeness — for ourselves? alongside others? How do we lead with our unique gifts? How do we open ourselves to a sense of the whole within our life and work, even if we have only a glimmer of understanding that we are connected to a vision and sense of mutuality much larger than ourselves alone?

When this expansive question at the top came up (which has now offered a cascade of questions) the two of us were talking about vocation and calling and what it’s like to bring our fullest, particular selves to our living and our work. This was a meaningful conversation that has stayed with me throughout the week.

Today, as I ponder this conversation and these questions, I’d like to place the writings of two authors side by side.

Richard Rohr talks about vocation and calling as the Deep Yes:

“The doctrine of haecceity is saying that we come to universal meaning deeply and rightly through the unique and ordinary, not the other way around, which is the great danger of all the ideologies (overarching and universal explanations) that have plagued our world in the last century. Everything in the universe is a holon and a fractal, where the part replicates the whole. Go deep in any one place and we will meet all places where the divine image is present.”


“In the moments of insecurity and crisis, ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’ don’t really help; they just increase the shame, guilt, pressure, and likelihood of backsliding. It’s the deep ‘yeses’ that carry you through. Focusing on something you absolutely believe in, that you’re committed to, will help you wait it out.”*

MaryAnn McKibben Dana has written a great deal about the concept of Yes-And in improv, applying that vision to our daily living. She has published a book entitled, God, Improv, and the Art of Living. She also has a blog, and she’s written a piece called, The Joy of Yes-And. I recommend reading all of it. She talks about embracing our limitations and making choices about what is most important to us:

“But too often, our culture looks at people who take a step back in terms of what is lost. Maybe Ohashi will not end up at the Olympics as a result of her choice… [See the piece for this story.] But it’s clear from her performance how much has been gained.

“Sure, sometimes Yes-And is a process of sheer addition, and making it work imperfectly and beautifully. But other times – maybe more often – it’s about subtraction. Clarification. Deepening.”

What does it mean to practice a Deep Yes-And?

There are many ways to answer that question, of course, but I think it leads us back to this question:

“How do we live and work as people who are connected to our whole selves?”

We make the main calling the main calling, whatever that may be for us. We choose it deeply, even as it is most readily choosing us.

But we don’t have this all figured out. How could we? It’s all in process, and we never arrive fully. We just keep adding our yes to the Deep Yes that beckons us, little by little, moment by moment.

Deep Yes-And…

Deep Yes-And…

Deep Yes And…

Renee Roederer

*The two paragraphs from Richard Rohr above come from his daily meditations. I recommend subscribing.

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