Sustainable Consent

The definition of consent is

Permission for something to happen or an agreement to do something

Recently I took some time off, and in that time I did some really wonderful things that filled me up and really nourished me. We spent a few days in Yosemite (fall is my favorite time there) and I attended a 5 day yoga teacher training intensive. Time was suspended as I got to dive in to all the things that I love, nature and yoga! And now the integration has begun. Personally I find it impossible to have an experience and not have it create a ripple effect in our lives, in some way. And lucky me, I had 2 of these experiences in a short amount of time. Something happened while we were at Yosemite that I’ll blog about soon. But for now, what on earth do I mean by sustainable consent?

There are a lot of conversations about consent occurring, and they are important. They are valid, and worthy, and worthwhile, and need to happen. This is not going to be a conversation about outward consent with others. This is a conversation about inward consent. Consent with yourself, to yourself, and for yourself. Giving YOURSELF permission. This concept really struck a chord with me during my yoga teacher training, so much so that it is starting to change things for me, so I thought I’d share it with you, in hopes that you might get something out of it as well.

Something that you might hear a lot, is take care of yourself. The self care movement has exploded in the last 5-10 years. There’s a lot happening now in the workplace, like the ability to take a mental health day, which is so important that we start to move in this direction. I have also heard a lot in the realm of thinking and self talk. Using positive self talk, and talking to yourself as if you were a little child whom you loved dearly. Would you speak down to this child, or lift them up, encourage them, and be their inner best friend? These are all amazing practices. And what about when it comes to decision making? How many decisions do we make in a day? Probably hundreds of thousands, they are just so fast and many of them feel so automatic, it doesn’t seem like a decision. What did you have for breakfast? Let’s say you had the choice between an apple and a banana, so you picked one. Whether you were aware of it or not. Or let’s say all you had on hand was a banana. You still made a choice, to eat that banana or to eat nothing at all. You even choose as to whether you want to turn the light switch on when you enter a room or not. You could go into a dark room, but you choose the light. It takes a millisecond and it’s so automatic, and it’s still a choice. Still with me?

Let’s translate this to the choices you make that you might need to think a little bit about. Do you pick up your phone or pick up a book? Do you answer emails or watch tv? Do you go to the gym or yoga class or stay home on the couch (if you are sick, please stay home, just sayin!)? Do you eat the vegetables and healthy complex cards, or eat the fat ridden meal? These choices might be very obvious to you, but they happen, all day long. And as you are making these choices all day long, where is your consent? Where does your consent come from, what is your motivation or value behind the choice you are making and the permission you are giving yourself? This is where it really hit me!

For example, as a yoga teacher, I receive a lot of requests to substitute classes. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that some weeks, I get over 50+ email requests to sub. They are not specifically to me, but to the entire network of teachers in a given system. I have a choice, every single time of one of the sub requests comes through, to respond with yes or no. Often if it is a no, no reply is needed. But I still respond to myself to know what action to take. If I respond with yes, I need to take further steps to claim that class and relieve the current instructor so they can have the time off. Sometimes, when these sub requests are exciting, like a prime time class I know will have a lot of students, or at a place that offers really nice pay, or a unique corporate location where I have never been (lots of those in Silicon Valley!), it’s really tempting to say yes. When I was first teaching, I said yes to everything. I found myself teaching about 17 or 18 classes a week during the holidays my first year as a yoga teacher. I had said yes so much, was so excited about all the money I’d be making and all the people I’d get to offer yoga to, that the offers were too enticing to say no to. But did I actually WANT to say no to any of those offers? Did I check in with my own consent? Did I actually give myself permission, or did I somehow feel obligated, so I said yes? Was I playing some old programming in my subconscious mind, that I wanted to be liked, that I wanted to be reliable, that I wanted to be of worth, so I took all of those on?

When I started to look at personal consent like this, a huge light went off! What are we doing to take care of ourselves in a sustainable way? I have learned that before I say yes to subbing, I look at my week before and after the class that needs a sub. Then I need to see if I’m already subbing, if I have any social events or workshops I have already said yes to, do I have any appointments that need attending, or any personal matters that need attending to that are on my calendar. THEN, after all that is settled, I can say yes or no to subbing the class. This is the process it takes to be able to sustainably give myself permission. It took me about a year or 1.5 years of teaching yoga to develop this system of personal consent for myself. That’s a LONG time! How long is it going to take in other areas of life? When it comes to how I decide to eat, to move my body, who I spend my time with, etc.

I have discovered that the key behind personal consent is focusing on how you want to FEEL. What permission do you need to give yourself to support how you want to FEEL? If you get invited to a social event, will it produce the feeling that you desire? If you want to have fun and enjoy time with friends, sounds like a good choice! If you desire quiet time, time for introspection, or maybe just time to clean your house or go grocery shopping, saying yes would not be consenting to how you really want to feel.

This seems so simple and yet very radical at the same time! And like all other forms of self study (known as svadyaya in the yoga world), it takes time to practice what works for you. And when things don’t work out, there are bound to be lessons along the way. Life is always full of lessons for us!

So, what have you said YES to lately that you are really excited about?? What have you said YES to lately that gives you a not so good feeling in the pit of your stomach? And what have you said NO to that feels really, really good to say no to? And what have you said NO to that makes you feel regretful, remorseful or downtrodden?

It’s all in the practice. Take time to tap into your own personal values and what is right and good for you. No one else can tell you this, it comes from within. And then practice. Start giving consent for little things along the way. And then make them bigger. There is no wrong way to practice sustainable self consent, and you can’t mess it up! What you choose will have an effect no matter what, and you get to learn and grow from that experience. This can actually be a really fun way to practice getting clear on what you really believe and to show yourself how valuable and worthy you truly are (because you are and you don’t need to prove it, just feel it for yourself!).

Have fun with creating more sustainable, self-consenting choices that support you in feeling good, worthy, and happy to be you!