When I grow up I want to be me
The best me you ever did see
So my work must always be
To keep me free.

When my kids were young, this was one of their favourite songs. They loved it. They’d sing it over and over, twirling gleefully around in the kitchen or galloping through the meadow outside our house, singing at the top of their lungs. The surrounding forest echoed with their voices until the deer emerged from the trees, drawn by the sound of childish delight.

The song always ended the same way — my boys would collapse, giggling, in a heap on the ground, flailing their arms and kicking their legs and bellowing: That’s what it takes to be free!

In our hearts, we know this: We need to be who we are, as surely as we need food or water or air. If we are to live our own lives, ones shaped by values that flow from our own hearts, we must be free to feel what we feel. To know ourselves fully, and to live by our inner guidance.

Freedom, like all spiritual qualities, requires a container to hold it. To give it shape and form. True freedom is shaped by those boundaries and limits that we choose for ourselves. Because they feel right, organic, real and necessary. Because those boundaries help us to be truly ourselves.

To live our own lives, we must be able to stand in an inner truth. We must be able to say Yes to what we truly want, and a clear No to anything that takes us away from ourselves.

Not with resistance and anger, but out of love for ourselves, and love for the hearts of those people or places or situations that we say No to.

When we say Yes to people’s hearts, and No to those behaviours that injure their hearts, we serve both ourselves and them more truly.

When my kids were small, I said Yes to anything that seemed to be guided by their souls, even if I didn’t understand it. This often meant that they’d eat the same thing for weeks on end because that’s what their bodies wanted. They ran around like wild things playing in the forest around our home all day. And sometimes one or the other of them would spend hours or days daydreaming, reading, playing, or doing whatever his heart desired, in solitude.

However: On those rare occasions when we left the little island we lived on and went into town, I said No a lot more. No to running out in traffic (which they weren’t used to because there wasn’t any traffic on our island). And No to many of the shiny things that caught their eyes when we were out shopping, because it wasn’t their soul that longed for these things.

Those moments of No created a safe container so that when we returned home, my boys were still grounded, and happy, and being themselves. They weren’t strung out from running after things that didn’t nourish their hearts, and they weren’t injured from running out into traffic.

They grew up knowing themselves and the world around them deeply enough to choose their own Yeses and Nos. Today, they’re beautiful young men: kind, intuitive, compassionate, creative, loving, and independent. They’re not intimidated by authority or bent out of shape by circumstance — at least, not for long. They have an abiding faith in themselves, and in their inner knowing.

Our lives are precious. They are gifts from the Divine, and we are responsible for them above all else. My heart is happy when I say Yes to what nourishes my life, and No to that which doesn’t.

How about you? What do you say Yes to? What do you say No to? How do you feel about these choices?