I went to a performance of How to Build a Forest recently. In the show, the players slowly construct a material forest and take it down in eight hours. You may walk in and out of the event, which is more like a meditation.

Photo by Doug MacCash, NOLA.com

When I took the time to enter the forest, I sat along a far edge and watched. One of the “builders” handed me a note which read.

"LOOK MORE CLOSELY."

So I took the advice and engaged the environment more closely for a while, and then I returned to my far edge and resumed as a passive observer.

Some time passed until another “builder” handed me a note which read:

"DO EVEN LESS."

This was confusing. How could I do less? I had already engaged and I was in retreat. I was doing as little as I could at the moment.

That’s when I realized that I had interpreted these instructions. I had added meaning to “look more closely.” To me it said “you’re not doing enough” “you are hiding” “you need to come forward” and all the way down to the core lies of “you’re not enough” “you’re inadequate.”

Even though I had moved with clear choice, I had unconsciously created a “no” as part of my movement into action. The second note seemed absurd. The only meaning I could add at the time was to reaffirm “all is as it should be.”

And that’s when it hit me: these notes were not any different from one another. The first note was not making me wrong, and the second note was not affirming me. (Except where I had added meanings.)

I realized that I could interpret these messages as I pleased. And why couldn’t I simply substitute the meaning that would be the most useful? All they had in common were that they were gifts of connection. So I decided to change the notes in my mind as if they had said.

"I LOVE YOU."

When I chose to see the messages as connecting love, I felt a wave of euphoria. And that built to excitement when I realized I could apply the “I love you” interpretation to any event in my life. Any event. I can choose to see all communications as meaning “I love you.” Wow, a new, speedy shortcut to Living Yes.

(If you’re thinking this is not realistic, consider that every relationship is by definition a connection. And every connection includes love. Even if I want to interpret a message as being separating, I can still find the connection. For example, if someone puts me down and I think the meaning is hurtful, I can reframe that as behavior that is actually masking their fear of connection and their vulnerable defense due to a deep need for love. If that isn’t obvious to you, please reread Living Yes, a Handbook for Being Human.)

So now I’m going through my day interpreting every word and text that I receive as having a “subtext” of “I love you.” And it’s really helping me feel better about everything. Who knew that Living Yes could have a shortcut?

love and light,

Mark