| Anne C. Williamson | Originally posted October 28, 2014. Edited February 2019.
I see an America confused at its limits. After centuries of take, take, take, we're (slowly) waking up to the reality that this planet is not infinite. Earth has limits. Where once wages increased with productivity, now it's poverty, and millions suffer under the golden calf called the bottom line. People have limits too. And, even for the relatively wealthy, baked in a culture of more, more, more, we're beginning to wonder, "Are all these things and activities worth it? Do I have more joy? Do my neighbors?"
Instead of resisting these limits - hanging onto a familiar but crumbling model - what if we embraced them? What if we chose to see them as the spiritual lesson they are? Time and resources and energies are limited. Maybe this is okay. Maybe it's even a gift.
Many ancient Judeo-Christian practices spoke to limits - most spectacularly for our time, Sabbath/Shabbat and the Jubilee. Sabbath, put simply, was a divine commandment - one of ten, in fact - to abstain from all work one day a week. The Jubilee year was a particular kind of Sabbath, occurring every fifty years and mandating all slaves be freed and debts forgiven. Traditionally understood as recognizing God as the Creator of time and property, and thus appropriately, offering these things back to God. Here too exists divine wisdom on the gift of limits.
It's not that the limited things - time, energy, stuff - are bad. It's that they don't bring us greater joy with growth. Their purpose, their spiritual lesson, is to teach us how to take what we need and only what we need, to learn to recognize "enough," so we spend more of our lives on the boundless things: love, joy, generosity, justice, bravery, meaning. These are the places where abundance matters. These are the things that get to grow when we lean into the gift of our limits.
2019 Accompaniment: For me, a good place to begin this work is to recognize that with every “yes” there is a “no,” and with every “no,” a “yes.” So, when I say “no” to a networking event, I say “yes” to my family. Or, when I say “yes” to that justice work to which I feel called, I say “no” to my anxiety and fear over the state of the world and thus, likely, “no” to mindless eating, unkind words as projections, you name it. When I say “no” to meat or cheese, I am saying “yes” to a world that can sustain me, my fellow humans and all creatures.
Each day has its limits. We have our limits. We cannot do everything, and we cannot sit in judgment of ourselves over the things we did not do. But, we can do some things. Once we get this, it’s about slowly allowing our desire for the joyous, just, lasting, generous stuff of life to turn our “noes” into “yeses” and our “yeses” into “noes.” It’s about seeing that because of our limits, we get to choose the better part, we get to claim it.