The Power of “NO”



“NO” – Perhaps the most powerful scene in any movie I can think of to date is that ending of the first Matrix: Keanu Reeves’ iconic character, Neo, has been gradually coming to terms with his own power, performing, literally, otherworldly feats of strength throughout the film. Then finally, while a swarm of bullets is streamlining toward his head, in a single act of total Self-realization (Self with a capital S) he extends, his arm out in front of him and says: “NO” –  And there goes the neighborhood; bullets freeze in mid air, the walls begin to flex as he takes a deep breath, and Reality for Neo, will never be the same…

Why is this so significant? Because we all have this ability. Yes, each and every person, through radical Self-realization, is granted the gift of discernment (e.g. the ability to choose how we see the world; how it effects us and how we in turn, effect it). Many of us go through life seeking validation from things outside ourselves. We turn to our environment, to our peers or society. We look only at things that fall within the visible light spectrum as our primary feedback to help us distinguish what is true from what is false; what is right from what is wrong; what is possible from what is impossible. We buy into these models based on what appears before us, not knowing that relying on site, sound and touch alone is to deny the existence of 99% of reality. What we can see (300~750 Nanometers on the visible light spectrum) constitutes less then 1 percent of what actually is.


TheMatrixWallpaper1024“Matter is less then 1% manifest in the universe, the rest is energy fields interacting according to the law of resonance”Prof. Carlo Rubbia, Nobel Prize particle physicist

We’re seeing the world through a key-hole. (Modern quantum physics reveals this statement to be explicitly true).

“The field is the only reality” – Albert Einstein

It isn’t until we realize the nature of reality as extending far greater than the eye can see, or, as they say in The Matrix, it isn’t until we “wake up” that we come to see our selves as limitless beings, subject only to what we hold in mind.

But how is this practical? 

What can we do with this insight, knowledge, or perspective? – Consider how much thought and energy we expend attempting to establish our position and defend our points of view? We say the world is black while others say it’s white; we see a certain event as wrong, evil, or hateful while others see the same event as bold, liberating, and compassionate. When someone, or something, speaks to us and tells us that we’re wrong, our primal defenses go up as militant thoughts and emotions mobilize to assert and affirm our way so we can regain our foothold by fight or by flight. A world of such positionalities is entertaining at best, but ultimately, depleting. What if there was an easier way to be in this world, and a better use of energy than to be engaging in an endless game of opposition, resistance, and competition for validation? – There is:

We can use, what I like to call, the Neo technique 

What Neo did, in the face of opposition, was not to try and establish himself nor his way as better, faster or stronger than bullets – that would have been impossible. Simply buying into the paradigm that suggests “bullets” by attempting to combat them would ensure their fatal effects. Instead, he let go of resisting the forces that opposed him, realized his own power in the form of freedom of choice, rejected the visible “reality”, and transcended the conflict altogether. From this new found place, no weapons could touch him and no fighting was needed.

Where did we go wrong? 

We’re living in a culture that entrains us to say “yes” to everything. Don’t get me wrong, so much of this life is beautiful and warrants a good and resounding “YES!” – But where does our power lie? It lies in discernement. A good and meaningful “yes” is only made possible if we are free to say “no.”

As infants, we depend completely on our parents or caretakers to feed and nourish us. We come into this world expecting that what we are fed is right, good, and true and we are not capable, at that age, of fact-checking or refuting it. Then something marvelous happens around age two – a new word enters our vocabulary: “NO.” And for a time it becomes our best friend and favorite word as it grants us the power to exercise our autonomy. For the first time now, we have a choice. We can choose to parade around in that silly looking hat or we can choose to do otherwise.

As we grow older, saying no becomes more difficult: “Hey we’re all going to the movies this Saturday night” your friends say, “do you want to meet up with us there” – “No”, you say. “Why not!!??!” is the immediate response. Or a partner at work or home says to you “don’t you agree we should paint the walls green?” and your reply is “No – I think the they’d look better if they were red” – and you’re undoubtedly met with some level of resistance. The point is not to go around starting conflicts, but it is to recognize and regain your freedom of choice as a right inherent in all of us. You knew this at age two only you forgot it. If you think the walls should be red, if that is the color that resonates with you, no further explanation is required. Your thoughts and feelings are as self-validating as the very fact of your existence. And the more we exercise our freedom of choice through our words and our will, the further we mold the world unto ourselves.

So next time you find yourself face to face with a barrage of metaphysical bullets, remember to stop and pause, breathe, recall who you really are and who you want to be… and choose.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”  ― Viktor E. FranklMan’s Search for Meaning


  1. TheRiz says:

    Great post, so true!

  2. Mark says:

    Great article. I’d have to say the older I get the more I say no. I believe it is because of gaining a sense of knowing what I like and dislike based through experience. Practicing being honest grants you the power to say no. Saying no in some circumstances I’ve experienced people respecting me more as a by product.

  3. […] This post was inspired by my good friend and blogger Ben Ahrens. […]

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