giving and receiving (reprint from december 2013)

“Until we can receive with an open heart, we’re never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly, or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help.” Brene Brown from The Gifts of Imperfection: Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are. Dear Ones, We all know that this is ‘the season of giving’, but how are you at receiving? There is so much emphasis on these actions this time of year. Have you been a good girl or boy? Did you make a list for Santa (translation – are you deserving to receive?)? Our mailboxes are full with requests from charities. Our to-do lists are bigger than usual. If someone gets me a present, doesn’t that mean I should get them one? I’m invited to a party, I can’t show up empty-handed, even though the host told me to, can I? What does it actually mean to give anyway? To receive? This topic of giving and receiving has been an on-going, big part of my practice and while I don’t claim to have it all figured out, this is a little of what I’ve observed and experienced. Most people are better givers than receivers. There can be a lot that unknowingly drives us to be a good giver: our upbringing/socialization; a feeling of being in control; doing the right thing; guilt that we have more than someone else; a desire for something in return; karma or religious beliefs; or sometimes we feel pressured into it, ‘we should’; the desire to share. When it comes time to receive, many of us push it away. We brush off or don’t accept a compliment, or immediately return it with one of our own; feel undeserving; insist on making some sort of payment or restitution; just say ‘no’; feel some sense of we must take care of things on our own and don’t ask for help; feel guilty; make complaint or feel disappointed in what we have received (well, I really didn’t need any more ___(fill in the blank); you shouldn’t have; What were they thinking? I could never wear that/eat this/go there. Any of this sound familiar? The thing is that giving and receiving are two parts of the same moment. You can’t have one without the other. Consider for a moment: What does it mean to be a good receiver/giver? And how can we and why would we want to let go of those labels; let go of those boundaries; and just allow ourselves to be immersed in and open to the energy of generosity? My first ah-ha moment around receiving came more than 17 years ago. I was a single mom of 3 young children at the time. I was barely making ends meet, much less able to provide non-essentials, like toys, at the holidays. I knew I could go to my parents for help – but my ego wasn’t going to allow me to admit I needed help. Early one evening there was a knock at the door, and when I opened it there were 2 full, green trash bags on my steps. I only saw for a moment, an elderly woman in a car pulling away from the curb. Hesitantly and confused, I took the bags inside and opened them. They were filled with wrapped presents! At first I sat just staring, and then, as the feeling of the gesture sank in, I cried my eyes out. They were tears of joy. Not because I had presents for the girls, but because there was this intense feeling of my heart becoming full (picture the cartoon of the Grinch’s heart busting out of his chest). There was a feeling of not being alone; of being seen; known; supported; cared about. Someone I didn’t even know cared about what I might be going through. WOW. Those feelings were the real gift and the fact that they could be delivered by someone unknown to me, was a moment of awakening for me. I came to appreciate the way in which this woman decided to deliver her giving as well. It didn’t allow for the opportunity of my conditioned response to receiving to arise. She wasn’t asking anything in return from me and I didn’t have the chance to be a bad receiver. This was a moment of no giver/no receiver; just a moment of pure joy. That experience has had a great impact of how I practice giving and receiving…and it is a practice. Just the other day I caught myself almost pushing away a very nice compliment a friend was making towards me. But I did catch myself. And even though I had to pause, and take a breath, that pause gave me the opportunity to soften, relax my heart, and to receive. Receiving allowed my friend and I to experience an authentic, heart-felt moment. It was a full circle moment of giving and receiving. Sure I played the part of receiver that time; yet it was really just a moment of being able to experience inter-connectedness; an experience of oneness; of sameness; of unconditional love that we both would have missed had I simply pushed the compliment away. So, with all the wonderful giving that I know you all do this season, I want to encourage you to also receive. It takes great courage and humility to open our hearts to receiving, but I promise you, it will be the best gift you can ever give to yourself. with Love and Light and Blessings, Laura




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