I know, you were expecting that “takers” part, but frankly I am bone weary of givers and takers conversations. I really am. I don’t find this distinction helpful, even in the moments when I can characterize myself as a “giver” in that scenario. Dividing into givers and takers just makes the “givers” angry at the “takers” and makes the “takers” confused by the accusation. My revised dichotomy is based on advice given to me about meditating. No, I’m not going to ask you to meditate, at least not right now, unless you want to in which case you should totally have at it.
The advice was to breathe deeply, relaxing more with each breath, and open to receiving. It stopped me in my tracks, or in my breaths I should say. Open to receiving. As I noticed my clenched jaw, it occurred to me that I was not even remotely open to receiving. And it seemed to me that stance was about more than relaxing by meditating. What was I prepared for? Why so clenched? Why am I glancing at the timer and hoping my jaw unclenches by the time I’m halfway through the “meditation.” I fear what I was focused on was a sort of tortured “giving.”
A great deal of value was placed on giving in my childhood home. Service, doing good, being good to others was emphasized, doing your share in a timely way. All great stuff. However, I’m not sure I ever learned how to receive. Please understand that this is not to say I was never given anything, I was a fortunate child. But there is a difference between being given something and being open to receive. And speaking just for myself, it is sometimes when I am “giving” the most (from my big list of things to do most often for my kids) that I am least prepared to receive. I am busy. I am closed. I am clenched and in motion. So what does it mean to be ready to receive?
The stance of being ready to receive is NOT the same as expecting. If I am open to receiving, I am not looking for a gift, a handout, a privilege. When I am open to receiving, I am ready to accept all that the world has to offer. When I am open to receiving I see more, I appreciate more, and I feel more.When I am open to receiving I hear the songs of birds as a blessing and I hear the words of others as new perspectives rather than as personal challenges. When I am open to receiving, the sunshine washes through me like a warm, cleansing river. When I receive, I sense the opportunity in moments of service that make them growth and love opportunities for me rather than acts of drudgery or tasks to be checked off the list. When I am open to receiving, I pause while making dinner to look at the artwork being shared with me by a tentative and uncertain hand. When I am open to receiving, giving is oh so much easier and far less depleting.
Being open to receiving is not necessarily easy, but I think it may be simple. For me, the foundation is slowing down and beginning with a breath. I can take a breath, or I can receive a breath – feel it travel into my lungs and sense the nourishment it provides course through my blood. Sometimes I actually imagine my outermost layer falling away leaving me open, like armor falling to the floor. I slow down. I trust. I receive.
Like my breath, I can be given a compliment, politely saying thank you while I argue with the praise in my head OR I can receive the compliment – take it in and feel the spirit of it course through my heart and my psyche. I can receive the love behind the routine words. I can receive the trust of a confidence as a gift with which my friends honor me. I can receive the joy of being with others and trust others to do the same. And so I become more open. Willing. Softer. More ready to Love.