Robust Receiving

I am ready to receive!

This declaration begins the gift giving ceremony in the December women’s circles. We don’t exchange bubble bath, candy or gift cards with each other. We give words — words from our hearts. This is not easy. It takes deep inner listening and dropping into our experience of one another to offer something of substance.

We do this sitting in a circle looking at each other with our eyes, ears and hearts wide open. This practice creates connections. It requires vulnerability in both the giver as well as the receiver.
This year we’ll focus on receiving. Women are well-practiced givers. Many women find being the recipient difficult.

“I love your blouse,” Terry says to me as we set up the room for a workshop. “Oh, I bought it on sale. 50% discount.” My response could have been a simple “Thank you.” Instead, I dismiss her compliment.

I begin to wonder, “What kind of receiver am I?”

One way to find out is to ask Don, he who has given me gifts for the last 57 years. I’m hesitant. I’m not always a gracious recipient. Like our first married Christmas when his gift to me was a Dymo Label Maker.

Let’s just say I was not thrilled.

He thought about his answer and said, “You’re warm and open.” Then I ask him, “Do you recall times when I tear up as I read the card and open your gift? “Yes, in those moments I feel very satisfied and connected to you.” Something special happens in those tender times.

We both feel loved.

For decades, I’ve watched women struggle to take in what’s offered to them. I’ve noticed my own resistance to accepting compliments, positive feedback and some gifts. Reluctance to receive is a recurring pattern in others as well.

Spiritual paths teach a lot about giving. There is little taught about receiving. Of course, we cannot have one without the other. We need to learn how to be a recipient. It’s a practice that can be cultivated.

First, it’s not a passive act. Nothing could be further from the truth. It requires our full attention, a willingness to connect, and open-heartedness. Active participation is why in our circles the receiver decides when they are ready. This affirms the pro-active role of being a recipient.

Secondly, it’s a practice of letting down our guard. To be seen and acknowledged, by gift or word, can feel wonderful and yet vulnerable. That vulnerability can lead to a cautious heart. Defensiveness may let us feel safer. It also leaves us cut off from warmth. Robust receiving asks us to fling open the protective walls around our heart.

You might ask, “Why is this so important?” How we receive gifts is reflective of how we let in love. Practicing being a robust receiver increases intimacy and our lovability. A robust receiver sees the gift as an opportunity to connect. Often, that is the bigger gift.

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it”, said Sufi poet Rumi. Our reluctance to receive is a “barrier to love.” Sometimes, we are the giver and other times the receiver. Keeping our hearts open is the challenge in either role.

Don’s assessment of me is generous. I know that I’m still a work in progress. At times, I’m guarded. Maybe this work of receiving is not over until everything looks like a gift of love, even Dymo Label Makers.

Christmas is a perfect time for me to observe how receptive I am to gifts and help. I invite you to join me in this practice. Notice if you’re reluctant or robust when gifts, praise or help comes your way? Witness it without being self-critical.

Now, do you feel daring?

How about asking your family or friends this question?

What is it like to give gifts to me?