The art of receiving

During a visit to Paris, my mother bought me a gift and dropped it in the mail. I didn’t receive it very well. I tore away the brown paper packaging and, at the first sign of pink, let the package fall to the floor. She had sent me a gray cotton scarf with pink flowers. Pink.
When I told my friend Inge about the present, she squinted at me and curled her lips. “Doesn’t she know you don’t wear pink?
Inge is a 70-year-old artist from Europe, tall and long-­fingered, practical and willowy. She usually dresses in black and white, or the occasional beige. I met her only a year ago, but she seemed to know something about me that my mother didn’t.
In Inge’s gray, granite kitchen, waiting for tea water to boil, we discussed possible responses to the scarf, including accepting it with false appreciation, accepting it but not speaking much about it or ­returning it so my mother might learn my taste. As we spoke, I felt, in turn, disappointment, indignation, anger and loneliness.
Inge sympathized. “I’m a terrible receiver,” she said, passing me a bowl of organic cacao beans. “The chances that someone’s going to give me ­something I want or need are just too slim, and I don’t like feeling trapped between the obligatory ‘Thank you’ and the instinctive ‘Take it back.’ So I just told people to stop giving me things, even on holidays.”
I carried the bowl onto the sun-warmed patio, and placed it on her picnic table—white aluminum covered with an old kilim rug that provided a red-and-brown ­backdrop to a plate of homemade frosted sugar cookies, a bowl of Turkish candy, nut bread and oversized cream-colored porcelain teacups. Inge followed me out and stared at the table, wondering where to place the teapot in the crowd of offerings. “I might be a terrible receiver, but I’m a pretty good giver,” she said, voicing my thoughts.
Giving and receiving are fundamental aspects of experience, connecting all life in an interdependent whole. Just as many of us long to experience moments of pure altruism, when we offer our hearts with no strings attached, we also long to receive deeply and freely, fully experiencing what it means to be given to—touched, ­nourished and even transformed by life.
Unfortunately, such moments are rare in our “quid pro quo” world where there’s no such thing as a free lunch. But we all need help at times, whether it comes in the form of love, care, financial rescue or physical assistance. Being part of a community in which we can give and receive free of stigma, guilt and power dynamics is key to an enriching and balanced life. Recognizing the distinction between receiving and taking is also important, especially during a financial crisis caused in large part by greed driving people to take too much, when the same kind of rapaciousness has wreaked havoc on our ecosystems.
Receiving isn’t easy. If it were, more of us would do it with grace and gratitude. Is there a way to change that? Can we learn to receive so we can be nourished and empowered? These are crucial questions, not just because the holiday season is a time when giving and receiving are part of our daily experience. The ability to receive is, in fact, essential to physical health, psychological ­balance and spiritual engagement. Before we can enhance our receptivity, though, it’s ­helpful to take a look at the reasons we fail to receive.
This post in an excerpt from a longer article that was published in the December 2008 issue of The Intelligent Optimist.
Members can read the full article here. Non-members can find out how to become a member here.

Solution News Source

The art of receiving

During a visit to Paris, my mother bought me a gift and dropped it in the mail. I didn’t receive it very well. I tore away the brown paper packaging and, at the first sign of pink, let the package fall to the floor. She had sent me a gray cotton scarf with pink flowers. Pink.
When I told my friend Inge about the present, she squinted at me and curled her lips. “Doesn’t she know you don’t wear pink?
Inge is a 70-year-old artist from Europe, tall and long-­fingered, practical and willowy. She usually dresses in black and white, or the occasional beige. I met her only a year ago, but she seemed to know something about me that my mother didn’t.
In Inge’s gray, granite kitchen, waiting for tea water to boil, we discussed possible responses to the scarf, including accepting it with false appreciation, accepting it but not speaking much about it or ­returning it so my mother might learn my taste. As we spoke, I felt, in turn, disappointment, indignation, anger and loneliness.
Inge sympathized. “I’m a terrible receiver,” she said, passing me a bowl of organic cacao beans. “The chances that someone’s going to give me ­something I want or need are just too slim, and I don’t like feeling trapped between the obligatory ‘Thank you’ and the instinctive ‘Take it back.’ So I just told people to stop giving me things, even on holidays.”
I carried the bowl onto the sun-warmed patio, and placed it on her picnic table—white aluminum covered with an old kilim rug that provided a red-and-brown ­backdrop to a plate of homemade frosted sugar cookies, a bowl of Turkish candy, nut bread and oversized cream-colored porcelain teacups. Inge followed me out and stared at the table, wondering where to place the teapot in the crowd of offerings. “I might be a terrible receiver, but I’m a pretty good giver,” she said, voicing my thoughts.
Giving and receiving are fundamental aspects of experience, connecting all life in an interdependent whole. Just as many of us long to experience moments of pure altruism, when we offer our hearts with no strings attached, we also long to receive deeply and freely, fully experiencing what it means to be given to—touched, ­nourished and even transformed by life.
Unfortunately, such moments are rare in our “quid pro quo” world where there’s no such thing as a free lunch. But we all need help at times, whether it comes in the form of love, care, financial rescue or physical assistance. Being part of a community in which we can give and receive free of stigma, guilt and power dynamics is key to an enriching and balanced life. Recognizing the distinction between receiving and taking is also important, especially during a financial crisis caused in large part by greed driving people to take too much, when the same kind of rapaciousness has wreaked havoc on our ecosystems.
Receiving isn’t easy. If it were, more of us would do it with grace and gratitude. Is there a way to change that? Can we learn to receive so we can be nourished and empowered? These are crucial questions, not just because the holiday season is a time when giving and receiving are part of our daily experience. The ability to receive is, in fact, essential to physical health, psychological ­balance and spiritual engagement. Before we can enhance our receptivity, though, it’s ­helpful to take a look at the reasons we fail to receive.
This post in an excerpt from a longer article that was published in the December 2008 issue of The Intelligent Optimist.
Members can read the full article here. Non-members can find out how to become a member here.

Solution News Source

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