“Life gives to each one of us in so many ways. … You don’t earn these things. You can’t. They are just given. The best you can do is to receive them. That helps fill your own cup, which is good for both you and others.” ~ from Rick Hanson “Receive Generosity”
As a teenager, I was an awkward gift-receiver (sometimes I still am). Oh, I wrote thank you notes and all that, but from the inside, receiving a gift, particularly a generous gift, was a swirl of conflicting emotion. Receiving filled me with excitement and anxiety. There was often a bunch of blushing and stammering involved. I felt special and loved when receiving a gift but immediately on the heels of that was the concern that I didn’t deserve it and that I could never repay it.
The result was that I didn’t fully acknowledge the gifts I was given.
What’s more, I wasn’t able to truly receive them, to fully appreciate and take them in.
The very first thing each of us did in this world was to receive a breath. From the moment of birth (and before then, too, when considering the gifts of the womb), life continuously gives generously to each of us. No matter what your circumstances, life offers staggering generosity.
As Rick Hanson points out brilliantly in “Receive Generosity,” everything from the kindness of friends and family, to strangers whose work and lives have positively impacted yours, to the great bountiful gifts in nature, to your very DNA are all gifts flowing to you all the time.
Life is so extraordinarily generous, in fact, that it can be easy to take it for granted, or not notice the gifts at all. I can also have attachments or beliefs around receiving: an anxious feeling that I’m not worthy of the gift or the suspicion that there are strings attached.
Experiment with receiving generosity graciously: to notice a gift for all that it is, to soften and to accept it gratefully. You can do it in this moment by receiving graciously the gift of your senses. Take in the colors and shapes that you can see, the sounds you can hear, the touch you can feel, the fragrance of the moment, and the taste in your mouth.
As Dr. Hanson suggests, we can expand this further to the gifts the natural world, the material gifts of our lives, the gifts of the people around us, even things that are challenging, difficult, even heart-breaking. Honestly, life’s generosity is stunning but the key is feeling your worthiness to receive it.
In a recent post on her genius Momastery blog, Glennon Doyle Melton tells her visit to a community-building organization called Caminante in Dominican Republic. She describes Benjamin whose life was caught in drugs and violence. He came to Caminante to get job skills but he described how he received much more than that. He said, “We know that when we give, we should give from the heart, but I didn’t know that when we receive, we need to receive from the heart as well. My teacher showed me how to receive the love that exists for me. I have to believe I’m worthy of receiving it. I receive it now. By teaching me to receive love, my teacher created a new me.”
The emphasis in Benjamin’s quote is mine. Feel the truth of this ~ you need to receive from the heart and you are worthy of receiving.
What I’m suggesting is, in part, a practice of gratitude, but more than that, it is a practice of allowing yourself to receive with an open, undefended heart. Practice fully noticing, appreciating and allowing in the gifts and love that is generously given. To receive generosity and to do so graciously is part of living mindfully and of loving fully.