Jul 202015
Artwork by Jane Ray

Artwork by Jane Ray

We’ve all heard the old adage, “It’s better to give than to receive.” And, surely enough, many of us have great difficulty in receiving – praise, help, love and support. Perhaps it is because underneath this seemingly pious phrase is the suggestion that to receive is to be the weak one, the needy one, the poor one.

From this perspective, most of us would rather be the ‘giver’ than the ‘taker.’ Which I think, incidentally, is nuts – because giving and receiving happen simultaneously – like pollination, they are interdependent acts. So why do we hear nothing about the courage it takes to receive?

Taken to its extreme, giving can even become pathological. We may give and give so much that we run ourselves ragged. We may even hang our whole persona on the misguided belief that if we aren’t always offering, providing and producing, that we could lose our standing in the world.

But consider that receptivity is more than just a physical act; it is a rich set of qualities which allow us to live in reciprocity with our Selves, each other and the earth. These yin-based attributes include dreaming, listening, feeling, intuiting, waiting and perceiving. But because our dominant culture leans with such a pronounced bias towards taking action, or what the Chinese would call yang, many of these abilities have fallen into widespread disuse. And worse, devaluation.

At the heart of it, I think we avoid the receptive state because it penetrates our public presentations and takes us right into the question of worthiness. Am I deserving of this goodness? This happiness? This pleasure? Do I deserve to stand in this circle? Take up room? Be heard?

It takes what I like to call vulnerabravery to receive. For the person with a lifelong habit of contraction from receiving, a skillfully-landed generosity can break the husk on the heart and release the grief of how long one has survived without their needs feeling seen. But know that this grief is the sign of healing, the opening of those places which for too long have been declining love.

When we ask for help, we are building community. We are doing away with this notion that we should be practicing at detachment. We are rapturously attaching! We become responsible for tending to one another’s pieces. Not only is the giver allowed to express their bestowing heart, the receiver is taken into a greater tenderness of their own giving nature. As we grow our capacity for gratitude, which is another way of  saying completeness, or belonging, we are healing our tinygiant part of the world’s devastating wound of scarcity.

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A writer, artist and tender of dreams, Toko-pa has been interviewed by CNN News & BBC Radio and her writing has appeared in publications around the world. Thanks to Skype, she works with dreamers internationally in her Private Dreamwork practice, based on Salt Spring Island in Canada. You can find Toko-pa on Facebook or sign up for her mailing list to receive news about upcoming events.

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  9 Responses to “Stretching the Receiving Muscle”

  1. I love this. Such an important blog you have written. Thank you!

  2. thank you for this!

  3. Thank you so much! This wonderful piece says just what I needed to be reminded of at this time! Bless you..

  4. Thank you… I just realized the truth of this not long ago and have only been acting on it for a couple of months. I was always taught, implicitly, that it’s a weakness to receive, a burden and shameful.

  5. It is interesting to read your post and thank you for it. I’m especially interested because my word of the year this year is “attachment” and I have found, through my journey with this word so far, that there is a big difference between “attachment” and “connection” and it is the latter to which I have been journeying towards with detaching from those things that actually keep me from what I seek, which is sincere connection. One can be attached to just about anything from distraction to divinity but to connect – to truly connect from a point of vulnerability – requires a genuine presence to give and receive fully the exchange that you so eloquently describe; to be able to give and receive in time and space is a valuable skill and a gift. Thank you for your sharing.

  6. Thank you from the heart of my expanding receptivity. This is EXACTLY what I needed to hear right NOW.

  7. I just experienced this with the planning and executing of my 40th birthday. It was my intent to get over wanting to do it all myself. I managed this by relishing the energy and talents my guests and helpers brought to the event. It filled the house joy. It wasn’t just my celebration. Who made the cake? Who did this or that. Who got everybody dancing? I am carrying that feeling forward.

  8. This for me has been one very big lesson in my life. Giving was so easy and self affirming, but I couldn’t ask for anything and life in her wisdom, placed me in a very painful position of having to ask for help from the most reluctant of helpers, but I had to keep asking, there was no other way for me at the time. That was many years ago. I now know that I am worthy to receive and life and a very balanced way of seeing my needs and wants met. This is beautifully written Toko-pa. Thank you

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