The holiday season is here! It’s the season for giving, which for many of us also means it’s the season for receiving. That sounds like a no-brainer, eh? But, think about it. . . . How much receiving are we actually partaking in, I mean, we are getting presents and all, but are we really receiving the gift that is occurring through the giving?
What’s the difference between getting and receiving, you might ask? For me, I’m finding it makes a huge difference in the quality of the experience of getting and of receiving. What is this whole gift giving exchange thing about anyway? I believe it is about partaking in the celebration of all the miracles of life.
Whether it’s Jesus’ birth, the oil for the candles, the light of the sun, all of the different traditions celebrated around the world, we are participating in life-giving events. We give ourselves this time to reflect on the mysteries of life itself. How do we open ourselves to this reflection, to these miracles? How do we prepare ourselves for the celebration and the gifts that abound because of the celebration?
I know that for most of my life I’ve taken it all for granted. But since the concept of receiving has been frequently surfacing in my spiritual readings I’ve been attempting to grasp this notion of receiving and see how it compares with the quality of getting.
The other day as I was walking in the woods, there at my feet was a quartz crystal about an inch and a half in diameter. Now, this wasn’t just an ordinary rock and I hadn’t seen it at any other time I’d walked this trail. It was as though a gift had been laid at my feet.
I picked it up and looked at it and wondered – was this meant for me; was it some fluke of nature; was it a sign or symbol; was I supposed to do something with it. . . .? On and on the questions poured out.
Then I thought: What if I just received this gift with gratitude, dropping all of the interpretation of what this might mean about me? Wow, my mind did not like that idea one bit. It wanted to make meaning and to find the significance of this event. Maybe it meant something maybe it didn’t. How would I know? Again, the questions began to pour forth. Almost like arm wrestling, the two sides of me battled for the stronger position.
What’s the Quality of the Experience of Receiving?
I like to take things down to their lowest common denominator; and, since that requires touching into my humanity I often ask myself what is the quality of the experience – in this case the experience is receiving. The qualities that I experience when I’m truly receiving are qualities of openness, surrender and presence. There is an acceptance, an allowing of myself to be immersed in the moment with the object or the experience. In the process of true receiving I eliminate the mind chatter regarding meaning, significance, value and worth. I stop the inquiry about what this might say about me or about the giver, supplier or provider.
The Experience of Getting
I love the feeling of getting what I want. It makes me happy! I love when I am validated, when what I’ve obtained, gained or achieved indicates my worth, value, my importance or my significance. I love those moments when what has been bestowed upon me brings about the feeling of being special.
What do I experience when what has been given is not to my liking? What happens in that very moment when I open the package and reveal something that doesn’t fit my context of what it should be – the monetary value; the relationship between me and the giver; the relevance of the gift to my unique needs or wants? My ego self can spin a story as quick as anything in order to create a positive or a negative interpretation, thus diminishing the exchange, the giver and me as the receiver.
What if I just let it all go – all of it! What shows up?
As I experiment with this process, at first, I connect with a part of me that says “Well, what’s the point of the giving and receiving if I don’t get to have all of those interpretations, when it’s no longer about me?” I then I ask myself – “What if I don’t have all of those interpretations?” Okay. . . . Let’s see. . . . First, there’s a void, a spaciousness, then a bigger knowing that all the things I think – all the interpretations I’m having have nothing to do with this exchange at all! Okay. If that’s true, then what does it have to do with? Another void, spaciousness, then a bigger knowing. An answer comes: The essence of the giving is an attempt to convey a life-giving process, an acknowledgement of my existence. You are, therefore you are. And, in the gift I acknowledge your presence.
What is it like to have my presence, my being acknowledged? What is it like to quiet my mind of all of the what does this mean – what am I going to do with this – how do I respond since I think this present is really ugly. . . . on and on and on. What if I just quiet it all! What shows up!
Again, a void, spaciousness, and this time a quality of gratitude.
Getting gifts placates and appeases the ego only if the gift meets the interpretations about the gift, the giver and me, while receiving soothes and nourishes the spirit and the soul. The experience touches deep into the well of my being. This is very different than receiving.
Receiving is a difficult practice. The dilemma is that on the one hand, I’m wanting what I want and I want to have all of the interpretations I have about that which I want. On the other hand it’s letting go of my attachments and all of the meaning-making I have and see that the gift is an acknowledgment that I am and that I’m acknowledged for that.
This is the season to bring awareness to and express gratitude for all the gifts that are bestowed upon us by friends and family and by sources far beyond our imagination. To fully receive the abundance of Creation allows a joy, a reverence for the life we live and the air we breathe, even for the plants and animals we share this planet with, and for all of us who are a part of making life what it is. It is a time to celebrate miracles because these miracles provide a knowing that there’s something more that we are and that we are a part of. Regardless of our religious and cultural traditions, we all share in this mystery and contribute to it in our practice of giving and of receiving.
May you receive the bounty of life’s mysteries through the holidays and in the New Year.