Giving & Receiving

Something I read this weekend reminded me of the perfect partner to generosity – receiving. In spiritual (or other) practice we often focus on generosity, whether generosity of wealth, time, fortune/resources, love or any other expression. I think of generosity as a muscle that needs to be flexed and exercised regularly in order to develop! One way I’ve tried to extend this muscle is by using the ‘10% rule’, whereby if I’m considering giving money to a charity or a person collecting for a good cause, or even to family and friends, I think of the figure I am willing to or can afford to give and wherever possible add 10%. Of course it isn’t always feasible to give more, but by bringing a gentle awareness to the boundaries I’ve somehow set for myself – usually unconsciously – I can test how firm those boundaries feel on a given day. Probably 9 times out of ten I find there is more money to give. For non-monetary examples, if I notice something nice about people I don’t hold back these days, but choose to tell them how well they are looking, or whatever the example might be.

So, what of receiving? Receiving seems to get short thrift – not so much bad press as no press at all.  

Receiving is our way of allowing other people to flex their generosity muscles, and yet how often have you refused an offer of help or brushed away a compliment? To focus only on our own generosity, on our giving to others, and in doing so being unable or unwilling to accept similar gifts from others we have perhaps misunderstood the constant flow of giving and receiving in our lives. To receive help, money, compliments, gifts etc from others is not un-spiritual or materialistic in some way (though clearly specifically seeking out ways of manipulating others to be more ‘generous’ in our favour would be!). Rather, it is a practice in being present, without expectation, and receiving that which others would like to generously give to us for reasons perhaps only they know.

I realise in writing this that their ‘gifts’ might not always be perceived by us as being generous – the opportunities others afford to us to practice our patience muscle might be less well received (sometimes? often?) than sharing compliments or items of monetary or other value – but nonetheless this constant exchange of gift and receipt with those around us helps make life the wonderful experience that it is.

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