For life to happen we have to receive the first breath. For life to continue we have to receive the abundance of light, nourishment, love and care offered us. If we don’t know how to receive, we will starve.
When we are not receptive, we become like Hungry Ghosts. These are the creatures from a Bardo state, where ghosts have small mouths, so little nourishment gets in and the food just falls through their phantom bodies. As a result they are always hungry. Parker J. Palmer refers to this state of chronic hunger as the “Empty Self Syndrome.” We may even win the presidency but still feel UNFULFILLED because we are not able to receive what is given to us––we only see what we don’t have. We crave for more. And this state of hunger, this syndrome, is a danger to self and others.
Just like in the natural world, our receiving and giving is an organic state, like breathing in and breathing out. The first breath of life is to breathe in, to take in and to receive life. At the end of our life, we let go and release, give out, our last breath.
So, we want to be receptive to all of life’s offerings, we want to be able to take in the gifts of true self, relationships and the abundance of gifts offered from Spirit.
When we receive correctly we then can give what is ours to give, instead of offering things that are not ours to give. We are not born into this world with an unlimited amount of gifts and possibilities. We are bound to the natural scheme of things too. This is great news! We don’t have to go in search of who we are or of the gifts we already possess. We just have to learn to RECEIVE what is already in us and what is offered to us.
Because our past is our biggest hindrance to experiencing happiness, fulfillment, and to our being receptive, it is beneficial to have simple, effective means to release the hold the past has on us. We tend to project the past on to the present and miss a lot of what we are being offered. So, we want SIMPLE methods that make us RECEPTIVE; that bring us back to our original state of receptivity.
I use the THREE R’s to help bring us to that natural state of receptivity:
- RECOGNITION (or Reality): Recognize what this situation is really about. When I am experiencing difficulty or worried about something, or I find myself having an old pattern of reaction getting triggered I ask myself: “What is this really about?” Is this about me winning the race or is it about me enjoying the run and doing my best? Is this about me getting him to like me or is this about my recognizing my true feelings here?
- RECEPTIVITY: This is about not letting some habit or negative internal dynamic determine our experience. Here is where our spiritual principles and practice can help make us more receptive to what is truly being offered to us. This is where we don’t let the past determine our present experiences and choices.
- RECEIVING (and giving): When we receive we experience the RECIPROCITY of LIFE! Like breathing in and breathing out are dependent on the other; when we receive, giving occurs at the same time. Receiving makes giving possible. When I am generous toward myself, I automatically offer this generosity to others. (The Three R’s is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Here, Take This Gift; Receiving Wisdom of True Self, Community & Leadership/Based on the teachings of Parker J. Palmer).
A story that points to my own use of the three R’s is my encounter with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1995. He was visiting Deer Park Buddhist Center near Madison, Wisconsin, and offering teachings and empowerments. Those who donated some money to the Tibetan cause and to Deer Park got to attend a small reception for His Holiness. I attended this reception at the local Unitarian Church with about two hundred other people. We milled around in the sanctuary of the church as we awaited his arrival, drinking tea and nibbling on tiny cakes. I could feel the emotions rising up in the room and in myself. We all seemed to want something from His Holiness.
Finally he arrived, and a path was cleared for him to make his way to the podium. By sheer luck I found myself right beside the path where His Holiness would pass! Here was my chance to be near him. Then I felt a light push from behind. Everyone was crowding toward the path. The man behind me was holding flowers to give to His Holiness. This man earnestly reached past me with his gift, thrusting the flowers in front of my face.
As the man shouted out “Your Holiness! Your Holiness!” and held his flowers out toward the approaching Dalai Lama, I REMEMBERED (RECOGNIZED) what this was all about. It was about taking every opportunity that arises to express generosity and love. It was not about getting recognition from the Dalai Lama. (I no longer agreed to this.) So I stepped back and let the man behind me be in front and nearer to His Holiness.
As I stood behind the man with flowers, His Holiness walked by. As he did, he reached out his arm past the man with flowers, squeezed my shoulder and smiled at me. I felt so much love in that moment, so much gratitude. We listened then as His Holiness talked about helping the Tibetan people, and about the need to be good to one another. When he was ready to leave, we had to make another path for him. I ended up on the other side of the path, again right on the edge. I stood there, happy to be close to him again and filled with appreciation. Then a woman behind me began to cry out and push me: “Your Holiness, your Holiness . . .” She really wanted to be near him. So, again I backed away and let her stand in front of me. And once again, as His Holiness walked by, he reached around the woman and squeezed my shoulder and smiled at me.
What a blessing I received. And it wasn’t about His Holiness acknowledging me. It was about practice. I learned, hands-on, that when we RECOGNIZE the REALITY of a situation and become RECEPTIVE (and step back from old habitual was) we RECEIVE the love and kindness of this beautiful world. And in our receiving we give.
I also recognized that there will be times when it may appear as if we are giving up something (our spot in line), but really we are opening up to something greater.
Explore the THREE R’s during this one day Women’s Retreat: Here, Take This Gift, April 29th at Unity Church in Madison. Walk their labyrinth, learn simple meditation and spiritual practices to enhance your R. And, receive a LOVELY lunch from ENOS Farms of Spring Green.
Time wants to show you a different country. It’s the one
that your life conceals, the one waiting outside
when curtains are drawn, the one Grandmother hinted at
in her crochet design, the one almost found
over at the edge of the music, after the sermon.
It’s the way life is, and you have it, a few years given.
You get killed now and then, violated
in various ways. (And sometimes it’s turn about.)
You get tired of that. Long-suffering, you wait
and pray, and maybe good things come − maybe
the hurt slackens and you hardly feel it any more.
You have a breath without pain. It is called happiness.
It’s a balance, the taking and passing along,
the composting of where you’ve been and how people
and weather treated you. It’s a country where
you already are, bringing where you have been.
Time offers this gift in its millions of ways,
turning the world, moving the air, calling,
every morning, –”Here, take it, it’s yours.” (by William Stafford, from My Name is William Tell, 1992)