The holiday season is richly textured with multiple opportunities to put our spiritual practice into action. We often hear, “it is better to give than to receive,” which encourages us to focus on the joys of sharing with others in our lives. There is also a hidden message in this saying that points to the shadow aspects of our desire to be on the receiving end of the exchange. Aligning with the magical wonder of winter stories that tell of miracles, generosity and faith allows us to remember those we love and expand that kindness from our small circles to the entire planetary family. As all in life seeks balance; learning to accept the gifts with an open heart is essential for the cycle to be complete.
If we look to the key spiritual teachings of detachment from expectation, choosing not to take things personally, and having clear intentions, the season can flow with more joy, humor and ease. Remaining true to one’s self can be challenging, yet what part of life doesn’t ask that of us?
The area I tend to struggle with the most has to do with feeling that whatever I give is not enough. I grew up in a family where the prevailing attitude was “if a little is enough; more is better”. I also have a tendency to think I should be able to do everything on my own (and in reality can’t do much of anything without the support of others) so at times I can feel overwhelmed with gratitude shadowed by guilt and shame that can translate into fretting over “giving” enough. This can be exasperated by feeling the depth of pain and suffering that exists in the world and feeling like nothing I give could ever really make a difference because the need is so great.
In truth, we have no idea the impact we have on others in our lives, from the birds we feed in the park to smiles we meet strangers with on our daily path or the moment we take to really listen to someone. I had a truly humbling experience years ago regarding impacting someone’s life in a way I had never expected. I had recorded two meditation tapes (yes tapes) and was at a wholistic conference with many more popular and well-known authors. We were asked to sit at a table to sign books and answer questions. Feeling very silly and small next to these experts with lines of people waiting to talk to them, I was getting ready to leave when a woman came up to me and told me that she listened to my tapes until they broke. She said they got her through her chemotherapy treatments and was so grateful I had made them. I was overwhelmed with authentic recognition as it so clearly came from her heart to mine. More importantly, that was the real reason I had recorded the meditations to begin with so we came full circle.
Another powerful indigenous saying, “as above so below” reminds us to look at our world as a reflection of spirit. From that reference point, nature can teach us so much about trusting that the mystery of reaching the perfect balance of giving and receiving is possible. I learned this particular lesson from nursing my children. They ate until they were satisfied rather than when the measured amount in the bottle was empty. It was amazing how quickly I surrendered into the ease of this exchange and felt protective of the wisdom that these little souls understood. Each of us holds this sacred understanding if we really take the time to be a witness to our own experience rather than reacting to behavior or preconceived programing.
I encourage us all to shift the phrase to “giving is receiving”. If we give from our mindful hearts as a means of expressing our true gratitude and love, than it is sure to wash back over our consciousness as well. In spite of all the doubts and uncertainty; I still delight in the ritual of gifting.