My first spiritual teacher was a Chinese man that I was slightly—okay, very—afraid of.
Just being in a room with him was like sitting near a major planet—I never knew if he was going to express tough love or soft love when he spoke.
When I looked into his eyes, my heart began to palpate as if I had downed 10 coffees.
But I learned a lot from him.
One of the things he explained to me was the dynamic of the energy exchange that happens during giving and receiving.
Since then I have come across this teaching several times, including that of Deepak Chopra. It always sounds really nice in theory, but in actuality, it has tested me greatly during my life.
And it still does.
Here’s the theory:
Whatever we want in life—whether it is love, success, knowledge, recognition, compassion, or spiritual growth—we must give that to others. If we want to be loved, we need to learn to love well. If we want abundance, we need to help others recognize abundance.
We can do this monetarily, and by being generous with our time and skills. If we want people to listen to us, we must become good listeners…really good listeners.
If we want to be forgiven, we must first learn to forgive.
There is no way of faking it, since our energy cannot lie.
When I give because I think I should out of expectation of others, this is not a genuine act of giving. Likewise, if I run around giving to others in order to feel good about myself, or because I want to be seen as a great person, that is really about me, not the act of giving.
Deepak Chopra says, “If, through the act of giving, you feel you have lost something, then the gift is not truly given and will not cause increase. If you give grudgingly, there is no energy behind that giving.”
My intention is essentially a barometer—that’s what counts, for it is only in unattached and joyful giving that true receiving flows.
…and here’s real life.
When my partner and I are locking horns and I want him to just listen to me, acknowledge my feelings and understand what I’m saying, I try to haul in my frustration, that’s when I need to stop and seriously ask myself if I am really listening to him.
Am I acknowledging his feelings and trying to understand him?
Am I asking him for something I’m not able to give?
It is an integrity check. These questions turn my perspective around so I focus on what I am doing and feeling, rather than on what I think he is not doing.
I need to reflect upon my actions and look for how I can improve the situation.
There is another question.
If I give him acknowledgement and understanding, how much do I need him to give that back? If he does, it’s great…that makes me purr.
But what if he does not reciprocate?
Am I choosing to make my happiness and self worth dependent on his decision to validate me? Am I making him the CEO of my happiness?
This is familiar territory for me. I have trampled down this path a bazillion times. I know what happens to me when I am clinging to someone else for acknowledgment or validation of me. Frustration. Misery. Frenzied biscuit eating.
The best things I can do are unhook from the “must-have-must-get” feeling and turn it around to give what I want to myself.
That shifts everything back to me.
This is a gem of a rule: whatever you want, give it to others.
Acting on this principle has helped me improve all of my relationships. Most of my close friendships have a healthy flow of give and take, but truth be told, it’s not always like that. When the balance is out of whack, friendships can begin to feel uncomfortable. Even if we may not want to compare, sometimes we can find ourselves measuring up what we gave to what we did or didn’t get back in the relationship.
And what about when we feel that too much has been taken, that we’ve been used?
When people are emotionally needy they can be endlessly draining and difficult to be with. When we do care about them, this unhealthy circumstance can be difficult to manage, requiring our sensitivity and discernment.
We do our hearts a disservice by not being true to ourselves. It comes down to compassion, and giving in a way we are comfortable with, whether that’s money, support, respect or saying no. There are still ways we can give through our good thoughts, prayers and blessings.
Even If the friendship ends or becomes limited, it can be done honestly and with love.
Receiving means letting everything in life in, both good and bad. Life with all its lessons and curved balls, grit and beauty, as well as horror and exquisiteness need to be received. All too often we resist large chunks of life, even things we want to experience.
I used to find it extremely difficult to let people do things for me without then feeling obligated to give back triple what they gave—even a boyfriend paying the pizza bill had me cringing. The intense discomfort I felt stemmed from wounds around my self-worth—or rather my lack of it.
Now I realize that by not accepting and being reticent, I am denying the giver the pleasure of giving.
I imagine a lot of people have felt short-changed when they tried to spoil me or even just pay the bill. When we are offered a gift and our “not worthy” stuff gets activated, it’s time to take a massive breath and fully allow ourselves to accept what is being offered.
We can enjoy making the act of receiving a gift for the giver too.
Giving and receiving are like inhales and exhales: one cannot happen without the other. If we are giving but struggling to receive, we are disturbing the natural flow. Imagine what we might be shutting out of our life by denying ourselves to receive.
Self-love is the answer, and that’s a lifetime job. We are each a work in progress…or rather a love in progress.
When my teacher first explained the energy dynamic of giving and receiving to me, I thought it was a manifesting strategy—a win-win kindness technique for me way to get exactly what I wanted. Actually it wasn’t about that at all—not primarily anyway. I can see now that it is about cultivating empathy. It is more about learning to see myself in others, especially when I’d rather not. It’s appreciating the oneness in the nitty-gritty shenanigans and shit storms of life.
A very different territory from manifesting strategies, like my vision board, full of shiny pictures of a nice house with no mortgage and adventure holidays. But this is not about drawing the lotto win to me. It is about learning to give from a place that does not need anything back. Allowing into ourselves all versions of blessings, the obvious ones we want and those that come in strange disguises on days when we least expect them.
The energy we send out returns to us in one way or another. Energy loops around like a figure eight. But this is not a magic bullet: doing our best to give people what we want to be given in any situation does not guarantee others will do the same.
It does mean we are walking our talk, building our integrity muscles and cultivating kindness from within, no matter the outcome.
Author: Dettra Rose
Apprentice Editor: Tammy Novak / Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Mathias Klang, Flickr.com