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Gratitude: Learning to Receive is Like Listening

“To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kind that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude.”   -Albert Schweitzer

I have been learning about the power of receiving lately.  I am not alone as a woman who is endowed in the gift of giving, but rarely practicing the art of receiving.  The quotes about how we give when we receive, how the acts are one in the same mystified me. I didn’t know how to contain the love coming at me.  I could barely feel love even when it was directed right at me.  I  over- gave so that I could feel part of that cycle, but the giving came from a compulsion based on need.  I didn’t have the room to know what I wanted to give, so tied up to meeting the endless needs I perceived around me.

One way to turn the cycle of giving and receiving on it’s head is to stop and listen.  For most of my life I have come to know myself through speaking. I am articulate and believe that language is a bridge.  Only recently have I realized how little we can actually convey to anyone else through our own words.  Far more powerful is witnessing the words that others speak.  I never really understood how we receive when we really listen. We empty out the space inside of us to get a transmission from someone else and often what we hear fills us in ways that we wouldn’t anticipate.

Yesterday, something within my giving cycle broke. Hitting the wall is only the first part of what happens when an old way of living is no longer functional. The longer and more painful part is the slow process of collecting all the pieces that are spread all over the floor,  sorting through and discarding those cracked beyond repair and then re-assembling what is left into a container that can hold you.  I wouldn’t have guessed it, or been able to plan for it in any way, but it was in listening that I received the glue of how to hold things differently.

My husband is slow to articulate and I have rarely not been filled with the urgency to fill the spaces between us.  But yesterday I was too broken to know where to begin.  He had all the space and time to give and I in my listening space was able to receive more of what I have wanted from him in moments than I have over years.  We stand in the way of our own good, of the goodness that is coming towards us in ways that we often cannot even witness.  Receiving is partly about knowing our own worth, which only we can offer to ourselves, but it also how we leave the space open for it.  Realizing that what we have to offer is also what we long to receive and knowing that it is coming towards us.  Mouth closed, ears open- giving and receiving are the same.