Written October 14, 2011

Today is my 48th birthday. As the Facebook messages pop up and my husband and children extend their greetings, my thoughts turn to the topic of receiving. Receiving birthday blessings, of course, but also receiving abundance, receiving love, receiving whatever it is that I need.

Earlier this summer I attended a class on ‘Receiving and Love’ offered by my friend and mentor, Ilene. She offered us this image to ponder, a work of art by Marylou Falstreau.

freistreau  art

Ilene had been gifted with this image a year earlier when she was ill and struggling a bit with her need for help. Like most of us, she was accustomed to providing the help, not receiving it. When the multitude of offers for assistance and prayers and love started arriving, she wrestled with how to take them all in. Knowing that everyone meant only good for her, she eventually found some peace with it and was ultimately comforted knowing that the support was present.

And then someone gave her this art print and she was struck by the concept of actively deciding to open up and receive. Had she been doing that or was there more to this idea than appreciating, acknowledging, and thanking? She gave herself permission, at least for this one time, to give it another look, believing that it must be something she needed since it was so present at a critical time and believing she was worthy to understand it at a deeper level.

And so she began to say yes more fully to the outpouring of love. She established a website to relay to all of us what she truly needed – specific prayers as she dealt with tough decisions for her treatment, candles lit during surgery, and relevant medical information.  And she expressed what she knew she didn’t need – worried thoughts, phone calls, visitors, or meals. She told us times and dates of each procedure. She shared the dreams she had had and what she thought they meant in relation to her journey toward healing. We knew what art piece she was working on and saw its development over time through images posted. And we knew how she was feeling each day. She immersed herself in the art of actively opening up, sharing, and receiving.

She reported to all of us that her experience with this opening to receiving was profound. She noticed a radical change in her physical body. Her pain lessened, she slept soundly, and she healed more quickly than anyone expected. There was also an absence of fear for what lie ahead and a calm knowingness that guided her medical decisions.

Another aspect of beauty in all of this is what followed with the global community of givers. It turns out that when someone actively opens to receiving, those gifting become even more generous. We knew exactly where to put our individual and collective energies. We weren’t worried that we were overwhelming her and we weren’t wasting time or energy trying to guess what to give. In addition to offering alone, various groups of people bonded together for the needs that resonated with them – holding vigil, writing prayers, offering their homes to share sacred space, or creating works of art to give her for her healing. We were spread out geographically across the world and yet we each knew what the other was offering and it inspired us all to do more – more for Ilene and more to uplift each other so we had the energy to continue with our offerings. We never felt worn with the extended giving as a result.

The knowledge that she was experiencing such enormous positive outcomes on all levels only fueled our impetus to keep giving in whatever form she needed next.

I don’t know if I’ve ever directly experienced such an explosive, cohesive response like this. So often giving is politely acknowledged and then limited to a certain amount. No one wants to wear someone else out or be so vulnerable as to admit need. As a result, the giver eventually gives up and the would-be receiver is isolated. What a refreshing perspective to see that this cycle of giving and receiving can flow in a different pattern.

I believe that this concept of opening to receiving can be applied beyond the occasional times of need when we help others or when we allow them to help us. It’s not limited to these familiar tough times. Rather, every day we have the choice to actively decide to open ourselves and stay open to other people, the universe, God, and any other forces that have meaning to us. With just this simple decision, we stop pushing help away thinking it might just be too much for which to ask and instead we trust that there is a multitude of eager assistance just waiting to offer us their gifts.

Opening to gifts may come in the way of receiving guidance from helpful people, clarity of thinking, lack of worry, or open doors that might enable us to see and carry out our purpose in our day to day lives. Opening to the gift of healing in all areas – physical health, emotional scars, spiritual emptiness – may manifest by meeting loving people, making family patterns visible, and gaining bits of insight that allow healing to trickle in. Opening to the gift of joy and flourishing may allow us to pay attention to the heart-quickening ideas and activities that make us happy.

And the decision to open to receiving allows us to go even further, beyond ourselves, and feel, express, and act upon the messages of action for the world around us. Sometimes we feel helpless in this endeavor and sometimes we feel inflated with our own ideas for right action. Thinking there’s no way out or thinking we already have the answers is not staying open to receiving the truth.  Perhaps it’s an idea, just a twist of an approach, to empty out a bit and ask to receive some new thoughts, trusting that they’re out there waiting to be expressed to us so we can move forward toward wholeness as a community.

Believing the answers are there. Actively deciding to open to them. Allowing them to change you.

Don’t you love those Oprah ‘Aha Moments’ when one simple observation leads to a life shift? When Ilene decided to open her hands and receive that day, the world rushed in with all of the healing and answers and calm she needed. She healed and we changed. I choose to trust that example and make it a constant state of my being.


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Regina Leffers McCaleb, Ph.D.

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