Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thanks and Giving

"It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself."
Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882 American Essayist and philosopher

Is it better to give than to receive? Many would argue "yes". But, in truth, one cannot exist without the other, so how can one be better than the other? Every giver must have a receiver.

The act of creation involves giving and receiving. The sperm, given by the male, is received in the ovary of the female. A new being is born. Life could not exist without both.

For giving and receiving to work well together there must be a balance. If you keep pouring water into a cup without letting some water out, eventually the cup overflows. The balance is lost. If you keep receiving over and over from someone without genuine appreciation or thanks, eventually that person will most likely become frustrated and depleted. Likewise, if the water in the glass was continually given out, eventually the glass would be empty with no water to give.

How do we give and how do we receive? When we give with an open heart, we receive so much back in return. Ever notice the warm feeling you have inside when someone returns your gift with a heart-felt thank you and a smile? We are all connected, so when we give, we naturally receive something in return. Mother Teresa so beautifully put it: "It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving." When we are grateful for our gifts, we experience a natural high from that gratitude.

On Thanksgiving day we give thanks. Thanking implies receiving. The name itself brings together giving and receiving. Giving thanks daily can help us to remember what we might otherwise forget or take for granted.

Yoga is about the union of opposites and how they work together. In every pose we need a balance of giving and receiving. Contraction is drawing inward, receiving. Expansion is sending outward, giving. At the same time as we inhale, we become fuller and brighter on the inside from the breath coming in. As we exhale, we let go and that gives us the freedom to lengthen, grow and fully come alive in our pose. When we are calm and peaceful, our inhalation and exhalation are equal. But if a pose or life gets difficult, we tend to hold our breath. That creates tension. When our breath comes back into balance, we feel relaxed.

The hand gesture padma mudra, with our wrists together and palms facing upward, symbolizes giving and receiving at the same time. Our hands are open to let go, and at the same time the openness allows us to accept and receive. There is an energy exchange that can be felt although not seen. A hug or embrace brings this same kind of energy. Be free with your giving, be generous with your receiving, and life will reward you handsomely.

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