Give yourself the gift of clean giving!
Have you ever read a post on social media that permeates your headspace and takes hold? You aren’t quite sure why or what it taps into, but the message resonates so deeply that you know it is some how your message too? I experienced that this week. A coach who I know and respect posted about how his young daughter loves to draw pictures and give them to others. A child on her school bus admired the daughter’s mittens and so the daughter drew a picture of the mittens and offered it to the admirer.
The post went on to share that the admirer chose not to accept the gift. I could hear in his share the confusion and sadness the Dad felt for his child’s experience. The ensuing comments and discussion were sweet and balanced in support of the giver. But one person posted something that so deeply struck me. It was in relation to their own struggle with accepting and receiving.
I was immediately transported to second grade when I was offered a silly little gift from a friend. Something I wanted to accept and have. But in the moment something else kicked in. I’m not sure what it was. But it felt like a bit of embarrassment combined with a trickle of shame or fear. And in that moment I said, “No”. I can still recall it. I can feel the red hot flush on my face and the tears in the corners of my eyes as I walked away. I immediately regretted it and didn’t have any idea, in my little 7 year old state of being, how to recover. I felt deeply disappointed. I remember questioning why I had done that. But the chasm between the “offer” and “acceptance” was so real and wide I couldn’t cross it.
This has been a theme in my life over the years – the chasm between an offer and my ability to accept and receive. I am aware of it now. I’m thankful for some amazing people who’ve entered my life over the past few years to teach me about receiving! Instead of judging myself like my 7 year old self did, I choose to be fascinated when it shows up (who didn’t see that coming!). And I allow myself to feel the discomfort and then receive with gratitude and grace.
But it brings me to another take on this amazing Dad’s post. Receiving kindness can also provide an opportunity to give. What if the lesson is to give without expectation? And give without any preconceived notion of what the receiver will do, feel, or how they will act or respond. Let go of attachment to the result of the giving. How would the holiday season be different for you if you could do that? How different would life be?
Recently I was told of a story about my dear son-in-law who saw a man who appeared homeless and in need. My son-in-law went out of his way and purchased a sandwich for the man. When he returned and handed it to him, the man rejected the sandwich. My son-in-law was befuddled.
In this situation and in the mitten-drawing situation, it was the expected outcome that dissolved the joy of giving. The idea of what “should” ensue upon giving didn’t occur. In both situations the givers felt disappointed and robbed of the positive energy of following an inspired action.
Last summer I facilitated a retreat for high-powered CEO’s. It was a multi-day retreat for a group that had been meeting together for several years. The last activity asked participants to each bring an item of deep, personal meaning that had served them well, that they were now ready to release. The item had to be wrapped and not revealed in advance in any way.
What I didn’t tell them was that they would not be allowed to share why it was of value to them personally. And they would not be able to choose who would receive it.
When the time came for the gifting the air in the room was filled with anticipation and eagerness as each participant could not wait to tell the others the meaning and value of their offering. I instructed each person to silently place their gift on a table in another room. I said that, one by one, each person would go to the room, select a gift they felt attracted to (we had a great deal of body compass practice at this point) and we would all remain silent while they opened it. After the receiver had a few minutes to sit with the gift, they would share the message of what they had received.
“Wait a minute! How will they know the meaning? How will they understand what it meant to me to give this?”
All the anticipation and eagerness in the room shifted to stress and anxiety as the realization sunk in that they would not be able to project their expectation onto the receiving.
There was some resistance and revolting and I asked them to trust me. The activity began.
The first person to open a gift received a copy of a letter a father had written to his son prior to the father’s death. The son was one of the retreat participants. The receiver read the letter as tears streamed down her face. I asked her what she had received. Between sobs, she said that this was the letter she would have loved to receive from her own parent, but never had. Receiving this gift was incredibly timely and powerful for her.
The gifting and receiving continued much like this. Each person received far more when the expectation was removed.
I am certain that the little girl who turned down the mitten drawing and the man who rejected the sandwich received the gift they needed in that moment – just as I did when I was 7 and rejected the gift offered by my friend. For me, it was self-awareness I could explore as an adult and now share with you. I am hopeful that the little girl who gave the drawing and my son-in-law who gave the sandwich enjoy the beauty of their inspired action and are able to let go of any joy-robbing “should’s”.
I have a commitment to practice giving without expectation. I encourage you to play with this as well. Expectation and “should’s” are a burden and decrease our joy and abundance. They take us out of the present moment and sometimes distract us from the truest gifts and learning.
So, will you stretch yourself a bit to practice clean giving this season?
Here are some helpful steps when you feel excitement about a potential gift or offering:
- Listen. Are there any messages or thoughts in your consciousness about how the receiver should feel, what they might say or what they may do in response? These are your expectations being voiced by the ego self.
- Acknowledge. Thank your ego for those thoughts. It is simply trying to protect you from hurt or disappointment. Let your ego know “I got this. I’m going with the joy of no expectation!”
- Let Go. Let those thoughts pass on by - just like suitcases that don’t belong to you on the baggage claim belt at the airport.
- Reconnect. Get back in touch with the vibration of joy and inspiration that you felt when you first happened upon the idea or the item. Notice where it is in your body. What does it feel like in your heart? Enjoy that feeling. That is your gift to yourself.
- Vision. Imagine the item or gesture being passed from your hands to the hands of the intended free and clear of any tendrils, ribbons or ties – a clear pass.
- Observe. As you give freely and cleanly, observe and listen while the receivers divine their own meaning from the offering.
- Be fascinated. Release judgment (positive or negative) of their reaction. Judgment is simply a hall of mirrors and always is just reflecting back to us how we feel about ourselves.
- Be Open. Relish the unanticipated outcomes. They are always the best!
Reduce your burdens this season and beyond! Give and receive cleanly. Live in the joy of the inspired action.