Introduction: The title of Cathy's speech is “How Do I Receive When I Am Well?”. She came to this speech as a continuation of her last speech “Learning to Receive”. She had spoken of receiving when she was sick, or at her limit. Ann Huntington in her speech evaluation intrigued her with this question: “I know you are good at giving, but how now do you receive?” Speech title: “How do I receive when I am well?”
How Do I Receive When I Am Well?
Did you know that one definition of to receive is to be burdened with? In our society, receiving is complex. When we are sick, we are forced to receive. We have no choice, and in that, we may learn that giving and receiving are one. We make others happy when we receive their compliments and gifts. We give when we receive.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. We give thanks. We receive food, and the company of others, but the focus is on giving thanks. Most of us divide giving and receiving. We keep account, deduct contributions on our taxes. I propose we see giving and receiving as one, as a circulation of energy, and what some might call spirituality or grace. As I reflected on Ann’s question, "How do I receive when I am well," three different events came to mind.
First, can you imagine a world where there is no word for “thank you” and therefore, no concept, as we perceive it, of thanks? I had never conceived of a world without a litany of “thank you”, until I went to Nepal and learned there was no word for “thank you” in their language. There was no clapping after a performance. Breath in; Breath out. Dung, which we may disregard and toss into bins, is gathered in the mountains of Nepal and dried on walls. It is used for fire. There is no division into yum and yuck, no dividing into giving and receiving as we so strictly define it.
Second, as I continued to contemplate Ann’s question on how I receive when I am well, I remembered a group I was in called Eyes of the Beholder. One day, we were going around the circle, sharing, when I realized each person was talking about how much they give. I wondered who was receiving all this giving. Is there a Black Hole into which people pour their gifts, and somewhere on the other side, somewhere we never see, a place where giving is received. That was my first inkling that it might be easier to give than receive, that we might feel beholden when we receive, so instead we say, “Take this, and this, and this.”
Third, thinking back, I remembered a short story set on Christmas day. A wealthy family gives leftover food and gifts to a servant. She, then gives those items to someone less fortunate, and the story goes on and on with each person giving until the homeless person on the street finds someone less fortunate than he. We find pleasure in giving. Why then when we are well, do we struggle to receive?
Are we afraid we are expected to give something in return? Afraid that we can’t reciprocate well enough? Does a compliment raise the bar? Oh, I look good now. But what about tomorrow?
This is a kaleidoscope. (I hold up a kaleidoscope. This is a speech after all.)
When I turn the kaleidoscope, the pieces move and the design is changed. There is movement within a fixed environment, with no concept of giving and receiving. With that in mind, I’d like to invite you to do an experiment. Experiments like these help me understand how I receive. I start with the floor. I invite you to feel your foot on the floor. Can you feel your foot melt, spread like gravy on the hot mashed potatoes you’ll eat tomorrow? Does your foot receive the floor? How’s your heel, the ball of your foot, the roll of your arch, the wiggle of your toes? Are you receiving the flow of energy from the ground up your leg, or is it stuck, not moving, not giving, not receiving? Just notice, no judging. Now notice the crown of your head. Is it open to receive the air? Does that air move through you to touch your feet and the ground?
For me, the answer to Ann’s question begins with feeling my feet on the floor, my head in the air, and feeling and feeding the conduit between. My intention is to honor that I am in relationship, with you, with the air, with the ground. I live in an environment of exchange, a continually changing environment of exchange. Giving and receiving are one, when I am well, and when I am ill. Happy Thanksgiving, and in that, Happy Thanks Receiving too.