To begin this, when referring to giving and receiving, I’m not mainly talking about giving and receiving of things, though of course that’s included. Giving includes such things as time, appreciation, listening, insight, “energy work”, and so on. I sum up all of these things as “energy”, because that’s about as generic as possible.
A main thought that I see as very misunderstood is the concept of “as ye give, so shall ye receive”. It’s sometimes understood to mean that we should all be selfless and give endlessly, and then in the future we will get something for our actions.
What a load of malarky! I don’t subscribe to any notion of doing something so that something good will come in the future. Some things need to be planned, yes, but I try to always do things because they’re the right thing to do *now*. All spiritual teachings are really built into the Now, the ever changing present moment. If you look at the tense of the above quote on giving and receiving, it’s about the present moment. It isn’t about future reward – it’s a statement of how the universe works. As energy goes out, it also comes in – and vice versa. You can’t have one without the other. “As ye receive, so shall ye give” is equally true.
Giving and receiving are always happening at the same time – often in a very non linear way. As we give to another person (e.g., giving them a compliment), we’re at the same time giving to self by saying we appreciate this quality in ourselves. We’re also receiving a sort of feedback loop from another person as they truly receive it – this can be in the form of gratitude, or joy, or even the other person’s transformation. This last one is an extremely powerful feedback of energy. We all can grow and invite joy helping others grow. (Note: we don’t help others grow by ignoring our own growth at the expense of others!)
We’re not islands unto ourselves – our entire being is really an energetic system. And because it’s a system, wherever there’s an output, there has to be a corresponding input, or motion stops. As we give, we also have to be open to receiving, or the flow stops. The reverse applies – in order to truly receive, we need to be completely open to giving.
I’ve met a number of “selfish” people in my years so far. To me, it’s simply sad, as they’re so focused on getting all they can that they block out the possibilities of giving. Because they severely limit their output, or giving, (even if it’s a heartfelt thanks!), they don’t take that much in either. If they want to “accumulate” love, for example, they find it never sticks. At the energetic level they aren’t letting that much of what’s given in, because they’re blocking the entire flow that’s needed. Oh, they can accumulate things, and when you’re monetarily poor it seems very seductive to have this attitude, but because of the attitude, they often get mired in a poverty consciousness. External things are really only a small part of what makes us happy, after all. You need to give love in order to have it flow in. This isn’t about reward or punishment – simply how the universe works.
A similar thing is when people, to external appearance, are always selflessly giving, but blocking receiving anything. One manifestation could be because they’re afraid of feeling worthless, they keep giving to not feel that feeling – but then don’t think they’re worth getting anything. This can make people around them tense, because there really isn’t much giving energetically – the flow being blocked on the receiving end makes the real giving (ie, “Love”) slow down to a trickle.
This energetic feedback loop of giving and receiving is subtle, but very important to be aware of. When I’m trying to help someone, I notice if the person is receiving it and open to the entire process, including the giving part. If I start to feel “drained”, I usually stop, because something’s going wrong with the flow. If the other person’s not taking it in, the energy can simply dissipate. Now I’m not even close to perfect in this regard, and I’m still learning an awful lot, but I’m getting better in trusting my intuitions. Trying to give – even in forms the other person wants – when they’re not open to all that’s required to receive it is simply a waste of energy, and it’s not loving (for self OR others) to persist at it.
The best example I know of giving and receiving are babies and cats. If you think of it, there’s very little they conventionally “give” other than their presence, attention, and natural response. But what a joy that is. Everyone can feel that flow – how grandly loving the energy is. We get so much from giving of our time and love. That’s the flow I’m talking about.
Now I’ve been writing mostly about energy, as the world of things can have a lot of variety. Giving away $1 million means nothing to Bill Gates, but to me it’s an extremely large amount, which I don’t even have. The time and energy I’d invest to get it is enormous. So while detachment from things is very helpful, it’s important to have self-care in giving. It wouldn’t be self-loving for me to give away my retirement, whereas by the time Bill Gates has gotten back from a coffee break he could have made that much. Self-love is as an important part of giving and receiving as anything else – if something doesn’t feel right, it likely isn’t. It can be a very loving thing to do to stop an ongoing gift that doesn’t feel right, because it can bring the element of truth and clarity into it. If it doesn’t feel right, you often learn more about why after you take a break from it.
Now, I look at this unrestrained, unblocked energy flow simply as Love. That’s part of what Love is – the natural flow of energy in this grand universe. When it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter if you’re giving or receiving at any given moment. If you’re part of this natural tide of giving and receiving, without ego-centered controls (but with self-care and good boundaries), you’re in a loving state. When we isolate ourselves or block off part of this flow, we natural block off all of it, because a river flow needs both an entrance and an exit to exist at any point. But when we participate, we find the utter joy in being part of the grand energy system we simply call “Life”.
As Gibran quote from The Prophet says:
You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.