The Inner Art of Giving and Receiving
Embracing the Power of Paradox in Your Life

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Better than Bigger

You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
—Kahlil Gibran

“The one who gives is the one who receives the most. We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Myth or magic? That depends on the why, the when, and the how of our giving—and these depend on only one thing: the heart.

In the details of our days, it’s easy to lose sight of the meaning behind the moments. It’s easy to forget the truth that giving, at its essence, is the creative activity of the heart. We aren’t just reactors but actors, not mere imitators but creators. The words of wisdom we hear about giving are mere platitudes unless we experience for ourselves that giving is not about giving up or giving in, but about giving birth—to ourselves—and creating with the heart.

You are a creator. Every day, you are blessed with an allotment of energy to do with what you will. This energy makes your heart tick, keeps you breathing, and gives you the stamina to move through your day. What you choose to do with that energy as you direct it through your thoughts, feelings, and interactions with others is your gift to life.

Life happens, and often all I can do is react.

I am a creator. Every day I choose how to use
my creative power to shape my life and give to others.

We tend to think that giving and receiving happens when we hand over something that is wrapped and tied with a bow and ribbon, but in reality we are always giving. We are giving birth to something every moment. When you give, you are taking the energy that the universe has so generously put at your disposal and you are endowing it with form and expression….

Psychologist and philosopher Eric Fromm put it this way: “Giving is the highest expression of potency. In the very act of giving, I experience my strength, my wealth, my power. . . . Giving is more joyous than receiving, not because it is a deprivation, but because in the act of giving lies the expression of my aliveness.”1

How can you tell when your giving is the highest expression of your aliveness? You don’t have to be clairvoyant to see the form and expression your energy creations take. It’s easy—simply watch their effect on others. Watch the look on the face of the salesgirl you complain to or compliment, or how your children look when they see you interact with the person who just stole your parking space.

How We Give

...Today, more than ever, we are showered with media messages vying to convince us to buy more and buy bigger. As little children size up their stack of birthday or holiday gifts, bigger and more always seem better. I’ll never forget the sobs that came from a little niece of mine one Christmas morning when she had finished unwrapping the two gifts we had given her, only to see that her sister had an extra package from us to open. She felt cheated, even though we had carefully spent equal amounts of money on them both.

Yet take a moment and think about the times, as a child or adult, when you felt most happy, joyful, or at peace. Were those moments really defined by how much money someone spent on you? Or was it the time and attention you received or the intimacy and connection you experienced that made you feel exuberant? The wiser we become in the ways of the heart, the more we realize that the biggest and most expensive gifts aren’t necessarily the best ones. Better than bigger is the gift of the heart.

The bigger and more expensive the gifts
that I give—and get—the better.

Better than bigger is the gift of the heart.

One summer day, not long after my husband and I had moved into a new home, my almost five-year-old neighbor Sophie peeked through the bushes separating her backyard from mine and introduced herself. After she and I had exchanged some important facts about each other, like how old she and her sister were and the names of my kitties, she suddenly asked, “What’s your favorite color?” “Well, I like yellow,” I replied. In an instant, she was off, disappearing around the side of her house and calling behind her shoulder, “Stay right there, stay right there!” When she returned, she came bearing gifts. “Here’s a flower from our garden,” she announced, “a yellow flower.” With a smile big enough for the both of us, she stretched her arm toward me. She was carefully holding between her fingers a perfect yellow pansy.

It’s been a few years since Sophie graced me with her pansy and I’m sure she’s forgotten all about it. But I’ll never forget her gift—and the smile that leapt from her heart and landed smack in the middle of mine. Sophie knew instinctively what the beloved classic of India, the Bhagavad Gita, has taught for millennia: “He who offers to me [God] with devotion only a leaf, or a flower, or a fruit, or even a little water, this I accept from that yearning soul, because with a pure heart it was offered with love.”2 It’s not just what you give but how you give that counts. It’s not the size of the gift but the size of our heart....

Copyright © 2009 Patricia Spadaro

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Create your own "Honor Yourself" book club to discuss Honor Yourself: The Inner Art of Giving and Receiving, bring it to your existing reading group, or use it as a springboard for self-discovery.

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