During this, the season of Christmas, Hanukah, and charity, much emphasis is put on the wonderful gesture of giving. Indeed we need to practice generosity in our society and our relationships, but believe it or not it doesn’t have to be forced! Generosity occurs naturally when two truths are understood:

1) Our welfare is interconnected. We cannot know true joy while the people in our homes and communities suffer.

2) The holiest act is not to give, but to exchange. To share! To allow riches, whether material or emotional, to flow freely where they are most needed and best applied.

This second truth asks that we practice not just the art of giving, but of receiving. After all, what good is a gift that goes unreceived? Yet we are often suckered by a stigma against “neediness” and a glorification of supposed self-sufficiency. In truth, playing the martyr or the saint only causes an energetic traffic jam.

Autonomy is a fantasy of the ego.
When attempted, heroic self-denial is more likely to cause problems than curb them. It robs loved ones of their greatest joy, which is to feel their contributions are valued. Not to mention, when we don’t allow a true need to be met, that suppressed appetite pops up in other forms that will always seek (but never succeed) to compensate. This is how vices are born.

The antidote is to believe that we are worthy of fulfillment, and to trust in abundance. Please note, is very different from believing in limitless resources! It is not permission to take thoughtlessly from your lover, or anyone, or the Earth itself.

What it means is that the Universe’s inventory corresponds perfectly to the actual needs of every being, if only we acknowledge those needs and allow them to be met. This requires tuning deeply into ourselves and dismantling the shame assigned by a society that would rather we buy its products than seek fulfillment through connection and pleasure.

It takes a while to overcome the mindset that receiving equates weakness, but what better time than the holidays to take little steps toward freer exchange. This month, try these simple changes:

1) Accept compliments. Though deflecting them is considered good etiquette, practice receiving appreciation with one of these replies: “Thank you.” “It means so much to me that you would say that.” “I consider that a very high compliment.” “Wow, that is exactly the effect I hoped to have.”

2) Ask for help. Think first about what you truly need, and who is the right person to ask. There is no net accomplishment to be gained by forgoing a nap only to be cranky with the kids, or single-handedly hosting a party you’re too stressed to enjoy.

3) Be fully present. If your body is truly longing for a long, hot shower, then take that shower and deeply enjoy it. Feel every drop as a gift. Do not obsess in guilty thoughts as you “waste” water or time. Know that by meeting this actual need, you will not displace it into some other desire that will upset life’s balance.

4) Declare your gratitude. We have a choice: the feeling of indebtedness can trigger anxiety, or it can create a bond between giver and receiver that fortifies the relationship. Take a moment to survey the many ways your partner and others are generous, and allow yourself to revel in thanks. You will probably find that doing so turns effortlessly into your own acts of spontaneous generosity.

5) Say no thank you. There are times when well-intentioned people actually burden others with what they think is a gift. If explaining this would cause the giver more pain than your inconvenience in saying nothing, feel free to let it slide. But otherwise, gently, graciously educate them about what are and aren’t your wants and needs.

We are all givers and receivers, and thank goodness for that. Let’s end the myth that one is better than the other, and allow love and all its gifts to circulate yearround.

Zaeli is an Austin-based love coach specializing in open relationships, helping you bring consciousness and intention to your romantic life.

A version of this article was originally published in the December 2015 issue of Austin All Natural Magazine for Zaeli’s monthly column, “The Heartwakers Club”.

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