We don’t always get what we want. But we always get what we receive.
In Sanskrit, the word diksa means initiation. It usually refers to the teachings passed on from a guru to a student. New York yoga teacher Eric Stoneberg explains, however, that diksa can also mean receiving what you get: a student can never absorb 100% of what a teacher is saying in exactly the way the teacher intends. The teachings take on some new flavor in our minds and bodies, and we can only keep what lands. No one can give us anything we can’t receive ourselves.
I’ve been thinking about this concept of receiving in other areas of my life lately as well. My life doesn’t necessarily look the way I wanted it to, say, when I set my intentions for the year on my last birthday. One year, I wrote down with confidence that I would publish an article in a prominent magazine. I didn’t get anywhere near that goal—but I wrote a book, which was a lifelong dream I hadn’t written down. If I overfocus on what didn’t happen, I miss the part where I get to enjoy what did.
Kelsey Crowe and Emily McDowell point out in their new book There is No Good Card for This: What to Say and Do When Life is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to the People You Love, that times of struggle bring up a lot of unexpected needs and feelings. Many of us don’t know quite how to help someone who is struggling, and the struggling person isn’t always able to articulate exactly what it is they need. The authors suggest offering something you have to give—companionship, listening, helping with childcare, cooking a meal, sending flowers—whatever feels genuine for you. You never know what might help. If we are the ones suffering, we can sometimes feel frustrated and isolated when the things we need are not coming to us from our friends and family. In this situation, it’s worth looking around to see what is being offered. No one knows what to say, and you have far too many casseroles, perhaps, but the casseroles are something. Our expectations of what kindness and support are supposed to look like can sometimes prevent us from receiving what’s on offer.
Widening your vision about what you are receiving is a powerful practice to explore in relationships. Two people in an intimate relationship often come to it with a set of expectations about what love is supposed to look like. We are not getting enough attention, we say, by which we mean our partner never gets us any gifts. For him, perhaps, attention means affection, and we’ve been taking for granted all the hugs we’ve been getting while wondering why our partner doesn’t seem to appreciate all the gifts we’ve been getting him. Neither person is receiving what they are getting. Both could benefit by considering what is being offered.
In the age of information and the internet, we have become a hugely impatient culture of people—perhaps most especially with each other. We want what we want and we want it in less time than it takes for Amazon to deliver it. But if we can slow down and take a look around at what’s actually happening, we have an opportunity to witness the richness of the relationships and life experiences that are happening for us right now. It might not be what you thought you wanted, but what’s being offered? What are you capable of receiving today?