Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Why Receiving is Hard for Some of Us

As a child my brother, Doug- a year, a week and a day younger than myself- was afraid of the dark. I was not. Often, after we’d been put to bed, Doug would tip toe into my room and beg to sleep with me. There was lots of room for two small children in my double bed, but I always said no. Saying yes felt dangerous in the same way that having a teddy bear in my bed for comfort felt dangerous. I needed to be able to sleep alone in what seemed like an enormous bed, in the dark. I threw the stuffed animals on the floor. If I was afraid, I buried the fear. If I felt lonely, I denied the feeling. Anything external to myself that offered comfort could be taken away. By the time I was five and Doug was four I’d learned that needing something that could be taken away was a dangerous way to live in my mother’s house. Of course, most of this was completely unconscious, although I do remember feeling that my brother needed to toughen up or he’d get us both in trouble. When it became clear that I was not going to let him into the bed, Doug would ask to sleep on the small oval rag rug next to my bed. Reluctantly and with some impatience I would acquiesce, and he would curl up on the rug and fall asleep. Sometimes my parents found him there before they went to bed and carried him back to his own room. Occasionally I would find him there sleeping on that rug in his flannel cowboy pajamas in the morning. That I would refuse either of us the comfort we needed at such an early age makes my chest ache. I have become better at receiving, but doing so with unbridled joy is still a bit of an Olympic-level accomplishment for me. That’s okay. I enjoy and appreciate the opportunities to practice. Still, as we approach the holidays with all its giving and receiving I feel my anxiety stir, and I become more meticulous in my daily practice in an effort to remain conscious when old fears that do not belong to today arise. I offer this little story to say: may we be patient with each other over the holidays; may we remember that each person has their own history and experience that may be very different from our own; may we give what we can and receive what we need with joy and gratitude. ~Oriah "Mountain Dreamer" House (c) 2016


  1. I'm sending you love without form.
    It won't take up any space.
    It cannot leave you.

    Els from Amsterdam

  2. I can relate to this, Oriah. Receiving has always been hard for me, too, and have never really understood why. I like how you approach it when you say, "enjoy and appreciate the opportunities to practice". That's a good way to learn and become better at it.

    Thank you for sharing and reminding us to be patient with each other over the holidays. We do have our own histories and experiences. God bless and Merry Christmas.

    1. Thank you Pat. Yes, small gentle moments of practice seem to be the only way to go. :-)