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The Art of Receiving

Shadow hands reaching for each other

What do you feel most comfortable doing with your partner, giving or receiving?

Let me guess, your response was giving?

Well, you’re not alone. In a recent poll I ran on Instagram, 98% of people also responded giver, and when I pose this question to my clients, almost always the response is giving.

There are many reasons why we prefer giving over receiving. We’re taught that giving is more honorable than receiving and that generosity is the mark of a good person.

Giving naturally makes us feel good. It’s a selfless act of doing something good for someone else. Giving can bring out some of our best qualities like empathy, kindness, generosity and compassion. When we love someone we instinctively want to give to them. In our intimate relationships, giving pleasure to our partner can also be an incredible turn-on.

However, there are some other reasons why we prefer giving over receiving which are worth reflecting on. Giving puts us in a position of power. It’s a way of staying in control by avoiding our own needs and vulnerabilities. While giving can bring out some of our best qualities, it can also be done out of self-interest – we want to feel needed, we want to be the ‘rescuer’ or we’re seeking praise and validation through our generosity.

To receive is an experience of being vulnerable – to acknowledge our needs and to open ourselves to having our needs met by someone else. Most of us aren’t good at receiving because we don’t want to expose ourselves in this way. There are a whole raft of other reasons why we don’t like receiving: it can make us feel uncomfortable and awkward, indebted, weak or diminished. We fear being judged. We fear letting go. We don’t feel worthy of it. Or we simply don’t know how to ask for what we need.

But if we don’t allow ourselves to receive in our relationships, it creates a space for bitterness, resentment and dissatisfaction to grow. We start blaming our partners for not meeting our needs. The giving that once brought us so much pleasure and joy, now makes us feel empty, exhausted and irritated. Beyond this, when we don’t allow ourselves to receive, we inadvertently dishonor the giver and diminish their gestures of love, kindness, intimacy and affection toward us, ultimately blocking the opportunity for connection.

It’s easy to point the finger and blame our partner for not giving us enough. And yes, perhaps there are times when this is true. But it’s also important to bring our awareness inward and notice if perhaps it’s not that our partner isn’t giving enough, but we are blocking or avoiding being the receiver, in an attempt to avoid the discomfort of being vulnerable.

There is an art to receiving. It is a practice of opening to the unknown which takes strength and courage. It requires self-acceptance and acknowledgement of our worth. To receive is to be soft and gracious. To surrender and open. It requires an acknowledgement of our interdependence – that we are not separate, self-sufficient beings, but part of a reciprocal relationship with nature and each other. When we allow ourselves to truly receive, it nourishes our soul in a way that giving no longer becomes an act of will power, but something that comes freely and spontaneously out of receiving.

Moving through the vulnerability of receiving starts with being present. It’s about getting out of our head and allowing ourselves to take in the gift being given to us in any given moment. It’s often our critical, judgemental mind that robs us of the pleasure in receiving – “I don’t deserve this”, “How will I repay the favour”, “I need to compliment them in return”, “Now I need to give something back”, “What are they expecting in return?”, “What will they think of me?”, “I don’t want to seem needy or weak”, “I’m taking too long (to cum)”. We’ve all been there. But the more we can practice being present, the easier it becomes to detach from that little voice in our heads, and receive with enjoyment and grace.

Receiving vs Taking in the Context of Tantric Massage

I want to make an important distinction between receiving and taking. These words are used interchangeably and while they are related, they are not the same. To take something comes with a sense of entitlement, that we deserve something. And in the right context this can be healthy and what we need. The qualities of taking however are possessive and closed. If you think about a hand taking an object, it’s grasping and holding on. The qualities of receiving on the other hand are more open and expansive. Again, using the analogy of a hand receiving an object, it is soft and open.

There is nothing wrong with taking. Taking also has its place in our lives and relationships. But the problem lies when we confuse taking for receiving, or when we stop at taking before allowing ourselves to fully receive. It’s like taking a piece of food, biting into it, but not swallowing it. Yes you might take pleasure from the aroma, flavour and texture of the food in your mouth but you’re not allowing yourself to be nourished by the food.

This has become apparent to me in my practice with Tantric massage. Often, people think they are receiving, but what they are actually doing is taking, because ultimately this feels more safe and puts us in a position of control. Taking, however, is only part of the practice of receiving. If we get stuck in the possessiveness of taking, energetically we become rigid and stagnant. And for Tantric massage to be a transformative and expansive experience, we need to be able to yield, let go, accept and receive.


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