Recognizing the boats

Let yourself receive what the world has to offer.

Opening your hand is a gesture of faith that will be rewarding.

~ Sole Source Greetings

I have been doing “beginner’s yoga” for a while now, just the 20-minute relaxation-and-stretch routine on the DVD that came with my yoga kit. I’ve been faithful about it, rolling out the mat nearly every morning. Now that this basic routine has become reasonably manageable, I decided today to try the full yoga routine on the DVD, which is also still for beginners but includes more “real” poses than just one Downward Dog and one Cobra.

At the end of the routine, I was instructed to lie on my back with my legs straight and my arms stretched out to my sides and “let your heart be open to receive.” I was surprised to find my smooth, even yogic breathing suddenly breaking into jagged chunks as tears rolled from my eyes and into my ears. I’ll admit, I’ve cried plenty of times doing yoga … there’s something about it that opens me up to a lot frustration with the limitations of my corporeal vessel as well as other emotions I cannot articulate. But today’s tears caught me by complete surprise. What, I wondered, is so hard about receiving?

My mother and I talk a lot about this subject. She is the most generous person that everyone who knows her knows. Not in a write-a-check-to-charity kind of way (although she does that as well) but mostly in a specific, personal, individual, and entirely heartfelt way. She closely observes and listens to what people need, then finds ways to give it to them. We were in a small restaurant once when the owner’s four-year-old daughter came around to our table to show us some drawings she had done on the backs of old envelopes and other assorted scrap paper. The next day, my mother went back and gave the little girl a set of markers and a big pad of drawing paper. She just spontaneously does this sort of thing because she enjoys it and she wants the people she cares about to have the things they want to have and do the things they want to do. She often encounters resistance to her generosity, though, most often with the question “Are you sure?” She thinks “if I weren’t sure, I wouldn’t offer,” but she says “of course!” Sometimes she has to say it more than once before some people will accept her gifts.

I am in a position right now of depending on my parents’ generosity, for which I am profoundly grateful every day, but sometimes that fact alone makes me cry whether I’m doing yoga or not. Receiving–being in a position of needing to accept another person’s help–is not easy for a person who values her independence and wants to do things for herself and by herself. But as the quote at the top of the page says, opening my hands is a gesture of faith not only in the abundance of the universe and the benevolence of my parents, but also of faith in myself, that I am worth this investment that they are choosing to make in me.

I’ve always been a doer, a go-getter, somebody who makes lists and checks off tasks as I complete them. I’m thoroughly organized and powerfully self-directed, so I don’t need anyone taking care of me, let alone telling me how to live my life or fill my time. I am, as I said, extremely independent and good at living alone, being alone, taking care of myself alone. Needing other people for any reason is not something I’m good at or that I want to get good at, frankly. But the fact of the matter is, I am not an island. Like nations, human beings must interact and trade resources with one another for all kinds of reasons.

I’ve been telling the following story often lately because it illustrates a point that I need to remember every day: Help–love, money, encouragement, whatever I need–is available to me, but I have to be awake enough to recognize it and humble enough to accept it when it shows up. The more conditions I put on the kind of help that I will allow myself to receive, the less likely I am ever to get it.

An old man sat on his porch watching the rain fall. Pretty soon the water was coming over the porch and into the house. He was still sitting there when a rescue boat came and the people on board said, “You can’t stay here, you have to come with us.” The old man replied, “No, God will save me.” So the boat left.

A little while later the water was up to the second floor, and another rescue boat came, and again the rescuers told the old man he had to come with them. The old man again replied, “God will save me.” So the boat left him again.

An hour later the water was up to the roof and a third rescue boat approached the old man, and tried to get him to come with them. Again he refused to leave, saying “God will save me.” So the boat left him again.

Soon after, the man drowned and went to Heaven, and when he saw God he asked Him, “Why didn’t you save me?”

God replied, “You foolish man. I sent three boats.”

Refusing an outstretched hand from anybody who sincerely wants to help me is like spitting in God’s eye. I am slowly learning to open my hands to receive, and I hope I always have the good sense and grace to recognize the boats God sends.

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5 thoughts on “Recognizing the boats

  1. I really liked this post. This is one of your best so far. Very heartfelt and felt by my heart. Your vulnerablity is an asset too.

  2. Pingback: Never let me down | Going Forward

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