Lately I’ve been reflecting on how much easier it often is for us to give in interactions than to receive – even when we trust the goodness of what’s being given. I sometimes feel shy or awkward when I allow myself to receive care, support and kindness. During the first couple years of teaching, I was terrified of being the focus of attention even when the group was genuinely interested. Before my first dharma talk in a Zen retreat, I asked everyone to turn and face away from me so I could speak! It was also hard to give attention to myself in a friendly, relaxed way.
It takes courage to ask for what we need, and then more courage to truly take in what another human being is offering without somehow turning away or deflecting their gift. Opening our hearts and minds is an adventure; getting to know ourselves and each other more intimately takes — and cultivates — bravery and compassion.
For example, how do we move from the protection of our silent individual mindfulness practice into the arena of our interactions with other people? How do we learn how to find the wise voice of our quiet internal mindfulness when we may be stressed by self-consciousness or the discomfort of social anxiety? How do we bear the vulnerability of simply receiving the kindness of another human being?