Recently, we have had a massive earthquake in Turkey. Due to human greed and negligence, the aftermath of the natural disaster was devastation. A few days after the tragedy, I went to teach at a Mandali Experience and a very dear friend of mine went to the devastation zone to help. After we both returned, we shared experiences.
What he told me about being a disaster victim, shook me to my core. Because he himself had been a victim of the ’99 earthquake, he was able to see in others what he himself had experienced so many years ago. This is how he described the human condition in a disaster zone:
“One night you go to bed and you have everything. Even if you are not wealthy, you still have a roof over your head, you have your family, you have your belongings and most importantly, you have your life. The next day, you have almost nothing. You are in need of even that one glass of water that someone is going to give you. You see, the ego is slow. It does not catch up with reality so fast. It is so difficult to accept that within a matter of seconds, you have gone from having everything to needing everything. And it is very challenging to come to terms with accepting help from others.”
Meanwhile, I was teaching yoga during a Mandali Experience and before one of our practices, I asked my fellow yogis, “What is beautiful?”. I was trying to draw our awareness to a completely different perspective and for the question I could have picked any adjective or noun, any word basically but coincidentally I chose beautiful. One of the participants came up with a definition that resonated deeply with all of us: “Beautiful is being taken care of by the ones you love”.
From what I observe, for most of us, giving comes more naturally than receiving. We define our roles as mothers, fathers, partners, siblings, daughters, sons, friends, employers, employees mostly in terms of what we give. But when it comes to receiving, we are mostly amateurs. I know I am. I am so used to being strong and capable and self-sufficient that when I am not so, I find it difficult to ask for support from my fellow humans. So as I am writing these lines, I am not preaching. I am sharing a vulnerability that I am currently and constantly working on. Listening to the heartfelt sharings of Mandali Experience participants and to the stories of earthquake victims, I know I am not alone.
We all have a lot to learn on the beauty of being taken care of. And maybe, we can fine tune ourselves to learn to see and experience this beauty without needing dramatic life circumstances like natural disasters or illnesses.
Can we learn to ask for and receive support from others in the more ordinary moments of life when all we need is a simple hug, or someone’s undivided and non-judgemental attention for a few minutes, or just the comfort of sitting with someone without a need for words?
Can we learn to ask for and receive support from others before unmet simple needs amalgamate to bitter scorn?
What I have come to observe on the art of receiving is that where we come from is what makes all the difference. The ego is capricious and unbendable. When in need it becomes bitter and scornful. It expects but cannot communicate. When disappointed, it screams and scolds. When receiving it is uncomfortable and critical. The heart on the other hand is generous and malleable. When in need it is communicative, receptive and rewarding. There is not a human being who will not be touched and transformed by responding and giving to another human asking and receiving from the heart. It is a mutually enriching experience.
We are all living in an ego driven and ego rewarding global society. Within such a challenging social environment, the art of being human lies in mastering to keep an open heart. A heart that is not only generous in giving but also gentle yet courageous in asking and receiving.