The Practice of Creativity

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The Power of Receiving: A Revolutionary Approach to Giving Yourself the Life You Want and Deserve by Amanda Owen

“Receiving is a skill that can be learned, developed and strengthened.” Amanda Owen

We’ve probably all been raised with an idea of what makes a ‘good giver’. Most of us have spent considerably less time though contemplating what makes ‘a good receiver’, or how being a good receiver might help us to achieve our goals. My skepticism ran high as I approached Amanda Owen’s The Power of Receiving. Receiving, yeah…yeah…yeah isn’t that about gratitude? Haven’t we heard it all before? I thought, great, another book in the personal transformation genre that encourages narcissism and tilts toward individual versus collective solutions. Well, on most fronts, I was pleasantly surprised about how useful Owen’s philosophy of receiving can be in helping to shift our tendency to live in a constant state of ‘doing’.  Owen encourages us to look at how our beliefs about the continuum of ‘giving and receiving’ and ‘active and receptive’ shape our lives.

Owen notes that the ‘Giver archetype’ is well-known and lauded in our culture, but the ‘Receiver archetype’ (as a positive image) is absent. She explores cultural and spiritual beliefs that make many of us suspicious about the value of receiving. Receiving and being a receiver can have negative connotations, especially in ‘a pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ society.  She, however, dispels the notion that being a more skilled receiver is about being a taker, passive, selfish, submissive, or a doormat. Instead cultivating our ability to receive allows us to embrace a more richly textured human experience. Tuning into the power of receiving can help us feel supported, energized, and enhances our ability to give.

Owen applies her philosophy about receiving to goal setting. She argues that we rely on and are encouraged to “exaggerate the importance of initiative and to allocate most, if not all, of our resources toward the active pursuit of our goals.” Most of us have been taught to set goals in a determined and often relentless way. It’s not that this is a wrong strategy, but it is one that values “willpower” and ‘doing’ so much that we can miss what the universe is offering us at any given moment. Also if we are always in an ‘active state’ (see below), we may cultivate ‘overgiving’, miss (or misinterpret) vital information about how to best achieve what we want, or fail to as for help and support in key moments.

The gold of the book was in Chapter One and her discussion of ‘Receptive and Active States’. She lists these as the following:

‘Receptive States’: Meditating, Listening, Feeling grateful, Accepting, Allowing, Opening, Relaxing, Letting Go, Noticing, Observing Welcoming, Yielding, Including, Embracing, Feeling, Hearing, Appreciating, Being, Contemplating, Watching, Letting Be, Attracting, Revealing, Acknowledging

‘Active States’: Analyzing, Talking, Promoting, Investigating, Controlling, Influencing, Multitasking, Persuading, Defining, Judging, Exploring, Shaping, Pushing, Holding, Thinking, Informing, Building, Doing, Acting, Performing, Gong After, Hiding, Forcing, Evaluating

Her ‘active and receptive’ lists have been described elsewhere as ‘inductive and deductive thinking’, ‘inner and outer knowledge’, and ‘holistic and linear thinking’.

I looked at the two lists and honestly asked myself, ‘In what state do I spend the majority of my time?’ And, ‘What’s my preferred state?’  You guessed it–I tend to spend the majority of my time in the ‘Active States’.  As a coach, I often talk a lot about the importance of receptivity (and by extension relaxation), but after reading this book, I could pinpoint my own gaps in walking my talk.  Owen points out that relying almost exclusively on outer focused active states is taxing on mental, physical, and emotional levels, often leaving “no replenishment time.”

Last year a dear friend and I (who define ourselves as ‘overgivers’ and often feel challenged with receiving), read and corresponded about The Power of Receiving. Her insight about Owen’s work on ‘active and receptive states’ strikes me as important:  “One part I especially appreciate is her argument that the ability to notice subtleties in one’s environment is part of the skill set needed for receiving.”

In receptive states, Owen notes, we generally can pay more attention to “information from and about other people, information from the environment and information about our own feelings.” Hard do all of these things when we’re active (or giving) all the time. If you buy this book and just read Chapter One, you’d get your money’s worth.

Owen provides a step by step approach for working on your goals using her receiving model. She recommends a gratitude practice, learning how to receive compliments (surprisingly difficult for many of us!) and developing the capacity to be ‘spiritually naked” as a different way to approach one’s goals. Being spiritually naked means that we not just allow the good parts to show, but allow people we care about to see what we consider the flawed parts of our self, too. She advocates going on a ‘complaint fast’. Complaining, Owen reminds us, saps energy, and “discharges energy without changing anything.”

All of her suggestions for becoming a better receiver are doable. I especially like the way she adapted Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh’s breathing exercise (Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out). She suggests an additional exercise where you breathe in a quality that you like about yourself (and breathe that out), and then breathe in a quality that you don’t like about yourself (ten in-breaths and ten out-breaths) . When we disown the parts of ourselves that we feel are negative and undeserving, they tend to as Owen says “run us from behind the scenes” and become part of a ‘shadow self’. I found this once a day breathing practice powerful and opens new channels of self-acceptance.

Her book is especially useful to read if you’ve felt blocked for a long time in waiting for your goals to manifest. Her formula: Believe + Receive=Achieve is accessible and shows how to achieve balance in creating the life you desire.

She outlines who should her read book and the list includes women (though she skirts over a detailed discussion of gendered socialization that encourage women to ‘overgive’), men (no discussion of gender roles or sexism), caregivers, the helping professions and new age, metaphysical and self-help readers. Books in this genre typically minimize history, racial group disparities, and systemic inequality. So, I didn’t really expect a discussion about how America’s political culture has created rigid ideas about ‘givers, takers, and receivers’ that default along race, class and gender lines. But, I would have willing received that level of insight and analysis and the book would have been richer for it.

Cover photo credit

 

 

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Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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