“Whatever you think the world is withholding from you,
you are withholding from the world.”
~ Eckhart Tolle
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What can assist us along our journey of awakening? Everything the world gives us… plus everything we give the world.
“It is better to give than to receive” is a well-known phrase attributed to Jesus and it champions the natural generosity of spirit. If we want a tangible example, just look in the sky. The sun gives its light and warmth regardless of anything it receives. Another Biblical quote says that the “rain falls on the just and the unjust alike.” It’s comical to imagine these forces of nature negotiating!
What’s being illuminated is no-strings-attached kind of giving, giving without thought of reward. Most of us have experienced how enjoyable this is. In fact, it’s said that if you are feeling badly, the best way to make yourself feel better is to help someone else.
In fact, human beings are designed to give and receive freely. We all know it, we have memories of those kinds of exchanges, where our motivation was simply to share. Exchanges that involve money and things often engage other motivations, like greed and fear. A sentiment creeps in: “How can I get the most for myself while spending the least?” Everyone likes a deal.
In these last few blogs we’ve been exploring themes related to the direct experience of spirit in our lives. We can avoid the debate about what to call “it” and focus on the experience. What helps and what interferes with our growing experience of spirit?
A primary obstacle is our belief that spirit is disconnected from form, that “this is not it.” It’s easy to take issue with what’s going on right now, imagining that something is wrong and wishing things were different, wishing they were more “spiritual.” On that basis, we distance ourselves from the unconditional giving and receiving that reconnects us with the natural way of life.
A stream does not complain when a hiker walking by shifts a few rocks. It flows around or over them. Imagine the stream saying: “I preferred the way those rocks were before… I was flowing perfectly. I wish it was the way it was before. In fact, I refuse to flow now. Until that thoughtless person rearranges the rocks exactly as they were… I quit!”
Similarly, imagine the sun refusing to shine because it’s cloudy. “Forget it. I’m not shining when no-one can see me. I’ll wait until those clouds dissipate.”
Withholding love as a kind of punishment is often used to motivate people, a kind of emotional blackmail. Of course, we do it to ourselves as well. In a prior blog we considered the quality of our thoughts. That inner critic has a lot to say about how inadequate we are. We withhold love from ourselves for any number of reasons but, again, it all comes down to one primary judgement: “This is not it.” What I said or did, what she said or did, what they are doing… it doesn’t match personal judgments about merit.
What if we were to reverse our position and assume that whatever is happening is happening for good reason? That nothing of value is ever being withheld from us and that there is never any reason to withhold love from ourselves and others?
This describes unconditional love, which includes both giving and receiving. Love flows both ways. So, we might take a moment to examine our personal habits around this. How able are we to welcome the gifts of the moment – the warmth of the sun (seen or unseen), the rain as it falls, circumstances complete with challenges, people who do and say things we disagree with – and how able are we to give back freely, unconditionally?
Seeking enlightenment is a high path but where does that path exist? Have we conceptualized it as some kind of inner journey best aided by meditation and peak spiritual experiences? If so, we’re probably excluding 95% or more of the possibilities for making true spiritual progress. Or does it exist in the real world where we live, complete with daily details?
What if we re-framed this journey as a deepening of capacity to appreciate (and to freely give and receive) the gifts of the world? Imagine calibrating our fulfillment, neither in terms of what we’ve acquired nor the inner state we attain? How about a spirituality that included everything and everyone 24/7, that made no distinctions between what had value and what didn’t?
As Eckhart Tolle said in the opening quote, “Whatever you think the world is withholding from you, you are withholding from the world.” How the world changes when we take this piece of wisdom personally and commit to giving and receiving unconditionally. Suddenly, this is it! All of it.
Ironically, that’s the destination we’ve always aimed for, what some call enlightenment. Could it really be this simple?