Receiving What's Offered

Updated: Mar 31, 2020

It's easy to get overwhelmed and distracted by what isn't working right now. A pandemic is creeping across our country. It has set up residence in other places. The death toll is rising. Systems are failing, leadership is faltering. Now what? In Buddhism, we cultivate the 6 Perfections, variously translated as

  1. generosity

  2. virtue, morality, discipline, proper conduct

  3. patience, tolerance, forbearance, acceptance, endurance

  4. energy, diligence, vigor, effort

  5. one-pointed concentration

  6. wisdom, insight

Usually, when we think of generosity, we think of giving. This is true. But the other aspect of generosity is receiving. To perfect the quality of generosity--the first of the Paramitas--you must perfect both. People are generally strong in either giving or receiving, but often not in both. So we strengthen the weaker quality. through practice.

Difficult times are perfect for practicing receiving and gratitude.


When you feel so much is not working, take a moment to consider what is. Consider your good fortune for small things. For example, the fact that you are worried about what isn't working means you are alive. You have enough time to think about such things. Not everyone has this luxury. Cultivate a sense of gratitude.

Now, stop thinking and sit quietly. FEEL all the ways you are supported. Is your body mostly functioning? How about your senses--are they working? Offer gratitude. Feel the floor or chair underneath the weight of your body. See how the universe supports you. Right now, in this very instant, are you well or well enough? Cultivate gratitude for this. Appreciate your life as it is right here, right now. This is the practice of mindfulness and generosity.

When you have finished noticing the many ways in which you are supported--in which things are working--let the practice go and just rest in EXPERIENCING the support which surrounds you. Cultivate gratitude again. This puts you in direct touch with what's working. You have not thought about what's working, you have EXPERIENCED it. This is much more potent than thinking.

When we feel afraid or conflicted, our perspective tends to shrink. Our world can become suffocatingly small. We can feel that things are hopeless. That nothing is working. But this is never entirely true. This brief practice gets us back in balance by opening our experience to a wider, more true view of how things are, even in difficult times.

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