Giving and Receiving: Three Keys to Finding Balance October 04, 2016 12:05

 

I recently learned that one of my dearest friends from junior high/high school passed away suddenly. We lost touch a few years after graduation, but learning of her passing stirred up old memories for me.

Josie was a very kind-hearted, sincere person.  Everyone loved her.  She was popular and active in orchestra, drama, journalism, Student Council, speech and debate, and German club.  In high school, we worked together at a local Dairy Queen.

Josie was a giver—she willingly gave her time and energy to anyone who needed it. She was a doer and a people-pleaser. She often went out of her way to help someone else, even if it meant sacrificing her own well-being.

Learning of her recent passing was a shock. She left behind a young daughter and many family members and friends who are reeling from this loss. Her passing is a fierce reminder of how important it is to set boundaries and balance giving with receiving.

I know from my own experiences how easy it is to get sucked into the giving vortex—that all-consuming need to fulfill others’ obligations or serve others so as not to disappoint. It feels good to be helpful, but if not balanced with taking the time to nurture and restore your own reserves, it can be exhausting.

Finding this balance is like breathing.  Breathing is involuntary —we don’t have to think about it; it just happens. However, this can be a blessing and a curse.  On the one hand, we don’t have to worry about scheduling time to breathe— on the other hand, it becomes too easy to take this vital activity for granted.

Each breath we take is a reminder of how essential it is to balance giving and receiving. Giving without receiving is like exhaling without inhaling. Eventually, it depletes you of your energy, time, and motivation.  It’s exhausting, unnatural, and unhealthy.

So what do you do when you find this delicate balance of give and receive has shifted? How do you recover, nourish the self, and restore balance?

  1. STOP!

When you first begin to notice the tug of obligation pulling you into the vortex of endless giving, stop!

Don’t do ANYTHING—even if it’s for a few minutes.  Lock yourself in a bathroom or step outside and gaze at the sky to take a much-needed perspective break.

Sit quietly

Turn off the gadgets

Be present

Moments like these are when the benefits of a meditation practice really start to pay off. By pausing and paying attention to how you’re feeling and observing what you’re thinking can help guide you. Giving yourself permission to sit, stand, lean against a wall and just BE without doing, thinking, and strategizing can help prevent another exhausting loop inside the vortex.

 2. MAKE TIME—don’t find it—you won’t—you have to actively MAKE TIME to do something that nourishes yourself.

Go for a walk (the woods, a park, the beach—find a nearby beautiful place to explore)

Make a nourishing meal (for yourself)

Read (FOR FUN)

Go see a movie

 3. Set Healthy Boundaries by Saying NO

You cannot please everyone, and only a fool will try. Setting boundaries by saying “No” with conviction and respect is like the pause between the exhale and the inhale.  It marks a necessary shift from giving to receiving.  You cannot effectively help, serve, or give to others if you do not take the time to nurture yourself.  The trick to this one is knowing  when you’ve given enough, and  knowing when it’s time to pause and fill up your own reserves.  Also, understand that you will disappoint some people at times—but it’s OK—they’ll get over it.  If they love and respect you, they’ll understand and forgive you. If they don’t, then they weren’t worth your time and effort in the first place.

I’m grieving the loss of my childhood friend. Josie was a kind-hearted, beautiful spirit, and I will miss her. I’ve actively included her memory in my personal meditation practice—dedicating rounds of my japa practice to her.  She was a dear friend and a bright light.  She helped me endure a very difficult phase of my life, and she taught me several powerful, meaningful life lessons.  Her friendship was a treasure.