How Women Give and Receive


As custodians of life, our families, our communities, the earth, we know the awe of responsibility. But how do we listen to the real need – both in ourselves and in life?

For many years I have listened to women tell stories about their lives. Women who share dreams they have at night, and images that arise in meditation or while engaged in some daily task like washing dishes.

I believe these stories and wisdom have to do with a language that is emerging, to help women understand how we can live our own natural qualities. And how these qualities heal and transform life.

But it wasn’t until I attended a small gathering of indigenous Grandmothers several years ago, that I realized a missing piece of a puzzle. One afternoon they sat in a circle, sharing freely and intimately their thoughts and knowledge. Those of us who listened, sat around them. 

It was the words of one grandmother in particular, that struck me. It was not like being touched or moved, but rather that her words activated a knowledge inside me. I can still feel the quiet power of her energy. At one point she said:

Women are like the earth – She gives and receives.

I wondered, what did I really know about this relationship of giving and receiving?

After I returned home I began to think about this and how little I knew consciously of what was inside this simple statement. I mean, we all know how to give and receive. Don’t we? But evidently I didn’t.

One afternoon soon after that gathering, I realized I very tired. Instead of pushing through to finish some work, I stopped.

I decided to take a quick rest, just for a few minutes. I lay down, and almost immediately fell into a deep state. In this state I saw an alphabet. It was as if someone was scrolling down the letters, trying to show me something. Down this scrolling went, until I saw the letter W that was highlighted. And the ‘W’ stood for ‘Water’.

I realized I was being shown how to receive the sacred energy of life – the spiritual energy that revives even a dry seed. For this I needed to be still. This was what the grandmother was saying. And that giving and receiving are part of a whole. 

Another afternoon, I realized that I needed to rest because something, not quite tiredness, was urging me to lie down, even for a few minutes. It is not easy to face the collective pressure to always ‘do’ and go to the next thing. But I closed the door and lay down. Within minutes I was asleep. After a brief rest I began to awaken. And then, still with eyes closed, not yet awake, I 'saw' a woman standing at the foot of my bed. 

In that fleeting glimpse, I saw that she was washing my bare feet with cool, clean water. It was a wonderful feeling, refreshing like standing in a cold river on a hot day. To this day, I can still feel it. 

A few months ago, at the circle we hold for women at the homeless shelter, we had a 5 minute silent meditation. Afterwards, one woman was deeply moved by an image that came to her during meditation, that speaks of this very quality of receiving:

I saw an aquifer filling with water. And then the water rose up from underground and spilled out as streams that flowed over the land.

This capacity to receive lies in every woman. It is not dependent on external happiness. It is how a plant opens with birdsong at dawn. Or the way that we open in prayer. It is a way that we receive, and becomes what we give to the life around us. 

How Women Give and Receive
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10 years ago

In Hilary Hart’s “Body of Wisdom”, she quotes Elizabeth Frediani: “And even though I feel that women or certain men will say they’re receptive, I get that they are not. They intellectualize the idea of receptivity and think of it as a form of being cooperative or a form of being non-assertive, but they don’t understand that it is an act of taking in.”…

10 years ago

Thanks Veronique. I agree with you that to be receptive in this way does require trust. When I look back at certain times when I reached a place where I could do no more, when an old way brought about exhaustion, then there was grace. The water…So it is a part of receiving, and learning to trust.

Anne HIllman
10 years ago

Beautiful, Anne. Truth itself. Warmly, Anne