Heartwork: Repairing our Ability to Receive

By on September 20, 2012 — Leave a comment


As I write this blog, Ann is doing her morning yoga practice in the sunken patio beside the pond. She is here on a two-day retreat. Meanwhile, the garden, in its glorious spring clothing, is cheering her on as she bends and stretches.

Earlier we met for our first session, tuning in on what was emerging after a good rest, a delicious breakfast, and some early-morning journaling. Her own awareness of some constriction in her heart lead us directly into the theme for today’s ‘work.’

Ann had an assumption, common to most of us, that love was meant to flow from the divine, into and immediately through her heart to the people and situations that needed her. “However,” she said, “when my husband says he loves me or my daughter sends me flowers, I can’t feel anything.”



Ann realised that, for various reasons, she had erected a brick wall up in her heart that prevented her from receiving and feeling love. We didn’t go into the psychological reasons why this may be the case. Instead, we listened for how this blockage could be gently shifted within the context of the retreat.

Listening intuitively to her body-soul, I gave her one assignment for the day: to receive the energy of love from anything that called or resonated with her throughout the day: a quiet nook in the garden, a special stone, a tree, a wing-back chair in the living room, a book… The possibilities were endless.

What made this assignment different than ‘normal’ downtime was her conscious focus on receiving. As deeply and fully as possible, she was to open her heart to the energy and messages that beckoned her, to allow Love, in its varied forms, to flow into and be held within her body-soul. There were no expectations, no human distractions, no deadlines, nothing to accomplish, and particularly important — nothing to give to anyone else! This was a time for her to savour and absorb the vibrant beauty in this space.



We recognised that we, as women, are biologically hard-wired to give. After all, when we have a baby, our breasts pour out our love as milk. It takes tremendous willpower to ignore loving instincts when our children cry. Mothers (and I include all women, whether they have physically given birth or not) understand unconditional loving and nurturing in their bones.

At the same time, we’ve been culturally conditioned not to receive. In our desire to be spiritual, we’ve honoured the teaching “To give is more blessed than to receive” while tending to ignore our body’s needs and the wise hunger of our souls. We may even take pride in denying ourselves the delicious sensuality of Life, both as pleasure and as essential nourishment.

With many spiritually-oriented women, our tendency to over-give can become chronic, obsessive, and ultimately destructive. We can even become (heaven forbid!) patriarchal and patronising in our desire to take care of others! When our cultural conditioning blinds us to our deepest needs, our biology can betray us, driving us into compulsive busyness, over-eating, and superficial forms of gratification. It is our right and our responsibility to be exquisitely well-nourished. However, if we ignore our body-souls, we gradually lose touch with our natural instincts, including the ability to receive and cherish the life pulsing within our own skin.



I see feminine receptivity as a tidal phenomenon, part of the oceanic shift from fullness into emptiness, and back into fullness. This rhythmic pulsation is very different than the masculine impulse, a solar principle that is more steadfast and constant in its radiance.

As women, our intelligent biology operates a lot like the ocean, constantly changing, always fluid. However, when the circuity in our hearts is wounded or broken and we lose our ability to receive, we starve, and ultimately our world suffers. When we forget that we are worthy of nourishment and pleasure, that we deserve times of grace and peacefulness, that it is important to open ourselves to beauty, we have actually forgotten how to return to the Great Mother.

In this profound and simple way, Ann touched on the essence of ‘retreat’ in its most sacred, healing dimensions.

Now I see Ann listening to the wind, noticing what is calling her… I must go out with our lunch — cold canteloupe soup and spicy potato salad, to be enjoyed under the shade of the ash tree. I know that we will dine on so much more than food!


For more information about the different types of Women’s Retreats offered at Grey Heron, click here.

More blogs about self-care: Opening the Operating Manual

The Strange Attractor

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