Living Life Fully and Completely

Caring for ourselves in today’s stressful world includes doing the necessary inner work to dissolve our obstacles to receiving and having a spiritual practice.

Ten years ago I wrote a front page article for the Institute’s newsletter entitled "The Tao of Receiving."  At the time, the article’s message appealed to many people and was reprinted in spiritual publications.  Recently while searching for meaningful ways to “live my life fully and completely” in today’s crisis-filled world, I reread "The Tao of Receiving." I rediscovered a key teaching that directly responded to the search to live life fully and completely in today’s world – that of applying the natural law of giving and receiving.  The following portions of the article respond to this search.

The natural law of service, the Tao, is foremost about receiving. This bold statement reflects wisdom found in one of China’s best-loved books, Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching. We live in conscious harmony with the natural law of service through receiving.  What we have received, we give.  We cannot give what we have not first received. What we give to others, we first give to ourselves, we receive. We cannot give from an empty vessel.  Something has to be in the vessel or there is nothing to give from it.  The fruits of our self-care fill our vessel.  In this way, caring for self becomes the priority to giving and receiving.

If what we receive nurtures us and permeates our entire being, we become integrated physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.  We become healed – healing means wholeness. Our bodies receive the food we give it.  How well our body functions depends on the quality and nourishment of the food it received.  When the body receives what it needs, it responds by giving back to us and by serving our life.  St. Francis reminds us of how often we fail to thank our body for all the service it provides to us.  When he was seriously ill, he wrote that he regretted that he had neglected his “Brother Body” and had not thanked it for his service to him.

We respond with inner strength and depth when we take in healthy and constructive emotional experiences.  We are nurtured as we personally acknowledge our gifts and steps in growth.  We are not psychologically nourished when we absorb negative and destructive emotions or deny our feelings or our self-worth.  Our lack of emotional health naturally affects our own wellbeing and impacts that of others.  Mentally, we gather knowledge and deepen our understanding of our own lives and the world around us.  What would we be able to give if we had not first received this knowledge by listening to our own wisdom and to that of others?

Our highest attainment in receiving is spiritual. From our spiritual self, we receive by listening to the impressions of our potential and to our compassion, wisdom, intuition, and understanding.  We are able to live from right action, giving the right amount in the right way for the right reason and at the right time.  We care for our spiritual vessel through prayer, meditation, and contemplation.  When we neglect our spiritual needs, we have little energy and compassionate action available for ourselves and for others.

What impedes our receiving so that we do not live our life fully and completely?  Caring for ourselves in today’s stressful world includes doing the necessary inner work to dissolve our obstacles to receiving and having a spiritual practice.  We live life fully and completely when we practice compassionate action for ourselves and for others, when we find our right place, when we are creative, and when we are engaged in the world with no expectations of outcome.

(Adapted from Celebrating 30 Years: An Anthology of Essays by Susan Trout.  Alexandria, VA: Three Roses Press, 2010)

Copyright © Susan S. Trout, April 2013. All Rights Reserved.

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