I used to be part of a family-of-heart, The Sufi Way, for many years. Various fateful events in 2004 made the hub of this family move to the USA. In the wake of this loss, a group of local UK friends huddled together to hold and honour the memory of a place, friendships, and the gifts of remarkable teachings we had received.
Now our small group has lost a dear friend, who unfailingly showed up and contributed to monthly events we organised together. His Sufi name was Aranth. He was called to move on, much too young, with many projects on the go. We miss him very much. May his guiding spirits bring him home.
In a moment when I strongly sensed his presence, received his being, something fell into place. He liked to give, and loved it when his giving was received. He was giving generously of his attention, his presence, and the embodied wisdom of his experiences.
So I pondered about how we receive. Today, when everything has a price, giving can be regarded with suspicion. Or a too well-meaning parent may have set up a default warning against receiving anything with strings attached, a condition I battled with in my early years, which made me super-independent, and hesitant to ask for support when I needed it. And there is the profusion of good advice, from self-help books, quotes of gurus, or recipes – like how to write a book in 30 days. The growth industry of advice-giving requires a filter, firm choices as to how we spend our time, and what we open up to.
Yet something given from the core of our being resonates subtly, is easily absorbed, and nourishes the giver and the receiver in lasting ways. To Aranth, this kind of giving was as natural as breathing. It’s how I’ll remember him.
Here the story of a small workshop he offered some years ago, on money, and the various ways in which money is perceived – as energy, power, or talent. We stood in a circle and Aranth pulled a substantial bundle of £50 banknotes from his pocket. Our eyes popped. There was once a period in my life when £ 50 notes wandered through my purse, but not then. ‘Go on, let it go round,’ he said. With a mischievous smile he proceeded to feed the crisp notes into our circle, clockwise. ’Faster!’ he said.
Many fascinating processes happened among us. In the rush of energy, bank notes would take on a life of their own. They would stick to hands and accumulate, or notes were dropped in confusion. Some people got impatient when the flow was held up. And there were those who quickly handed the cash on to the next person as if the notes singed their hands – I was among that group. ‘How comfortable are you dealing with energy, money?’ Aranth asked. ‘There would be enough for everybody if it was allowed to circulate and flow freely.’ Yes, there is that, a fact of life, money gets hoarded and piled up in oxbows. But what about people handing on energy too fast, like I was in the habit of doing?
My lasting insight during that day was – insufficiency, as well as sufficiency, are states within us. And our environment tends to confirm the state within us. I gradually managed to stop worrying about money. Yes, it would be nice for a few wants to materialise, but I always seemed to have enough of what I need. Attending to my inner state, I shifted my focus towards holding and developing my talents.
I receive Aranth’s giving that day, and benefited Yet many times a giving is concealed to me, or appears like an obstruction, and I miss its blessing. Like the beggar in a Hindu story, who stumbled over a sack of rags and cursed, not realising it contained gold.
As it happens often, it is only when we lose someone who has been part of our life that we are able to gage the depth of what we were able to receive. When a giving is truly received and valued, something of beauty is exchanged that lives on – like the unfading rose.
So I figure, this little quote they assign to you, dear St Francis of Assisi …
‘It is in giving that we receive,’
has its equally valid mirror … ‘It is in receiving that we give.’
I imagine the Saint would have smiled and agreed.