I was hiking a windy ridge in Patagonia in 2014 when it hit me, tears peeked, and I felt relief … a letting go, an opening, an expansion.

The year before I had started seeing a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner for therapy, and a whole new world of body awareness began to open up. I grew up dancing and had been practicing yoga inconsistently for about seven years, so I wasn’t new to sensing my body in space…but this form of individual work was orienting me to a language I had not yet immersed myself in: the language of my animal body, my nervous system. Which connected me to my intuition, my ability to listen to and trust my own “knowing.”

There are many themes that began to unfold in 2013, but one that stood out particularly was the concept of receiving.

I don’t mean receiving gifts, or sitting back and letting others over-give in a gluttonous fashion. Rather, in a world where women seem conditioned to take on the emotional work, to smile, to tend, to over-extend themselves and be more comfortable (conditioned) in the role of giver, to keep everyone happy, the concept of allowing the world to come to me, to stop at the half-way mark and see who and how others meet me in the middle, and to sometimes rest into my own back body … this felt radical.

Fast forward to the end of 2013 when I embarked on, what was for me, the biggest travel adventure yet. I quit my job, flew to Argentina, and ran wild in a way I never had in my twenties (I was 32 at the time). My then-husband joined me a month into the travels, and the challenges that were already present in our relationship took a new turn as I began to explore, and somewhat messily flex, my new muscles of independence, of self knowledge. I knew I was efforting too hard to feel into my center by pushing against my partner (a developmentally appropriate tactic for an adolescent ;). What I see now is that I was also pushing against the larger societal message of what a woman is supposed to do and be.

And it was on a hike together, walking along a ridge near Hielo Azul in Northern Patagonia, that I felt a breeze caress me, fill my lungs, and tell me that it was ok to not work so hard, to receive the beauty of the Earth around me, to trust in my ability to BE. I felt a release, a strength, and a connectedness that I can still taste today.

A part of me wishes I could say that this insight transformed my actions then and there, and that as a result I was able to shift the way I showed up in relationship, and the marriage was stronger than ever. But a larger part of me knows that wishing is only to make the reader feel better in a society where divorce is viewed as failure.

The truth is that I needed to go on a much longer and deeper journey, which many years later included a mutual decision to end our marriage, and continued into years of exploring, listening, learning what my inner wisdom has to teach me about the importance of receiving.

When I stop covering the entire distance between myself and another, I get to learn who is interested and capable of meeting me halfway.

When I pause and rest, I have time and space to learn more about what I need, and to soak up the beauty around me.

When I stop filling my time with all the ways I will over extend for others, I get to experience how others are showing their love for me, which is transformative for a sense of self-worth, secure attachment, and safety in the nervous system.

When I am silent, I get to hear who is speaking to me and what gifts they are offering.

And then the scary part: when I pause to receive this life, I can also discover who is taking from me or neglecting me in a way that hurts… I can grieve that pain, tend myself, establish boundaries, and turn towards others who help me find safety, security, and love.

In this season of over-giving, may you find moments to receive from family and friends, from the beauty of the Earth, and from your own loving self.

And may that receiving then allow you to say yes to what truly matters and to give with a full heart.

Sommerville Johnston, LPC, SEP, RYT® 200 Mental Health Therapist, owner of Aspen Roots Collective, and leader of Adventures

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