The Power of Tender Receptivity

The very first time I came to visit Australia to meet Layne’s family, he and I stayed up at the beach in a unit just on the back side of a dune. That first night, jet lag meant that I was beyond tired, and Layne kept looking at his watch, which I thought was really strange. At about 8pm I was literally falling asleep, but Layne jumped up and said “OK we are going to the beach, and you have to keep your eyes closed all the way there”.  My first thought was “Absolutely not”, but he agreed to piggyback me if I kept my eyes closed, so off we went.


As we crossed over the dune I could hear the sea, I could smell the salty air, and hear the waves hitting the shore.  We moved toward the sound until he put me down, and there we sat, my eyes still closed, with him behind me, arms around me, warm in the chilly night air. When he finally told me to open my eyes, there in front of us was the full moon rising just above the water, sending a shimmering path of light that ended exactly where we sat.


My first thought was “I HAVE to remember this!” So I tried to be really aware. I thought that if I focused on the moon with all my might, I could blaze it into my memory as it lit its path across the water. But then I realized that if put all of my awareness on the moon, I was missing the smell of the sea, the sound of the waves, and the warmth of Layne behind me. Awareness, the kind that leaves you full and radiant and connected to yourself and to life does require focus, but it requires equal amounts of openness and tender receptivity. I realized that if I relaxed into it, opened just enough to bring tender attention to all of what I was experiencing, I could take it all in. l am HERE, looking at the moon, I am HERE, smelling the sea air, I am HERE feeling the sand, the chill, the warmth. Senses open and receiving.


A focus that’s too intense stifles the experience, like when a child loves something soooo much they literally squeeze the life out of it. Focus that’s too broad doesn’t really let any one thing come into clear view – it just creates overwhelm. There needs to be clarity, not just ‘letting go’. There’s an element of focus, but there’s also a sense of patiently receiving…active receptivity.


One of the gifts of a yoga practice is its ability to make you more aware. This starts as an awareness of your physical body, but often grows to be an overall increase in awareness and receptivity. By cultivating your ability to actively receive, you become more aware of the gifts that are being offered to you in every moment.


Life is full of moments to savour. Is there anything that you’re focusing on so intetly that it’s causing you to miss other beautiful aspects of your life? Active receptivity is the place of union between focus and tender receptivity where your senses open most fully. It’s a state of being tuned up and ready to receive the gifts life has to offer.

© Julie Smerdon 2021

Photo:  Pete Longworth

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