Ask, Receive, Give

Remember, the conversation between you and your horse must never be dull or inert. It should be, ‘Ask, receive, give. Ask, receive, give.’ Ask with your body and legs; receive through your body into your hands; give primarily with the hands, but also with your body and legs, so that you can ask all over again, receive again and give again. The give is your thanks. If you don’t give, you must ask harder the next time, and even harder after that, until you end up with a dead or resistant horse.” – Sally Swift

The sport of horse riding provides innumerable life lessons. The late Sally Swift, horse trainer and author of the contemporary training manual “Centered Riding,” suffered from scoliosis as a child. She wore a back brace for years but was finally relieved of it when she discovered The Alexander Technique, a method of re-educating the body and mind towards greater balance and integration with special reference to posture and movement.

Rather than bemoan her lot, she made the most of it. In fact, in one of her newsletters she wrote that scoliosis led her to centered riding. What she learned in handling her disease opened the door to many of her life’s greatest contributions. While I do not believe that pain is always necessary to gain, I am convinced that any experience or limitation can be out to productive use. Sally Swift’s life was a remarkable testament to this possibility.

The sequence she advocated at the base of everything she taught: “Ask, receive, give…” is the very essence of how limitations are transformed from negative to positive. You cannot “ask” clearly when you are feeling victimized by a limitation in capacity or in circumstance. Complaint or blame shuts down the creative process and therefore traps the mental, physical or emotional energy which would naturally flow toward a solution. The key to asking is found in relaxation, in liberating the flow rather than constricting it.

Even if you ask properly, you run the risk of running afoul of the creative process if you do not receive appropriately. Receiving is a means and not an end. If the goal is to gather more and more unto yourself, you will eventually flood the engine. If, however, you recognize that receiving is what allows you to give more amply, then you support the flow, rather than blocking it.

Giving, that is, relaxing and releasing, is what permits eternal progress. I love the definition of giving Swift offers: “The give is your thanks.” It is breathing out. It is a recognition of the culmination of a cycle of “ask, receive, give” but it is also an acknowledgement of the coming cycle, the one you’ve just participated in establishing, which always casts it shadow on the present.

12 thoughts on “Ask, Receive, Give

    1. Gregg Hake

      I found the same with my hawk, Lexi and find the same with my cockatoo, Lolly! Even our little canary likes to share in a little discourse on occasion. I’ve found animals in general to be eager to engage in conversation. That said, I don’t own any turtles.


  1. Colin

    This is a very important principle to understand. It seems like the ask component is an integral part of the receiving. I think that many people are embarrassed to ask for what they need because they are made to feel guilty for getting and for having things. However, when you see that giving is also part of the cycle, it makes it so no shame need be involved. There is no need to suffer in shame if you need something that you do not have. But to neglect the rest of the process makes for a stunted experience.


  2. Steve Ventola

    This is another pivotal post for greater living. If taken to heart and heeded this opens the way to live a victorious life with whatever limitations a person may be facing. Many thanks for your words today.


  3. Thank you Gregg for bringing Sally back into my awareness. I love this quote from her but I want to put it back into the horse riding context. What I learnt from horse riding was the need to be in the flow between myself and the horse, the allowing, the openness. When I didnt receive what I had asked for, I knew I was endgaining in some way. When I didnt give I was somehow restricting the giving, only allowing the “gift” to be received in a pre-conceived way. Horse riding was the ultimate lesson in gripping. How do I do this in my life?


  4. Ricardo B.

    This elegant cycle assures the balanced distribution of energy if taken to heart. I’ve become more and more convinced over the years that our lives and all the people and things in it are valuable to the degree that their purpose is centered in the contribution to the greater good. Of course, that’s been well agreed by most people so it is nothing new, but if you were to see how much follow through there has been on this belief, I think alot would fall flat.
    The cycle you describe here helps to assure that the greater good is the constant aim. It’s a good point of reflection in our lives if we wish to be whole and find lasting fulfillment, for it’s not in acquisition but in free distribution that we find who we really are.


  5. Strawberryfield

    There was an expression when I was a kid, “give ’till it hurts ” I’ve always thought it should be, “give ’till it stops hurting”. Giving like many things is a habit. Always thinking of yourself first, I’m sure, has many motivations; possibly fear, greed or just plain lack of concern for others but the end result is the same, a constriction of the flow of life. As the basic understanding of how that process works and nourishes everthing, habitual behavior will still have to change. If the default is thinking of youself, then particularly when under pressure, deliberate thought to give can begin to change the default behavior. I think this is the mechanism through which blessing flow into everyone’s life. One of life’s basic tenets.


  6. Kolya

    This is really a terrific analogy for life. It is so important to learn that there must be a balance in ask, receive, give, and that the whole process can’t work out unless you have all of these aspects.


    1. Gregg Hake

      Developing the sensitivity to knowing what and how much is required is important. Whether it is in the heat of the moment or the cool of the day, that awareness comes only to those whose hearts are untroubled.


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