When you're receiving a gift that doesn't feel like a perfect fit, resist the urge to think about what kind of offering you would have preferred, or to make the "You never know what I really want" move. Instead, consider that the giver might have had a loving intention, no matter how clueless the gift itself may appear.

3) See the gift as a blessing. The Sanskrit word prasad typically refers to the food offering that is made during a temple ritual and shared among the people in attendance. But in India, anything offered by a holy being or a devotee is considered prasad. When I lived with my guru, he would often give us little gifts, which we received with great excitement, because we recognized that they were filled with his blessings. Sometimes, however, the gifts were absurd: he once gave me a gigantic pair of foam-filled after-ski booties, made of blue nylon-based outdoor fabric with yellow cloth soles. Not only did they look ridiculous, they were miles too big for me. (And besides, it was high summer, when the last thing I needed was a pair of snow boots.) But it didn't occur to me to wonder why he'd given me something so silly, because I saw that his gifts were imbued with his unique spiritual energy. Though I didn't exactly walk around wearing them, I do still have them, and they always remind me of his kindness.

Try this practice when your friends and family give you presents at Christmas. Take a moment to feel the inherent holiness in the giver. You might even consider the ways in which the giver—your friend, your child, your partner, your parent—is actually a teacher for you, a kind of guru. This will help you look at the gift she is giving you as prasad, which is filled with the energy of blessing. Then notice how different the exchange feels.

4) Consciously open yourself. We said earlier that being receptive is a spiritual practice. This is especially important when what you want to receive is wisdom, love, or help from another person or from the subtle world. Sometimes, just reminding yourself to open up to whatever form love takes will let you receive not just the affection that other people are offering you, but the actual grace—the subtle, beneficial energy that pours through the universe. One way to practice this level of receptivity is to take a moment—right now, or any time—to breathe in and imagine that you are taking in the subtle energy, tenderness, and grace from the universe. Or, imagine that your heart is open like a funnel, so that love and energy can pour into it from the atmosphere. Rather than trying to draw in that energy, simply hold your heart open and allow that energy to enter as it will. Another way to practice making space is to try the mudra (hand gesture) of receptivity.

The great power of these four practices is that over time they will begin to seep into your being. By improving your ability to fully receive, you will come to notice how many gifts are being offered to you at every moment. The wind in the trees, a stranger's smile, the wagging tail of a dog will feel like personal offerings of affection, gifts of beauty and wisdom. Whatever you give back becomes part of that same dance, the dance of giving and receiving, in which we're all each other's partners.


Gestures for Receiving
Just as each yoga posture affects you psychologically as well as physically, these hand and arm gestures, combined with an inner intention to be receptive, can help you train yourself in receptivity.

The Cup
Form a cup with your hands, wrists, thumbs, and pinky fingers together, while the other fingers splay open.

Place your cupped hands against your mid-chest, over the heart center, with the sides of the thumbs touching the chest.

Close your eyes, and breathe with the sensation that the breath is bringing energy and light into your body through your cupped hands.

Opening Your Arms to the Sky
(A practice for taking in universal energy)

Standing with feet about shoulder width apart, hold your arms at your sides, about six inches from your body, with palms out. Your elbows are relaxed. With an inhalation, gently let your arms float upward until they form a wide funnel, fingertips pointing at the sky. The arms are relaxed. Your face tips upward.

Let yourself embrace the space, with the sense that you are opening to and welcoming in the energy of the universe.

Slowly draw your arm, with open palms, down the front of your body, keeping them about a foot from your body. Let your arms relax at your sides.

Repeat two more times.