Living From Grace
Grace is always present. It is within you, as the heart.
The moment you let the mind drop into the heart,
Grace rushes forth, sprouting as from a spring within you
~ Ramana Maharshi
On New Year’s Eve 2008, I sat in my new sanctuary in California meditating – reflecting on the year that had passed and listening inwardly for insight into the year to come. In the silence, a rush of non-specific joy burst through my whole being, accompanied by an inner explosion of light and a great sense of celebration. Then I heard inwardly, loud and clear as a bell: “2009, Year of Grace.” I was not inebriated at the time, and nor do I usually get terribly excited about new years.
It was a sense of being invited into the a whole new and more open field of Presence – one awash with sparkling light and possibility for something very new. It felt way beyond just a spiritual gift offered to me personally, but rather, like an opening of and for the collective. My heart said YES – a big yes for us all.
What is Grace?
A Course in Miracles says that ‘Grace is acceptance of the Love of God within a world of seeming hate and fear. Grace presents a state so opposite to everything the world contains, that those whose minds are lighted by the gift of grace can no longer believe the world of fear is real.’
Grace is the spiritual dynamism that bursts forth as a direct taste of our Oneness. We feel it in those spontaneous moments where we are deeply touched and moved by something that words cannot do justice to. In these moments we know, not just conceptually but in the very fibres of our being, that life is Sacred, that we are all holy beyond measure, that God IS.
Grace is what all spiritual practices are designed to open us into. When we experience what truly is, we don’t have to work so hard to ‘learn’ spiritual truths, direct revelation unfurls a deep knowing from within us of what’s Real. When we nurture rather than dismiss the grace, this inner experience can unfold into true understanding, and we begin to see beyond the usual constraints of ego perception. We get the truth of spiritual principles that seem to turn worldly thinking 180 degrees on its head.
Grace is the revelation that there is actually nothing but God. In grace our minds alight into the remembrance that none of our dreams and fears have real substance. Grace brings us into the awareness of our original true nature within the heart of The Absolute, and shows us that the world and all of its changing effects cannot touch the purity of who we are. To truly accept and engage with Grace is sufficient to profoundly pull the plug on that which scares us.
Grace underneath the appearance:
A ‘year of grace’ seems to directly contradict mounting evidence that internationally, we are in trouble. Every newspaper shows a similar picture: huge environmental crisis, continued AIDS crisis, two messy wars, and more recently, the collapse of world financial markets bringing us into a global recession. Ingredients that even the most inspired of our political leaders will have a hard time navigating through. It seems as if a giant contraction has occurred within the collective sphere, but perhaps though things are not as they seem. What if this is part of the grace? Maybe what is actually here is a giant collective spiritual opportunity – part of the great awakening.
Without dismissing the practical hardship that many people are presently facing, if we view the current situation from a spiritual perspective it is clear that we are being shown that there is no real safety and security in the world of things. Sages east and west have been saying this for centuries. The world, by its nature is impermanent and in a constant state of change and flux. True peace, safety and release can never be found by re-arranging our outer environment. The real resolution to our man made mess begins with a shift in our consciousness, and a willingness to find deeper ground in that which is ultimately true.
Align yourself with the Real:
All non-dual spiritual traditions remind us to attend to our foundations before we seek outwardly to resolve anything. To start from a truthful premise so that we might see clearly and thus organically discover rightful action. Ultimately, no matter what is happening, the true ground of reality is that who and what we are is indestructible, timeless and inherently free. Whatever is happening in our lives or in the world, at the heart of the matter, there is really only one problem – that we have become dis-connected with our True nature. This dis-connection, this forgetting of the grace that is always at our own core, is the root cause of all of the suffering, struggle, fear and malcontent that we experience. We usually try to deal with it by projecting externally and then trying to resolve it there.
Spiritual realization is not so focussed on trying to help us re-arrange the appearance of our lives, since it is the nature of the world to reflect our consciousness and shift and change about anyway. Whilst it is wise to make intelligent practical choices in how we handle our material lives, spiritually we are invited to turn towards the only true security and wealth we ever really have – the Presence of love and truth within us.
Grace lives us. Grace releases us
The focus in spiritual work is always on helping us address this core problem with the one and only solution that can truly liberate us from our suffering. That is waking us up from our dis-connection, that we may know our Self in our depths as we have always been in truth – pure, free, limitless consciousness – inherenly abundant in all of the boundless dimensions of God – love, peace, joy, awareness, space.
This waking up to deeper reality comes of itself by grace, when we learn to get out of the way.
It is grace itself, activated by our willingness, that can enable he knowledge of who we truly are to becomes dynamic within our awareness. With dedication, it can begin to really land in us, and thereby begin transforming all of our human faculties. Then it is possible for fearful patterns to begin unravelling in a deep and real way. When the inner seas of fear and grasping begin to part, the world itself is revealed as much less fixed and dense. We actually see directly that it is not real as an external thing separate from our own being. We begin to see that there is nothing separate from us at all. Grace begins to show us in the depths, that there is only God waking up to Itself.
When we operate out of our egoic identifications and structures, not only does peace and true happiness elude us, but our daily actions and choices further entrench our personal and collective suffering. What our world reflects to us is actually a wonderful opportunity for us to see more clearly the cost of living from our egos.
With grace deeper clarity arrives to helps us see more specifically where we get caught: how exactly we perpetrate our personal stories of fear, guilt, unworthiness and righteous defence? Then we can welcome grace to release us into forgiveness, deeper trust and surrender. The result is a soul more liberated from the root cause of selfishness and fear, an individual who is freer and more transparent a vehicle for remembrance of the Real to be naturally be felt and shared by everyone. This invitation to awaken out of our egos is what life is fundamentally for, and every one of us is invited to participate and thus be part of the solution.
Awakening usually happens in layers, for to totally drop our attachment to our egos and dissolve back into God is a pretty terrifying proposition to our ego shell. Who would we be and how would we function if we truly let the known sense of ourself significantly loosen? Call on the grace at your core to give you the courage to go there. We have all accrued many habits over the years that help hold our ego structures fixed in place, and so it makes sense to open to any help in this that we can. Learning how to work with grace can help us immeasurably.
Accepting Grace rather than grasping for it
Ramana Maharshi once said that enlightenment is ‘but a simple shift in attention’. In looking at grace – letting Divine qualities and knowing become dynamic from within us, it is vital that we not use our spiritual practice to try to ‘get’ grace, grasping for a mystical taste of oneness. Rather, that we shift our attention to recognizing the ever present nature of Divine love. Ramana also said that ‘our very being is grace’ – our very core is this living dynamism. That who we truly are and what God is – is not two. (This is what the term non-dual actually means).
It helps to turn our attention to the evidence for grace. It is easy enough: just talk a look at anything in your immediate vicinity right now, and consider where it came from? How is it here? Out of What did it come? Into What will it eventually disappear? To Whom does it belong? In What does it even exist? When we keep directing our attention towards the deepest source of anything, anyone or any object, we will eventually be guided deeper into true nature.
I was in Hawaii recently enjoying a beautiful day at the beach. The sun and sky was awash with light and radiance, and it was truly spectacular. In a naturally meditative state, that which I saw became so much more than what normally appears to be. Looking out at the incredible radiance of the sun, a passage I once read years ago in an esoteric Alice Bailey text came alive. It had spoken of the true nature of the sun as being composed of a million enlightened beings radiating the light of pure awareness as blessing to all on earth.
Whether this as actual truth or not – it graced me into experiencing an everyday happening in a way that became new cellular evidence of boundless grace and blessing unfolding into, around and as me. We have been so trained to think that a tree is a tree, or a plant is a plant, things are fixed and definite and separate because they appear that way. When our minds open to see differently, there is possibility to view everything as a blessing of Grace offering itself towards to evoke deeper remembrance of the Real. How we approach even the most mundane of things can take us there.
Activating Grace through open-mindedness
Grace is not something we can control, but we can prepare for it by cultivating deep open-mindedness. Space is required for anything new to grow, and only in openness can we hear deeper than our ego sense. In zen this is referred to as ‘beginner’s mind’ and in most spiritual teachings this is regarded as the primary requirement for receiving grace.
Cultivate open mindedness by cultivating an attitude of profound curiosity. Watch where you hold any fixed idea about anything. You will know where you are fixed when you notice yourself tensing up and needing to drive home your point when someone has expressed something that contradicts or challenges your view. Wherever you meet these places of fixedness within yourself, see if you can instead be curious and open, just as a little child would be. Ask questions of yourself, of others, and be willing to be shown something you did not previously know. In mystical Christianity this dynamic is known as ‘taking the second place to gain the first’. It is a stepping back from our ego identity, and allowing space for higher wisdom to teach you inwardly.
When our minds are open rather than holding on to any position, we begin to feel more comfortable sitting in the open spaciousness – something I notice most people find difficult or scary. This is what meditation is really all about. True meditation is actually a non-doing, learning to stop trying to interfere with reality. This feels confounding at first, as we have been so conditioned that it is we are the ‘do-er’ and need to make things happen. In reality it is The Absolute that lives us, and we can begin to experience this when we cultivate willingness to step back, allow space for divine intelligence to speak to us within the space, that we may be ushered somewhere new.
Invite your personal grapplings to meet Grace
We are so used to thinking of ourselves as separate beings, oriented through our ego, that sometimes it seems so difficult to step out of that centre. It is so important to remember that the ego cannot get enlightened. The only thing there is for the ego to do is relax, soften, and allow deeper intelligence to lead. This happens naturally when we nurture true desire: strengthening our soul’s resolve by cultivating deep love for God, deep love for the real, deep desire to know the truth of who we are above all else. This is real love. Love for love’s sake.
Then it is easier to more honestly and compassionately look at where we are caught in ego structures, and welcome grace in to those places. There is no need to grasp for what we believe would liberate us from our fear. Instead we can pray with sincerity our true desire, be curious about what seems to contradict our true desire, and allow the process to unfold as it does.
Once the realization of our Oneness begins to come alive, we do not have to reject or shut out places where in our human life where we might be struggling. Instead, I have found it most helpful to welcome explicitly our human contraction with to meet the grace of deeper knowing. Within the inner sanctum of our being there is natural renewal, and we can invite the hurts and fears we find it difficult to be with to take sanctuary in deeper Truth within. I usually find that when I stop trying to resolve problems myself and genuinely find deeper ground within, inviting the difficulty to rest there, new wisdom and understanding finds me. The way forward comes.
Why does it come? It is always there. Grace has never left you. Grace – the living dynamism of the love of God, has been with you all the days of your life. It IS you at your very foundation. Now is the time to awaken and live from that as your gift to the world.