“Grace is always present. You think of it as something high in the sky,
Far away, and has to descend. It is really inside you, in your Heart,
And the moment you merge the mind into its Source,
Grace rushes forth, sprouting as a spring from within you”
– Ramana Maharshi
“Grace” is such a simple and beautiful word that tends to lighten our mood and inspire us. Regardless of our spiritual background, it evokes a felt sense of something that has been here all along, in the background of our awareness, arising more explicitly in our transitions and transformations. But what, exactly IS Grace?
Grace is direct experience of Divine presence coming alive from within. When this occurs, you feel connected to the source of real love, clarity, peace, strength, and joy. Life is meaningful, because you remember that you are within and are part of.
Grace is more than a lofty state that fills your heart with gratitude. It is the key to gaining traction on the spiritual path, ending the search, and finding true fulfillment.
Opening to the Grace within you ends the struggle, transforms your suffering into wisdom and supports you to embody your highest potential in this world. Most importantly, it helps you to become more mature and responsive in these times of tremendous change and uncertainty across the globe. You become a more graceful human being.
Grace comes alive through surrender which occurs not through trying to annihilate your ego, but through a practice I call Ego Relaxation—learning to be open and undefended with all parts of your experience. I have come to see that Grace has four dimensions or ways that it comes alive. Each dimension has a particular way of helping you let go, dissolve ego obstacles, and allow your luminous true nature to shine forth.
Relax into the GROUND of Grace:
Consider how you emerged into this world, how anyone came to be here, how the oceans and mountains and plants came to exist. Something primordial, intelligent and beneficent is pulsing through us all. You cannot see it with your physical eyes, and yet, the evidence is everywhere, animating all things. This is the underlying Ground of Grace. It is the cause of your being and all being. Recognizing this as your fundamental ground makes it possible for your ego, fear, control, judgment, and all of your complicated history to melt, just like a hard chunk of ice can naturally melt in the warmth of the sun.
Recognizing you exist within a ground of Grace allows these dense forces of your ego to melt into a mountainous presence within that gives you total support to be right where you are. This is what allows your mind to quiet down, your heart to soften open. This empowers you to BE WITH the important themes of your life with curiosity and compassion. The ground of Grace gives you the support independent from external sources, in which to greet change and uncertainty, while resting inwardly in That which is never rocked and does not change. This dimension of Grace asks you to learn how to stay present and undefended with your direct experience, surrendering the need to improve, fix, reject, or re-arrange it. This is how you surrender into the Ground of Grace.
Receive the BLESSINGS of Grace:
Consider the most precious gifts you have been given in this life: perhaps your children, meeting your beloved partner or best friend, or the conditions that led to finding your spiritual teacher or path. Perhaps you found yourself in a dangerous situation, but instead of it ending in disaster, you were mysteriously shepherded from harm. Perhaps you experienced an unexpected setback in your life plans, but in retrospect, you see it was really an important course correction. Did you “earn” or “deserve” these gifts, or did they mysteriously arrive from beyond your ego’s efforts? Rumi describes it thus: “Something opens our wings. Something makes hurt and boredom disappear. Someone fills the cup in front of us.”
Just as you naturally receive the light of the sun each day, you can consciously receive a shower of loving light that nourishes and claims you as its own. You may sense this as beneficent beings pervading your inner atmosphere, or simply feel it as what the great philosophers Plato and Dante called the “loving goodness” that underlies all life. Either way, receiving the blessings of Grace makes you feel deeply grateful. It helps you to drink the blessings of simply existing: allowing your heart to be pierced open by a beautiful sunset, the scent of a rose, the sweetness of bird-song, and the joy of beholding someone you love smile. Receiving the blessings of Grace matures you into greater trust, humility, patience, and joy. It brings boundless love, joy, and peace back online as the depth of your own heart. This ends the spiritual poverty of lack that drives the agitation, depression, and rampant materialism of our times. Receiving the blessings of Grace helps you relax, be content, and enjoy the precious gift of life.
Open to the TRANSFORMING POWER of Grace:
Grace does not stop at placating your troubles and helping to fill your inner cup. It wants to transform your suffering into wisdom and bring you all the way home into the full embodiment of who you truly are. Just as a waterfall bridges one dimension of earth to another, flowing gracefully over tough terrain while dissolving or bringing new life to everything it touches, Grace is the living presence that goes to work on you, flushing out to the light of awareness whatever might be limiting your full freedom.
It asks you to stay present and open your heart toward all of your experiences, including the hurt, anger, and suffering that you have not been able to meditate away. Instead, to inquire into the root of your obstacles—whether undigested traumas or ancestral or karmic patterns—and open, soften, and allow the mystery to act upon us. The transforming power of grace helps us deal honestly with the tough terrain that every human life encounters at times—the betrayals, the hurts that are hard to come back from, our suffering, and the suffering of others.
We must play our part, looking honestly at what needs our attention, and be sincere as we engage the time-tested spiritual technologies of forgiveness, compassion, unwinding ego identities, and unconscious material. All the while, recognizing that we do not do spiritual transformation. When we relax the interference, it mysteriously finds us. For true forgiveness to heal our hurts and cleanse us of error, shame, and blame, we need Grace. For compassion to become real, not just a nice concept, we need Grace. To unwind the limiting identifications that create the repeating patterns in our life, we need the living water of Grace. Truly, it is what helps us cross over from limitation to the unending shore of freedom.
Live the EMBODIMENT of Grace:
Consider the possibility that your body, heart, mind, and all parts of your human vessel are much more than they seem. What if you were originally designed to be a Grace delivery device? A human fountain from which the living waters not only recirculate all the qualities of your essential nature but also overflow to spiritually hydrate our world?
The whole point of all spiritual endeavor is not ultimately just for some of us to have a happier time of things but for there to be more spiritually mature, grounded, wise, and loving human beings in every country, in every boardroom, and in every home. Becoming a more graceful human being as we walk through daily life in these challenging times invites us to continue yielding our plan for the plan. This will mean continuing to surrender anything that binds your precious life force into self-centered patterns and behaviors.
To stabilize our inner realization so that we can be gracefully responsive rather than reactive it in the minutiae of ordinary life requires that we cultivate equanimity, learning to rest in awareness while opening our heart to all of our fluctuating emotions and challenges, just like the sky allows for all kinds of weather. We can be moved into graceful action when we pray, sensing and listening to the deeper intelligence rather than leading from ego thinking to navigate through everyday challenges. More than ever, we need to integrate rather than demonize our animal humanity so that we all may become a more potent presence of love and wisdom in this world.