Sunday, July 14, 2013

Grace

I feel the need to write about grace. I had always wondered what it meant and knew that in the context of religious belief it was a state that was desired and sought after by many but attainable only by a few. I imagined it to be a state of purity and of peace at having found one's connection with God. Not being religious myself, I thought that perhaps it was something that I would never understand as only those who have been devoted to their God and have lived a pious life would have any chance of attaining it. But recently I have had a momentary flash of understanding, a small glimpse through a tear in the curtain, of what a state of grace might feel like.

For as long as I have been self-aware I have been searching for a state of serenity. I envied people who seemed to be comfortable in their own skin as I never did. I always felt awkward in my body, agitated, gauche in the company of others and unable to really relax. Inside there was an empty feeling that seemed impossible to fill, a feeling of incompleteness, which I tried to fill with food, cigarettes, alcohol ...  Those things only worked for a little while. But even so it took me a long time to finally accept what I knew deep down which was that, if I wanted to attain that state of serenity I was looking for, I had to stand alone without my crutches. It took me a few years but as I threw each one away I felt more empowered, more liberated and more myself. Although I had struggled with these dependencies for many years, deep down I always knew it was possible to be free of them because I realised that I hadn't needed those things when I was a child, so therefore I didn't need them as an adult either. The idea of a return to a semblance of that childhood state was a great motivator, as was the promise of being able to breathe deeply, to smell the plants after the rain and to sing again, things I had always loved to do.  But one thing I hadn't anticipated was this feeling of calm centredness, as though more of me were present, occupying my body more fully. Another noticeable thing was the gradual disappearance of the aching and stiffness in my chest which were replaced by lightness, ease, laughter and, more and more often, joy.  I began to understand why people said that life was a gift.

I believe that in some way, by giving up my crutches, I had allowed myself to reconnect to some essential aspect of my nature. I choose to believe that part of me is my soul or what some people refer to as the higher self. It is the eternal, wise, loving, unlimited part of me. It is my divine self that knows it is one expression of a greater whole that can be called God. It is the part of me that remains aware of its unlimited nature and its connection to the whole while another part of it experiences limitation in this physical body, in this three-dimensional world. I see the body as a container for this spiritual aspect and in turn the brain is a container for the mind rather than the source of it. In this limited state we are climbers at the bottom of the metaphorical mountain and however high we climb in this life we never reach the top where the ultimate truth of existence lies. But with each corner turned we orient ourselves a little bit more, understand better our place relative to everything else and every now and then the views are breathtaking.

Reconnecting to one's essence or divinity is the reason for meditation (conscious connection) and sleep (unconscious connection). In both cases we achieve a state that is beyond mind. In the case of meditation we quiet the mind in order to consciously access a state of deep awareness. The thought patterns are observed in a detached way allowing the meditator to become aware of programs they have running. The mind is an exceptionally creative tool but at times it can be a harsh critic or even a cruel torturer. Becoming aware of unconscious negative programs that we may have had since early childhood is incredibly enlightening and liberating when we are able to see them for what they are - memories of things said to us, perhaps by parents or teachers, that we repeat over and over again in our minds - and choose not to identify with them. These pieces of advice or criticisms given to us "for our own good" are taken literally when we are young children and we grow up defining ourselves by them. Being told as a child that you are clumsy or stupid or hopeless at maths or just bad in general stay with us into our adult years and, unless we have a strong determination to prove these people wrong, we may live our lives believing we are no good and therefore never reach our full potential. Realising that we have these programs allows us to decide if we want to continue to believe them or release them and choose to believe something else about ourselves. We can then set about developing a new talent or ability that we didn't know we had.

In this way we are using our mind as a tool to create the reality that we desire. With our minds we can visualise ourselves living the life we want: entertaining friends in the beautiful house, sailing the ocean in a sleek yacht, travelling the world with someone we love, getting that perfect job, being fit and healthy with a body we are proud of, being surrounded by a happy family...  Visualising what we want is the first step in making it happen. The next step is to let it go, know that it is done and follow the signs that lead you to its manifestation on the physical plane. Signs such as the person you meet who gives you some advice (positive only, ignore the naysayers), a book or article you find with some information, some action you are inspired to take. Believe it is yours and follow your instincts. Sooner or later you will find yourself in that place you desired to be.

But what if you don't? What if you wait patiently and follow the signs and act when inspired to do so, study, read, listen. You meditate and connect to your higher self for guidance. You eliminate the beliefs that don't serve you and you feel grateful for all the blessings of your life. But still what you desire eludes you. What then?

Although we are powerful creators, sometimes we are unable to create the circumstances we want. To understand the reason for this we need to go back to the metaphor of the mountain. From our position on the lower slopes we are unable to see very much. Only from the top can we have the benefit of a complete view of the world. With our human brains we have only a limited understanding of ourselves, our lives and how we fit into the big picture. Therefore, sometimes the things we desire, if we were to create them in our lives, might not be for our highest good at that moment in time. Or if the thing we desire impacts the life of another person or people, our desires must be in harmony with theirs for the situation to manifest. As an example, we might want to be with a particular person but, since we cannot override the free will of another (nor should we want to), we have to respect their wishes if they decide they do not want to be with us. Accepting that we do not always know what is best for ourselves requires a degree of  humility. We may not understand at the time but in hindsight, after some time has passed, we often see why we did not get the thing we thought we wanted at that particular time. Things have a way of working out for the best in the end. As we get older we can see how true this is. With experience we learn to trust, let go of the reins and allow events to unfold in their own time.  We relax, breathe easily, open our hearts and surrender to living harmoniously with the natural rhythm of our world. For me, this is living in a state of grace.











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