Thursday, February 21, 2013

The many faces of grace…

In speaking with a number of you over the last few days, I’ve been reminded of how exhausting our efforts can be to organize our lives around the experience of certain feelings and emotions, and the avoidance of others. Especially for spiritually-oriented people, the "awakened me" project can drain so much from the preciousness of a life of embodied immediacy, chasing this or that conditioned state or high, convinced that the freedom our sweet hearts long for can be found in an experience. We want more peace, less fear, more certainty, less sadness, more joy, less anxiety, more bliss, less conflict. We want so desperately to be the spiritual people we know we are, riveted in the "higher" consciousness, free of conflict forever, free of a "self," gone beyond the personality, untouchable by love and all of its vulnerability and groundlessness. 

We are quite sure that if these so-called “negative” experiences are there that something has gone wrong, that we have somehow failed life, that life has failed us, that something must be done, that we must do whatever it takes to scramble back to the spiritual feelings, “high” states of consciousness, “divine” experiences, and so forth. We marvel in our great fortune when certain feelings or "states" are present, calling out in anguish when others are there, wondering where the grace has gone. We feel conflict and we go to this or that spiritual event and then feel nice and are quite sure, ah, finally, the grace has returned. And then wake up the next morning sad or depressed or anxious or “unspiritual” and there we are again, knowing for sure something terrible has happened. Where is the next spiritual experience? What have I done wrong? We then go searching into the soul’s library of feelings, hoping to reserve and check out one of the good ones. 
some point, though, life has something else in store for us and we fall heart-first into the groundless, uncertain sweetness of this fragile, precious human life, which will without any doubt be ending just around the corner, whether that corner is 30 years away or later this afternoon. And sadness can be there, or emotional pain, or confusion, or depression, or heartache, or just an overall sense of feeling low or down. And in just one moment we can look up into the sky, take a walk, look into the eyes of someone we adore, or feel the tender heart beating in the center of our chest – and breathe in and out of it a few times… we can touch the mystery of this life and marvel at the sacred truth that we are here, that love has taken form as this very body. 

It is possible that for just one moment we can pause, and consider that the spiritual journey might actually be about something other than me and my experiences, me and my frenetic exiting of immediate experience to get into some other “state.” We can entertain the wild and crazy possibility that the journey might instead be about falling on the ground and thanking this intelligent, creative, love-infused universe for giving us a precious human body and the senses to love and touch another; and perhaps open to a spirituality constructed around gratefulness, humility, and the most utter radical love of *this* state of consciousness, right here, exactly as it has been given. It is not that we have to pretend to like or enjoy or have fun in response to what is there, but it is possible that we can come to see it as a portal, as a unique pathway of grace, inviting us to discover the mystery of grace in all its many faces. 

In this way, we make a radical commitment of kindness, that no matter what appears that we will reach out and touch it directly, we will hold it and take the risk that intimacy always, always requires. We set aside our habitual tendencies to transcend or heal or change or transform our experience, and we go right into it, we become so curious, we give everything to become intimate with all that we are. And we can just be sad, or confused, or a total failure, without needing to replace our experience with something different. Somehow the “me and my spiritual experiences” project is let go, even for just for a moment. And then whatever thought, feeling, emotion, or sensation which arrives is embraced as a sweet friend from beyond, there to show us something very precious about the true nature of love.

Photo credit: Fresh snow, Maroon Bells near Aspen – by Andy Cook