infinite grace / unwavering love / divine presence
When I wish to deepen my understanding of a concept, I may read and study about it, but I also frequently source my peers. I respect each individual voice as I receive reflections that affirm my own beliefs, encourage me to release barriers, and inspire me to gently stretch.
This month’s topic of conversation is grace.
It is a joy to share these reflections with you. As you read through, may you absorb all that resonates and release anything that does not.
My idea of grace is beauty (not just physical beauty, but inner beauty, beauty in nature and spiritual beauty). Grace also means to me being able to handle myself in difficult situations with dignity, understanding and forgiveness.
How does grace feel in your life?
Grace adds a little “sparkle” in my life during those moments when I am open to Grace. I find grace in moments when I play with my cats; spend time with my niece and nephew; see a rainbow, a meteor, a winter starlit night; the way the trees “glitter” after a fresh snowfall; a beautiful sunset and so much more.
Do you have practices to cultivate grace?
I remind myself to stay in the present moment. To notice the beauty around me. To remind myself not to judge situations or people and to pause before respsonding in haste and anger in a difficult situation. I remind myself to look for the good in people and most situations. When I find myself straying out of the present moment, I take a deep breath and take note of my surroundings.
How might one apply grace as they move through the world, creating and connecting?
Notice the beauty around you. Be in the present moment. Don’t judge others and situations-we don’t know what drove someone to be homeless, to be a hoarder, or why someone was not as friendly at the store, bank, etc. We all have things going on in our lives-our “behind the scenes story” that no one knows about. Respond to those people with kindness and you will experience grace in your day when you realize you may have made someone else’s day.
I believe grace is everywhere. It’s there for us to connect to, at any time and in any place. It is the universal good, the light, the love we have in common with every living thing. It is the state we are able to exist in continually, although we usually don’t! We forget. We believe stories that tell us we have to work hard, to earn a place at the table of grace. At the table of life. We don’t think we are good enough or smart enough or pretty enough. Or even more sadly, that we have enough.
I lose my connection to grace, too. Often. It seems to be part of being human, no? So, to bring myself back into that precious state, I create in some way. Sometimes it’s painting, or cooking a nice meal, or doing a visualization for a client – all of these begin to bring me into grace. If I’m feeling really removed, though, I strap on my camera, leash up my dog and go for a walk. Even in the grey of February, there’s life to be found.
A bud sneaking up through a tangle of vines.
The ivy seeking out the sunshine on the graphic, shadowy bark of an huge old tree
The gold of the last few seed pods hanging in the light.
It all reminds me that no matter how dark, how cold, how estranged from the world I feel, it’s always generating life. Love. Grace.
Grace is gratitude, compassion, love and remembering what we’ve always known, all wrapped up into one beautiful package. All we have to do is open it.
What does grace mean to you?
When I think of Grace, it makes me feel teary and awe-filled at the same time.
As I was contemplating this question, I wondered: when was the first time I became aware of grace? I do not recall feeling it in my childhood, or teenage years. No. I think the first time that I fully realized the magnitude of grace was when my beautiful Pharoah hound, Angus, was dying. I was not ready for his death, and so each evening when I thought he was going to pass, I would beg his spirit to not leave me. He lived on in this way for 6 months until he was just bones, could no longer walk or eat. He waited until I was ready for his death. That is when I learned about the depth of grace. I have not forgotten that feeling, or the gift Angus gave to me.
How does grace feel in your life?
Grace is a continuous celebration of the bounty of life, without becoming attached to it. It is the ability to experience wholeness with unwavering lightness of being. When I experience myself in states of grace the small self dissolves as does the fear. It is the emotional experience of the universal power, of God/source. But most importantly, it is what lies at our center when we allow our smallness to fall away. Within this bounty, I fully appreciate the bad days as much as the good days. I know that we must use every experience that comes our way as a gift.
Do you have practices to cultivate grace?
I have certain principles that I live by and I think they all are part of the stream of consciousness that we call grace. I practice kindness, love, gratitude, compassion, patience and so on. I know myself well enough to know that I am a good person and just this simple knowing creates space for me to be a good and loving person to others without expectations or an agenda. If I forget I remember Angus and his unlimited love and grace that allowed me to face his death.
Grace, to me, is the acceptance of what is, at soul-level. It’s surrendering the resistance and letting what happens happen without trying to control or manipulate the outcome, which, in essence, we can’t really do any way. It doesn’t mean not working toward a positive end, but rather accepting, with thanks, whatever comes of the effort, and allowing that gratitude to continue to guide us forward from there. It’s the injection of love as the primary motivator in our actions and our reactions.
Cultivating grace comes through the habit of loving response. We know when we’re in the presence of a graceful person – we can just sense it. It’s because that person has cultivated loving response in daily life and radiates that love. We feel drawn to connect with people who are graceful, as being with graceful people makes us feel more energized and happy. This is why grace connects – because if fostered, it’s contagious.
10 years ago my marriage was about to end. My focus had become too much on me and on what I needed. My wife and children were somewhere in the background. It took the shock of seeing what I loved becoming so unhappy that startled me into changing.
But somehow Mary Beth’s heart was touched and she gave me a second chance. Through her grace, she saw the change too. Today my life is full of promise, hope and love all because of grace – life-giving grace.
There are days when it’s easy to be an optimist.
These are the days in which your relationships are harmonious, when your work flows smoothly and according-to-plan. And all the while, you’re acutely, beautifully aware of the many blessings that surround you.
On days like this, I readily believe in grace. And, in the words of Byron Katie, “Grace means understanding that where you are is where you always wanted to be.”
And then there are … the other days.
The down days. The days that start with you over-sleeping, or maybe waking up bone-weary. The days when you come home to a house full of fleas or mourn someone you love.
On such occasions, I struggle to believe in grace.
I am an optimist: I believe that love wins, that “beauty will save the world,” that there is an indestructible spirit within us all. (At least, I believe this most of the time.)
But life, as you know, has a way of testing those beliefs.
This past week has been a time of medical procedures here at the McGraw house. A few days ago, I went in for my long-awaited scar revision, which went beautifully (thank you for your encouragement). And today, I took our kitten, Bootsie, to the vet to be spayed.
Since the procedure is operative, she could have no food after 9pm the night before. I also had to take away her water first thing in the morning. This was a real challenge for me.
Taking away my pet’s sustenance — even for a short time, even for a legitimate reason — was difficult. And, of course, it was made more so by the fact that she had no idea why I was taking her food and water away.
When I scooped her food back into its bag, when I poured her water into the sink instead of into her dish, she looked at me with confusion and bewilderment in her big eyes. It was easy to see what she was thinking.
If I had to translate her gaze into English, it would go like this: What are you doing?! This is NOT how things are supposed to go! This is not our routine! Why are you taking away instead of giving?
And it made me think: How many times have I asked the same of God?
On my darkest days, I have asked: Why do you seem to take away instead of give?
In caring for our cat today, I experienced one of the more dreadful aspects of love: the fact that it can’t always answer when asked why.
Strange as it may sound, my heart ached at not being able to explain my actions to my cat. How can you explain to an animal that deprivation of basic necessities can fall within the realm of love? How, as a caregiver, do you explain necessary actions that appear heartless?
You can’t. You just have to be gentle with the one in your care. You just have to stroke your animal’s fur and carry them to the vet, or hold your beloved friend’s hands in yours as they undergoes an excruciating-but-essential procedure.
You have to summon courage and do the necessary thing, though it makes you want to weep.
I’ll pick up our cat from the vet in a few hours, though, and I can guess how it will be. Whenever I come back for her, she is always happy to see me.
And that’s the final secret, I believe. She can’t help loving me. I’m her provider, her caregiver. As long as I keep showing her the best possible care, she will trust and love me back … even on the bleak days, even though she doesn’t always understand my actions.
And today, I can’t help but think: there’s a great deal of hope in that.
And, that, my friends is a ‘wrap’. Thank you all for collaborating with love!
I have written several articles on the subject of grace. My most recent is “28 Days of Love: Grace“.
- What does grace mean to you?
- How does grace feel in your life?
- Do you have practices to cultivate grace?
- How might one apply grace as they move through world, creating and connecting?
If you would like to join in the conscious conversation, please leave a comment below and/or please join me for this month’s complimentary telecall on grace. For more information about this call, and to register, simply click this link: Facets of Joy: Grace (telecall).
Please note that pre-registration for “Illuminate Your Heart Whispers: 30 Days of Love Prompts” is now open. I wished to move through grief with grace, so I asked over 20 of my peers to “dare me to open to love” beyond what I know, and they did. One piece alone is fabulous, 30 pieces together offer a depth and range that is indescribable. I hope that you choose to journey together!
Much peace and abundant love,
Reminder: Linger. Savor. Relish.