01.12.2006

Everyday Grace

Relationships counsellor Dr Charmaine Saunders saysthat wonderful state of grace is within our reach. Wejust have to want it and seek it out.

Growing up as a strict Catholic, the word "grace"always has a religious connotation for me. We speakof "the grace of God" and "being in thestate of grace", both expressions meaning to bein spiritual favour. This is something I assume we allwant and actively seek, especially NOVA readers! I nolonger am a Catholic, strict or otherwise, and yet Iwish to live my life in and with grace. There must bea lot of people who share this sentiment so how do wedo this outside the confines of established religion?I'd like to share with you a few possible - and achievable- avenues.

LIVINGIN GRACE

Integrity
Without honour and honesty, there can be no grace. Buthonesty doesn't only entail telling the truth to others- it's much more about self awareness and self acceptance.With these come liberation of spirit and a life of truefreedom. I believe that the true secret of happinessis not power, love or wealth - it is freedom of choice,of heart and of mind.

To be free, one has to be true and that requires moralstrength and courage - other words for grace.
It may not be possible for human beings to be "lie-free",but motive is a key factor. For example, if you lieto spare someone's feelings, that could be a good thing.It isn't about doing right all the time - it's moreabout knowing your own heart and living by your ownmoral code.

Dignity
Another well known expression is "grace under fire",meaning finding strength in the face of adversity, conflictand struggle. Of course, we try to minimise these difficultiesin our lives but sometimes, they can overwhelm us whenwe become distracted or complacent. We find ourselvessuddenly or progressively drowning in trouble. Whereonce there was solid ground there is now treacherousterrain. There are many possible responses. I alwayssuggest to my clients that the natural human responseis the best initial reaction - screaming, crying, raging.But when these subside, detachment is the required state,stepping out of the emotion of the situation and seekingout the eye of the storm where calm reigns. Then quietsolutions can be found.

Challenging times
2006 has been a testing year for many. I read that it'sa year for facing up to karma, dealing with things we'verepressed or refused to face. For some, it might bein the financial realm; for many of us, it's with relationships;yet others have had to face health issues and addictions.When life throws you challenge after challenge, it'slike being dumped by a series of huge waves. Beforeyou can catch your breath, you're riding another crisis.It's pretty hard to be graceful when your arms and legsare akimbo, your mouth is full of sand and your head'sunder water. A sense of humour goes a long way towardscoping in these situations. The other beneficial strategyis to look for the lesson. There always is one, andwith it, the opportunity to grow, heal old wounds andimprove the future.

LIVING WITH GRACE

Relationships
To have grace within any relationship is probably themost difficult of all because it involves a factor outsideyourself which you cannot control - that is, the otherperson or group of people with whom you're interacting.We're all different though we're all the same. It'sin the little things that we differ and these are theareas which cause the most conflict - how you hang upthe washing or squeeze the toothpaste at home, how youkeep your desk or do your job at work. Just the factthat you're alive can be irritating to somebody.

Acceptance and tolerance are the only answers to thisdilemma. If we practise these, we are more likely tobe offered the same. Not judging or criticising is thebest path to grace when dealing with others. To comeonly from love and focus on the positives in those aroundus, to be generous with praise, to overlook slights,to rise above petty concerns, to forgive - these arethe paths to grace.

Spirituality
Grace, like so many human aspirations, comes from withinand to be in touch with our inner beings, we need tohave an interior life. To lead a graceful life, seekout pursuits that promote this - meditation, yoga, taichi, communing with nature, playing with children, followingyour bliss, relaxation, silence and stillness. Lifestylein general is very important and within that framework,balance. There is no grace in busyness, in stress andin strife. Conflict takes us away from our peacefulcentres. The Desiderata says - `As far as possible,be on good terms with all persons.'
Promoting harmony is proactive. It comes primarily fromquietening the mind and not looking for opportunitiesto debate, argue and dissent.

Lifestyle
Stress is part of everyday life and must be managedand kept to a minimum. It's very debilitating and damaging;if allowed to run rampant through your days, it willwreck havoc in every area of life - relationships, health,sleep, work, wellbeing in general. Yet, if harnessedand utilised, it can be a great ally and asset. Stresscreates tension and tension is anything but graceful.A sublime existence is possible where there is desirefor it and self belief to achieve it. Keeping your mindfocused on the positive prepares the ground for a fertilelife. Positive life is a choice, stemming from a glass-half-fullphilosophy. It isn't about saying everything is wonderfulall the time; it's choosing joy even in the face oftragedy, the stubborn insistence to find the gem insidethe manure.

Love
Love is the ultimate grace, even in the standard religiouscontext. To be in God's grace is to live with love,not the romantic kind, which is actually very narrowand limited. Love with a capital L is the type thatbuys grace. It is spiritual love, universal love thatis all encompassing and inclusive. It knows no bigotry,no racism, no discrimination, no hate, no violence,no envy, no anger. Yes, it's possible! And not onlypossible, but effortless when you find this love inyour own heart. Then it's totally easy to share it.It is not governed by any rules other than the law ofthe Universe. Just be free and happy, relaxed and trusting- therein lies grace, bringing all its inherent giftsalong with it.

Grace around us
All these techniques lead us to grace, but there isalso a passive approach. All spiritual roads are travelledby simply letting go. There is no climb, no huffingand puffing, just surrender. Allowing is a very powerfultool. Once that's mastered, finding grace is as naturalas breathing. Too hard to be forgiving, non-judgemental,caring, unselfish, truthful? Then just sit quietly withyour natural, graceful self.

Think of all the graceful things you can visualise- a bird on the wing, a skater on the ice, the turnof a ballerina's head, the shivering flower, the heavenlysounds of a boys' choir, a playful puppy, a baby lyingpeacefully asleep. These images remind us of our higherselves, lifted up from the mundane, the petty, the dailygrind of routine and chores. Yet there is enormous gracein the bent body working on the land, the sweeping movementsof a broom, the plunging of hands into dark earth.

We are surrounded continually by grace and so, thereis nothing difficult or rarefied about this quality.It is only uncommon because so few of us seek it.

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