Wednesday, June 29, 2011

saying grace or grace sayings, whichever you prefer

Some others' thoughts on grace:
“Gracefulness has been defined to be the outward expression of the inward harmony of the soul” William Hazlitt

"Grace is the absence of everything that indicates pain or difficulty, hesitation or incongruity.” William Hazlitt

“I want peace. I want to see if somewhere there isn't something left in life of charm and grace.” – Margaret Mitchell

“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace - only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.” – Anne Lamott

“You are so weak.
Give up to grace.
The ocean takes care of each wave
till it gets to shore.” – Rumi

“To be able to live peaceably with hard and perverse persons, or with the disorderly, or with such as go contrary to us, is a great grace.” -Thomas À Kempis

“We're all stumbling towards the light with varying degrees of grace at any given moment.” -Bo Lozoff

“All men who live with any degree of serenity live by some assurance of grace.” -Reinhold Niebuhr

"Whatever we are waiting for - peace of mind, contentment, grace, the inner awareness of simple abundance - it will surely come to us, but only when we are ready to receive it with an open and grateful heart." Sarah Ban Breathnach

And some thoughts from Will & Grace

"Coulda, shoulda, Prada!"

"You say potato, I say vodka."

"It's the oldest story in the book. Boy meets girl. Boy wants girl to do dominatrix film. Girls says, "Naked?" Boy says, "Yeah." Girl says, "No way." Boy says, "Okay how about you just wear this rubber dress and beat this old guy with a scrub brush?" Girl says, "How hard?""

Monday, June 27, 2011

what I learned about grace

I learned a number of things about grace on the call this month, not the least of which is that I'm not the only one who struggles with the definition of grace being religious, or being hinged on god or some other higher power. (I was hoping some of my more religious friends and family would join in, but, alas, they were sorely missed.)

I chose to adopt one caller's understanding of the Buddhist perspective on grace, which she summed up as "being ok in the moment with things just the way they are now." That simple definition became the building block on which we anchored much of the later discussion.

As we talked, we decided that "being ok" wasn't quite thorough enough, and we identified other qualities that must be present in order for grace to arrive: awareness, mindfulness, acceptance, love, gratitude, and authenticity. Because authenticity is such a strong value of mine, I discovered that part of why I have seen grace as "living in alignment with my values" is simply because grace requires me to be authentic. It's kind of a chicken-and-the-egg thing. Was I authentic first, and then grace descended? Or was grace descending, and I authentically met it?

When we are out of grace, we are in more of a reactionary and less of a responsive place. Which, if you think about the dancer metaphor from the earlier post, makes sense. Reacting is all elbows and stomping; responding is flow and acceptance. We also realized that there is no such thing as too much grace, or negative grace. Sure, there's the condescending form of the verb ("he graced us with his presence") but we kept that benediction synonym out of the discussion.

We looked at the three graces in Greek mythology -- the goddesses of charm, beauty, and creativity. (Not an in depth look, mind you. Just one that was charming, beautiful, creative, and short.)

We looked at the i-Ching and what it has to say about grace, namely that it is a vision of possible perfection, and that in the state of grace one should look within and enjoy the pleasure of being in a pretty perfect place. However, there should be no grasping of that vision or perfection. Grace is kind of like that bright shiny thing in the Abyss -- you can't force it, it only comes when you're ready. And bad things might happen if you try to force it.

We also looked at purpose, and how purpose relates to grace. I feel, in many ways, that it is my purpose on earth to help people find their own ways to grace. To experience that acceptance, love, authenticity, flow, and general well-being that accompanies grace. The danger, though, as warned by the i-Ching is that the state of grace should not be shaped into something else. That it is meant only to be what it is, and nothing more.

Except, maybe, a short little piece about what I learned...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

how grace (as in moving) is like grace (as in being moved)

I've been thinking about people who have the ability to move through space with agility and not crash into things. Or people who can take a dance class and not look like a robot made entirely out of elbows. Or people who glide rather than stumble. Or people who can employ their bodies in such a way as to enhance their appeal rather than just dragging them along because they're stuck in them.

And I've noticed some similarities between those graceful people and people who are full of grace. (The other kind.)

1. Graceful people stretch.
It's not sheer luck that those glidey folks have a strong relationship with their bodies. Many of them work on that connection regularly, and part of that is stretching. Reaching past themselves towards others, or towards greater fulfillment. Or simply reaching out, away from themselves.

2. Graceful people don't flail.
I'm noticing my tendency to emotionally flail. So much so in the last few days that I'm getting exhausted by it. One day things seem perfect, the next they seem to have fallen into the toilet, and there's only my bare hand to pull them out. To fill myself with grace, I have to curb this tendency. I'm struggling with it (which is causing its own flailing, no doubt), but am finding that focusing on the present moment and letting go of judgments, shoulds, and other thoughts is helpful.

3. Graceful people have terrific alignment.
This is, to me, the core of the non-moving-around grace. It's finding an alignment between what I believe, what I value, what I love, and what I do. When I'm in that place, my metaphorical vertebrae are perfectly stacked on top of each other. When I bend over backwards or contort myself out of my "natural" state, I lose my grace.

4. Graceful people can choose to look ungraceful.
Grace is about choice. I can choose to live in alignment, or I can choose to allow myself to get out of whack. (Though, truth be told, I'm a little out of whack at the moment and it does NOT feel like a choice. So I have sympathy for those who say it's not a choice, while still believing it is. In fairness, I'm not always sure how to choose it.)

5. Graceful people star in movies with Fred Astaire.

6. Graceful people radiate light.
They make it easy to be around them. They will adapt to the circumstances with ease and flexibility (because they stretch) and they shine.

In both senses of the word, I aspire to have more grace.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

there but for the grace of June go I

It's a new month, which means a new set of qualities to explore; this time it's Grace, Transcendence, Presence, Patience, Honor, Peace, or, for the purposes of simplicity, Grace.

Now, I'm clumsy. I bruise easily, and sometimes act like a cat with its whiskers cut. It also just so happens that falling down is a family pastime, so when I say "grace," I'm not talking about the ability to move through space without bumping into things. Nor am I looking at the kind of grace you "say" while sitting around a table drooling over your mashed potatoes. I'm looking at something more internal, something quiet and gentle that combines the human/alive elements of presence and patience with the spiritual pieces of peace and transcendence.

Many people see grace as having a relationship with god or some other higher power. And to some extent I agree with those people -- any time I connect with the best qualities in myself, I feel like I'm aligning with the best parts of the universe. But for me, the experience of grace is very personal and is very much within my own ability to control. When I speak or act with heart, I feel grace. When I live in alignment, I feel grace. When I rely on the fortitude of my own convictions, I feel grace.

A lot of my definition of grace as a quality has been shaped by a play a friend of mine wrote that I saw performed a couple of years ago. Simply titled "Grace," my friend Sara Thigpen's play was one of the most beautiful and moving pieces of theatre I've seen in a long time. Though many of the details of the storyline escape me (all these years later) I remember seeing situations that called on women in difficult positions to soldier through -- but to do so delicately, carefully, lovingly. The play was so full of genuine care, love, and dedication, it made me want to know those women, to have them care for me. And that's the kind of energy I want to put out there in the world.

An old boyfriend of mine once told me he felt I was the tree under which he could take off his skin and sit in the shade of my love. And that feels like grace. The creating of a safe place, a shelter, a haven; I think those take grace.

Grace takes optimism and effort. It takes alignment and intention. And I'm excited to give those this month to find out more about it.

How do you define grace?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

what they say about wisdom

The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.- Kahlil Gibran

You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.- Naguib Mahfouz

Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something. - Plato

Without courage, wisdom bears no fruit.- Baltasar Gracian (I have no idea who this person is, but I like that his name looks suspiciously like "Battlestar Galactica")

A short saying often contains much wisdom.- Sophocles (very meta, that Sophocles.)

It is characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.- Henry David Thoreau

The great teachings unanimously emphasize that all the peace, wisdom, and joy in the universe are already within us; we don't have to gain, develop, or attain them. We're like a child standing in a beautiful park with his eyes shut tight. We don't need to imagine trees, flowers, deer, birds, and sky; we merely need to open our eyes and realize what is already here, who we really are -- as soon as we quit pretending we're small or unholy.- Bo Lozoff (again... sounds like a phony name to me, but I really like the quote)

By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest. - Confucius

Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom. - Thomas Jefferson