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...