Every moment is a slice of the extraordinary phenomena that is life — find grace in each and every moment, the beautiful and painful alike.
This moment is so amazing. You cannot believe how extraordinary this moment is.
The ways grace can reveal itself are wide and vast. Think of the moment when Moses saw God in the burning bush. This was a moment of tremendous grace. When Moses climbed that mountain, I do not imagine he had any real idea of what he was going to find. Suddenly a great vision of a burning bush appeared, and from that moment on, his life was irrevocably altered. He came down from the mountain bearing a gift — a new vision of life, of reality, and of God. It is the same with the Buddha’s awakening beneath the bodhi tree. I do not suppose he sat down and thought, ‘Today’s the day!’ Grace has an element of surprise. Because it is unearned, it feels as though something’s been bestowed upon us; easy or difficult, we can be available to it, but we cannot directly bring it about.
There are other forms of grace. A friend who has two children talks about how the birth of his first child changed him forever. He had never imagined in his wildest dreams that he could experience the depth and quality of love that he did when that baby was born. It reoriented his life. It was so powerful that before his wife gave birth to their second child, he wondered if he could have the same extraordinary vividness of love. It seemed incomprehensible that it could happen again.
That is real, life-changing grace.
There is the grace that happens when things are not going well at all, when we lean into the unknown and receive something profound. I have found when something does not go the way you imagined it would or wanted it to, if you are truly available to what is happening and to the way something is going, you can open and respond to grace. The trajectory will begin to improve, and you will turn a corner and find something you had never dreamed of.
Then there are the seldom-acknowledged moments of grace — things like the gift of waking up in the morning (even if some mornings it may not feel like a gift) and taking a breath, stretching your arms, feeling your heart beat. It is an unprovoked grace. It is not happening because of anything you have done, as you have not necessarily merited that your heart is beating and your lungs are breathing and you can feel the palms of your hands.
This extraordinary, overwhelming mystery called life is a gift, and all we need to do is receive it.
There is another part of the experience of grace that is not talked about often: what it means to return what has been given. Grace is a two-way street; it is a gift that is received, and it is a gift that seeks to be given. We receive grace only to give grace, and the more we give grace, the more open we are to receiving it. It is like a circle that can complete itself only when we find some way of embodying or expressing our moments of grace. If we do not do this, if we are only consumers of grace, we may spend a lot of time waiting for it, not seeing that to be able to offer grace — our time and attention, a moment of consciousness, of true availability, of heartful and affectionate awareness — is to embody grace.
A gift of grace I’ll never forget was given to me by my fourth-grade teacher, Dr. Vogel. He was a wonderful man, and he may have been the first Buddha I ever met. He was truly an enlightened being. That year, we had to give speeches in front of the class. It was supposed to be a one-page speech, no longer and no shorter. When my turn came, I was nervous. I had never done something like this before. I walked to the front of the classroom, put my piece of paper on the lectern, and looked out at the other students. Their eyes were riveted on me. I panicked to such an extent that when I looked down at my speech, I could not make out the words. My mind was so flustered and so shocked by fear that I could not read. This made my panic worse.
I looked up and saw Dr. Vogel at the back of the classroom. He was a roly-poly guy and had his hands folded on his big tummy. He wore the widest, most beatific grin. He smiled with such joy and love that it was a transmission — his consciousness into mine. His sense of ‘okayness’ reached me, as if he were saying…
He smiled with such joy and love that it was a transmission — his consciousness into mine. His sense of ‘okayness’ reached me, as if he were saying…
“Kid, this moment is so amazing. You cannot believe how extraordinary this moment is.”
There I was in a total panic, yet his expression was telling me that this moment was perfect. I looked at his face and could feel what he was feeling. I could feel the energy of his confidence come into my body and fill me up like a balloon with air, and when I looked at my piece of paper again, I could read the words. But I did not read that speech. Instead, I looked directly into the eyes of my classmates, and I began to speak spontaneously. I talked for about ten minutes, and it was so easy and delightful that I was over the moon with happiness and well-being.
Ever since that moment, I have been able to speak in front of people, no matter how large the group, with ease and a certain degree of confidence. It is the reason I can do what I do as a spiritual teacher, even though I am a shy person by nature. I owe it to Dr. Vogel in fourth grade. He transmitted grace to me. I can imagine a lot of other adults would feel uncomfortable if they looked up and saw a kid panicking. They would panic for you. Dr. Vogel did not do that. He grinned at me, not because he was trying to help me, but because he knew that everything was okay.
He knew in the depth of his being that this was a glorious and fantastic moment, and he beamed that truth from the back of the room — a wordless transmission of grace.
I have reflected upon this many times, not only because it was a moment of grace for me, but because he was offering grace — the grace of his certainty of the goodness of that moment and the goodness of me. He had total and absolute confidence in me, even as I panicked. We could all use somebody like that in our lives, couldn’t we? Whether we have someone like that or not, we can all find grace within ourselves and become conscious of the way we can be emissaries of grace: humble, not overbearing, and not insisting. We each have our own moments of grace; it is not a spiritual thing, and it is not restricted to moments of revelation, although it includes those.
There are many times in life when we may feel graced, and there are endless opportunities to bring forth that grace and offer it to the world around us. In that way, bit by bit, we all become more sane, free, and happy.
You may also enjoy reading Psychic Ability: Claiming and Applying a Gift of Psychic Awareness by Jane Sandwood