September 3-5, 2023
“God is always showering grace upon us. But to avail ourselves of it and let it benefit us, we need atma-kripa, our own grace. …Divine grace is ever-flowing our way. To receive it, we must first open the closed doors of our heart. Hence, more than God’s grace, we must first gain the grace of our own mind.” -Amma
I wrote at length about Grace in the last blog. (The word Grace will be capitalized throughout this blog to highlight its importance.) As promised, finally, here is Part 2; Part 1 was only the set-up. In that blog, I set out to write about giving ourselves our own Grace, but it turned out there was too much background information to go over before being able to get to this topic which is, in Amma’s words above, actually primary.
Amma says “we must first open the closed doors of our heart” to avail ourselves of that ever-flowing Divine Grace (again, defined and written about at length last time). No problem; just open the heart! Did you do it? Then you’re good to go.
OK, we know it’s a process. We can open our heart one step at a time by loving other people, ourselves, Life, and/or the Divine a little more each day. Start with animals if that’s more doable for you. Then imagine how it would be if you were to extend the feeling you naturally and easily have toward your animal companions to other people, or yourself. See about extending that loving feeling without getting hung up and trapped by the mind’s many excuses of why it/you (seemingly) can’t, or—more likely—won’t! Sometimes, opening the heart is as simple as not taking our thought patterns so religiously seriously!
Opening the heart is maybe the “bottom line” way to give ourselves our own Grace, but since that might take a while, there may be other things we can do as well. There are so many implications and potential meanings of giving ourself our own Grace, as well as so many ways it could look.
It may be simpler (and shorter? probably not!) to start with how we keep our heart closed, thus more or less effectively blocking the flow of Grace from reaching or entering us. I’m confident that everyone reading this far can come up with a good list of how they do that, so saying a lot here isn’t necessary. However, knowing what not to do often is helpful in informing what to do. Let’s see if we can investigate our own unhelpful ways of being—without self-criticism, which would thereby throw up even more blocks!
From my own experience, extremely effective ways to block Grace were hating myself, or even simply doubting myself and my capacities, as well as doubting my own Goodness and sincerity. Anything less than heart-felt and innocent self-love cuts off the Grace quite well. Even simply doubting my “worthiness” to receive the Grace, it’ll just “float in the ethers,” quite unavailable for my use.
Those are fairly extreme examples—and all highly—effective! Yet we don’t even have to go to such extremes to keep Grace at bay, though the pusher mentality thrives on extremes. On a milder level of “self-closing,” I often wonder how many people are fully living their own highest ideals. Certainly we can always do better but are we at least sincere and regular—ideally, constant—in our efforts?
If I’m not making daily efforts to live my own highest ideals and to Realize, Know and experience whatever is the Highest that I believe possible, Divine Grace won’t be here since there is simply no need of it. Conversely, if I’m committed and regular in my spiritual practices and efforts to live a loving, introspective and giving life, then, of course, Divine Grace will be constantly “at my disposal.” Grace goes where needed and requested. I wrote briefly about this in the previous blog.
My short list of ways that I can give myself Grace follows:
On a purely material level, most of us know by now what is best for us to eat, and we know what sleep schedule works best for our bodymind. Those are relatively simple ways we can potentially give ourselves our own Grace.
Given current events at Loving Kindness, purposeful and diaphragmatic breathing is a wonderful and easy way to give myself Grace. Purposefully relaxing something inside, even just a little bit, is, as well. Feeling (actually feeling) what is happening is also helpful. Being the witness to what I’m experiencing while allowing it to be that way, for the time being, without fighting it gives me Grace as well. Being curious and interested in the Reality of What Is in the moment immediately showers Grace (and faith) on myself.
Along these lines, acknowledging and actually feeling pain that’s there is a surprising way to give myself Grace. It’s easy to see that act as Grace if we contemplate the opposite: consciously or unconsciously avoiding feeling any pain—or even ignoring the fact that it is present—will definitely withhold any Grace from flowing. Laying a mental trip on myself: “I should be different,” or “the other person should be different,” or “the situation should be different”—all these thoughts will painfully suppress Grace.
Again, loving myself is key. If I don’t, I’ll easily tolerate a lot of unnecessary shit from myself and others, which, if it won’t block the Grace outright will make it so that any Grace that gets through has so much more “work” to do. Equally important to loving myself but maybe more “subtle” is simply appreciating what I do. I can give myself a “Good job, me!” or self-thanks for my efforts, without being overly proud or self-indulgent about it.
Related to the above is the practice of allowing myself to feel adequate to the task at hand, whatever it is, or at least to not let myself feel inadequate to the task. It’s OK and even necessary to have some degree of Self-confidence and Self-trust to live life. Whatever I choose to do, or whatever the Divine “assigned” me (in one way or another), I can assume I have the inner resources to do the required job. This applies to everyday activities and the process of Self-Realization as well! If I don’t believe it’s possible, it’s not. If I feel it is, I’m giving myself a healthy dose of grace.
For those of us on a deliberate spiritual path and practicing daily, feeling that my practices will work, are working and have been working is very important. I not only need to do my practices—another form of giving myself my own Grace—I also need to have faith in them. I need to trust that they will do what they are said to do; I need to not doubt them while I’m engaged in doing them. That being said, it is likely that just doing them will lead to them proving their effectiveness in time if we are sincere, grateful and humble—which are also ways of giving ourself our own Grace.
I’ve found if I really focus the mind, what feels like Grace flows more strongly. Maybe that’s why the teachings are arguably all designed to quiet and focus the mind. Once that occurs, Grace flows, which allows the mind to be more focused, which allows more Grace, which allows more one-pointedness, which allows more Grace…. The result of that snow-balling process is powerful, transformative, “enlightening” and enjoyable.
Relatedly, as a devotee, really feeling my prayers (one teaching that Amma and others have given) is extremely important and helpful in giving Grace to myself. I can kind of focus the mind, or I can kind of mentally “pray,” but then I’m not fully utilizing and cultivating my innate capacities toward the Highest Good. Basically, if I want to “phone in” my practices, fine. It will have some effect, but if I really want to give myself Grace, doing it with one-pointedness, interest, feeling and care will speed me on the Path.
Ultimately, it also helps to have faith in the teachings and in the Grace of the Divine. We start that process with what would more accurately be called belief, but in time, as we get personal experience, belief unfolds into faith. And if we don’t have faith in the Divine or in the Grace of the “Divine,” keep reading. More on that below.
To give myself my own Grace, I need desperately to keep practicing whatever it is I am or have been inspired to practice. If I’m dedicated to at least showing up in yoga classes, then I keep doing it. If I’m not practicing daily, or most days, maybe I only want to give myself small doses of Grace, if any, rather than the larger amounts that accrue through practice. If I have lapsed in my practices, even if I’ve done it many times before, I can keep restarting, over and over again, as many times as necessary! All these are ways to give ourself our own Grace.
And if all that seems too difficult or takes too much time, at the very least, I can practice gratitude and cultivate compassion for others and for myself as well. Compassion=“to suffer with.” Can I suffer with other people who are suffering? Can I lovingly suffer with myself when I’m suffering? Grace will flow to the one who can and does. Compassion, though having an element of pain in it, feels better than whatever form of non-compassion we indulge in if we are willing to compare honestly and deeply.
One final thought—especially for the “atheists,” but for the doubters as well (which if we’re honest should include everyone!). We can take this discussion a step further and assume—or play with the idea, even for a moment—that there is no “divine” Grace or source of “divine” Grace, that nothing from the outside is going to help us. If that is case, or if that were the case, then it behooves us even more strongly to “take matters into our own hands” and give ourself the Grace that we would be hoping would be coming from the “outside.” If there is no Loving Source, and no Higher Beings who help the suffering, then I had best be the one to give
Grace, to myself and to anyone else I can!
May it be so! Do it now!