In the long haul, grace will win out over everything, over the misery, the stupidity, the dishonesty.
Anne Lamott shared these words on Facebook in early November, 2016. As I write, this November, and what will become that November. The November of unexpected outcome and fierce resistance, a time raw with dread, and ripe with questions.
On the day after the election, I had several yoga students ask, How do we deal with this? What is the source of solace, beyond coming to a yoga class? It took a meditation for me to come to my direct and simple answer. Grace. The word came to me, yet I needed a whispering in my ear. Words from a wise one, a wise one with a sense of humor and humility. My first thought was to pour over my yogic scriptures, and try to remember which one might have the balm of grace as a touchstone.
The Bhagavad Gita, to be sure. Not being attached to the outcome of action clearly relates. Seeking the perfect lines from the Gita, I Googled it. Bhagavad Gita + Grace. The only reference I found related to being in the Lord’s grace. Yes, but not exactly the flavor of grace I was seeking. I wondered what books I might find on grace. Then “grace” as a pure and simple word came into my mind. Didn’t I have an unread copy of an Anne Lamott book on my shelves? And isn’t its title Grace? I really couldn’t recall. When I went to my book shelves of tantric and yogic scriptures, my gaze went right to the book–Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith. Not a bad day when my work is to read inspirational words (whispers in my ear) to fortify my writing a newsletter.
For some of us, the outcome that was the election of Donald Trump is far from a celebration. For us, the outcome we expected upon waking up November 9 was a far different scene than what we got (and what so many other people are celebrating). Damn, we wanted to celebrate. But that was not the outcome. What if, rather than be attached to despair we did celebrate? Celebrate our God-given Grace?
See, sometimes, if you’re lucky, you get to a point where you’re sick of a problem, or worn down by tinkering with it, or clutching it. Letting it go…buys you some time and space, or maybe freedom and humor sneak in–which is probably what you were praying for all along.
First, let me be clear (after writing about “God-given” and “prayer”), I am not Christian, that is not the God I personally celebrate. Lamott is Christian, and I do believe her context therein is a brilliant reflection of yogic studies. When you’re sick of a problem and choose to let go, freedom may be found. This recalls Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 2:16, Suffering which has not yet come should be avoided. The present suffering has to be undergone and finished with. Okay, well how do we finish with it?
I remember so, so many times I did not finish with it, did not choose a vantage point of freedom from suffering. (My sincere apologies to anyone besides myself who got sick of my suffering and my choices.) What is the Buddhist concept, one arrow, ten thousand arrows? We have the initial sting–oh, hell, devastation–of a particular outcome, that’s the one arrow. The original zing. But so often we continue to feel showers of arrows, sometimes countless ones, sometime zing, zing, zing. It’s a karmic choice, by the way. We can actually, with mindfulness and maybe a dose of pure awareness, choose to not let those extra arrows sail out of our bow of intention. We can choose instead to let fly arrows of…grace. Where to find grace, not anguish?
A few prescriptions for grace:
- There’s always meditation. Always. Yours for the sitting. If you can only muster or imagine sitting for five minutes, those minutes are accumulative. If you don’t know where to start with meditation, there is, of course, an app for that. The free Insight Timer has lovely loads of free, guided meditations.
- Sit down with a cup of tea, or your favorite beverage that makes you feel cozy, cared for. Relish the sensation of your hand wrapped around a warm mug and, and the familiar flavor. Tea is an excellent choice, because it has the feeling of being welcomed in, invited in to sit down with, in Richard Miller’s words, conversation and tea. Discover comfort.
- Gratitude. It’s a cliche, but one that is never time-worn. For instance, right now I choose to be grateful for how my fingers glide around the keyboard. Too subtle? Not at all! Just feeling and seeing my fingers fly around, knowing exactly the next key (step). I’m grateful for the ability to craft words to share.
- Look at something else other than the original arrow of suffering. It might be a thought (I really look forward to going to yoga today), a word (“thank you” are great non-fighting words), or action (get out in nature). The point is, look, and open your heart to it.
- Hold whatever you hold sacred, sacred. If you don’t have a belief system, or faith, or tradition, hold your partner sacred, a cause, or even your pet. There’s that cup of tea. Just imagine whatever it is that makes you say to yourself, “Nothing can stop me,” and follow the path of that arrow. There is something sacred to you. Wrap yourself in that, see that in you.
- See that in others. All others. We don’t get to pick and choose who is sacred, who is divine, because we all are. In my tradition, Sri Vidya, we are all of the divine, we all are the divine. It can be really hard to see that in some people or situations, but if we choose that as a sacred practice, a radical acceptance, we just might find grace.
What is your life-line, what can you throw yourself into whole-heartedly?