Living In Grace

I finally realized last week that living in Grace is a powerful state to exist in. It’s powerful and mysterious, defying our known logic on many levels, yet being (to me, anyway) almost tangible enough to taste, smell, feel. So yes, it’s a powerful, magical state that is not easily defined or understood. But I’m going to try.

For starters, I found that the internet has little to nothing on the description of grace as a state of being. Curious. The closest description I could find, was, of all things, in a Christian description. That alone tells me something about our culture.

Here’s what I first found on the net that came close to making sense – “(in Christian belief) the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings… a divinely given talent or blessing.”

Unfortunately, the old internet doesn’t spend ten seconds on “the state of Grace.” Instead, it tries to sell us on Grace as something found in movies and book titles, or something you call a powerful foreign leader, as in “your Grace.” To say I’m disappointed is an understatement, and it fires my desire to get to the bottom of the real meaning of grace… what it is, where it comes from, how it manifests itself and why it manifests in some peoples’ live but not in others.

I’m not a Christian, yet the Christian meaning of the word is the state of being I’m trying to pursue here. That would indicate (to me, anyway) that the spiritual Christians thought about this stuff a bunch, enough to put words and explanations into this state of being. Hell, if one didn’t know better, one might surmise that the Christians first discovered the state of Grace. But I know better.

I finally found what I’d been looking for on the internet under Divine Grace. Well well! Here it is – While many schools of Buddhism emphasize self-discipline and effort as the path to enlightenment, something akin to the concept of divine grace is present as well. One of the most prominent examples of this is the doctrine of the Jōdo Shinshū branch of Pure Land Buddhism, founded by the 12th-century Japanese monk, Shinran. In Buddhism, the concept of “merit” refers to the power of good karma built up over time through meditation, effort and spiritual practice- in Japanese, “Jiriki,” or “self-power.” This merit can be transferred to other sentient beings by a spiritual adept or bodhisattva, motivated by compassion for all beings cultivated through attaining bodhicitta. So you know, a bodhisattva is “a spiritually heroic person who works to attain awakening and is driven by a great compassion.” Attaining bodhitcitta is “the mind that is aimed at awakening, with wisdom and compassion for the benefit of all sentient beings.”

Finally! I’ve thought all along that an understanding of the state of grace had to be present in the Eastern religions and philosophies. After all, that’s where I got it… from the Buddhists. But I learned last week that understanding the concept of the state of grace is far different from understanding the power and the magic of it!

My dear one, Betty Johnson, drove down to Seattle last week for a friend’s birthday party. She came home with stories of how so many of her pals were talking about their problems… problems with relationships, with health, with money, with the perceived emptiness in their lives. It sounded to me as if no one at that party was happy, content, upbeat. For some strange reason I imagined myself talking to a person like that, and suddenly realizing the vast difference between us… I was happy, content, and they were not! I was healthy, and they were not. I was interested in them, while they were interested only in themselves, and their perceived miseries. What was the difference? And then I knew! I was obviously living in grace, and the other person wasn’t! It was at that moment that I understood the power of Living In Grace!

As I’m sure you can tell, I’m having difficulty explaining this to you properly. It’s commonly known that when one uses too many words to explain a simple concept, then one is doing something wrong, and perhaps doesn’t know what they are talking about. It’s frustrating that this is hard for me, mostly because it’s so important. I guess one way of explaining the importance of living in Grace is to show that when there is Grace in your life, you have virtually no problems, or don’t see some elements of your life as problems. Every day life seems easier, often effortless, and the problems you do encounter have simple solutions. When this wonderful state of existence continues for months on end, then years, it’s totally human to start taking it for granted. I’m sure that many, maybe most of you are living in the state of Grace, and don’t realize it. I know I didn’t. And even if we did realize it, who has the time to dig into it, try to understand it, find out why it’s even happening to us? Well, I guess I do.

One of the true beauties of living in Grace is we don’t have to know it or understand it. Having the time and desire to understand it, however, is a luxury I appreciate, and I do want to try to understand it. Understanding it won’t enhance it or make it go away, it’s just my need to satisfy a curiosity that I don’t have control over. These days I have an appetite for trying to understand how many intangibles there are in our world that seem to power us on a tangible level, and the state of Grace is probably the best, most important one.

It seems (to me, anyway) that Grace comes to us as a result of several elements of our lives that we have had control of… 1. Living a good and honest life, which leads to good karma. 2. Having and nurturing an inner sense of integrity along with an awareness and compassion for others. 3. Having or developing a more peaceful nature, rather than an aggressive one. 4. Living in the moment, with Purity Of Intent. These elements, I think, are the building blocks to a life lived in the State Of Grace.

But Grace, in Betty’s and my life anyway, comes with far more than simply happy times and carefree days. It also brings us an inner smile, and an inner strength to take each new day as it comes, with the will to handle our struggles and physical difficulties with quiet courage as to not burden those loved ones around us. That has become important to us in our later years, and whatever the source of Grace might be, it recognizes that in us and treats us accordingly. As I said, it seems magical. Even when we have a difficult day, or occasionally a difficult week, we usually smile at each other and, “Well, Mercury is obviously in retrograde.” And, hope, positivity and love seem to spring even from difficulties when we live in Grace.

I have found that to learn to have no expectations, to keep things as simple as possible, to accept life as it comes every day and to hold to the concept that everything in this life is perfect at every moment, even though our brains scream that this isn’t true… those ideas seem to be the foundation of good karma, which is a blessing in itself. A simple example of that? Sure. My Betty has lived such a good life, has done so much for others, has raised her beautiful family and continues to help and support them. She has, over the years, built up a powerful karma, which shows itself in the strangest ways sometimes. For seven years now, she has often been the last, or second to the last car in line to get on the ferry. Only once did we miss it by a couple of cars and had to wait for the next ferry. Not very impressive? Maybe not, but it’s tangible proof of an intangible power that follows B in her daily life. It has happened way, way too often to be written off as shit luck. I have even dared her karma to come through, several times when we’ve been in the ferry line. “I’m pretty sure this line is too long, We’re going to have to wait for the next ferry.”
She just smiles and says, “Maybe.” Then we always make this ferry. Always.

So yeah, I admit to being maybe a little freaky about some of the intangible powers, such as love, compassion, purity of intent… and of course all of the arts – music, painting, photography, writing, and the crafts that they inspire, like pottery, glass-blowing, weaving, knitting. All of these products that we take for granted began with an idea, an intangible notion that we brought into the tangible world and made beautiful… and useful.

To me it’s almost ironic that the Christians had a good handle on Grace, even though they attributed it to God. I don’t know where Grace comes from, exactly, and I don’t really care. It’s quite enough for me to have discovered the power of Grace in my life, in Betty’s life. Now that we’re aware of its presence, I know we’ll never take it for granted again. Yet another one of those magical gifts that keeps on giving.

Steve Hulse

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