For me grace in the context of spiritual awakening is the gift of our life force freely and unconditionally bestowed upon human beings. Every experience in life is a gift to us manifested by our feeling of just being alive and present. Everything in life is the gift of grace from the mysterious infinite consciousness we are. Our spirit of wanting to intimately know this life force as our very being, our deep desire to actually be the fullness of our life force expressing itself through our heart, is a gift of grace. Our willingness to surrender, again and again, to this deepest desire is our true joy. And our willingness to continually give grace away, is what allows us to realize the joy is always flowing through us, as us, with no beginning or end.
In my contemplative practice, I’m continually drawn back to particular phrases and verses. Each time I discover new implications from them developing new aides on the spiritual journey. One of these is from the 18th century mystic William Blake:
He who binds to himself a joy, does the winged life destroy.
He who kisses the joy as it flies, lives in eternity’s sunrise.
Blake is inviting us to love the joy while it’s here, even as it is always dissolving into new forms of expression. If we don’t cling to our joy, we can be all the more intimate with it while it’s here. Caught in the fear of losing joy, we are unknowingly obstructing its continual flow. Liberated from this fear, joy and freedom melt together as we kiss it all flying by.
Living in eternity’s sunrise is an invitation to live fully in the moment. Living fully in the joy of the moment without getting caught in anticipation of the next moment, is an expression of eternity. Eternity is not an incalculably long time period of time; eternity is beyond time, without time, timeless. This is the actual nature of each moment flowing simultaneously with all time and all space. We are always simply here and now. This becomes more and more obvious the less energy we put into clinging to our ideas of being separate from the flow of grace, from the flow of our aliveness as consciousness itself.
When we welcome the faceless tombstones of our personal attachments with the joy of our spirit of inquiry, our energies are directed towards our oneness with Infinite Consciousness. The more we do this, the more the grace of self realization is naturally allowed to saturate our awareness.
With Blake’s verse, we can substitute pretty much anything else we try to grasp and hold onto. This verse can be a profound teaching about holding onto power, love, money, suffering, self, pleasure, or personal free will. So we can say:
She who is bound to the idea of self, puts the winged life on the shelf. She who kisses self as it flies, lives in eternity’s sunrise. Or, She who binds to herself divine mystery’s will, reduces the winged life to nil.
Everything is flying by, the free flow of our experience is like a river, and we can never step into the river in the same place twice. Our very being, our awareness here and now is the river. I remember a story about a devotee of Ram Dass’s guru Neem Karoli Baba, called Maharaji by his devotees. He said that what was so amazing about Maharaji wasn’t that he loved everybody. After all, he was one of India’s greatest saints, so people expected that he love everybody. “But what was so amazing was that when I was in his presence, I loved everybody.” The power of Maharaji’s presence is so infectious because he has no resistance to the continual flow of grace, his presence simply is love.
Freedom, love, and grace arise together, and we gradually learn to embody them together. When we simply are love, we simply are freedom, we simply are grace, and we freely express them as we freely receive them. As aspirants on the path, we don’t need to try to become freedom and joy, or try to possess them. We simply need to pay attention to the unconditional love and freedom of grace that is always already here.
The cd Awake is now available, and I highly recommend getting it. It’s a movie/documentary about Yogananda bringing his Kriya Yoga teachings to the West from India. It’s very illuminating to see what’s changed, and hasn’t changed since he arrived on the American spiritual scene in 1920. Someone once asked him about Human Effort and Grace:
“In the history of religion there is a perennial debate as to which is more important: divine grace, or human effort. The answer is quite simple, and the masters have tried to convey it to people in their teachings. Man must do his best, of course. His best, however will be crowned with success to the extent that he realizes that it isn’t he, as a human being, who is acting, but God who is acting through him, inspiring and guiding him.
To think of God as the doer doesn’t make a person passive. It takes great effort of will to be receptive to him. The devotee must offer himself positively and joyfully into the flow of inner grace. The power that is in you is your own, but God-given. Use it; God won’t use it for you. The more you attune your will, during activity, to His infinite will, the more you will find His power and blessing strengthening and guiding you in everything you do.”