From Transformative Love to Taking Ourselves As the Object of Love, Sangha’s inquiry and discernment came full circle in 2018. During our final practices in December, we reflected on our year of learning together, naming what we felt inspired to rededicate ourselves to individually and what we collectively felt drawn to study in the season ahead.
The thread weaving through our experiences and aspirations was the celebration of awareness and the desire to diligently cultivate it where it was absent and to nourish it where it was blooming.
For me, the lessons of the Fall had brought me into a deep exploration of Grace. I kept returning to a phrase that my cousin had shared with me a year or more earlier, “You don’t have worry about rationing that which God has already set apart for you.” I didn’t know the full context of the sermon she had taken this note from, but it suddenly sprouted up in a conversation with another good spiritual friend. So I immediately reached out to my cousin who then shared a link to her pastor’s sermon, Grace: How To Be What You Can’t Earn (to view the full sermon, start at the 51:00 mark).
After watching the video, my curiosity deepened with the realization that, beyond saying grace over a meal, I didn’t have a fully-developed understanding of Grace, as is taught from a Christian perspective. In my practice of Buddhism, I have never encountered a sutra or dharma talk about this particular concept. Which is not surprising, for how would a non-theistic religion articulate the notion of Grace being bestowed through one’s relationship with God?
Still I was compelled to follow my curiosity, which is always leading me toward an embodied understanding and practice of my questions.
I turned to the Bible’s Hebrew roots and learned that Grace is derived from Chanan, meaning an encampment, a refuge, a dwelling place (here’s a second translation I read). In this I had found a thread of connection for dharma practitioners:
Just as the brahmiviharas — compassion, sympathetic joy, loving-kindness and equanimity — are divine abodes or dwelling places, I clearly recognized Grace as a divine abode. I now understood what the Christian teachings I’d explored meant by the explanation that Grace couldn’t be earned. It is an organic emanation of our relationship to awareness in the same way as it is an emanation of Christians’ relationship to God.
We dwell in Grace whenever we dwell in awareness.
It is a sacred space of being, of trusting, of resting.
Magically, within two weeks of sharing my contemplation with Sangha, a good spiritual friend spoke a prayer over me for deep restoration and referenced a scripture that become yet another golden thread in my growing tapestry. One particular translation— “learn the unforced rhythms of grace” — inspired my personal season of contemplation and has become the mantra Sangha returns to in our collective study of The Grace of Awareness.
This guiding contemplation for 2019 invites us to enter into (or renew) a relationship with awareness by establishing ourselves in the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.
It begins with the observation of the body, wherein the breath awakens our clear understanding of its suchness (functions, positions, activities, impermanence). It moves through observation of feelings, of mind/mental formations, and of perceptions/dharmas.
To fully live into The Grace of Awareness, we are moving with an intentional pace of steadiness and ease directed by the unforced rhythm of breath!
FOR CONTEMPLATION + PRACTICE