What is more comforting than friends, more attentive than a lover, more healing than good health, more awe-inspiring than the most beautiful music, more precious than diamonds, more brilliant than sunlight and more joyful than happiness? For many people, it is grace. But what exactly is grace? It is easy to recognize, but difficult to define. The word grace has many meanings, including beauty, elegance, charm, mercy, flow, harmony, and divine love.
Grace is the experience of appreciation, unconditional love and creative flow when you are in harmony with yourself, with others and with the power that creates the cosmos.
Today, the simple definition that pleases me the most is: grace is the experience of awe, gratitude and unconditional love when you are in harmony with yourself, with others and with the power that creates the cosmos. It is the harmonious integration of your body, mind and spirit with the way of nature. Grace is the spiritual freedom that arises when you realize that life is a gift.
From this awareness you seek to live in harmony with the power that creates the cosmos. From this friendship arises a profound feeling of happiness as well as spiritual, emotional and mental freedom. For years, I have sought to find a simple, elegant definition for grace. (Below, you can see a list of various definitions that have occurred to me throughout the years.)
Like a graceful figure skater, a person living in grace aligns body, mind and spirit with the world. A figure skater knows her body’s strengths and limitations. She knows how to coax her muscles into strength, flexibility and balance. She is intimately familiar with the forces of nature: with gravity, with centrifugal motion, the texture of the ice, the sharpness of her blades, the support of her boots and each nuance of the music. Intimately familiar with her body and the outside world, she knows precisely how to dance on ice with effortless ease and grace.
Like the skater, the more aware we become of the world and ourselves, the better we can flow with grace.
The A, B, C’s of Grace
Looking more analytically, grace may be seen as a process involving three steps. Like breathing, which is a process of inhalation, exchanging gases and exhalation, grace is a process of Awakening, experiencing Bliss and Creating with Compassion. I use the letters A, B, C as a mnemonic to remind me of these three integrated, yet distinct components. The first is an Awakening to Ultimate Reality. (Some choose to call Nature, some prefer to call it God, and others have different names.) It is the realization that the universe contains incalculable blessings that suport you with abundant life and joy. The second part of grace is the blissful feeling or experience that arises from this awareness. This experience of grace feels like unconditional love, bliss, gratitude, blessings, love, profound acceptance, relaxation, joy, serenity, inspiration. The third aspect of grace is Compassionate Creativity. The blissful feeling of grace then energizes and inspires one to contribute this joy through compassion to others. Compassionate Creativity spontaneously overflows from an abundance of awareness and bliss. This compassionate creativity may look like a smile, an encouraging word, a meal for the poor, the creation of inspirational art, the creation of a helpful new technology, or any action or way of being that serves others. When a person is is a state of grace, they automatically channel Divine Love. Grace shares the abundant overflow of love. Service is the natural expression of grace and its feelings of kindness, love, compassion, radiance of joy, serenity. Grace only gives from a sense of abundance. Therefore, when one is in the state of grace, service never feels obligatory or has any trace of resentment.
“What is grace? I know until you ask me; when you ask me, I do not know.”
~ Saint Augustine
Many people have experienced “grace moments.” Intuitively, they know what grace is, but trying to express this idea is challenging. Following are more ideas about grace, listed alphabetically.
Grace is to Align with the Divine – When a person lives in alignment with reality rather than struggles with illusions they are living in a state of grace. “Align with the Divine” may also be expressed as “Harmonizing with the Whole,” “Go with the Flow,” “Synergize with Source.” As Henry Miller noted, “The world is not to be put in order; the world is in order. It is for us to put ourselves in unison with this order.” When we are in unison with this order, we feel a sense of grace.
Grace is Awakening – Grace is awakening to the natural order of the universe. This awakening allows you to understand, appreciate, and accept reality rather than clinging to illusions. Awakening to reality creates cognitive harmony, in which everything makes sense, as opposed to cognitive dissonance, in which conflicting world views collide. Grace is a prolonged “ah-ha” moment. Grace is awakening to the paradox that we can never be fully aware of reality as it is, only as we, with our limited perceptions, can see it. This awakening may initially be perceived with terror, because at first, greater awareness can be disorienting, just as walking into the light can be as blinding as walking into the darkness. Yet expanded awareness inevitably leads to intense gratitude and actions motivated by compassion.
Grace is Authenticity – “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” ~ Jesus according to the gospel of Thomas. Grace is when you authentically acknowledge your feelings and thoughts. Grace welcomes all feelings and, paradoxically, liberates you from the impulse to act on feelings that serve anything less that the highest good.
Grace is Balance – When you are in balance, you are in grace. This balance is dynamic equilibrium rather than a steady state. Often, this balance seems a paradox: joy and sorrow, fear and love, give and take, dark and light, yin and yang. Yet as Heraclitus noted, opposites are necessary for the balance of existence: “All things come into being by conflict of opposites.”
Grace is Original Blessing – To be alive is the original blessing. Everyone alive today is the survivor of billions of years of evolution. Simply being aware that we are victors can lead to gratitude and the experience of grace.
Grace is Bliss – Grace is a state of being that feels like serene happiness, the ecstasy of salvation, and spiritual joy. Being in grace feels like bliss.
Grace is Born Again – For many, the experience of grace feels like one is born again. One is born again when fear, anger and cynicism die and hope, faith, and charity are born. To be born again is to be born into the realization that the power that creates the universe (Nature, God) supports you and that if you align with these forces, you can co-create a life of abundance and joy.
Grace is Clarity – Grace is the ability to discern priorities from the hordes of distractions that clamor for your your attention. Grace is a process of enlightenment.
Grace is Connection – Grace is the realization that you are connected (immersed) in perfect relationship with the ultimate source of existence. In unity with the ultimate source, you are able to let love flow through you, allowing for deeper intimacy with others. Grace allows you to see your connections to those beyond apparent next of kin so that even as you see their flaws, you also see their divinity. Grace is the realization that all creatures share the same DNA and that all life is not only connected, but also interdependent.
Grace is Courage – You are in a state of grace when, during those moments when you can see no way out of a predicament, you know that love will prevail. Even though you may feel afraid, there is so much love in your heart that you know you will not give up. Grace is the warmth in your heart that gives you courage.
Grace is Divine Love – Grace is unconditional love. Grace is the realization that the powers that create the universe support you. Grace is the experience of divine love that inevitably leads to kindness, just as inevitably as water flows downstream.
Grace is Realization of Divine Way – At this moment, 100 trillion of your cells work in unison to keep your blood flowing, providing you with oxygen and nutrients to feed your muscles and your brain so that you may sing, dance and love. Thousands of life-sustaining chemical reactions within each cell happen billions of times each second to support your life. A complex, interrelated ecosystem ensures that oxygen is recycled, that you have food and water. A complex society gives you love, support and access to global communication networks. Although way too much to comprehend, all these events are essential for life. The Divine Direction is sometimes called “Good Orderly Direction,” known by some as the acronym “GOD.” This divine direction is also known as “The Way” or “The Tao.”
Grace is Effortlessness – Like falling in love, grace is effortless. Just as floating down a stream is surrendering effortlessly to gravity, grace is surrendering effortlessly to living in harmony with reality.
Grace Leads to Faith – Faith is certainty of grace despite uncertainty of circumstance. Grace is courage that knows that doubt is the doorway to discovering this faith. When you have developed the ability to thrive with grace under challenging times, you will develop faith that you can attain grace at any time. With grace, you may be uncertain about the outcome of an situation, but you are certain that your thoughts, feelings and actions will be in harmony.
Grace is Flexibility – “Life puts us into endless awkward positions. Fully embraced, these become emblematic postures of Dignity and Grace.” ~ Sky
Grace is Flow – Grace is not a thing, but rather a process. It’s not something you can hold, but rather something you flow with. When you are living your purpose and flowing in the here and now you are in grace. Grace does not cling to then or there. Grace is a journey with a direction, not a destination. As the ancient Tao Te Ching and modern physics tell us, reality is more like the flow of water than it is a collection of things. Grace is going with this flow.
Grace Flows from Source – The pattern of life, the laws of the universe, the Way, the Truth is the nature of all being. Grace happens when you follow the way (the Tao) with integrity (Te).
Grace Flows Toward Divine – The universe progresses in a direction toward greater complexity, cooperation and consciousness. This realization is shared my mystics and atheists such as Richard Dawkins who noted that human culture shows evidence of “progress of the moral zeitgeist.” Understanding this direction of evolution, we realize that when we “go with this flow” life is much simpler. Grace, then, is like flowing effortlessly down a stream. In contrast to fear, which is like clinging to rocks, grace is letting go. “Let go and let Love” is the phrase many people use. When you “align with the divine” you allow yourself to be carried in the current of divine love, to flow toward grace.
Grace is Freedom – Grace is spiritual freedom. It is liberation from false ideas, from the tyranny of ignorance and from the oppression of emotional turmoil. Grace is freedom to question everything and the freedom to know that not all questions have answers. “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,” sings Bob Marley. Everyone can be free, few choose to be. Grace is freedom in the awareness between feeling and action. Lacking this awareness, there is only slavery to unconscious reaction. Grace is the liberation of the spirit from the tyranny of biological genes and of societal memes.
Grace is Delight in Uncertainty – “In the wisdom of uncertainty lies the freedom from our past, from the known, from the prison of past conditioning. Uncertainty is the fertile ground of creativity and freedom.” – Deepak Chopra
Grace is Friendship – Grace is friendship to self, to others and to the cosmos. Of all the paths to grace, perhaps no other is as consistently effective as the path of friendship. A friend gives you a glimpse the creative and loving spirit of the universe. A friend reminds you that love is the essential nature of being. Yet to have a friend, you must be a friend. And the truest friends are true to themselves.
Grace is Gratitude – The word grace comes from the Latin root, “gratia,” which means pleasing and is also the root of the word “gratitude.” At its heart, grace is gratitude for all that is. Gratitude naturally results when you become aware of the events, processes, and coincidences that must happen to support your life. It is the realization that trillions of cells in your body all coordinate to give you life. Grace is gratitude for our blessings, despite our circumstances. Grace is gratitude for the gift of a blade of grass, the joy of a child, and the existence of the universe.
Grace is Gentleness – Grace feels like gentleness toward self, others and the world. Grace is the opposite of harsh.
Grace is Beyond Happiness – Happiness is a state of mind that may be oblivious to problems, pain and conflict. In contrast, grace is a state of mind that acknowledges adversities and transcends them. It is joked that happiness can be found in a bottle. Alcohol numbs the pain, which rebounds when the buzz wear off. In contrast, grace clarifies the cause of the pain, thereby enabling a person to effectively deal with the source of the pain. Furthermore, grace is lasting and leaves no hangover or addiction.
Grace is Harmony with the Whole – Grace is the gift of being in harmony with all that is. Grace is the harmonious connection with the divine flow of the cosmos. It is when one is in communion with the creative source of all being. It is joyful immersion in the flow of the cosmos. This unison with all beings, all things and all events leads to a deep sense of belonging and connection, which many describe as divine love. Grace is when you harmonize with the symphony of the cosmos.
Grace is Impermanent – Grace is a process of awakening, not a fixed stage of development. The blessings of life are constant, even as our awareness of them is, of necessity, transient. Humans. like all other living creatures, must attend to the “10,000 things” that keep them alive. We must continually eat, breathe, digest, sleep, renew, exercise, bath, grow, attend to families, friends and cultivate the resources that make all of these happen. Realizing that the feeling of grace is impermanent paradoxically allows you to experience more grace. Although the awareness of grace is impermanent, with practice, your awareness of grace will increase even as you attend to the “10,000” things. Eventually, with enough practice, grace will become the norm rather than the exception.
Grace is Interdependence – A person living in grace depends upon no one person or thing, nor do they feel independent from all. Instead, the person living in grace realizes the interdependence of all existence.
Grace From Laughter – “Laughter is carbonated holiness.” ~ Anne Lamott. One of the quickest paths to grace is laughter. Just as a smile is a frown, turned upside down, humor quickly reveals a different perspective.
Grace From Loving – Love the Lord Your God with All your heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.
Grace Is a Sense of Oneness – Grace is the realization that self and other ultimately arose from the same place and are therefore not separate, but rather connected as part of the Whole or the One.
Grace Is Paradoxical – To the insane, truth sounds like gibberish. To those with fractured bones, setting the bones straight feels painful. To those in darkness, walking into the light is sometimes blinding. To those living in fear, grace seems like a delusion. Although always within reach, paradoxically, grace is rarely held for long. By grasping for grace, you lose it. When you give, you receive. Grace is awareness of the paradox that only through death is grace possible.
Grace is Patience – A person in a state of grace embraces each moment, realizing that it is the product of billions of years of evolution.
Grace is Peaceful – Grace is the feeling of peace and tranquility, of being fully embraced by the grounding of perfect love. Grace is when we are at peace with ourselves, our communities and the world.
Grace is Power – When we align with the powers that create the universe, we harness these powers. Grace is the power you feel when you realize that you are being supported by something vastly greater than yourself.
Grace is the Precious Present – Like a special gift, grace is gratitude for Here and Now, the precious present.
Grace is Pronoia – Pronoia is the sense that forces in the universe are conspiring on your behalf. It is the realization that trillions of cells in your body cooperate to let you dance, allow you to sing, to give you awareness, to give you the power to fulfill your desires, to experience joy, to help other people, and to thrive sustainably.
Grace is Quest – Grace is an awakening to truth, not merely to proclamations of truth. It’s knowing that a full understanding of Ultimate Reality will always be out of reach, but searching to understand it anyway. It is the realization that the story of Creation is not complete, and our understanding is even less so. It is the realization that since each person is unique, each person’s understanding will differ.
Grace is Divine Radiance – Like the energy of the universe, grace is all around us. Sometimes we can see this energy in the form of light. But like electromagnetic radiation, most of the radiation of grace is beyond our ability to experience. However, by cultivating awareness, we may begin to refine our perceptions, so that like finely tuned “antennas” that receive electromagnetic waves beyond our normal perception, we may learn to receive the grace radiating all around us.
Grace is Rest – Grace is the feeling of pure relaxation. A person in a state of grace may appear to be working hard on the outside, even as internally that person actually experiences relaxation and ease.
Grace is Salvation – “Grace assuages the pain of loss and makes the risk of loss worth taking.” ~ Sky
Grace is Strength – Like a ballerina, a grace-filled person possesses strength. As a spiritual strength, grace allows a person to realize their convictions, to do the right thing, even when it is difficult to do so. As with muscular strength, strength of spirit comes from practice, excercise, good nourishment, and rest. Grace is cultivated by exercising right actions every day, nourishing your spirit, and taking breaks from the travails of life to rebuild and renew.
Grace is Synergy – Synergy is when two or more entities interact in such a way that that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects. So it is with grace. The effect of grace is such that the power of one acting with grace is much more powerful than a person acting without grace.
Grace is Thriving – When we are living in grace, we are thriving. All living things wish to survive and thrive. When you experience grace, you know you are thriving in harmony with yourself, with others and with the cosmos.
Grace is Transcendent – By including and harmonizing opposites, grace is a transcendent awareness. Grace allows one to realize that without hate, there is no love, without darkness, there is no light, without loss there is no gain, without death, there is no life, and without absence, there is no presence. Grace transcends both danger and tragedy. “Without the possibility of perdition, grace has no meaning.” ~ Sky.
Grace is Transformative – Grace is the powerful, joyful, and grateful attitude which transcends by transforming the apparent difficulties of life into joy. Grace is a flame that lights many fires. In terms of chemistry, grace is the catalyst and also the product. Grace transforms adversity into joy. Grace transforms ignorance to greater wisdom, compassion and joy as a result of communion/connection with the Source of the Universe.
Grace is Universal – Grace is for all people of all paths. Different people attain grace in diverse ways. Grace may be attained by following the essential teachings of of Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Patanjali, Mohammed, your enlightened and loving grandmother, your best friend, your pen pal, your hairdresser, your own higher self, and many others. All people, regardless of religion, history, and ability, have access to grace.
Grace is Alignment with The Way – (check out The Tao Te Ching translated by Steven Mitchell.)
Grace is Victory – Grace is like winning the lottery. Both are fantastic and improbable prizes. Yet with grace, each person has already won: the only task is to claim your winnings.
Grace is YES! – It is the realization that everything is working for you, that your body, mind and spirit are all aligned for the single purpose of bringing more wisdom, love and joy into the world. When you realize that the entire universe is conspiring on your behalf, you are experiencing grace. Grace is a sense of grand alignment, when your inner and outer purposes align to bring more abundance into the world.