Sunday, March 13, 2011

Costa Rica Final Day

It has been a pretty full week and one thing is certain- teaching a 5-day Immersion alone is a lot more tiring than team teaching a 5 or 6-day process.  (make that a note to self) I found myself pretty tired at the end of each day and ready for a meal,  a good book and some rest. Generally, I am a pretty lousy houseguest at these things- after talking for 6 or 7 hours during the day, I can barely open my mouth to make interesting conversation at dinner, nor do I usually feel like it that much! I usually retire to my room, touch base with Kelly and try to be completely uninteresting, inspiring or charismatic. I find the more I work and the longer I go about this, the more I seek solace at the end of the day, not sociality. Seems like a way to keep balance.

At any rate, we had a great discussion yesterday about Open to Grace and the many facets it involves. Many of you know that I have a long history of experience with Twelve-Step groups and Open to Grace is kind of like the first three steps to me. The first three steps are:
1. Admitted we were powerless over________ and our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to God as we understood him.

Now, keep in mind that AA was not written to be politically inclusive, gender neutral or to spare or build our self-esteem. Many people find the reference to God as a Him a problem. Others revolt when they hear the words unmanageable. The mere suggestion that any of us might be somewhat insane sends others into a defensive posture. Be that as it may, these steps make a lot of sense to me and they dovetail nicely into what it means to me to Open to Grace.

To me Opening to Grace is a whole lot more than remembering "Life is Good" although it involves that to be sure. Opening to Grace is not just adopting a positive mental outlook or  putting on rose-colored glasses so that we can see life through new-age ideals. I think it is much deeper than that. And while Opening to Grace absolutely implies a recognition that there is a Flow of Grace that essentially good and the remembrance that we are part of that flow and can learn to connect to it and express it, Open to Grace is also the admission that we find ourselves contracted a bit (or a lot), not as deeply aligned as we might like, suffering in perceived separation, longing for wholeness, afraid and clinging to vain, illusory attempts to control ourselves and others to take the edge of our existential fears. In a word, we  are POWERLESS.

Obviously, we are not powerless in an Ultimate sense, of course. The Ultimate is handled, right? We are already perfect, free, creative, beings of bliss. Great. This is the good news. the great promise. But  this first step is about recognizing who we are in the relative world where that Ultimate knowledge isn't completely manifested, where we get cloaked, where we behave badly even when we know better, and where, try as we might to make a shift, we stay stuck. Like that.

And this recognition can be at the source of our humility. Of our receptivity. It is not a bad state although it may not be pretty. It actually makes us quite fertile soil for deep growth when we finally come to the end of our rope, when  our addictive, samskaric coping mechanisms stop working, and we can admit that we are in need of help.

Because once we see the reality of our limitations, we engage the second step which is also inherent in Opening to Grace. We come to believe.  It does not say that we believe all at once. It does not say that we get perfectly adept at trusting the big picture. It suggests that we come to believe. The second step suggests that a process of  faith is engaged and that process produces hope. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

I personally think that faith is a daring act in our world. It takes no courage whatsoever to be cynical, doubtful, and insightful to the point of believing in nothing. There is a ton of evidence everywhere we look for such a worldview and it requires no big leap to live from a limited paradigm that lacks in  magic, mystery and hope. No, more difficult, I think, is to be a believer- to be someone who risks high ideals, a big visions and dares to believe that life is more than what we see and that each one of us has a sanity that exceeds our current manifestation. I think the second step points to the courage required to soften enough to grow sensitive, to be humble enough to know we want help and to be daring enough to think we might be worth it.

And the third aspect or the 3rd Step is that we ask for help. We make a decision to turn our will and our lives over. We get on our knees, actually or metaphorically. In Ansuara Yoga, we sing the invocation which is, in many ways, a calling out to the Divine for blessings, to guide our hearts, minds and bodies and implicit in this chant is the recognition that we cannot do it alone, that we want and need help and that we will try our best to align with the help we are given and make good use of it. John is saying it now, "We want to align with the lead dancer". In order to want to do that, we  generally have realized that our dance moves could use some extra help or that we could be even better when teamed up well!

So one of my favorite teachings about the chant is that it is actually Shakti's line, not Shiva's. It is actually Shakti, in perceived separation from her Beloved calling out to say, "I want you to teach me that I hold the Auspicious Light inside. I want to remember that my form is essentially You- Being, Consciousness and Bliss. Show me that the ever present light of peace shines in me no matter what is happening. Show me that we are not two but one." The chant is sung from perceived separation, not unity. It is sung from the longing to connect more fully. And obviously, on the days we feel connected,  the chant is sung in celebration, but that is a different post.

Okay, it would be a  very related post. My group brought up how empty it can sound to be told to celebrate all the time and that they did not relate to that and felt it was a bit shallow and so we got onto the whole thing about Opening to Grace because they asked me what I thought it meant and if I thought it was just about being happy all the time. Anyone who knows me, knows I am not at all a Pollyanna type and knows that I am often more interested in the sandpaper side of this experiment than I am the gloss and glitter.  So I offered the  perspective  that while Opening to Grace recognizes the good and all that, it is to me, the real and honest recognition that, even though my intellect may buy that vision 100%, I still need a lot of help to fully live that knowledge and to embody it with the deepest abiding integrity in all my affairs.

 And to me, Opening to Grace is also about allowing myself to suffer that disparity between vision and action and to ask for Help to bridge the gap between who I most truly am and my limited manifestations on a day to day basis. To me, that is the yoga.

No time to edit. must go teach, sorry if there are some mistake- just hope the point comes across.


Laura said...

Beautiful! Thank you!

Barefootlotuss said...

In the attachment system (within us) the two spectrums are safety and security and celebration. Celebration, understood from this perspective, is fundamental.

Aimee said...

SO beautiful and clear, Christina. THANK YOU :)<=

Funny, I was thinking this might be your best blog entry ever and then you apologized - no editing needed!

Cynthia Turner said...

My class theme was on Open to Grace today. This was a very beautiful analysis!

Robyn Capobianco said...

this is the most beautfiul post i have ever read. its a perfect description of open to grace, to me at least, as it allows for the imperfection known as being human. it makes no excuses nor judgements for this and it allows for the truth to surface within us all, at our own pace. blessings to you!

ashley said...

beautiful, and ties right in with a conversation i had with a couple of fellow yogis at a workshop this well as my own experiences with open to grace and 12-step programs...thank you for sharing.

maggie said...

as always I find your movement towards clarity delightful- I too love "calling out" through the chant and my practice

and i LOVE the word samskaric!


Robyn P. Thayer said...

Thank you for this lovely languaging of Grace and delightful blending of the twelve steps. Just last week the while teaching class I said "...chant three om's followed by the serenity-opps, (laugh laugh laugh) I mean anusara invocation..." This post touched me deeply in a place that was hungry for connection. xo

Julie Taylor said...

Thanks for this wonderful post - I admit to getting a little anxious about what can sound like an evangelical approach to Yoga - ie: the Open to Grace etc etc.... All spectrums of experience are included in your comments as honoring the now, the present moment, and yes, it is daring to have hope!

Laura said...

i love every word in the paragraph that begins with: I personally think that faith is a daring act in our world. Thank you so much!