Those who have studied with the late Sydney Banks often say, “We are being taken care of.” I wondered if my experience of well-being was an example of that. I realized, yes, I was taken care of during those years of Roger’s illness. For me, “being taken care of” is what I mean by grace. A presence or consciousness that seemed stronger and deeper than my personal efforts or my personal will guided and comforted me no matter what was happening. I am deeply grateful for that experience. My ability to open myself to this experience was encouraged by my understanding of the Three Principles as taught by Sydney Banks.
In The Inside-Out Revolution, Michael Neill notes the benefits of a Three Principles understanding:
"Almost without fail, they’ve [people who have studied the Three Principles] found deep reserves of resilience and creativity that have allowed them to handle these difficult circumstances with a level of ease and grace they would previously never have imagined possible." (p. xxiv)
Grace can be defined (or contemplated) in several ways. The dictionary definition is simple, effortless elegance or refinement of movement as in a ballet dancer. The Christian tradition speaks of the free, unmerited favor of God as seen in salvation or a bestowal of blessings. The deeply stirring hymn, “Amazing Grace,” speaks to this experience.
I wish to talk about grace from a personal, psycho-spiritual experience, which can be called wisdom, innate mental health, or our true Self.
Jane Tucker in her lovely booklet, Insight Inspirations--Message of Hope, describes grace: “We all have moments when everything seems to ‘Click.’ At these times, things happen effortlessly, and it feels as if we are being carried along through life, above the trials and annoyances that might otherwise disturb us.” St John of the Cross in “What is Grace” (Love Poems from God, translated by Daniel Ladinsky, p.321) describes grace as “All that happens”. He also describes grace as whatever is “best for your development and that is every situation in your life.”
Dr William Pettit tells a poignant story: A little boy is being taught to drive by his beloved grandfather. He sits in his grandfather’s lap turning the steering wheel. The grandfather notices they are about to run into a pole so he starts guiding the steering wheel, too. How would the grandson experience turning the wheel -- harder or easier? I see this story as illustrating that even when life feels or looks difficult, there is guidance from within and opportunities to learn.
When I look back on the one and a half years of my husband’s illness, I am amazed at how Roger and I managed. Today, if I read an article about grief and end-of-life care, I become anxious in a way that did not occur when I was in the situation. When I was able to let go of trying to do things right, of using will power or determination to fix, change or resist circumstances, I naturally fell back into grace in spite of myself. It felt like an undeserved blessing and gift.
There is tremendous strength when loving and serving someone else is primary. Being in service kept me in the moment and allowed me to forget myself. Being with Roger was like being in a different world because he was in total acceptance of whatever was happening. He wasn’t struggling against the illness or “fighting” death. As he put it, “It is what it is.” He let go of thoughts, became still, and truly listened. This turned him inward to a natural state of compassion, kindness, and wisdom. He was thoughtful of others, generous, and gave us a thumbs up when we asked if it was okay to be playful and laugh! He maintained a sense of humor even in the last week of his life.
Jane Tucker writes, “In truth, this gift of grace is always with us, always available to us. It comes when we are in tune with our own wisdom; when we are not trying to control anything in life, but rather allowing the beautiful rhythms of life to unfold around us. We only ‘fall out’ of this state when our own thinking distracts us from it.”