Grace. An intriguing word.
It can mean smoothness of movement. But in spiritual and religious circles, there is a different meaning.
b : a virtue coming from God
This sort of grace implies mitigation of an undesirable state. God gives us the grace of salvation, enlightenment, or whatever because we need saving or enlightening. Or whatever.
So God, usually considered to be the creator and sustainer of existence, makes the creation imperfect. Or at least produces the circumstances for sin, error, and such to occur. Then God restores some, or maybe total, perfection back into it through divine grace.
Quite a game God has got going here. Screw things up. Make people feel like something important is missing from their lives. Then offer a hit of grace to make the good times roll.
The game is played by other entities than God, of course. In Eastern traditions, the guru or master is considered to be a bestower of grace, serving as a substitute for God or a reflection of divinity.
I used to believe half-heartedly in grace.
Being scientifically minded, I viewed meditation, spirituality, and mysticism more as an experiment to be conducted in one's consciousness than as a begging bowl needing to be filled with the sustenance of grace.
I was confused by why, if God or a guru freely gave grace, it was necessary to beg, plead, and pray for it. "God's grace is always with us," I'd hear. Well, if that is so, where's the need to obtain it?
Now I look upon reality as the greatest grace. It's the only grace we need. And almost certainly the only grace there is.
Reality, existence -- it simply is. Looking around, you see it. Inhaling, you smell it. Using your ears, you hear it. Extending your hand, you touch it. Aware of a thought, you think it. There's nowhere reality is not.
And never do we lack it. Now that's grace! Freely given. Undeserved.
But isn't grace supposed to be a solution to a problem? An answer to a guestion? A fulfilling of a need? Yes, that's how religions would have us look upon grace. This viewpoint gives them power, because they serve as the intermediary who enables us to experience God's grace.
This is why reality is so threatening to fundamentalist religious believers. Reality is available to everyone on Earth, 24/7, all of the time.
So where's the problem? Well, as the Rolling Stones told us, "You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, well, you might find you get what you need." Reality.
Today, on the evening dog walk I take with our two canines, I looked back and saw that our oldest dog, Serena, was sitting down. I waited for her to get up. She didn't. More accurately, she couldn't.
Serena is thirteen and a half. Her rear legs are weak. She walks slowly, but steadily. Sometimes she can't stand up after she sits down, though. I walked back and helped her up. Her paws and legs were muddy from her struggling to stand up.
I felt really sad. As I write this, that feeling washes over me again. I love Serena. She's a wonderful dog. I want her to be healthy forever. I want her to live forever. I want to go on dog walks with her forever.
But I know this isn't possible. That isn't reality. Reality is, Serena is old. She isn't going to live much longer. A few more years, I hope. It's painful, though, to watch her change from the energetic athletic dog she used to be.
That pain... also reality. Walking along with Serena once she got going again, I let myself feel whatever I was feeling. Sadness. Thankfulness. Love. Compassion. Worry. A mix of pleasant and unpleasant feelings, all real.
Grace. I was submerged in grace. I was alive. With my dogs. Walking in nature. Experiencing. Aware. Conscious. Part and parcel of existence.
In an appearance on the Conan Show, Louis C.K. spoke humorously and wisely about embracing what is real, even when unpleasant or disturbing. Have a watch. He's talking about grace, though he doesn't use that word.