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..:: Grace II ::..


Alan Schneider


               In many ways, the attainment of a state of grace, that is, calm repose in the face of life’s eternal turbulence, is the goal of living, whether we consciously know and accept this, or not. Do we feel that peace is what we seek? Then this can only be had when grace is first understood and attained. Do we seek personal satisfaction?  This, too, occurs within the framework of grace, because it is only with the successful realization of grace that any form of satisfaction or gratification has more than a transitory meaning.  Do we seek power?  The ultimate power in the universe can only be had through the personal surrender to, and acceptance of, grace as the more potent, indeed, the most potent, condition of consciousness. How can this be so? And, how can this manifestation be personally realized?  

            The entire thrust of consciousness as determined by the central nervous system is the transitory fixation on sense objects.  The more powerful the biological incentive for this fixation is, the more potentially addictive it will be, or habit forming at the very least.  In this regard, the undisciplined body is our worst enemy – in the lack of discipline, we are all our own worst enemies.  And most of us are more or less undisciplined in both body and mind – the two go together, and what is needed to balance one is frequently needed to balance the other.  Balance is the obverse condition to fixation – when we are seeking balance, we are necessarily also seeking control over unbridled obsessions and fixations, the twin banes of human consciousness.  What, then, are the elements of this condition of balance that is so necessary for graceful living?  

            As was just suggested above, the development of discipline is a primary prerequisite for the attainment of balance, and this entails both mental and physical discipline.  The art of discipline on the physical level involves training the body in the practices of healthful living and appetite restraint until these practices become automatic and second nature to the organism.  This training is a matter of determined operant conditioning, as the elements of physical behavior are shaped into a modified complex consistent with the goals and aspirations of higher consciousness, the mental aspects of discipline.  And, while it is true that both of these may be treated without reference to spiritual discipline, this is the third, and possibly most important, aspect of the equation, because it transcends and supersedes the first two. Without the spiritual aspect of consciousness held clearly in focus, the point of living is obscured by the senses, which will quickly begin to erode the gains made in disciplinary practice in the physical and mental realms by themselves.  What is needed is the institution of disciplined living in all three areas of endeavor. 

            In the experience of this author, the most effective source of such a unified practice of discipline is Yoga – physically practiced in Asana (postures), mentally practiced as well in Asana, and in the Yamas and Niyamas (the Yoga codes of conduct), and spiritually practiced in the theories of Kundalini, Jnana, Raja, Bhakti, and Hatha, the various schools of Yoga philosophy.  To my knowledge, no other methods of disciplinary practice are as effective as this approach. 

            Yoga itself is a form of the larger discipline of meditation, the ultimate key process in the attainment of balance and grace.  In this practice, we see the roots of another element of balanced living – detachment from the material goals of the ego.  This detachment is accomplished by literally detaching the mind from the senses in a state of greater or lesser self-induced trance.  One simply closes the eyes and closes off the senses as much as is practical and safe, and turns the awareness inward in inner contemplation.  There may or may not be objects of this contemplation present in consciousness, but the goal of the practice is to negate the persistent effect of the body and senses on that consciousness.  Naturally, the initial attempts at meditation are often quite frustrating, as the discipline associated with the practice is instituted in the mind against the determined resistance of the ego, but things eventually will become much more fluid as one persists on the course.            

            The great strength of the combined practice of the Yogas is that it addresses all three of the areas of conscious awareness that define the human being – body, mind, and spirit.  It is unfortunately true that, although the mind may remain acute, and the spirit radiantly focused in higher consciousness, as life advances, eventually the body is doomed to retreat, no matter how vigorously postural Yoga is applied.  This is why the practice of meditation is held to supersede Yoga per se – one can meditate in almost any extremity of physical or mental distress or disadvantage, attaining the key quality of detachment from sense objects, and attachment thereby to spiritual grace.  

            Apart from discipline and detachment, what are the additional aspects of balance – the key to the attainment of the grace in our human condition that is the subject of this essay?  Perhaps a key of the utmost importance is fluidity – flexibility in one’s awareness and aspirations.  This fluidity is a matter of much more than an overall notice given to the general state of equipoise of the consciousness – it is a minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, week by week, month by month, and year by year ongoing assessment of the total Self from the highest level to the lowest in awareness.  This is a dynamic gestalt process that encompasses more than the simple sum of its parts – one is required to simultaneously know and experience in all of the three areas noted here.  How can this be done?  Through the practice and attainment of intuitive perception.  Intuition is the key to the level of sophisticated self-assessment needed to maintain balance and grace.  

            Intuition is distinctly a quality of higher consciousness, one most accurately ascribed to the Yoga Heart Chakra, Anahata, although it has its progenitive roots in the Solar Plexus Chakra, Manipura, as expressed by gut instinct, a related (but somewhat less graceful!) phenomenon.  When personal gut instinct is raised to the level of universal compassion, we have genuine intuitive perception – the profound universal level of realization concerning physical, mental, and spiritual processes that, in fact, proceeds from the highest level of awareness attainable, located in Sahasrara, the Crown Chakra, as it flows forth from Ajna, the Brow Chakra (and Third Eye), as the stream of Divine Knowledge.  When we process this stream of consciousness in Anahata, and allow the result to manifest in the lower three Chakras, the result is transcendental intuitive awareness.  This is the most authentic mode of knowing, and the one that is required to maintain the perceptual balance so necessary for the attainment of lasting grace.  

            Perhaps the single most significant reason for seeking grace in living, apart from the obvious personal benefits seen in healthful living, is the manifestation of a condition that can then be offered to the struggling humanity around us.  Thus, communication becomes the fifth, and final element of grace – it is not intended to be held in isolation for personal benefit alone, but offered freely and openly in example, word, and deed to others.  This is the thrust of this essay – to communicate the truth of grace to my fellow human beings, without regard to the personal consequences for the little ego here on our struggling planet, be they positive or negative, great or small.  As the reader of this essay well knows, I have constructed an extended edifice of communication to just this end, and will continue to do so as long as I am at all able.  Namaste!!


                                                                                  - With Love, Alan -

                                                                 (Copyright 2009, by Alan Schneider)


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