Last year I had the privilege of receiving Caroline Myss’ first part of The Gift Seven Extraordinary Days of Grace on my mail and it really touched my heart that I had to share. I thought I’ve shared the concluding part but I kind of miscalculated my posts. I really want you to read the first part and here is the link:
The response to the May Salon introducing the subject of, The Gift of Seven Extraordinary Days of Grace, has been wonderful. It’s obvious that the subject of grace remains as intriguing now as it was two thousand years ago when the graces were first named and identified. It’s so fascinating that as a result of a leap in humankind’s spiritual evolution brought about by the advent of the great Divine beings of Jesus and Buddha (a bit earlier), and others not quite of their caliber, emphasis was turned to the exploration of the power of the individual in relationship to the Divine. As the Jude o-Christian tradition began to take shape, the spiritual powers of the merger of these two traditions likewise formed.
Not that you need a sort of “religion” class, but I think this information is essential and I present it not – repeat not – from the “religion” perspective but rather from the historic. In order to delve into the subject of grace, we must look to the history of grace. The teacher and great cosmic being, Jesus, modeled the fully-evolved human soul. He could heal and perform miracles, he had mastery over physical matter including death and disease, he could speak to anyone, he had the gift of prophecy, he felt energy flow through him that was meant to heal people – he was, in other words, fully present in his physical form while having a fully cosmic soul.
Realize that Jesus’ message was, “These and other things can you do.” He did not position himself as a Divine being, much less as the initiator of all the trappings that have come after him. His role, I believe, was to model the highest potential of the human soul. I will never believe he came here to found countless churches, but to inspire people to understand the spiritual purpose – and therefore spiritual power – present within the human experience. (Note: the only way people through the centuries could explain his “power” was to deify it.)
Jesus left a legacy of phenomena behind him. He baffled people, astounded them, and inspired them. He also left those early Christians in a state of awe as they continued to witness healing and miracles in a way that we will rarely if ever see. It’s not that such healing are impossible. It’s just that we do not relate to either the “spirit” or to the power of grace in the same divinely organic way that characterized people so long ago. Let’s say, before we became so “enlightened or rational,” miracles, healing, and the mystical nature of life were far more accessible. People did not demand that proof be provided before faith; rather, faith came before proof.
Stories of early Christians seem to reveal that people eagerly embraced the gifts of healing, prophecy, knowledge (or revelation), piety (profound faith), counsel (extraordinary intuitive abilities), wisdom (decision-making abilities/leadership), discernment (clear judgment), mercy, and the more mysterious “speaking in tongues.” But as the church developed into a more political and controlling organization (which did not take long), managing these precious gifts became an issue. I mean, how could everyone just qualify for “gifts” – just like that? Impossible.
Arrogance took precedence over humbleness and the rest, as they say, is indeed history. It’s no wonder then that today we live in a society that needs grace defined again and again – and yet, again. What is it? How does it work? But how do I know when grace has come into my life? What do I do to make grace come into my life? Do I need special prayers?
Let me make this easy on you. You are already accustomed to thinking in the language of “energy.” You are comfortable saying, “I’m exhausted. I have absolutely no energy.” Or, “That person drains all the energy from me.” Or, “When I walk in the mornings, I have energy all day long.” I don’t have to define “energy” for you at all, and yet, what if someone had no idea what you were talking about. What would you tell them? You can’t see, touch, taste, smell, or hear the “energy” to which you are referring. Yet, you know when you are energized and when you are not. You know when something, someone, something you’re thinking, something you’ve said or done either energizes you or drains all the energy from your system.
Just this morning, for example, I had to send the last section of my book to my editor. I completed it last week before I went off to a workshop and thought I had sent it to my editor before I left, only to receive this email from her while I was at the airport waiting for my flight: “C – did you send that file? I didn’t get it. M”
Panic set in within a nanosecond. Where did that file go? Did I send it to someone else? Did I delete it? I had absolutely no way of finding out until I returned from this workshop, which would not be for two days. Energy rushed out of me faster than a tsunami. My stomach turned over, my hands started to shake, and of course, my constant companion – the stress headache – showed up right on time. Ugh.
Now, undoubtedly all of you can relate to this in your own way. Let me introduce another perspective. Instead of calling energy “energy,” let’s imagine that you’ve had a mystical experience – just like that – out of the blue. Let’s imagine that in the midst of your panic attack, a deep quietude came over you that you did not generate. It came out of nowhere. Suddenly your panic ceased. Gone. Your thoughts turn inward, tumbling effortlessly into what can only be described as “effortless bliss.” This effortless bliss is not a “state of consciousness” that exists in some new portal in your mind that your stress led you to in response to an inner 911 call. Effortless bliss is a sensation of floating, of feeling transcendent of not only your body but of your immediate problems which seem to disintegrate, if not disappear entirely. You feel as if you are breathing cosmic oxygen not of this earth that is recharging you all the way down to the atoms in your cell tissue.
In this rarefied soul air, you glimpse the refined truth that “energy” is the word we use for “grace,” prior to realizing the constant presence of the Sacred in our lives. Were we to grasp the true nature of life and the constant Divine impulse of creation that is God, we would recognize that what we refer to as “energy” is actually the manifestation of “working grace” expressing itself through ordinary life. But that realization changes everything for you because you then have to acknowledge that you are in constant contact with grace through every breath you take, in every activity of your life, and in every one of your daily encounters with people. You are never outside the field of “working grace.” It’s impossible, just as it’s impossible to exist outside the field of energy.
It can be overwhelming to reside in a state of consciousness in which you try to relate to the world as a theater of grace. You would have to adjust your sites to include within your view all the contradictions, injustices, and evil that exists in the world as these, too, are part of this field of grace. Grace does not make evil evaporate or injustice go away. It does not make your physical body impervious to illness. Grace does not and will never have the power to make life what life can never be, which is perfect. Rather, the role of grace is to expand your awareness of why life is as it is. Instead of suffering because you want life to be other than the way it is, you may experience a moment one day – perhaps one of your seven days – in which you are given great capacity to accept something you never thought you could accept in order that you can move on with your life.
The role of grace is to continually ignite our restlessness so that we never cease asking, “Why? What? and How?”
THE ELEVATED GRACES AND YOUR CHAKRAS
We learn from studying great spiritual teachers that this is an orderly universe, not a random one. And we are a part of this orderly universe. Your soul is a high-functioning cosmic piece of equipment that becomes more extraordinary the more you absorb yourself into its nature. Your soul cannot be managed by your ego. I learned with great appreciation that the soul is “entered into” through prayer. It is that part of you which is transcendent of your five senses, craves detachment from ordinary life, and constantly feeds you images that keep you curious about your own life and why you were given the gift of this life.
The chakra system is how the Eastern traditions represent the presence of the spirit/soul in the body. I call it the spirit/soul because the chakras are really more representative of the “sacred energy” system of the body without the addition of the graces. That is, “sacred energy” is not rooted in the idea of a personal Divine Being with whom you develop an intimate, prayerful relationship. That is far more a Western idea. Yet, both traditions come together in the understanding that we resonate to a sphere of seven sacred stages of inner refinement, seven chakras, seven mansions in the castle (St. Teresa), seven sacraments, seven levels of the Tree of Life, and seven graces. And now we are adding the intriguing thought that each year, we are given the gift of seven extraordinary days of grace in which each one of the seven major graces is individually bestowed upon us when “heaven sees fit,” as the nuns used to say.
I’ve outlined the chakras in partnership with a particular grace, just to provide you with an image or an idea of how such a union might express itself. Mind you, there are as many examples as there are stars in the heavens, but I wanted to plant an image in your mind to make this real for you.
FIRST CHAKRA: ROOT/TRIBAL – THE GRACES OF REVERENCE AND AWE
This is your physical life, which includes work, family, and the external world. This is the land of the unconscious, where you are prone to become an addict to time schedules, repeated activities, life pressures, and high stress. This is a world of pressure on your body and quite frankly, it’s where all life begins to break down. This is the first battlefield of life. If you were ever going to think, “My life is awful,” or “empty/boring/horrible/meaningless” or any other desperate description, this is the chakra-zone for it. This is the place for “hell on earth” and if ever you needed to become absorbed in the gift of being alive – just alive, without all the stuff attached to it – that is the essence of the grace of Reverence.
Prayer: “Just grant me the grace to feel grateful for my life and I’ll take it from there. Let me know you’re watching out for me.”
SECOND CHAKRA: RELATIONSHIPS – THE GRACES OF PIETY AND MERCY
This area of your body covers a lot of ground: sexuality, finances, power in all relationships, birth, creativity, destruction, vengeance, violence. It’s a busy chakra. This is a power center that can make or break the quality of your life given the issues that resonate to this center, to say the least. The grace of Piety does not refer to holiness, which is the classic understanding, but rather to your capacity to see the Divine in other people. It’s a rigorous effort at times – and maybe most of the time if you have a challenging work situation. But the opposite will break you in two. Mercy is a “saving grace,” literally and symbolically. Mercy saves you from your own dark thoughts and from personal anger. You may not imagine that you are capable of having “mercy on yourself,” but people do not realize how abusive they are to themselves when they harbor hostile thoughts or heavy memories that they could release.
Prayer: “Grant me the grace to see the goodness in others before I harm myself and them with negative thoughts. Let me do no harm to any life.”
THIRD CHAKRA: PERSONAL POWER – THE GRACE OF UNDERSTANDING
This is your ego center. Need I say more? If you are an “All about Me” person, then you know this is a hot spot for you. You can get yourself into trouble from being oversensitive or from feeling that you need to take care of everyone. This is also the place where we suffer the consequences of having low self-esteem, getting that knot in the stomach from nervous stress. This is the first place in the body that people generally lose their energy when things go wrong. First of all, the Grace of Understanding is not about being understood. It’s about being granted the capacity to “understand the greater sphere of truth” in a relationship or situation in which you find yourself. This is a magnificent grace. Imagine that you are in a situation in which you are endlessly worried about a relationship, thinking, “I must have done something,” or “How will I get by if this relationship doesn’t work out.” Then suddenly a soft calm comes over you, and you understand deeply, completely, that no matter what happens, you will be just fine. You don’t know how things will work out; you just know they will. That’s this grace in action.
Prayer: “Grant me the grace of Understanding in those times when I am gripped by chaos and cannot see the truth. Keep me from harming myself and others because I do not understand what is happening.”
FOURTH CHAKRA: THE EMOTIONAL CENTER – THE GRACE OF FORTITUDE AND HEALING
Obviously this is the chakra that absorbs all the emotional content of your life. Make no mistake – that is an enormous amount of content. From love, hopes and dreams and wishes, to despair and depression and anger – all of it resonates in this center. Oh, and let us not forget all memories of past injuries and injustices that you have yet to forgive. I’ve asked so many people if they dwell in positive or negative emotions most often, and so many admit to dwelling in negative emotions such as regret or sadness, guilt or grief. This can be the most difficult of all of your chakra centers, without a doubt. The Grace of Fortitude rightly belongs in this chakra because it takes profound courage to make the right emotional choices, both for you and for others. There is no such thing as emotional choices that do not hurt someone. (Well, there are of course, but not the ones that bring necessary change.) The Grace of Fortitude is courage beyond the boundaries of the moment. This grace refers to being granted the courage to not only take action but to handle the consequences of your necessary actions, which is what people so fear. Healing emerges from the courageous heart, not from someone who is frightened.
Prayer: “Grant me the grace to make the choices essential to my integrity and my healing.”
FIFTH CHAKRA: THE THROAT CENTER – THE GRACE OF COUNSEL (and the more mysterious ‘speaking in tongues’)
This is your center of choice and all that choice implies. You would have to go into silence for a month to even begin to contemplate the enormity of this power. The number of choices we make per hour is unimaginable and each one has endless consequences. The Grace of Counsel is a prayerful request for Divine instruction. This is more than “guidance.” Counsel refers to intimate instruction in which you position yourself not to say no. This grace is also given to you on behalf of others, to counsel people when their lives are at a crossroads. Perhaps you have had the experience of suddenly knowing you must do something, no matter what. Or you must speak up about something, and along with that feeling comes a sense of urgency that is relentless. That is how this grace often expresses itself. It can be “relentless guidance.”
Prayer: “Grant me your Counsel when I am standing at the crossroads in my life. Push me to take the path I would otherwise not choose for lack of courage.”
SIXTH CHAKRA: THE MENTAL CENTER – THE GRACES OF KNOWLEDGE AND PROPHECY
Knowledge refers to a sudden knowing of something you had no previous knowledge of whatsoever. Teresa of Avila referred to this as, “Intellectual revelation,” a granting of truth or intuitive understanding, or a vision that you could not possibly generate through the talents or skills of the mind. Knowledge and Prophecy are two of the graces that can and have caused problems for people. They are extremely powerful, but in societies in which the rational approach to life rules, revelation is anything but popular. Historically, people – mainly mystics – with this gift have had to defend their “revealed writings” rigorously in order to prove that they were not fabricating their documents, or they were not insane, or they were not possessed. The graces of Knowledge and Prophecy are high risk, but they are profound graces that are very present in ordinary people who are guided through their intuitive gifts all the time. These are not graces to be feared, but rather to be used with great wisdom.
Prayer: “Grant me the capacity to hold in silence that which I see and understand until it is time to reveal it. Give me the strength to withstand the power of a single vision.”
SEVENTH CHAKRA: THE SPIRITUAL CENTER – THE GRACE OF WISDOM
If there was ever a time we needed Wisdom, it’s now. The spiritual life is full of distractions and chaos. It’s a simple path, actually, but it’s not an easy one. You are here to discern truth from fiction in your life and to follow truth. You are here to become fully mindful of the power of your choices because you are held accountable for your choices. With each choice you make, you either set a cycle of grace into motion or you withhold grace. It takes Wisdom to discern the right choice, but it also takes Fortitude, the courageous heart.
Prayer: “Grant me the Wisdom to think deeply about my choices, to not respond from anger, to think larger than my small self, and to include the other people in my decisions who will be affected by my choices.”
THE ULTIMATE TRUTH
We can barely make it through a day without doing something we regret. I suspect if we could see things the way they really are, we would observe the nonphysical world intervening in our lives constantly, though in mysterious and curious ways. One day your life is saved from a colliding vehicle and the next day, you fall down the stairs and break your leg. There is no rhyme or reason to the ways of the heavens, at least not from where we stand. And there never will be. We can only look through the magnificent spiritual teachings of the masters and glean those insights that are consistent and universal, and patch together a cosmic quilt that makes sense to our soul.
We are meant to learn about the inner workings of our soul. That is a spiritual fact, not a religious one. We are governed by mystical laws that are consistent with the order of life and nature; again, not a religious fact but one that supports nature and life – and the Tao. And, by faith and observation, I believe that the graces are “bestowed” upon us in full measure at various times during the year. Perhaps it is less than twelve months, or more. I don’t know if heaven actually keeps a calendar. Maybe it’s more. But the cycle of seven is universal.
I believe we are meant to awaken to the graces that are resonating in our soul and so the power of those graces is allowed to do something magnificent in our lives seven times a year, once per grace. Further, I truly believe that once we know that grace, we can call it by name through prayer and it will pour forth endlessly.
To learn more about the Seven Graces and the Seven Shadow Passions, and how to work with the mystical laws, please check out my recent book, Defy Gravity.