The Art of Grace

Grace is one of those qualities you associate with older, wiser, less sociopathic people, right?

I find that it’s better to think of grace as a state rather than a personal quality. It’s open to anyone to cultivate grace and, according to this article at least, very much worth your time to do so. It works in your favor to develop grace.

Through a personal development lens, grace is a way of paying attention that is open and inclusive of contradictions. It is “active receptivity”, or “transcendent awareness”. Developing grace, whilst having practical benefits, is probably best described as a spiritual practice.

Cultivating grace as you pursue self-awareness is what helps you to become present to all the aspects of yourself. This is what causes authentic self-development and leads to the creation of a passionate, purposeful, true life. As someone smart once said, grace puts us in the “neighbourhood of transformation”.

This post seeks to illuminate the power of grace, and offers a process to develop grace that I am using right now.

Defining grace

Let’s flesh out what it means to develop grace.

As a mindset, it is a little similar to gratitude or  – for those of you familiar with Buddhism – non-attachment.

I prefer to view grace as being a certain way of paying attention. The quality of that attention is expansive, and open to – and allowing of – yours and others’ personality contradictions.

Grace has alternately been defined as a prolonged experience of “aha” moment of awakening to life’s central paradoxes.

The spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra has defined grace as close to humility, and reverence for uncertainty. He says that “in the wisdom of uncertainty lies the freedom from our past, from the known, from the prison of past conditioning. Uncertainty is the fertile ground of creativity and freedom.” (Having humility is essential for self-awareness too, as explained in my book about self-discovery.)

Grace can also be seen as flow: not a thing, but rather a process. When you are living your purpose, and flowing in the here and now, you are in grace.

Grace is having psychological flexibility, or surrendering effortlessly to living in harmony with reality.

Ultimately grace might not be something that our syntactic structures can grasp. Says the Enneagram teacher Russ Hudson, grace “keeps opening us up, lifting us up, moving us out of our extreme conditionality (refers to being at the mercy of our egos), making it possible for us to grasp contradictions. We develop a healthy respect for the mystery of life, and become less controlling.”

What grace makes possible, that isn’t available without grace

Let’s talk more about this idea of how grace helps us to access our essential natures.

It is often discussed in psychological and spiritual literature that in order to grow, we have to embrace our dark sides as we affirm what’s positive about us. We need to learn to hold “both ends of the stick”.

When you’ve developed grace, more of your attention is available. When your focus isn’t being activated in habitual ways, it gets wider. You become in a sense more intelligent.

By way of illustration, the opposite of having grace is being in a state of resistance to, or denial of, reality. Our egos are the structures we use to maintain this state of delusion. (If you are interested by this idea, read this article).

How to develop grace

To develop grace, you just start being a lot more allowing. You notice how you struggle against your mental barriers and you open up instead to what’s there. You commit to truth, learning and freedom instead of security.

This is hard to begin with as it’s easier to fall back on ingrained psychological patterns. We continue to turn our backs on our Shadow selves, and yet the Shadow self is the recognized doorway to our unrealized qualities.

The most important step is to practice mindfulness, as that’s what allows you to see things clearly. When you are mindful, you loosen the hold of habitual thinking and behaviour patterns. (Read this guide if you are not sure how to practice mindfulness).

I’d also suggest that you read this guide to acceptance. You are basically trying to develop openness with your attention.

I encourage you to begin to develop grace. I reckon it’s well worth the time.

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