Monthly archive

May 2024 Musings

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind   
and floats downstream   
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.
But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and   
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.
The caged bird sings   
with a fearful trill   
of things unknown   
but longed for still   
and his tune is heard   
on the distant hill   
for the caged bird   
sings of freedom.
---Maya Angelou
The caged bird sings of freedom, not bondage.
The spiritual seeker sets out to find freedom from suffering. However, even a sincere seeker can become so focused on the search, on looking for what is missing, that they live in a narrative of bondage. It behooves those of us walking the way to remember the spiritual journey is not a movement from bondage to freedom but a “cleansing of the doors of perception” (William Blake) so we no longer have to take it on faith that we are not bound. 
That which we are seeking is causing us to seek.
---Practice adage
The starting premise of many spiritual seekers is the awareness of the song of freedom and bewilderment that we seldom give voice to it. Understanding the mechanics of what stifles the song is an essential first step, but we cannot lose sight of the fact that a spiritual practice is undertaken as a way to give voice to the song. Within the throes of the misery of acute ego identification, it is true that we feel trapped  by a monotonous karmic pattern, relentlessly repeating itself.  So, when the mental prison obscures the awareness that the bars on the cage are an illusion, how do we train to give voice to the song that catapults us out of longing into the truth of our freedom? 
Perhaps a practice of cultivating receptivity to grace?
Grace is a magical timeout from our ordinary, habitual orientation to life. We suddenly move from the “regular and predictable” (neither of which Life ever is) to the startlingly extraordinary (which each moment of life actually is). This gift of heightened sensitivity, of increased focus, of sharpened perception and acute attunement just appears. We haven’t done anything special that we know of. It just happens. In a moment we are dropped, or catapulted, into the mysterious.
Sometimes grace is as simple and practical as spontaneous disidentification from a particularly tenacious clinging. Sometimes grace appears in the form of an “ah ha” that changes forever the way we view life and ourselves. Often grace arrives as an awareness of how blessed we are, how much we’ve been given, filling our hearts with gratitude and our eyes with tears.
Grace is a mystical, transcendent, spiritual occurrence, an affirmation of that which is greater than ourselves. In times of grace, we have a palpable experience of being cared for, supported, guided and embraced by Life. We are most aware of grace when it appears in times of struggle or suffering but once we recognize its subtle signature we realize we are living in grace always. We begin to suspect that grace is a synonym for Living. 
---from What Universe Are You Creating?
Our spiritual heroes repeatedly tell us that if we are not in grace, it doesn’t mean grace is absent. If we are not in grace, it simply means we are not present to Presence. The practice of cultivating receptivity to grace is a steadfast commitment to find grace, especially in those times when ego-self-absorption renders it opaque. Ego identification is our best opportunity to transcend a habitual orientation and learn to perceive the startlingly extraordinary where we don’t usually see it.
If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.
---Jack Kornfield
In practicing receptivity to grace, attention is not focused on what’s missing; attention is on what is here. The inquiry isn’t “Why can’t I see grace.” The inquiry is “Where is grace to be found here.”  To “find” grace is to learn to register presence, to redirect attention from the perspective that can only note what is absent, what is lacking, what is wrong.
The Pacific Northwest was recently abuzz with excitement at the possibility of seeing the aurora borealis. A close encounter with a dramatic and spectacular geomagnetic storm in one’s backyard was an opportunity not to be missed. But some of us who set alarms and roused ourselves at the appointed hour to look up at the night sky failed to see this celestial display of dancing lights. For someone practicing receptivity to grace, this experience would not be one of missing a miracle. For someone practicing receptivity to grace, a miracle is never missed, because the focus of attention is always on the miracle, HERE. The aurora was not seen but what was witnessed? 
The warm spring night, 
the cool breeze carrying the scent of the blooming lilacs, 
the brilliance of the stars in the purple blue of night sky, 
the snow glistening on the mountain range in the distance, 
a sacred silence that wraps itself around the heart. 
And wait… was that bird song…
or the joyous bubbling of delight at the miracle of being alive?  
It is enough that one surrenders oneself. Surrender is giving oneself up to the original cause of one's being. Do not delude yourself by imagining this source to be some God outside you. One's source is within oneself. Give yourself up to it. That means that you should seek the source and merge in it.
---Ramana Maharshi
With practice, we come to discover that grace is not an object to be acquired but a subjective experience of living, a moment-by-moment encounter. We accept that finding grace involves letting go that which keeps us from perceiving it, which includes any and all preconceptions of “letting go.” We learn to trust that we are completely guided but not in charge. We begin to see that it is not a mistake that we find ourselves repeatedly in karmic cul-de-sacs; they are essential to the process of becoming unconditioned. We relax into the awareness that intimacy with grace arises from an increasing receptivity to it, a conscious redirecting of attention to its animating presence, until there is awareness of where grace is directly experienced. 
Until then, in the practice of receptivity to grace, we pray with Rumi…
Make me sweet again, 
fragrant and fresh and wild, 
and thankful for any small event.



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