What is Grace?
Grace is moving, acting and living with potential.
Grace is simple to see and yet harder to achieve.
Potential is an open-ended word, so grace is an ever open-ended process in itself of how one grows. Grace shifts meaning faster than any other word in the English language. It’s relative to the holder and relative to the moment it’s being held.
Since grace connects to potential, this explains why the word grace gets associated with God. In many religions, a person finds their potential through connecting to that which is greater. That higher level of potential that is often labeled as “God”, the universe or similar higher level concepts.
What is Graceful Living?
Before exploring graceful living, we need to take a step back to look at living itself.
When I was asked: “Define Living.” My answer without hesitation was:
To act with awareness…
An animal would react with instincts.
A Human re-acts relative to their stories and then instincts
A Conscious being (animal or human) would act with awareness first and then if appropriate use instincts or story to modify how they need to respond.
When you see a living being acting/ reacting in a manner that is unique, then that is living in their essence.
So I thought about it. What would the Taoist answer be?
Let’s be realistic, people have countless definitions of what living means to them, and it partly comes down to how you look at life. So in part living is a perception based activity, where perception is all about awareness. So this means all definitions need to include a bit of awareness.
Let’s dig deeper: Is it enough to only be aware?
I don’t think so; I think there is always an element of action also to living… it’s the dash of action that shapes and gives style to how a person lives. Action is the use of our potential that allows a person to be graceful. So truly living is a mixture of awareness and action, or at times action could be replaced by the word connection. Which is why you can see many definitions of living since you replace the word “action” with some active process that the living being is focused upon.
So for example:
The biological definition of life: the capacity to grow, metabolize, respond (to stimuli), adapt, and reproduce
IN other words: action and awareness
awareness (respond (to stimuli)) and actions (growth, metabolize, adapt and reproduce)
People seem to dance between the pole of action only (For example a Westerner rushing to act before knowing what is happening) < —> to the other pole of awareness only (shutting out the world completely to meditate). But somewhere in between, exist many blends of both action and awareness to working with each other to produce a lifetime to experience.
From a Taoist perspective, we simplify action down and focus closer to the Awareness side of this equation. We do this for flexibility. The more action based a person is, the fewer options they have in life. Taoist’s love both options and potential. A Taoist accepts action at the most graceful moments, since action when done well also creates potential in addition to only using potential. Careless actions based purely on consumption merely use up potential compared to graceful actions that build up potential and options.
Options are the choices you have only based on a given action; potential represents all the options you can flow into with your efforts. In any one moment, you can have a large number of actions that create a larger field of potential to dance through. If you act precisely enough, then you have focused the energy to flow cleanly down one option.
So to a Taoist living is
With awareness: acting with grace.
Mindfulness and Grace
Someone asked me does this apply to mindfulness?
The answer is yes.
Mindfulness is a form of awareness. But this makes me also think about how we define living does change from religion to religion. So when asked about mindfulness lets approach this from the Buddhist perspective.
For a Buddhist the answer gets modify to this:
Mindfulness produces grace when acting with release.
The inclusion of release changes the perspective on what grace represent radically, and it re-defines how a person lives and moves with their actions.
Each religion or major philosophy redefines the awareness to action relationship.
For a Taoist the answer gets modify to this:
Mindfulness produces grace when acting with kindness
People from different practices will now argue over what grace represents due to the different perspectives, direction, energy and preferred actions. With a Taoist approach of nonjudgment, it helps reduce conflict as we bump into each other on our paths of different ideals of how to express grace.
So keep in mind depending on how you define potential, your highest ideals and what it is you are striving towards, will change how you explore and hold grace.
Releasing Perfection to Find Grace
To be human is embrace your nature as a story. The core of every story always contains a seed of a flaw to drive the story onward.
Once accepting being human includes our flaws, the need to be perfect melts away and a person can strive to live kindly. It’s the drive to live kindly that allows a person to come to terms with their flaws.
The pressure to be perfect reinforces the desire to measure oneself, and this is the entryway for the trap of judgment. To measure oneself against another is to limit yourself even more. Removing the mirror of judgment lets each person see each other uniquely as individuals. It’s good to see weaknesses and flaws, which give us each distinction. This allows us to work with strength with each other more gracefully and also improves society in how we work together.
Society often does the opposite, tries to force everyone to work in the same manner. Such an approach is guaranteed to break down individuality for the benefit of society. Trying to be perfect for society will destroy personal freedom.
Allow imperfection to be a strength rather than a weakness, and you will discover more graceful options in life.
Explore Your Options
When considering options for what is next in life: consider which option feels most “graceful” over strongest or longest or fastest or so many other options.
Graceful options will be your most flexible options that adapt for unexpected changes as everything re-jiggers over the next few years.
I shared this advice with a friend building up his business. I modified it slightly here to be more general. But this advice is key advice for our times.
Let this be the age of grace.
As everything shifts, as fundamentals shift: How do you plan and build something that can withstand chaos or the seemingly unpredictable whimsey of our times? Worse, the rate of change is so great, much of what used to work will not work gracefully over the next few years as social and economic changes shift how people think, work and live… around the world.
So what is graceful as the whole world is re-balancing itself?
You see graceful is what will win out. Just as the iPod design was graceful over the Zune and hence became the standard, people are being pulled to what is graceful to make their life better.
At different points of history, different traits are valued more than others: Strength, Reason, Precision, Speed (Cheapness, i.e.–> Economy) were all qualities that defined different ages of the past. The culture is fighting over how to evolve past the current age of “Cheapness”. Let’s hope of all the concepts that our new world will be defined under that it’s graceful that defines us. I have no desire to defined to Power or some of the other terms fighting for the top spot right now.
It’s time for saving grace. Literally: graceful solutions will call to people’s hearts now.
So here is a problem with graceful: Few people can actively define graceful. Graceful is something almost everyone knows when they see, However, very few people have the knack to predefine what will be graceful. Putting grace into words is hard because it is transcendent in nature and crosses so many different boundaries.
Yet graceful means: of greatest potential…
The trick to simplify graceful can be understanding what potential to explore and towards whom that potential is being applied towards. For example, graceful for your children could be different than graceful for work.
To be truly graceful, you don’t need to sacrifice your potential to another. The most graceful solutions work across all the lines and barriers we impose to judge our world with. Since the modern world is in turmoil and is judging itself to death right now, it will take graceful solutions to re-unite our world. This is why this could become known as the age of grace, because, our world is in the messy business of becoming one planet for humanity finally.
At the personal level:
One hint to using graceful solutions to fix up your life: Strive for this: what would make you smile the most over the next year as you sort out options.
A smile represents potential, so let your smile guide you to what is graceful.
More About Living with Grace
To live with grace is not something that can be bought nor is easy. Rather it means taking personal time and energy to practice personal “soul” crafting as the art of making life beautiful.
The most wonderful thing about such actions. It doesn’t matter if others notice since in the end you will step back and embrace the beauty within your own life of grace.
However, a person must learn one thing for this to work. It takes accepting your definition of beauty rather than being fooled by society to take an imposed version of beauty. That is the crux of the problem. As most people are very social and are unwilling to trust to their feelings of what is right.
Now let’s illustrate this in practice by a simple story “The man who planted trees.”
In this case, this is a story with many roots of truth such as Johnny Appleseed.
The point of the story is true. We each have something in our life which can be the basis of grace to change the world. I know this story is true and it can be done as I have done so in my life. I have passed out so many smiles to so many strangers. Over twenty years I have made a difference.
We each have a choice. Just remember grace is not something bought, it’s something given freely from our actions.
How to Live Before You Die
How should one live before they die?
Wow, if it’s that simple why do people make it hard? Because people often make a mistake to think complicated is better.
Figuring out what is graceful can be a challenge, since, to be graceful, also means to be yourself fully. So many people get confused by society, parents, spouses, children and others trying to get you to be what they want you to be, over supporting you to be, simply yourself.
Remember this: there is no prize afterlife for being the best. Being your best is the prize itself: During Life. Heaven isn’t a prize to achieve; heaven is a place you live within by making it so.
Enjoy it and understanding being your best is an ever growing process as you live, one day at a time.
How to live before you die?
By being yourself the best you can, one day at a time.
PS: If death represents merely a returning of one back into the universe, even to your life, doesn’t that also mean to always strive for your best during life? Might as well live it as well as you can so you truly and eternally enjoy your life as its fullest in the now that is eternal, already.
Our house is kept simple. Almost no furniture is in it, and we minimize what we can, so others can open up when coming here to heal.
It’s funny because in a consumer culture so much clutter tries to come into the house. I walked around the house this morning, and I feel like a storm blew in trash from the outside. Various art projects based on consumer goods are scattered about the living room at the moment. All my children are here and everything is scattered about since spending time with each other is a bit more important than being proactive in picking up.
I was looking at a cheap little plastic pony falling apart near the bath tub. Someone gave it my daughter for a birthday long ago. It made me so sad, that plastic pony represents so much trash, that we turn out day after day, wasting energy, resources and our lives.
In a consumer culture, people lose themselves to the clutter, the trashy items that just fall apart. The first response is to clean up. Modern society is trying to clean everything up, by hiding the problem of consuming the world to ash.
Lifestyle is a choice.
You can change the world: it’s a choice in how you live.
I can teach you many options you can do to help shift the world. For example:
Instead of giving plastic away as a gift, give a moment of your time.
But teaching “Instead” feels like preaching to me. So I won’t create such a list. It will vary from person to person.
I want to affirm this instead: you have the power to shape the world.
In how you live: experiment with living gracefully. It will take a lifetime to achieve, but it makes so many people smile, especially yourself. It also reduces the consumption of burning our green earth away to dust.