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I paint, make collages and mixed media work. I write poetry. I reflect on the Tao.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The art of grace

“Grace is ageless” @shellartistree wrote on Twitter, referring to Leonard Cohen. Having seen the master in concert not that long ago, I initially thought that it was an odd description. However, the more I reflected on it, the more I came to realise that it was perfectly apt. On stage, Leonard Cohen is a completely integrated human being, warts and all. ”If it be your will”, he sings, “that a voice be true”. And the voice IS true.

Leonard sometime in his early seeking days defined the “state of grace” as being a condition when one is like an escaped ski, hurling down the slope of life, effortlessly yet safely meeting the bumps as they come. Today Cohen is the embodiment of that awareness, seeing the sacred in every moment and enjoying the ride immensely
Concert at the Bislett Stadium Oslo, Norway, July 1, 2008 Text by Ali Eklöf

Synchronously, I had been musing on the notion of Grace in another context, when @shellartistree posted that comment. In my understanding, Spirit manifests in human form as four aspects: soul, mind, heart and body. Each of these has a gift from Spirit for the world. Gift should not be taken to imply separation between Spirit and form. The quality is something that is intrinsically enfolded in form, and hence it is a given for giving. Another way of looking at this is that the quality is the essence of the form. For the body this gift or essence is Life, for the heart the gift is Love, for the mind the gift is Light and for the soul the gift is Grace.

Life, Love and Light I could grasp (at least intellectually), but Grace seemed elusive. The more I read and the more I mused, I became aware that, at its core, Grace is a mystery.

What can be said about Grace?
What comes through Grace comes unbidden, of itself, without intention. Grace cannot be lured, or forced, or counterfeited. You can prepare the way, you can prepare yourself, you can set out your art materials, you can ready yourself for the process of creation, but Grace comes of its own accord — or not.

When Grace comes, the process of art making flows freely and effortlessly. When Grace is present, life flows openly. Synchronicity, serendipity, intuition and insight abound. There is a joy in the work and in the task, no matter how grim and difficult it may be.

Grace is your true nature revealing itself. It allows the unfolding of that which is hidden beneath the mask of the everyday. It demands authenticity and integrity of the self, beyond a strong ego, a self-actualized self, an individuated person, or any other puny psychotherapeutic concept.

Grace opens our minds to the light of truth, our hearts to the fire of love and our bodies to the vitality of life.

Grace accepts and glories in the way things are. It enables us to so love the world, that we can meet the ups and downs of life with faith, seeing the sacred in every moment and fully experiencing the ride.

The art of grace
Now, I would not claim to live in a state of Grace.

(An aside: beware of anyone who makes such a claim. If untrue, they offer nothing but delusions. If true, they are a snare on your own path. If you see a Buddha on the road,…)

A fallen angel, I.

More fallen than angel.

But there are times when even I have sensed a touch of Grace.

     Leonard Cohen in concert.

     Seeing these.

    When looking deeply into my beloved’s eyes.

     When art comes through my hands.

     When inspired words drop into my mind.

     In the stillness of meditation.

     In deepest despair when angels whisper comfort.

Times when the mind was stilled and not drowning out the still small voice of the soul.

Blunt the sharpness of your mind.
Untangle the knots in your thoughts.
Soften the glare of your criticism.
Let your mind wander where it will.
Become one with the Tao.
Close your openings, shut your doors,
Soften your sharpness, loosen your knots.
Soften the glare
Let your wheels move along old ruts.
This is called mysteriously attaining oneness
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching


  1. I woke, after a restless night. Sleep was not mine for the taking and my mind felt hazy and full, as it often does these days.... And then I stumbled upon this post and clarity came...

    I remember the day we shared thoughts about Grace. You challenged me a bit, and then we circled around and finally you so eloquently put your own thoughts about this sometimes intangible state into beautiful words that stuck with me, and do, still.

    This post captures the flavor of that discussion perfectly. Your words are thoughtful and beautiful and meaningful. You, graceful man, are a joy to all who are lucky enough to cross your illuminated path...

    Thank you for the lovely mention. I feel quite honored and very peaceful now. Thank you very much.


  2. dear vaughan,

    this sentence really resonated with me: "Gift should not be taken to imply separation between Spirit and form." I believe when we can eliminate that space between the two, that is Grace. Marco Rojas in yoga is always saying when we eliminate the gaps between breathing, there we find Grace. When breathing becomes a circle, not a cycle, not an inhale then exhale, but inhalexhaleinahle, there is something of Beyond that happens.

    Moreover, I have learned power does not have to come at the expense of grace and true humility is utmost powerful.

    Thanks for your thoughts,


  3. I love the way you have captured this fluid, elusive, and mysterious reality and given it such a strong yet quiet form. Your words grasp all the meanings, essence, poetry, truth. Yes, grace does come to us ‘on its own accord’ - doesn’t it. Like a bird - it lands on one’s shoulders sometimes in moments most unexpected. It comes, sings, heals, and reveals the oneness. It never really leaves us, does it, and yet, we do have the tendency to walk away or resist the love and grace that just continuously is. I wonder sometimes, why the mind has such difficulty to stay in beingness. stillness, present awareness – in grace, in life. I wonder. But, then again I like to wonder. Thank you for your incredible graceful essence and for this post that brought me closer to my own quietude.