We just got back from a Solstice celebration at the Unitarian Fellowship that a friend of mine belongs to. We go there every year for Winter Solstice, and they always have a wonderful ritual, followed by bread and soup. This year's celebration was focused on opening to grace. As we celebrated and waited for the moment to light this year's fire, it occurred to me just how many opportunities I have been offered this past year to open to grace, and how very hard it can be to do that sometimes. For me, in particular, it is hard to accept the help and support of other people, and yet it is exactly that support that has gotten me through some difficult times. This includes all of the kind words and packages and emails that everyone sent me when I was having a hard time this fall, and was feeling rather sad and disconnected. It really meant a lot to me and it helped me to dig out of that dark place, and yet it's something that I have trouble both asking for and accepting. But being open to that truly is a way to see and be part of that bigger thing that we could call grace.
One part of the ritual every year is to pick a word out of a bowl. The joke among people who have been doing this for a while is that, while you may not like the word you pull out of the bowl, it's always the word that you need. I have found this to be true in the past, and this year, my word was Abundance. Talk about having to really think about the many many ways that grace has been in abundance for me this year. It's so easy to focus on the difficult things that I've faced, and sometimes it does help to just acknowledge that there have been hard times, and that I've made it through. But of course, a large part of the reason that I've made it through is precisely because of that abundance of grace. Because it's hasn't been "I" making it through, it's been "we", whatever "we" may consist of at a particular moment. In a culture that fetishizes independence and the ability to go it alone, acknowledging that we don't, and that we don't have to, is in itself a form of grace. We are stronger for being "we".
Being open to grace, to me, also means paying attention to those small gifts that come our way that would be so easy to miss. It's a special form of concentration. Buddhists whom I know would say that it's that state of ongoing awareness that is cultivated through quieter meditative practices. It's noticing the Random Acts of Kindness that Sheri has been encouraging through her blog; we can offer them, but it takes an equal amount of awareness to see when they're happening to us. For me, and maybe for many people brought up in a culture which tells us to go out there and get 'em, it's easier to do those acts than it is to accept them gracefully. Maybe that's my practice for this year: the grateful acceptance of those moments of grace.
Tomorrow: pickled herring and spindles. Do I have you on the edges of your seats?