Out of the Rabbit Hole
Before the amazing August 2023 retreat and intensive, I contemplated writing my upcoming blog about: What characterizes my rabbit holes (that which leads me away from God)? How do I get there? By ‘chance’,....View Now
Get Rest! By Embracing the Power of Grace
by Kambra McConnel
Listen to audio version of this article.
Sat Chit Ananda Guru Ki Jay.
“Grace is the power, the love, that rescues us from the entanglement of worldliness, and like a boat, carries us across the illusion of this world to that distant shore of joy, peace and bliss of the Absolute. Grace is that which frees us from the bondage of ignorance that conceals God from us.” ~ Sadguru Kedarji
I still remember learning that definition of Grace from Sadguru Kedarji. Years ago, as a newcomer to our approach, I found myself repeating it over and over again. I loved saying it. It always brought a smile to my face. And then one day, it just rolled right off my tongue, and my heart filled with joy. And I still feel that way about it.
I have consistently held that utterance in my awareness over many years, in addition to another favorite utterance of Sadguru Kedarji: “Grace begins with a grateful heart.”
In our approach, cultivating gratitude and embracing Grace are essential for the path to permanent spiritual transformation. So, my consistent, daily practice of remembering these utterances has always been a “Saving Grace” for me.
When I recall these utterances, I immediately feel more at peace and better equipped to address life’s challenges. And remembering them from moment to moment throughout each day helps me build and strengthen a solid, stable foundation for my daily spiritual practices of meditation, chanting, and japa (mantra repetition), which in turn makes it possible for me to experience more and more Grace.
These utterances are just a few examples of the wisdom and the daily, moment-to-moment blessings of Grace that our approach offers as a “safe harbor” when my restless mind starts to act like waves flowing and swirling in every direction.
However, merely recalling the highest understandings about Grace is not enough to live in a state of Grace.
To truly understand and imbibe Grace…and to truly live in a state of Grace from moment to moment in your daily life, no matter what “good” or “bad” things may appear to occur around you…the diligent, daily self-effort of applying the time-honored, tested and proven methods of our approach—as instructed and mentored by authentic spiritual leadership—is just as essential.
For example, Sadguru Kedarji has often instructed me to “get rest.” For the longest time, I held the understanding that that just meant I need to get 8 hours of sleep every night. And as I am sure many women and men can relate, when my body reached “a certain age,” that amount of uninterrupted sleep became harder and harder to come by!
Eventually, by way of Sadguru Kedarji’s blessings of Grace, wisdom and leadership by example, I came to understand that to “get rest” does not merely mean to sleep.
While nightly sleep is necessary for vibrant health, resting the body can occur in a number of ways, like resting through meditation, taking refuge in my mantra, and quieting my restless mind…for eternal rest. So, I now make a consistent effort to take refuge in the Self, and to keep my mind quiet, and to engage my heightened Witnessing Awareness from moment to moment throughout each day, especially at the beginning of each day.
I often wake up at around 4 am or 5 am, sometimes after waking up even earlier than that and then falling back to sleep. At first, sometimes I get caught up in feeling anxious, frustrated and angry about having “poor sleep.” I worry about how a lack of “good sleep” will erode my vibrant health, and then I end up tossing and turning in my bed for awhile.
But when I remember to reach for gratitude, by recalling the many useful methods that I have learned through our approach…the many ways in which I can quickly quiet my restless mind and relax my body into a healing rest…that instantly inspires me to fully embrace the power of Grace—both the Grace of my Guru’s instruction, and the Grace of my self-effort.
And then, I have a totally different experience: I typically choose to get out of bed, go downstairs to my puja, and sit for meditation in front of my puja. And then, I consistently experience that my restless mind quiets down, and I feel inner peace, a quiet mind, and a sense of timelessness.
On one particular occasion, after sitting for meditation…and truly resting…in front of my puja all night, when I awoke in the morning, I felt like my mind had been erased. For a moment, upon awakening, I was not sure where I was, or why I was there, or what day it was…I felt like a blank slate. It felt so peaceful, refreshing and rejuvenating. I felt truly “rested.” What Grace!
As another example, in recent months, I have observed that my body has had a tendency to not sit up straight for very long while sitting for meditation; I increasingly feel inclined to curl over onto my side and lie down in fetal position.
In our approach, we are instructed that the proper form for sitting meditation is to sit upright. And, as Sadguru Kedarji and our Lineage of saints and sages utter, “The Guru’s every word is mantra, even if uttered casually.”
So, by the Grace of that utterance, and the Grace of my self-effort to contemplate it over a long period of time, instead of simply ignoring the instruction and allowing my body to get into the habit of lying down for meditation without thinking anything of it, I began to feel a dawning of an awareness that my body’s persistent need to lie down is not something that will just pass. Instead, it is showing me where I need to strengthen. What Grace!
Because if my body is “collapsing” during seated meditation, then instead of dismissing it or worrying about it, I realized that I must deeply contemplate what I need to work on or pay attention to, and listen fully to my Guru’s instruction in order to properly heed it and act accordingly…instead of ignoring the fatigue and simply reaching for a “band-aid” of drinking more caffeine and snacking on more food to get through the day.
This led me to an even deeper contemplation—and then I experienced a breakthrough about the useless understandings that I had started to hold, which had begun to chip away at my vibrant health for longer than I had realized.
I realized that over a period of months, I had gradually started reaching for more salt and sugar in my food. I am a devout whole-food, plant-based vegan, and years ago, I stopped consuming processed sugar and salt. But when I felt stressed and fatigued over an extended period of time, I subtly started reaching for more of the convenient vegan foods, which often contain a lot of processed salt. And then my tastebuds craved sugar to counter the salty taste. And then, every day, I began to reach for “only one small square of dark chocolate”…I kept justifying the small amounts, even when one bite led to another. And then the sugar made me feel sleepy, so I would reach for another “weak” cup of coffee…and another…and more justification.
So I had gotten in a useless cycle that only led me deeper into an entanglement of cravings and justifications, thanks to my increasingly restless mind…rather than addressing the root cause—the fact that I needed to “get rest” and quiet my restless mind!
And when I then redoubled my effort to truly “get rest” and quiet my restless mind, I found it was so much easier to put forth the right self-effort to reach for useful nourishment. And then, I got back on track with cooking more fresh vegetables, eating healthy fats and proteins that strengthen my body and increase my energy. Om Guru Om…what Grace!
Kambra McConnel is the Treasurer of The Bhakta School of Transformation. She sits on our Board of Directors and also volunteers as a certified staff teacher and program leader for Nityananda Shaktipat Yoga.