the grace of awareness

3jewels.thegraceofawareness

From Transformative Love to Taking Ourselves As the Object of Love, Sangha’s inquiry and discernment came full circle in 2018. During our final practices in December, we reflected on our year of learning together, naming what we felt inspired to rededicate ourselves to individually and what we collectively felt drawn to study in the season ahead.

The thread weaving through our experiences and aspirations was the celebration of awareness and the desire to diligently cultivate it where it was absent and to nourish it where it was blooming.

For me, the lessons of the Fall had brought me into a deep exploration of Grace. I kept returning to a phrase that my cousin had shared with me a year or more earlier, “You don’t have worry about rationing that which God has already set apart for you.” I didn’t know the full context of the sermon she had taken this note from, but it suddenly sprouted up in a conversation with another good spiritual friend. So I immediately reached out to my cousin who then shared a link to her pastor’s sermon, Grace: How To Be What You Can’t Earn (to view the full sermon, start at the 51:00 mark).

After watching the video, my curiosity deepened with the realization that, beyond saying grace over a meal, I didn’t have a fully-developed understanding of Grace, as is taught from a Christian perspective. In my practice of Buddhism, I have never encountered a sutra or dharma talk about this particular concept. Which is not surprising, for how would a non-theistic religion articulate the notion of Grace being bestowed through one’s relationship with God?

Still I was compelled to follow my curiosity, which is always leading me toward an embodied understanding and practice of my questions.

I turned to the Bible’s Hebrew roots and learned that Grace is derived from Chanan, meaning an encampment, a refuge, a dwelling place (here’s a second translation I read). In this I had found a thread of connection for dharma practitioners:

Just as the brahmiviharas — compassionsympathetic joyloving-kindness and equanimity — are divine abodes or dwelling places, I clearly recognized Grace as a divine abode. I now understood what the Christian teachings I’d explored meant by the explanation that Grace couldn’t be earned. It is an organic emanation of our relationship to awareness in the same way as it is an emanation of Christians’ relationship to God.

We dwell in Grace whenever we dwell in awareness.
It is a sacred space of being, of trusting, of resting.

Magically, within two weeks of sharing my contemplation with Sangha, a good spiritual friend spoke a prayer over me for deep restoration and referenced a scripture that has become yet another golden thread in my growing tapestry. One particular translation— “learn the unforced rhythms of grace” — inspired my personal season of contemplation and has become the mantra Sangha returns to in our collective study of The Grace of Awareness.

This guiding contemplation for 2019 invites us to enter into (or renew) a relationship with awareness by establishing ourselves in the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.

It begins with the observation of the body, wherein the breath awakens our clear understanding of its suchness (functions, positions, activities, impermanence). It moves through observation of feelings, of mind/mental formations, and of perceptions/dharmas.

To fully live into The Grace of Awareness, we are moving with an intentional pace of steadiness and ease directed by the unforced rhythm of breath!

FOR CONTEMPLATION + PRACTICE

  • The Sutra on Mindful Breathing [.pdf]— from the Taisho Tripitaka 803 translated by Thich Nhat Hanh. Revised for Gender Inclusive Language by Tara Scott-Miller (3 Jewels Yoga).
  • Embodied Meditation— a guided practice from The Sutra on Mindful Breathing recorded by Tara Scott-Miller (3 Jewels Yoga).

embodied practice: four foundations of mindfulness

3jewels.winterimmersion.faith1As sangha opened the 2016 Winter Immersion series last week with the 5 Spiritual Faculties, I pointed back (as I often do) to the Four Foundations of Mindfulness to anchor us in the spacious awareness of body, breath, emotions, and mental formations as we develop and strengthen Concentration and Diligence/Effort.

Here are a few resources on the Buddhist discourses on the Mindfulness of Breathing (Ānāpānasati Sutta) and the Foundations of Mindfulness (Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta). This list was originally compiled for a previous post on the wisdom of the exhale.

3 Jewels Yoga

Bhante G

Gil Fronsdal

Updated 15 February 2019

embodied practice: aum + amen | wisdom of the exhale

Early in my asana practice, I encountered difficulty with taking the oft-instructed “deep inhale.” It felt forced and counterintuitive to my body’s wisdom and capacity to draw air into my lungs. What resonated more with me was to develop an intimate understanding of my breath (rather than changing or controlling it through pranayama, specific yoga breathing exercises) as I’d learned through my Buddhist practice of mindfulness. 

Spending quiet time witnessing my breath, I came to understand how it moved through my body and how my body, heart and mind responded to the movement of each breath. I experienced the multidimensional aspects of breath: the nurturing, energizing, and replenishing qualities of my inhale; the centering, soothing and relaxing qualities of my exhale; and, in the nearly imperceptible pause between the inhale and exhale, where breath organically and effortlessly transforms, I discovered the sensations of steadiness, equanimity, and surrender.

The more I relaxed into the rhythm and flow of breath, the more I came to cherish the cleansing, clearing power of the exhale. It, in fact, created space for my inhale to arise completely without restraint. A deep sense of ease prevailed, bringing with it the wisdom of the exhale–to soften all forms of gripping (muscles to bones, ideas, feelings, thoughts) and to release whatever did not serve me in the moment.

Embodied Practice: Touching the Wisdom of the Exhale by Chanting Aum or Amen

Sit with the breath,
Noticing the exhale arising from the pit of the pelvis.
Invite its embodied wisdom to permeate every cell and fiber—
It is the vehicle through which we release 
the toxins/waste products of oxygen,
So too let all tension/toxins of body, heart and mind be released
Upward and outward with the cleansing,
clearing flow of the exhale.

Hear and feel the exhale take shape
as the seed sound Aum or Amen.

Chant it out loud three times, enjoying the pause in between and the sweet sensation of its release.
Abide calmly in the deep and expansive wave of relief.

Related

Here are a few resources on the Buddhist discourses on the Mindfulness of Breathing (Ānāpānasati Sutta) and the Foundations of Mindfulness (Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta).

 Bhante G

Gil Fronsdal