Monday, October 12, 2015

Grace Under Pressure

From my memoir “God Never Hurries:”

“I found much grace in my trouble.  Because my life was at stake, I became keenly aware of everything.  It was a time of heightened consciousness and vivid dreams.”

* * *

“There was much grace in howling.  It gave voice to my pain.  The deep inhalations and long slow exhalations were good for the body as well as the soul.  It was an instinctive response that helped me understand how the ability to flee is injured when being too nice, and how being too nice normalizes abnormal behavior.”

* * *

“Grace happened frequently on public radio broadcasts.  It was uncanny how things I struggled with would then be featured on my favorite public radio station.”

A ritual of writing about the joys and troubles in each day, and immersing myself in the natural world, tended my grief as I struggled for my mother’s safety in her Alzheimer’s disease, and with my father’s alcoholism.  I came to see God in all things and people.  Time spent in sorrow and solitude somehow nourished me.  Facing my fallibility was freeing.  My soul awakened with outrage.  Neglected and repressed parts of myself learned to speak.  Through vulnerability I came to know the comfort of others’ empathy.  Ever so slowly, God was growing me.  Having gone through all of that I have been puzzling lately how stressed out I have been over less monumental problems.  So in Yoga class this morning, when our instructor asked, “What do people want to work on today?”  I responded, “How about grace under pressure.”  I was grateful my request did not stump him.   

As we lay on our mats doing calming diaphragmatic breathing and heart-opening exercises, our wise instructor said, “One way to combat stress is to be thankful for what we have.”  And I have consciously been working on that.  But then he added, “You also have to get out of your mind and gut and be in your heart.”  Immediately I understood.  When the pressure is on I am nowhere near my heart.  He also said, whatever happens, it is important to know I will be all right.  In the community of my yoga class, with the rapt attention of all, my stress was replaced with a calming anticipation of a more open heart and continued learning.

What if we could all go to our heart when the pressure is on? 

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