Falling into Grace

Insights on the end of suffering, by Adyashanti (a summary by Pat Evert)


  • Introduction 

It is the basic elements of a teaching that hold the true power to help transform our lives. Grace is something that comes to us when we may not know what we think we know. In this gap of not knowing, a whole other element of life and reality can rush in. We then realize something that previously we never could quite imagine. The teachings in this book are simply ways to open ourselves to grace, to open ourselves to that mysterious element of light that enters in the hidden and quiet moments. This sparks a revolution that goes a long way toward helping us to end the suffering and strife that so many human beings live with day to day, one that directly addresses the deepest yearning of the human heart.

  • The Human Dilemma 

How is it that people come into conflict? Adults spend a lot of time thinking, and more important than that—they actually believe what they were thinking. They’re insane. It’s insane to believe the thoughts in your head. It’s the cause of human suffering – why is it that we seem to hold onto our suffering as if it was a very important possession? One of the greatest reasons that we suffer is because we believe the thoughts in our head. Why? We don’t believe the thoughts in someone else’s head. Nobody tells us that to believe the thoughts in our minds might be a very dangerous thing to do. When you teach a child that a bird is named ‘bird,’ the child will never see the bird again. All of these things lose some of their natural aliveness once we name them. Of course we need to learn these names and form concepts around them, but if we start to believe that these names and all of the concepts we form around them are real, then we’ve begun the journey of becoming entranced by the world of ideas. That’s what thought does: It separates. It classifies. It names. It divides. It explains. We’ve become trapped in a world of dreams, a world in which we live primarily in our minds. When we see the world through our thoughts, we stop experiencing life as it really is and others as they really are. In a certain sense, if I have an idea about you that I believe, I’ve degraded you. I’ve made you into something very small. This is what we do to each other. When we believe what we think, when we take our thinking to be reality, we will suffer. At that moment, we begin to experience a sense of isolation, where we no longer feel connected to each other in a very rich and human way, but we find ourselves receding more and more into the world of our minds. 

Notice that there is a silence that is always present, and that noise happens within this silence—even the noise of the mind. Every thought arises against the backdrop of absolute silence. It’s not actually true that you are the one thinking. Thinking simply happens. There is something present that is other than thought, and that we aren’t just the next thought that we have in our minds. Why is it that, even when we start to see that it is our minds that are making us suffer, we still grasp onto our minds so deeply and with such vehemence? Why do we still hold on to this identification. This is the prime illusion: that I am what I think, that I am what I believe, that I am my particular point of view. 

In the Gospel according to Thomas, Jesus says, “The seeker should not stop until he finds. When he does find, he will be disturbed. After being disturbed, he will be astonished. Then he will reign over everything.” The seeker should not stop until he finds—until he finds happiness, peace, or reality itself. And the truth is that until reality is seen clearly, as it is, there will be no lasting peace or happiness, so we must first find out what is real, who we are, and what life is at its core. Jesus is pointing to a way to seek that was revealed long, long ago: to seek within. “When he does find, he will be disturbed.” This line is pointing to why most people don’t find lasting happiness—because most people don’t want to be disturbed. We must actually be willing to be disturbed, surprised, wrong in our assumptions—and cast into a very deep well of unknowing. If we’re not willing to find out that what we believe in really isn’t the truth, then we can never be happy. If we’re not open to that idea, at least that possibility, there’s no way we can find our way out of suffering. Are you willing to be wrong? Are you willing to see that you may not be living from a standpoint of truth, from a standpoint of reality? This is what it means to be disturbed. This is really the entry point into the end of suffering: when you become conscious of the fact that you don’t really know. I mean that you don’t really know anything. The first thing we have to look at is our own self, who we really are. By finding out what it is that we are, we step into a dimension of consciousness which brings an end to needless suffering. If I’m anything at all, I’m a point of awareness, recognizing that everything I think about myself isn’t really what I am; I recognize that the next thought I have could never truly describe me. Even though it may be at first unsettling to look into your own no-thingness, you do it anyway. Why? Because you no longer want to suffer. Because you’re willing to be disturbed. What we are exists before we think about it. What you really are is quite a surprise when you see it for the first time, when you feel it. You can start to feel your own transparency. As soon as you believe that a label you’ve put on yourself is true, you’ve limited something that is literally limitless, you’ve limited who you are into nothing more than a thought. It’s an image. It’s an idea. A set of thoughts. It’s literally a product of imagination. It’s who we imagine ourselves to be. We end up putting so much attention onto our image that we remain in a continuous state of protecting or improving our image in order to control how others see us. We’re not relating to who each other is, we’re just relating to our imagination of who each other is. Allow yourself to see that your self-image is just an image—not reality, not the truth, not who we really are. If we look deeply at the core of all our images, there is this feeling of not being authentic, not being real. Yet, when we start to peer underneath our image, we find something quite surprising—maybe even a bit disturbing at first. We begin to find no image. Are you really willing and ready to be that free and that open?

  • Unraveling Our Suffering 

One of the most common experiences human beings have, at a very deep place inside that we often try to hide or deny, is this ongoing element of human suffering. An egoic sense of who we are means we essentially see ourselves as separate, as other from the world around us. It breeds a sense of alienation and fear. Because when we see life as other, then these “others” are seen as potential threats. All suffering is based on a misperception of self. As life goes on it something develops we call history. And the more real it feels, the more we feel that it needs to be protected, that it needs to get its way. The mind then starts adding onto this rudimentary sense of self. The first thing it adds on is a thought, and it’s called “I” or “me.” When our mind starts to imagine that we are something separate and different from the world around us, it changes the way we perceive. The truth is that, ultimately speaking, ego is nothing but a state of consciousness. To find liberation, we must wake up from this dream that our mind creates, that we’re something separate than everything around us. This is the only way we can begin to find a way out of suffering. In actuality, the ego is a fiction. It’s really nothing more than a story in the mind. To see that when you’re not thinking about your past, that it’s literally not there. We believe that we remember the past accurately! But every study that’s been done examining memory and how accurately we remember past events shows us that our minds begin to distort the past almost immediately. This sense of self is really nothing but a collection of memories projected into the present moment and then into the future. We’re going to have to begin to notice that what we think we are is just that: simply a thought. 

There are three common ways that our egos cause us to suffer— In order to stay safe, secure, and separate, we need to control not only ourselves but others, and the circumstances all around us. if we want to end our persistent suffering: we have to open up the way we think. Initially, we have to open up what we’re willing to think about and the conclusions we’re willing to come to. This deception is created in our minds, and in some ways it’s the most convincing deception there is. Another way that our minds create suffering is through the demands we make on life and on others. We simply need to stop doing the things that make us unhappy. One of the ways that we make ourselves tremendously unhappy is through making demands of ourselves and each other. Another thing we do when we feel separate is that we argue with what is and what was. Argue with the past, decide what has been shouldn’t have been, and you’ll suffer. When we see and stay with what is, it actually opens up creative responses, new ways of seeing and engaging with “what is,” which aren’t based on separation or denial or trying to control, but instead are sourced in the human heart—in love, compassion, and wisdom. After all, everything helped us get to this moment. And this moment, right now, is the only moment where we have the capacity to wake up, to put an end to suffering, and that makes this moment worth all of the other moments that ever happened. It’s the truth that delivers us from suffering. It’s the truth that allows us to shift out of this egoic state of consciousness that we seem so trapped in.

Also, if you look closely at a particular family system, you’ll see the pain that tends to be passed down through a family lineage. For example, parents who have a particular tendency to suffer with anger or depression tend to produce children who suffer from the same afflictions, and then these children produce children who suffer with the same, and so on. They passed it on to you by acting it out, in the same way their parents passed it on to them. If you can withhold your judgment for just a moment, you will start to see that the pain that you feel was in large part suffering from others in your family—and it does not have to be your own. When you feel the urge to blame, keep in mind that your generational line has lived with the same pain, too. and you realize that you’re the one, here and now, who can become conscious of how this works, then you have the opportunity to put an end to it. It’s essential that we allow ourselves to go through this process of un-numbing ourselves, coming out of the imagination of our minds—not just for ourselves, but also so we can cease bringing suffering to others because of our unconscious behaviors.

  • Awakening from the Egoic Trance 

Egoic consciousness is nothing more than the beliefs, ideas, and images we have about ourselves—and so it is actually something completely imaginary. If our history has something to show us it’s that thought can’t save humanity. We all have this innate desire to be free, creative, loving, open, and compassionate—and yet when we’re trapped within the egoic state of consciousness, in this trance of ego, our options are very limited. Of course we have relationships with other human beings. This is where we easily get pulled into this vortex of suffering, because as soon as we start to believe thoughts that cause us to feel angry or greedy or frustrated or out of control, we get pulled into the hypnotizing vortex of sorrow and suffering. When we’re in relationship and two people get pulled into this vortex, the cycle of conflict and misunderstanding really strengthens, as well as the perceived need to defend, control, and blame the other. As soon as we believe in them, or buy into their seductive qualities, we instantly find ourselves having been sucked into the vortex. This state of suffering has been held together because of the way we cling to our beliefs, opinions, and ideas. Transformation and awakening are available to everyone. As soon as we begin to transform the ideas we have of ourselves, we get out of our own way, and a door then opens to who and what we really are. The mere fact that you’re struggling guarantees that your consciousness will not be able to wake up from its state of limitation. You don’t need to struggle against yourself, just the opposite. All you need is the willingness to question your mind’s conclusions, the willingness to just relax. Just let it be. Experiment to see what happens when you stop being in conflict with yourself. What you’ll begin to experience is a peace and a stillness—a deep inner quietness. It’s an invitation to just be, a possibility to experience the peace and happiness for which you’ve always been longing—even when you are right in the middle of conflict. Even in the deepest states of darkness, even in the most intense states of loss, grief, or depression, we can find some measure of happiness and well-being when we really open to the difficult feelings, when we really let go of our resistance. In the moment of stopping, something completely unexpected is born: the opposite shows up. It’s not like the depression just went away and disappeared forever, but it began to exist simultaneously within a field of absolute well-being. This phenomena of finding well-being amidst the difficult isn’t something that most people have experienced, because they haven’t really ever stopped trying to grasp at or push away a certain quality of thinking and feeling. The invitation is simple: Let go of indulging in the mind, realize it doesn’t have the answers for you. When we can relate to ourselves from stillness, from a place before the mind, then we can begin to relate to each other from that same place. When we relate from our true spiritual essence, then the quality of our relating is transformed. We become expressions of peace, rather than expressions of the insanity of a divided world.

  • Letting Go of Struggle 

As long as we’re struggling, it’s very hard for consciousness to shift out of the egoic state, into something more natural, expansive, and whole. This natural and expansive state is really just another word for “spirit,” an invisible, ungraspable something without real definition. But struggling is the antithesis of what opens the way for us to awaken from the egoic state of consciousness. So how can we stop struggling? Relaxing and letting go of struggle isn’t something that the ego does. All that’s required is that you begin to notice that place within you that’s not struggling. Instead of chasing after your desired state of being take the backward step. This means to just turn around, reverse the whole process of looking for satisfaction on the outside, and look at precisely the place where you are standing. See if what you are looking for isn’t already present in your experience. Notice that the peace, the end of struggling, is actually already present. Nothing needs to change for us to experience true peace and freedom. What if you didn’t need to make an effort to find peace and happiness? What would that feel like now? And just take a moment to be quiet and see if peace or stillness is with you in this moment. 

Can we be honest enough to look directly at the nature of our own mind and ask, “What do we really know?” If you see that no thought is ultimately true, then you can stop looking to your mind to tell you what’s real. If no thought is true, then you’ll no longer believe any thought that causes you to struggle. Revelation and insight come from a place that we as a culture seem to have so little respect for—a place called “silence.” We spend so much energy running away from silence, but silence is the ground from which awakening springs. When we begin to see that our mind is just a storyteller, however, then we begin to listen—not for more thoughts or more complicated understandings, but listen for the silence. In order to see through the mind and the deeply ingrained sense of separation we must leave what we know and enter that mysterious reality of the unknown. Embracing the unknown makes us wonderfully and beautifully humble. This is the doorway in. We can see clearly that what we are isn’t something we can think about. We can only think about what we’re not. 

What we are in reality is alive, awake, and conscious, existing as pure potential. There isn’t a force outside of our spiritual essence. There’s nothing but God, as the mystics have told us. Everywhere you look, there’s God. Everything you feel, there’s God feeling. All of it. If we really want to be awake, if we want to allow suffering to end, we have to open up our very idea of what God is, what spirit is. We have to realize that spirit is an infinite potential that includes everything. How we act and feel depends on how awake we are, and how much we experience that silence, that peace, within. How would you talk to your neighbor if you saw him or her as a very ordinary human being just like you, but also, deep down inside, as the incarnation of God? What you’ll find is that the only thing that can wholeheartedly accept your humanness and this whole, amazing ride of life is your inner spiritual nature. The love that your ego is looking for can only be found in your essence. Use your body and mind as an expression of your essence, as a way to connect with others and as a way to remind others of the truth of what we are.

  • Experiencing the Raw Energy of Emotion 

So one of the most vital steps in addressing our suffering and moving beyond it is first to summon the courage and willingness to truly experience what we’re feeling and to no longer try to edit what we feel. In order to really allow ourselves to stay with the depth of our emotions, we must cease judging ourselves for whatever comes up. To do this, you cannot stand outside the suffering, trying to explain or solve it; you must really sink into the pain, even relax into the suffering so that you can allow the suffering to speak. Let your suffering tell its entire story. 

Now, experience the same memory, but withhold your story, withhold the conclusions your mind has made. You know, it’s just a memory now. It’s just an event that happened. She began to see how thought and feeling work together to create suffering. This deep-seated pain and suffering are held in place by the unconscious conclusions that we make in the moment. When you can learn to separate the experience in these moments from the conclusions drawn by the mind, you begin to taste real freedom. You begin to open a space within you where the emotion can come out in such a way that it doesn’t have to repeat itself over and over. Even though our stories about what happened may seem very justified, the important thing to remember is that they actually cause us to go unconscious and lock suffering into our bodies. Instead, what we need to do is to find the capacity to feel what we feel without creating more thoughts about it. If you allow it to be there without a story or conclusion, you start to feel the emotion releasing itself from your system. But while our body is often trying to help us let go of suffering, our mind is doing the opposite. It’s re-traumatizing us with its stories and conclusions. Through inquiring in this way, your body begins to feel the difference between a raw, pure emotion and an emotion that’s old, deep-rooted, and maintained through a story. When he could actually let both the feeling and thought out, including the intellectual or thought-based part of the story, the emotion lifted, all by itself. It was vital for me to not resist the pain in any way. I literally merged with the pain. I won’t tell you that it made it go away or that I wasn’t in the midst of a great amount of difficulty, but the difference was that I wasn’t suffering. The people who deal with pain the best do not believe anything they think about their pain. Because unless we purge ourselves of all the stories that contain our suffering, we won’t ever feel the freedom and peace of interacting with life from the perspective of truth. When you enter this moment, you begin to experience a moment that is actually free of suffering. Very difficult things may yet happen, but when we encounter them from a state of openness, we realize, bit by bit, that we have a capacity that we never knew was there.

  • Inner Stability 

Instead of trying to control our minds or our environment we must throw our senses wide open—listening, feeling, seeing—and become very wide and vast. When you welcome all of experience into your awareness, a certain type of stillness starts to emerge organically. This true stillness is there. And when we arrive at this inner stillness and inner stability, our emotional being opens. 

When we begin to open our minds, we see that this continuous state of evaluation actually leads to suffering. It is when we clearly see this that we can begin to have the capacity to let it go. When our minds start to open, we’re no longer in a constant state of evaluation and judgment. See how judging and condemning actually close our hearts and harden us to our experience of life and others. If we can let go of the way we think it should be, then life starts to reveal its magical qualities. This is what brings forth a sense of inner peace, inner balance, and equanimity. And it is within this silence that true stability is found. Opening to things as they are is what it really means to be still, to be quiet, to be in a state of meditation. The most essential aspect of meditation is a relinquishing of control. Through resting in this way, we enter a state of nonresistance, where we’ll be able to have a taste of what it is like to live for a moment without judgment or conflict. Instead of being uncaring, we actually come into a deeper relationship with what’s happening. The only thing that can keep us from being still is when we argue with what is. When we continually judge and evaluate, we separate from what’s happening, moving further away from stillness and closer to conflict, with the predictable outcome of more tension and less reality. We wake up to the fact that the entire way we viewed our lives was just a very thin veil that obscured the greater reality. What’s actually happening is that we’re beginning to see the face of the divine in each and every moment of our lives.

  • Intimacy and Availability 

As you get accustomed to relaxing more into the space of not knowing, you’ll better know yourself. It’s a feeling of absolute union with every part of experience, with life itself. You allow yourself to feel it, to sense it, you’ll see that this deep field of unknowing has been with you all along. It is possible to experience this kind of thinking more frequently, until it becomes the normal way that we move through life. Not to get caught in our ideas, to defend, or to argue, or to convince someone of something. Rather, we’re actually way too identified with our thoughts, beliefs, and opinions to be light and easy. Are we willing and able to have them change, at a moment’s notice, if the situation dictates it? We must clearly see the ways that we’re deceived by the thinking process, and how in fact we use thought to deceive others in convincing them that our beliefs and opinions are actually real. Stay in beginner’s mind, because there the possibilities are infinite. They’re open. Anything can happen. Don’t get rigid. It’s not only important that we speak from a place that is not hurtful to others, but also that we learn how to listen from this deep well of being, from this expanse of vast awareness and unknowing, from the beginner’s mind. When we come to see that words aren’t the truth, that what people say about us tells us about them, not us, we don’t worry so much about what someone might say about us. And when you say something about someone else, you can actually see that in most cases you’re revealing more about yourself than about the other. 

When we become intimate with another human being— we actually open ourselves in an undefended way to the other person, we’re doing something that human beings rarely do. The fact is that we are actually one; we are all intimately connected. Therefore, we are all naturally pulled to this union and intimacy, though we are also simultaneously frightened by it. As a result of painful experiences from childhood, where we made ourselves so open and vulnerable and suffered as a result, there are very strong memories or stories we carry with us that keep us in fear. Somehow, we must find the willingness and the courage to open ourselves to true relationship, so that we can become once again open to true intimacy. We have to start with a willingness to enter into ourselves, to be alone for a moment and enter into what we really are. It is then that we have the capacity to open to each other—to be available, intimate, and connected. But to be very open and intimate with another human being, that’s not so easy, at least initially. To do so requires a depth of insight and a deep willingness to open to fear—to be willing to see those parts of you that don’t want to open. This whole arena of intimacy and availability is something that also takes place on a deeply emotional level. It requires that we stay in beginner’s mind and, more importantly, in beginner’s heart. There has to be a willingness to feel that fear again, feel the hesitation, feel the tendency to recoil—and to have the willingness to move into fear itself. Union with fear isn’t something that many of us consider when we think of intimacy and relationship. Then you will see that your fears are not your enemies; they are your allies. You stop running away. These things are beautiful, and can show us the possibility of freedom, but at an even deeper level we’re all called to express this freedom, openness, and intimacy within the context of relationship. We connect with what really wants to be said from the deepest level and from a very unprotected place.

  • The End of Suffering 

If we really want to bring an end to suffering, we’ve got to wake up. “Waking up” means awakening to the truth of our being, and it also means waking up from a whole host of illusions. Who really wants to find out that we’re all addicted to qualities like approval, recognition, control, and power, and that they’re the cause of suffering! Where we’re finally willing to see we are the ones who are causing our suffering, and it’s we alone who can find the way out. The very thing we want to be without is the thing we’re addicted to, and that’s suffering. We don’t really have to look at ourselves and say I’m the one who is caught in illusion. I don’t know what’s real, I don’t know what’s true, and part of me actually wants to suffer because then I can remain separate and distinct. We’re terrified to let go of the very things that make us suffer, because if we let go of the past, we wouldn’t know who we are anymore. 

All along I hadn’t ever been far from the end of suffering. It had been an open door from the very beginning, from the first breath that I ever took. My suffering, as with all suffering, was entirely optional. What it took to get me to that point was to realize that I couldn’t do it, that I couldn’t figure it out. That’s what it means to stop, or more accurately, that’s what it means to be stopped, to be completely and utterly stopped. What I was addicted to was me —me, the one who was struggling. You must go through a type of death. The truth of the matter is that awakening itself is not a process. There is a process in terms of how we come to express the awakening, but really waking up and coming to the end of our personal suffering is not something that takes time. After meeting with thousands of people around the world, those who are still suffering say that it takes time; those that are awake, however, are clear that it doesn’t. When someone gets to that point where there is no tomorrow, where to continue to be an addict is no longer possible, no longer an option, then there’s a stopping. It is then that we step outside of time. Nobody knows how to stop. Nobody ever has known how to stop. Tell yourself the truth: You don’t know how. Nobody knows how to not suffer. Nobody knows how to awaken. This is a death of who you think you are, of your past and your future. All of that exists only in imagination. Right now, there is always and only freedom and peace. The question is: Is that what you really want?

  • True Autonomy 

Spiritual awakening is the ground from which a whole new movement of spirit starts to occur, a sense of freedom that I call “awakening into our true autonomy.” Jesus was an extremely dynamic personality, somebody with great vigor and a real fearlessness to allow spirit to manifest as it wished, which is really what true autonomy is. In almost every story of the religious greats, most of the humanness is actually whitewashed out of the story. In the way the Buddha’s life is traditionally portrayed, we don’t really find the Buddha having any truly difficult moments, such as being very emotional, or having much despair. Through his human experience, he was able to manifest something quite extraordinary, a very extraordinary life. The more awake we become, often the more capable we are of having life hand us bigger and bigger situations as our capacity to accept and embody our spiritual essence grows. Are we free enough and open enough to meet life? A lot of people who come to hear me are trying to abdicate their authority. They’re trying to give it over to me. To wake up requires us to have the willingness to occupy this life, to occupy our incarnation, without grasping at it or identifying with it. A true spiritual teaching will never take anyone’s autonomy; it won’t require us to give away our good sense. A true teacher will always be trying to give your authority back to you as fast as you can receive it—and without becoming egoically self-centered again. We’re literally waking up from identity, from who we think we are. We’re also waking up from all the ideas that culture has placed within us and all the emotions to which we’ve become addicted. True autonomy is a sense of being that is quite independent, while not being separate. A teacher of mine refused to take all the authority away from me, she pushed me deeper and deeper into the truth of myself. From the very beginning, we have to be feeling our way in the dark for our true inner wisdom. There is something within each of us that can find its way. What we’ve really got to do is stop listening to our minds. Listening is the first step in discovering our autonomy, an autonomy that, if we take this search for our own happiness and freedom all the way, will fully flower one day into something we can’t imagine. The true expression of our spiritual nature is love, and love isn’t what we think it is. Love is synonymous with this fierce embrace of life. But to allow life to express itself in that way, with that much abandon, requires a true surrender into the unknown.

  Beyond the World of Opposites 

The world most humans are in is the world of relativity, of light and dark, of good and bad, of love and hate. Sages may operate in this world; they may seem to exist in it, but really, where their consciousness is, where their real home is, is in another world. There is a whole other state of consciousness, one that isn’t of the world of duality. This is the state of consciousness that Jesus referred to as “the kingdom of Heaven.” Jesus clearly existed within the world of duality, but his consciousness was obviously somewhere else. Spiritual awakening isn’t for our egos. It’s for our deeper, inner nature. It’s for the source and substance of what we really are. Jesus was telling us that the kingdom of Heaven was something entirely different than what we would think. Our ultimate nature can’t be described in dualistic terms at all. To our minds, it will always remain a mystery. Our minds can never really know reality directly. What Jesus is saying here is that what he is is beyond this—and not just beyond it, but also including it. This state of consciousness is the hardest place to describe, because it is literally indescribable. He saw that there was no ultimate difference between the human and the divine. As he said, “The kingdom of Heaven is spread upon the earth, and men don’t see it.” To him, the world itself was the kingdom of Heaven, and what was beyond this world was the kingdom of Heaven. For Jesus, everything was an expression of the divine. It is possible for our consciousness to be rooted in something beyond the world, in a vast mystery that the mind can never understand, but only experience. The goal isn’t to become spirit instead of human, but spirit as well as human. The ultimate reality is all inclusive. It’s not a vision that enables us to escape from the world, but one that liberates us enough to participate in it, to exist day to day from a fierce and open heart, from a willingness to fully meet and experience each and every moment. When we see with our true eyes, all around us is the divine. We realize that we never had to go anywhere; the divine is always present. Look in the mirror; that’s what God looks like today. Look out the window, that’s your true self. If it’s all one, it includes everything. Suffering is merely the product of a state of confusion, of being identified with a very small piece of the mind. The more we stop and the more we let go, the more our consciousness naturally opens. Our hearts are already embracing everything. We can allow our hearts to be big enough to be broken. All true love sheds a tear. The more deeply I love, the more I taste the bitterness with the sweet. It’s not a negative bitterness; it’s a bitterness that makes the sweetness even more sweet. We can let our hearts break; they are that big. Illusion never brings peace, never brings happiness. When we’re done being disturbed by our own illusions, then we start to become astonished—astonished that we aren’t just our illusions, that we’re something so vast and unexplainable.

  • Falling into Grace

We’ve all had experiences of extreme difficulty where, when we look back, we see that these were times when we transformed the most. We see that these events were infused with grace; they were a gift, something that was given to us to help us wake up. In essence, grace is anything that helps us truly open—our minds, our bodies, our emotions, our hearts. It was a great grace, because if it wasn’t for that, I would never have turned within, and I would never have found the freedom that revealed itself there. Nothing in me wanted to go on. Nothing in me had any hope for the future. What I didn’t know is that I’d been showered with this love my entire life, but that I was never completely open to it. This love also put down a challenge to me. It said, “This is how you shall love all things and all beings.” True prayer is one which is spoken, or made, when you open yourself to the entire universe, from a place of not knowing and not expecting anything in particular. “Give me whatever is necessary for me to awaken. Give me whatever I need to awaken from this separation.” When I said this prayer, it was like giving the keys of control back to the universe. Do we genuinely want to transform? Do we really want to wake up, or do we merely wish to shift around our life of illusion? We bring to any moment in life the most valuable element there is. And that’s our willingness to be open, our willingness to question, our willingness to care and be loving. The person you’ll have the hardest time opening to and truly loving without reserve is yourself. Once you can do that, you can love the whole universe unconditionally. Your heart will become big enough where you can embrace the world as it is, with all of its beauty and all of its sorrow. This is the heart of spiritual awakening: to realize that what we have always yearned for is the very thing, in our deepest source, that we have always been. Freedom is always available to us.