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Soulful Sundays: Grace

"The world is not imperfect or slowly evolving along a path to perfection. No, it is perfect at every moment, every sin already carries grace in it." -Hermann Hesse

This is the last week before the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. It marks the close of the fall season and the last breath for the metal element in Chinese medicine. The year's projects are reaching conclusions, the storefronts are having their final sales, and the world is preparing for a period of rest and recuperation.

In a time that should be relaxing, unfortunately, judgment is keen to rear is ugly head. This happens when we hold ourselves to a standard that is unrealistic during this season. We falsely believe that we need to keep expanding instead of contracting, perfecting instead allowing, and beginning instead of concluding. As a result we become disappointed in ourselves and critical of others. Instead, we must invite grace into our lives.

What most of us fail to realize is that contraction is just the other half of the circle of expansion. The two are a complementary pair. Every single living system has periods of growth and periods of senescence. Actually, the seeds of one are contained within the other. To give up something old is to allow space for something new, and vis versa. When we hold on to any one ambition too tightly or for too long we actually destroy it. This is encapsulated in the Taoist practice of wu wei.

Grace has a curative effect on the psyche. It transforms us from a attitude of scarcity and resistance to one of abundance and opportunity:

So what if you didn't get all of your work done for this year? You have the next one.

So what if you didn't keep your healthy habits going through the holidays? You can eat better at your very next meal. You can go for a walk right now.

So what if you didn't get all of your holiday shopping done? Your friends and family still love you the same.

There comes a point when the only thing standing in the way of happiness is, in fact, ourselves-- and the unattainable standards we hold ourselves to. To fall short, to disappoint, to become distracted, to be selfish, to be unmotivated--these are parts of being a human. When we can look at our shortcomings with grace, we can see them as just parts of a larger whole. Then they will become our greatest teachers for the future seasons of our lives.

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