One of the most powerful ways to invite a pace of grace is what I call “practicing the Presence” — connecting each day with the holy. Whether through reflection, prayer, or seeking inspiration in nature, we all need a routine of reverence.
Above all, prayer is a relationship, one in which we are encouraged to be constant and to be real – to pray our anger, our hurt, our joy, our gratitude. Psalm 62:8 says, “Trust in Him at all times…Pour out your heart to him; hold nothing back.” Corrie Ten Boom asks, “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” Like any relationship, the inner life takes time. Begin each day or find your best uninterrupted time for sacred time and sacred space in which to connect with your Higher Power.
When my brother John faced death from brain cancer, Dan and I moved into his home to care for him. Every morning after breakfast, John and I would sit at the table for an hour or more, to share our RPMS, the formula described in my book, A Pace of Grace: Read, Pray, Meditate, Serve. We would read a brief passage from the Bible, the Baha’i Writings, Buddhist or Hindu Sutras, or the Q’uran. We reflected on the meaning of the words, meditate on them and apply them to our lives. Then we prayed, using revealed prayers from our Faith, or sometimes our own words. We would meditate silently, and then I would companion John with a questions such as “How are you, really?” or “What’s on your mind now?” One morning John seemed deep in thought. He leaned his head back on the high padded chair we brought in to keep him comfortable, and closed his eyes. Then he said in a quavering voice, “Today, there’s a wall of tears.” He struggled to contain them.
I waited quietly, then asked “What’s behind that wall?” John burst into tears, and of course that started me as well. It was a relief to cry because I held my own sorrow back in order to meet John where he was each day.
Then, I said, “John, what are those tears?”
He answered, “Tears for all that I’ve had in my life, and for all I haven’t had.”
His tears were of gratitude and grief in equal measure. When his weeping subsided, we did the last piece of our RPMS – serve, which involved each of us randomly picking a virtue to practice for the day. He often received the virtue of Openness, which contains a quote from Jack Kornfield: “To open deeply, as genuine spiritual life requires, we need tremendous courage and strength, a kind of warrior spirit.” The card also says, “We are receptive to the blessings and surprises of life.”
“Well,” John said, with a wicked grin, “this [terminal illness] was definitely a surprise! And I’m well past my ‘sell by’ date!” And then we laughed. His primary service at this final season was to open himself to the Divine in ways for which he had never had time or focus before. And he did so with whole-hearted acceptance. “This isn’t an emergency,” he would say. “It’s an emergence.” He prepared for death, which to us means passing from one world to another, not only by grieving lost opportunities, but by celebrating the fruits of his life, thanking every friend he could think of, and thanking God for a life well-lived. He felt the presence of Spirit more deeply than ever before and died a happy man.
Whatever means you have of practicing the Presence, it’s the best investment you can ever make in your own spiritual life.