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Opening to Grace
By Judith Gayle | Political Waves

We're fast approaching the Saturn-Uranus opposition that marks this turning point in our becoming. All that brought us to this moment is passing away, and what awaits us is yet to be; in these last weeks, our situation has vibrated with instability and unanswered questions, and the fear of that has activated the hostility and panic of our shadow-selves. Simply put, we're having a midlife crisis.

Having had one, or more, in the course of my lifetime, I'd say that the safest position to adopt in times like this is "observer mode." Being a witness to our life, as well as a participant, gives us more information and less anxiety as we tread unknown paths; it also puts us in touch with our essential nature, which not only allows us authenticity, but gives access to the Divine within us.

In our quest to enter this period of change without shaking apart at the seams, shot-gunning our fears out into the universe doesn't achieve much but more of the same. Yet it's all coming at us so fast and furiously, with so many variables unknown, that pushing back panic and apprehension seems to be a full-time endeavor. In my opinion, we need a big dose of grace.

When Uranus comes to visit, all the cards get tossed in the air. It's akin to Dorothy's twister that sets us down somewhere other than where we were lifted up. And in true midlife rethink, everything we have depended upon to define us has faded from sight, leaving us with a blank page to write on and a muddled, agitated mind to compose from.

Attempting to embrace the bigger picture in tough times -- indeed, at all times -- brings us to that calm center from which we can respond, rather than react. Saturn's hand suggests that we are called upon, now, to act like adults, owning up to issues and behaving responsibly.

We previewed the prototypes of those behaviors in the second McCain/Obama debate the other night. Senator McCain seemed to be all over the place, looking for an inroad to attack his opponent and bringing a sense of anger and disdain for all but his agenda to the conversation. Productive answers to the questions put to him seemed secondary to wounding the Democratic contender. Posited as McCain's last chance to turn the tide, there was a desperate quality about him that made me wince.

Obama, on the other hand, never broke a sweat; his calm made him look, in the words of the pundits, "presidential." One reporter used the word I would have chosen: confident. The cool that has been attributed to Barack Obama seems to define him, and confound those on the Left who want to see more fire-breathing and drama. One can almost see the Angel of Temperance whispering in the man's ear. Obama appears to be the only adult in the room.

Greg Barrette speaks to that inner confidence when he said, "When you know that God's holy presence is within you, you can stand up for that sacred inner identity without violating the rights of others. Open and honest communication, expressed with confidence and self-control, comes from a basic sense of your own self-worth, and shows others that you respect them and yourself."

Obama appears to be one of the most respectful humans on the planet, and he's kept his race for the presidency on that level of integritous exchange. Those who consider a defense of criticisms leveled against him an attack on the other guy miss the point; we all saw what the Swift Boaters did to John Kerry. Correcting mischaracterization, or releasing facts about your opponent, such as the recent Keating Five video, are not acts of disrespect. They're political necessities in a world that suffers the confusion of "truthiness" over truth.

On the other side of the aisle, we've all watched Senator McCain cave in to his shadow-side and take his campaign into dark waters. Some say the John McCain of old would not have tolerated these tactics, and attribute his new level of crankiness to the decisions of his handlers. But the dice were rolled and the deed is done, now; the choice of Sarah Palin as attack dog has brought in a new level of anger, with crowds of Republican faithful showing overt racism and liberal hatred.

At a recent rally in Florida, a local sheriff introduced Sarah Palin and called the Democratic candidate Barack Hussein Obama. A man, worked into fever pitch by Palin's suggestions of Obama's friendship with Bill Ayers as treasonous, yelled out, "Kill him;" it's unclear whether it was Ayers or Obama he had in mind. The mob consciousness in what had become a hate-fest caused one audience member to turn to a black camera man and comment, "sit down, boy." And as the nation looked on in troubled conscience and fretful consternation, Mrs. Palin offered her winning smile and cutesy manner while continuing to make allegations against Obama that incite to riot ... and perhaps worse. This is tinderbox politics, awaiting a match.

As with all midlife crises, we have an opportunity to lift ourselves up and come into a new maturity or spiral downward into post-adolescent sulk and tantrum. Much will depend upon how we see the world. Cindy McCain offered another of what has become a string of jaw-droppers the other day when she accused Obama of "waging the dirtiest campaign in history." Frankly, that stumped me. Unless this was merely a cynical bid to urge her party on, Cindy and I obviously live in parallel universes. In mine, "straight talk" really is straight; apparently not on the shadow side.

Deepak Chopra talked about the shadows in our psyche in the second part of his recent article about Sarah Palin:
To explain her meteoric rise, I offered the idea that each of us harbors a shadow, a place where our hidden impulses live. By appealing to fear, resentment, hostility to change, suspicion of "the other," and similar dark impulses, the Republicans have been the shadow's party for a long time. Sarah Palin put a smiling face on feelings that normally we feel ashamed of.

The shadow is irrational; it thrives on gut emotions. (A recent Fox News poll ran with the headline, "In their gut, independents choose McCain.") Bringing the 2008 campaign down to the gut level means bringing it down to the level of the shadow. Instead of listening to an intelligent, persuasive, charismatic man with one African-American parent, people get to say, "I just don't like blacks. They're scary; they're not like me. It's a gut thing." Only it's not. It's a shadow thing that each of us, not just the right wing, must deal with. Reacting to Palin with fear, confusion, panic, and lashing out also comes from the shadow.
The irrationality of the shadow side is coming into light, now. We are seeing ourselves, and the most troublesome aspects of our human condition, as we stare into the distorted face of racism, sexism, hubris and petulance. We are examining the mechanism of true elitism as we watch Wall Street tumble; the result of trusting those who saw their fellow citizens only as numbers, and easy marks. If this isn't the perfect time for a midlife crisis -- and subsequent change of course, renewal of our direction and purpose -- I don't know what is.

If we are to move forward into a new era, we must come to understand that we all have responsibility for our own reality; finger pointing is a waste of energy. Firestorms of misdirected anger and self-pity are childish diversions we use to keep from having to step up into our own power.

Standing in our own skin -- owning it, loving it, comfortable at last -- is a process of grace. And we cannot claim a state of grace until we realize that all of us are not only capable of being exactly who we are, but that who we are is beloved of God/dess and perfect, in itself.

When we truly know that, we need nothing from anyone else. What, as the beloved child, could we possibly need so much we would hurt another to achieve? Grace is the gift of ourselves TO ourselves -- and to a waiting world.

Christians say that grace is a gift bestowed from the Almighty; I believe that grace is the ultimate realization of our link to the Divine, each of us. A Course in Miracles gives us this affirmation, one I've used again and again when life seemed dark: "I am as God created me." Nothing that has happened in my lifetime, or any of the others for that matter, has changed the constancy of that truth.

I am -- you are -- that perfectly conceived child that gives the universe pleasure in all ways for simply being, and neither you nor I have ever done anything to change that truth. When we begin to understand the compassionate majesty of that knowledge, along with our connection to one another and all things around us, we are able to create our lives in beauty and peace, in tenderness and kindness.

In this turning toward adulthood we face, we can do what many have done before us -- take a new lover, turn away from old responsibilities or find a new adventure that gives us opportunity to reclaim a youth we let slip away; or we can begin to build a relationship with ourselves that takes the game to another level.

I saw a New York Times reporter interviewed on Charlie Rose awhile back; this man wrote a fascinating book about long years as an alcoholic and drug abuser titled, The Night of the Gun. In conversation, he illuminated a poignant moment in which he made the decision to sober up because he was sole parent to twin girls. It was, he asserted, supremely narcissistic to proclaim his dependency needs more important than their wellbeing. He could not live with the self-centeredness of the man whom he had become; he chose to step into his adulthood. Each of us have a task, now, to do the same.

This nation has had a narcissistic adolescence and young adulthood. We're deciding, now, who we will be when we grow up. While the shadow side seems to dog our every attempt at civility and productivity, it should be a relief to know that what is dark is both more visible now and being rejected at every turn.

Chopra went on to give us some hints about handling the shadows:
1. Don't panic -- The shadow is built into your psyche, and when it brings fear, hostility, and resentment to the surface, those feelings want to get out. They cause disruption, but your panic only makes them stick around longer.

2. Try not to be overwhelmed -- Eruptions from the shadow are transitory. If you don't encourage them, these energies dissipate naturally. If you are overwhelmed, however, the net result is exhaustion and loss of energy.

3. Remind yourself who you really are -- You are much more than your shadow, because your aspirations, hopes, and dreams keep advancing despite the shadow's apparent power. Pay the least attention to these disruptions as you need to calm down and no more.

4. Keep a clear focus -- The shadow creates disorder and runaway emotions. If you focus on your purpose and remain rational, you will anchor yourself to a more stable reality.

5. Don't fight fire with fire -- If you sink to the level of dark energies, you will be fighting on their terms, and the likelihood is that you will lose.
If we were dwelling in grace, we would not need to manage our thought-system so relentlessly; but coming to realize that state is a process of challenges and responses, a daily shifting of energy upward toward our growing awareness. Each foray into self-acceptance and calm consideration gives us more spiritual muscle to apply toward lifting ourselves onto that spiritual platform. Each victory over the shadow-self creates us easier in our skins; more confident, less needy.

Werner Erhard, leader of the old Erhard Seminars Training (EST) movement, used to say that understanding was the booby prize. It isn't so much what we know in our heads that counts, now; it's what we know in our hearts. We are being given the opportunity to shift our resonant signal from the autopilot of mindlessness to the clarity of enlightenment; we are coming to grips with the overwhelm of shadows that tempt us to lose our focus in mind-chatter and fear-speak. In the quiet of our center, there is only what we know to be true; we are here, in all our magnificence, to express our brightest essence.

If we allow ourselves to be "born again" into our birthright as the Beloved as each challenge presents, each fearful thought attacks, each loveless solution suggests itself, we will begin to clear our consciousness of the density that keeps us shackled to old paradigm games and strategies. It is not a capacity that we must work for, earn or suffer toward; it's a realization of what we already are.

When we shine, all things change; in such a state of grace, shadows dissolve in the blaze of loving light. As we open ourselves to grace and celebrate it in our daily lives, what lies ahead will be the real adventure -- not one of the mind, but of the heart.

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