Falling into Grace: Insights on the End of Suffering
“Zen means for a man to behold his own fundamental nature.”
—Ni Tsan, 14th century Chinese master painter, poet, and calligrapher
In 2009, author Adyashanti (whose name signifies primordial peace) gave a series of talks about the fundamentals of spiritual discovery. Falling Into Grace: Insights on the End of Suffering is based on those teachings.
According to Adyashanti, grace is anything that helps us truly open our minds, bodies, emotions, and hearts. It comes when we are willing to entertain the possibility that we may not know what we think we know. The teachings in the book are simple (although not always easy) ways to open to grace, to be meditated upon so we can discover the truth of our own experience.
Adyashanti tells us, “What we’re exploring here is a total collapse of all of our dualistic points of view.” Despite his kind and gentle approach, this can seem dangerous. Being beyond right and wrong, good and bad—wouldn’t that result in chaos?
In Falling Into Grace, we learn about human psychology and the thought processes of using language and mental images, starting early in life. Ultimately, we suffer, struggle and get into conflict because we believe what we think (and what others think about us). The idea of letting go of our ideas, beliefs, and opinions brings up resistance and fear. Yet if we can avoid becoming lost in our thoughts, projections, beliefs, and opinions, we can begin to unravel our suffering and discover true happiness.
Given a choice, most people would rather suffer than give up their opinions and be willing to be disturbed, surprised, wrong in their assumptions, and cast into a state of not-knowing. When we open ourselves to the notion that our ideas aren’t true, we feel empty-handed, vulnerable, almost without identity. But Adyashanti assures us that when we’re open to all that, we can stand in our own direct experience.
All we need is the willingness to question our mind’s conclusions, and to relax. When we’re willing to no longer be in opposition to anything, we begin to experience a peace and stillness, a deep inner quiet, a different dimension of consciousness, beyond the ego.
In Falling Into Grace, Adyashanti discusses three ways we suffer, and he addresses “the sticky nature of generational suffering,” reminding us that we need not perpetuate it! He draws on yogic teachings, Taoist principles, and the traditions of Christianity and Buddhism to illustrate how insights involve a deep understanding with our entire being. Moments of revelation are experienced on intellectual, emotional, and kinesthetic levels, and they arise from a deep silence, the kind our culture runs away from by being constantly occupied.
Adyashanti generously shares accounts of his own experiences of grace, to help us understand that allowing our spiritual essence to come through doesn’t mean we must ignore our bodies, minds, and personalities. He offers exercises for experiencing the energy of emotion so we can begin to see how thought and feeling work together to create suffering. Suffering that stays with us for a long time or a lifetime is held in place by the unconscious conclusions that we make. When we learn to discern an experience from the conclusions drawn by the mind, we begin to “taste real freedom.”
Falling Into Grace includes several case studies and some practical pointers for experiencing one’s inner awareness by feeling, rather than understanding it by thinking about it. Adyashanti reminds us to stop, relax, breath, and notice ourselves; but there’s no “recipe for awakening” in this book. He does briefly address the topic of meditation as a state of discovery and a practice of relinquishing control, letting go of our conflict with life, and dropping the struggle with who and what we are.
It’s important to find a sense of inner stability as a foundation for looking into the nature of our experience in a clear and objective way. Without this inner stability, we’ll always be pushed around by the next experience or the next person or situation that is difficult or challenging. Adyashanti describes how his teacher encouraged him to find his own foundation and how we can discover a spiritual vision that is meaningful, not by escaping from the world but by participating in it.
When we’re open and sincere, we can step out of suffering. The world will still offer its challenges, and we’ll embrace it as it is, with all its sorrows and beauty. Falling Into Grace is for people who want to behold their fundamental nature, their inner spirit. Adyashanti dares all seekers of peace and freedom to take the possibility of liberation in this life seriously. This book is for those seekers.