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The gift of Grace...and the Heart Sutra

Many years ago, my father, mother, husband and daughter went on a road trip to see the Grand Canyon, in my parent's 3 year old Saturn. Somewhere in the middle of the hell's half acre of New Mexico, somewhere outside of Springer I think, the right front end of the car started making a truly awful, grinding, rending, car-soul killing noise that indicated a wheel bearing gone bad. Monster bad. We ended, towed, in Taos. This is a wonderful town, but it's not where we wanted to be. We all still had hopes that we could be in touch with the insurance company, Saturn dealership, invoke the gods of road trips, get the car fixed, rent a car. Ha ha. None of this worked out in any happy way. The part had to come from the far side of Venus apparently, Saturn dealership right up to corporate balked at every turn, even when faced with an hour of persistent invective. Insurance, my parent's insurance at any rate, did not cover any part of it except the towing. Rental was costly past what was reasonable. So, we rented rooms and sat in Taos for two days, missed our reservation, non-refundable, at the Grand Canyon Hotel, and gloomed through it. My mother's phrase, "Well, the hand has come down, and it's not moving." became a family byword when "no matter where you turn, you're not going anywhere" seemed the order of the day.

That phrase came to me the other day as I was considering some life events, or possibly non-events might be more accurate. I have worked hard and diligently on my spiritual journey, attended numerous retreats given by my beloved teacher and spiritual Father, Dr. and Master Zhi Gang Sha, and have received priceless and beautiful blessing and teachings. Truly I am profoundly and abundantly blessed. I have come so far, released so much darkness and negative karma, my personality has been greatly transformed and purified, I see pretty clearly. I am grounded and happy. I am blessed to be a Tao Hands practitioner, Tao Calligraphy practitioner, and Guan Yin Lineage holder. There are still...blockages. Service blockages, business blockages. Financial blockages that are high and wide apparently. I feel so poised to go forward to the next steps, ready to leave for the upcoming Tao retreat with my teacher, and up comes what we call testing.

The hand is down...and it's not moving, just yet anyway.

Spiritual testing comes when Heaven feels that you're ready for those next steps, but wants to see where you are with things. It comes where you most need it, which seems not always wonderful news, and yet it is. It means Heaven has faith in us, and our ability to persevere and work through it, with trust and patience. Sometimes testing is so severe that people can't see out of it, and fall away. I humbly pray that I am not one. I trace Calligraphy, offer blessings, chant, sing, draw, meditate, to do the best I can with what has come to me. I know that Heaven has a plan.

The financial karma thing is so clear and thorough that it would be funny if it were not so life-impacting. It has been one stunning setback after another, and I find myself setting out to Toronto with a plane ticket, a floor to sleep on when I get there, and about enough to feed myself. It's of course a monumental blessing simply to be in the presence of this great teacher and healer, that's enough. But no extras this time. The hand is down.

I was in walking meditation yesterday, and came to a mental and spiritual place I have been before, seemingly blocked at every turn. Before Master Sha's teachings I would have probably wept, waved my arms at heaven, blamed God, ranted, complained. Thankfully that does not occur now, what came was the most curious kind of...emptiness. There was nothing to say, nothing to think, nothing more to do. It is still with me, this feeling, though a bit less vividly than yesterday. I posted to Facebook. I actually love Facebook, I have an awesome spiritual family there that is always ready to help and uplift. I have friends from countries all over the world, there is always someone happy to listen and offer love and healing, and there are often opportunities to reciprocate.

I posted: "I wonder if there's a word for the place that we all come to at some point, where we’ve done everything we know how to do, followed guidance as we understand it, asked, blessed, chanted, traced, offered blessing, meditated. And still all is quiet, no message comes, things seem blocked at every level. Not upset, not arguing, not struggling, just...what? Is there a word for it?"

My dear friends offered valuable words, Stillness. God's Time. Faith. Trust. Bliss. Follow nature's way. Surrender. Plateau. Pause. So dear and thoughtful, my good friends. All these words have value and love in them. In the night more words came to me, Grace, and The Heart Sutra. Grace is unearned blessing, The Heart Sutra is something else. All this time studying the Heart Sutra, and I didn't recognize its wisdom until a little glimpse of it came to me.

I was going to offer the text, but it's pretty deep stuff, and long. The point is that I came upon a moment of complete now-ness, emptiness, no thought, no future, no past, no suffering, no ideas, no emotions, no attainment, no hindrance. I will write my favorite part, that gives me chills and tears when I chant it.

Therefore know that Prajna Paramita is the great transcendent mantra, is the great bright mantra, is the utmost mantra, is the supreme mantra which is able to relieve all suffering. Proclaim the mantra which says,

"Gate, Gate, paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha"

Which means, in essence,

"Gone, Gone, all the way gone, across the river to the other side."

It is Peace. It is Bliss. I am truly and deeply thankful for the testing that enabled me to experience this moment, I could not have done it without the purification and testing.

I have made the analogy of planting the seed, it cannot germinate without being in the dark. Embrace the friendly darkness that shelters the seedling until it is ready to emerge into the light. A diamond is created in the deep darkness of the earth, with great heat and pressure. It could not be a diamond without those elements.

Faith. Stillness. Love. Relentless practice and service.

Da Gan En, greatest gratitude to the Divine, the Tao, the Source, all holy beings, my beloved teacher. Thank you.

Kristin Strachan

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