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Invisible Acts of Power: Channeling Grace in Your Everyday Lifeby Caroline Myss
When I was growing up Roman Catholic, we were bilingual in English and angels. Miracles could happen every day. The invisible power of angels and saints was everywhere and their existence was a given, a fact, ordinary. It would have been unthinkable not to believe in them.
Every day was a saint's day and gave us the opportunity to recognize the importance of a particular virtue or energy that each saint embodied. We regularly invoked the saints' and angels' strengths: St. Jude gave us the courage to face impossible causes; St. Anthony helped us notice and find lost objects; St. Francis protected our animals and taught us compassion for all life. Even as an adult, when I was selling my home recently and wanted to make it go as fast as possible, I borrowed a statue of St. Joseph from a close childhood friend and, according to tradition, buried it upside down in the backyard. Say what you will, but my house sold within days of that little ritual.
For some of us children, the angels and saints were our first brush with invisible power. These nonphysical beings peopled our spiritual world and surrounded us with their support. We were never alone, and when we called or prayed to them, they always answered. They were our first spiritual community. Their lives modeled the power of faith — proof that no physical force on earth, from political oppression to illness, could defeat heaven.
To this day, the saints and angels are invisible forces in my life. Yet I also have a faith in an even greater power: the energy, or grace, that animates our seemingly impersonal but intimately interconnected universe. We receive infusions of grace on a daily basis, but in the middle of the everyday tasks of making a living and taking care of our family and friends, we can miss its subtle power. Grace holds together the whole of our life — and all of our lives collectively. It watches over us and will come to our aid if we ask.
Many times I have wished that I could convince others to have faith in this immeasurable, invisible force that surrounds and protects us. I feel profound bliss in knowing that even in the direst times, our prayers are heard and answered. I have seen and experienced far too many miracles to believe otherwise. Like you, I've had to move mountains in my personal and professional life. Whenever I am striving mightily on my own, pushing and getting nowhere, I usually realize that it's time to step back and remember that, "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain,/Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove." As the Tao Te Ching also advises, "Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity." Nothing is impossible for you when you have faith — in yourself and in your purpose.
Faith is an active force — not a passive one — an invisible power, like love. It is not simply a belief in goodness, it is a belief put into action in the present moment. In the ancient Hindu belief system, faith also conveys protection, by giving us trust and confidence in the rightness of what we are doing. Faith enables us to have a positive attitude and hope even in the face of seemingly irreversible setbacks.
God works anonymously — invisibly — through these powers of faith, love, and grace. Perhaps this is because we humans are too meddlesome to be trusted with a direct divine intervention. Remember that mortals in ancient mythology who looked directly at a god (who was not disguised in an earthly form) went blind or mad from the sight. God frequently sends divine grace through human agents who perform nonrandom acts of kindness.
As I often tell the people who study spirituality and intuition with me in my workshops, we are all born here to go to Earth School. We're on this planet to learn to be spiritual beings in a physical body, to gain consciousness of our greater purpose. Life on Earth is all about learning to manage your power. So this book is a course in Earth School about managing your personal power in a way that enhances your own spiritual growth, while also contributing to the evolution of the people around you — and to the entire global soul.
Giving and receiving are learned arts. As children, we first learn to give and to receive in visible ways — we're fed, clothed, and sheltered and we learn to feed, clothe, nourish, and care for others. As we mature, we undertake other vital acts of caring — we serve as listeners to our friends and loved ones; we encourage them and pray for them; we grow in our effectiveness in the world and learn to help and empower others.
Learning to manage your personal power means that you have to become aware of how you work with your energy and whom you give it to. "Those who overcome themselves are strong," wrote Lao-tzu. It's also about how much you are willing to surrender to divine guidance, which often comes to you in the guise of inner intuition. By finding your inner compass and acting on its promptings, you come into your full power and fulfill the life mission you were born to complete. I call this mission your Sacred Contract and it includes not just the daily work you do, but every relationship you have and every person you meet, everyone you help, and everyone who helps you.
Oftentimes, an author does not know how to begin a book, but I found it difficult to end this one. When I began, I had intended to write a simple examination of how we are called into action to help each other. Yet the writing grew into a personal spiritual awakening for me. In my previous books, my intention was always to teach a new method of seeing and understanding your spirit and your life. In this book, I want to do that and I also want to make you redefine your view of power in this world. I want to help you realize that no matter how much money you have, no matter what sex, race, or age you are, you do have power. You can make a difference in your world and in the life of every single person you encounter.
In the course of writing this book, I solicited stories from readers and subscribers to my Web site about their experiences with grace and life-changing acts of service. I was honored and overwhelmed to receive twelve hundred letters within six days of making my request. I discovered that it is one thing to talk abstractly about human goodness and our potential to be kind, but it's quite another to come into direct contact with hundreds of real stories of real people exercising their power to heal, to help each other, to make a difference. I felt saturated in the caring and warmth of being human that these stories convey. They are solid evidence that the great power of compassion, honor, and grace still exists, even in the middle of national and world crises. They also prove that we are not alone in this world and that even in the direst times, our prayers are heard and answered.
I have worked as an intuitive for more than two decades and have been teaching others how to develop their own intuition for more than ten years. The main thing that I stress with my students is that they — you — are already intuitive. But you have to open yourself to the messages that you are receiving. Many people resist hearing the messages their intuition sends them, often because they don't want to deal with the changes that they would have to make if they listened and acted on the guidance. But these stories demonstrate that we really can make a profound difference when we listen to our intuition and act on it. And I give you instructions on how to notice and follow your intuition in each chapter.
These stories show that everything we do counts. There is really no such thing as a small act of service or goodness. This is in accord with most of the world's spiritual traditions. The Tao Te Ching advises, "Do the great while it is still small." And the philosopher and social activist Martin Buber writes, "The things that happen to me day after day, the things that claim me day after day — these contain my essential task." Every day we are called to perform large and small acts of courage and grace. And the effects of every small action are multiplied a thousandfold. The Buddha taught, "Happiness is the accumulation of good."
Every time someone says, "God, please help me," the universe hears. The gods may let you practically drown before they respond and send you a boat — because you are in this Earth School to learn how to build a boat and how to row it — but they will respond. The power of a single wish can change your life. And once you ask, once you open your mind and heart to the possibility of an answer, you will get an answer, even though it may not be the one you want or in the form you expect.
These stories prove how intimate our seemingly impersonal universe is and how interconnected we are. Through them, I have discovered an invisible spiritual community of physical angels. These angels masquerade as our friends, family, and often and especially strangers. They are all around us and they appear at the right time, often in the nick of time, to help us when we are in need. They create meaning and hope where before there was pain and despair. Like the people in these stories, you, too, have an invisible spiritual community that supports you, but you also have the power to go out and create more meaning and goodness — more nonrandom acts of kindness. And of course the good that you create inevitably comes back to you.
Before I had even thought about asking my readers to send me their stories, I had wanted to put together a list of acts of service for my Web site. This was to be my own personal act of service. Partly it was in response to my students telling me that people need to feel good about other people again; these stories certainly do that for me. And partly it was in response to the thousands of people I have met through the years who are searching for a path that gives their life meaning and purpose. Among the many aspects of life that give us meaning, helping others is one of the most rewarding. Indeed, the need to be of service has evolved into a spiritual necessity for many people, perhaps as a result of our living longer and desiring to remain active in society and purposeful through our entire life. I rarely meet people who want to retire from a meaningful life.
People in their middle years, especially, seek out meaning. Carl Jung described maturity as an awakening to the need to live a life of spiritual purpose rather than simply fulfilling the basic needs of physical survival or pursuing pleasure. He saw each person as the hero of his or her own life's journey who sets out on a path to greater spiritual awareness. The one thousand two hundred plus letters that I received show that not only do many people have a hunger for spiritual connection, they also have created a personal theology of service and healing, a feeling of responsibility for their fellow man. They are an invisible community of heroes.
Even knowing this, however, I had not considered, before writing this book, that caring for others and going that extra mile for family, friends, coworkers, or strangers could have a connection to our physical health. Now I believe that the human spirit needs to develop generosity and compassion to be healthy. We need to respond to others' vulnerabilities in the process of addressing and healing our own. Exercising empathy and compassion and performing good deeds makes our body and spirit thrive. One scientific study, for instance, found that an effective way to find relief from our own stress and strains is to pray for others. Another study revealed that we require at least four hours a month of face-to-face volunteering for good health. Numerous other studies have shown that positive emotions cause greater activity in the brain and increase the antibodies that fight disease. In other words, helping others promotes our own wellness. Our bodies actually thank us for reaching out!
Health is not just the slowest possible rate at which one can die, as some cynics say. The warm glow we get from helping others is not just a good physical feeling — it is the energy of a healing grace that moves between the giver and the receiver and blesses both. We need each other. We're not meant to be completely independent, but to give and receive. You cannot increase in self-understanding and well-being and simultaneously remain isolated from humanity. You cannot strive for a healthier, more spiritual life if you keep yourself separate and apart from life around you. The journey of the "self" also involves the journey of the "other."
We've always known this to be true; world literature is rich with stories that reflect this essential human principle. In The Odyssey, Ulysses returns home disguised as a beggar to see whether his subjects are decent human beings and how they treat a stranger in their midst. Shiva, the god of many forms, wanders the world in rags, representing that God is everywhere and can be found in any and every situation, testing us mortals in our ability to recognize our connection with every being on earth. Dickens's A Christmas Carol shows the necessity of awakening to the power of generosity and goodness and its lifesaving consequences for the giver and the receiver.
The many people whose life experiences fill the pages of this book remind us to heed the call to be of service to one another. Like characters in their own life stories, they survived, endured, and thrived because a modest hero reached out with a gift of grace when they needed it most. They faced and overcame serious problems, discovering in the process how deeply valued they are. These stories remind us again and again that we are not alone. They renew our faith in a guiding force greater than ourselves. And as we read them, we understand that this grace that happens to others — interventions, spontaneous healings, or the kindness of strangers — can also happen to us.
These stories are an absolute pleasure to share with you. I loved every second of writing this book and often ended up in tears in response to the love, compassion, sweetness, and faith of the people who wrote to me. I am so grateful to them, more than I can express. While I regret not being able to use all the letters submitted to me for this book, I did use all of them as I organized the material, which helped me arrive at the insights I present. For me, this book was a personal spiritual journey in which a theory of goodness incarnated into the grace of experience.
I hope that these stories warm and inspire you as much as they did me. I hope that they sustain you with hope and faith when difficult times occur in your own life. And I also hope that the life experiences of these individuals will help you to realize how much power you have as an individual to make a difference in the life of every person you meet — through your own invisible acts of power.
Copyright © 2004 by Caroline Myss
Copyright © 2004 by Caroline Myss
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