…the image of my grandmother holding the cutout organza fabric over a tea light candle to make the petals of a flower on my dress… My mom pinning the lace to my bodice while I rest my arm on her shoulder for support...
If it weren't for the bad, I'd wonder if life could get any better.
Eve Bralley, Let It Rain
I love this image – three generations of Bralley women preparing for the wedding.
I have it in my mind almost as a still life.
But, nothing seems so still in our lives just now.
Eve is scheduled to begin chemotherapy four days after she is married:
Fierce grace is on my mind.
There’s nice grace and there’s fierce grace – sickness –
taken to your knees until you see something essential - that’s fierce.
We always value easy grace as being better than harsh, fierce grace…
When you see what fierce grace is trying to show you, then fierce grace doesn’t need to be so fierce.
Adyashanti, excerpted here
When you really understand fierce grace, you see that in the end it is ALL Grace.
Even, as we still retain our preferences.
I lost a friend to breast cancer several years ago. She had spent her life devoted to her meditation practice. She had been a vegetarian for decades.
And she was enraged that “after all that work” she had to undergo chemotherapy.
I can hear her now, “It just kills me to pump these poisons into my body!”
What a juxtaposition of intentions contained within that phrase:
“It kills me” and we are envisioning “The Cure.”
But, how often is killing all tied up with Life?
Fierce grace is just that: fierce.
The only way I know to the way to swallow without choking is to clearly recognize: even this is Grace.
I have another image, stored on my computer.
It is a close-up a petri plate. On it grow some of the bacteria that I’ve worked with for over twelve years now.
Streptomyces are the source of 70% of the world’s antibiotics.
From Streptomyces also come adriamycin and bleomycin, two of the drugs composing the ABVD treatment, the standard chemotherapy for lymphoma patients.
In the lab, you can see the drugs of Streptomyces diffusing into the agar of the petri plates: red and orange, blue and purple, even yellow and green when they are purified.
The colors have always delighted me.
But, in reading up these past few weeks on the drugs comprising ABVD, there have been times I’ve simply broken down in tears.
I hate this!
These damn drugs are so toxic that if you get them on your skin they’ll blister.
And the Solution!!! - inject them directly into your veins.
I want to turn away. Let this thing just pass on by.
But, we don’t have that option.
Eve is going to do this.
Evie has done it once already.
So, I’d like to offer up another image: the Streptomyces that delight me.
And may Evie take this knowledge with her as she moves through her chemotherapy.
These drugs come from Life woven deep into the earth.
Streptomyces is not some foreign species.
All our lives we have known and loved them by their smell: that delicious freshness of the earth just after it has rained. … that smell’s not really “earth” but these bacteria.
From Streptomyces diffuse the molecules we inhale as we renew ourselves from Nature. Essence of earth and air and water is actually essence of Streptomyces.
Granted, these good smelling molecules are lipids – not the drugs that get injected.
But, they flow from the same source, the same bacteria.
So, if one were trying to gain an impression of Streptomyces’ as an entity, the main impression I have as a scientist is of a rainbow of colors and the Life force of the elements.
That’s one side of the coin of Grace.
Now let’s turn it over – flip from science to spirituality.
In his teachings Maharishi always eschewed talk about the airy-fairy.
He wanted us to speak in scientific terms: like doxorubicin and bleomycin.
So when he wanted to teach about the Celestial, the realm of angels and devas, he chose to speak of “impulses of Creative Intelligence.”
That’s what I am trying to convey here: the Creative Intelligence behind a bacterium and the molecules it produces.
Because, behind the gross lies the subtle.
And at the subtlest level, words like deva, angel, even God are what traditionally have been used.
Maharishi told us that behind every form in Nature lies an impulse of Creative Intelligence. He wanted it to sound like it was an abstract law of nature.
But, if you read about the Findhorn Garden you can find descriptions of Creative Intelligence’s varied forms and the personalities these impulses can take.
And these angels have an impact:
I had never set out to learn to talk with angels, nor had I ever imagined that such contact could be possible or useful. Yet, when this communication began to occur, it did so in a way that I could not dispute. Concrete proof developed in the Findhorn garden… The garden was planted on sand in conditions that offered scant hospitality and encouragement for the growth of anything other than hardy Scottish bushes and grasses requiring little moisture or nourishment.
However, through my telepathic contact with the angelic Beings who overlight and direct plant growth, specific instructions and spiritual assistance were given. The resulting garden, which came to include even tropical varieties of plants, was so astonishing in its growth and vitality that visiting soil experts and horticulturists were unable to find any explanation for it, and eventually had to accept the unorthodox interpretation of angelic help.
To Hear the Angels Sing, Dorothy Maclean
At Findhorn they talk about the plants, flowers, vegetables.
Here, I am talking bacteria and molecules confident that every aspect of Creation has it’s Celestial level.
I am thinking that behind the Streptomyces there must be a most awesome angel.
Awe-some in the ground trembling sense.
It must embody some aspect of that fierce grace that brings us to our knees -
raw and archetypal power.
It cuts us down as it wakes us up and offers us a life we never had envisioned.
Perhaps you doubt the possibility, so let me offer another image:
I see your father last Christmas Eve. As a special gift I’d given him a sword – the kind of sword that made me realize why in legends swords always have a name.
This sword was no inanimate object.
There was something, something fully awake, behind the awesome gleam.
Yes, there is that word again: awesome.
I had worried about the appropriateness of such a lethal weapon.
But, after all the Christmas cheer had died down I watched unnoticed as your dad picked up the sword.
A change I’d never seen came over him.
He quietly circumambulated the living room. His attention turned within.
He was also settling into the feel of the sword: Its weight, its balance, its potential for lethality and violence.
But, he didn’t seem to be focusing upon death or any evil intent.
He was feeling into power.
I watched the power of the sword center him.
I watched as he merged his own power with the swords potential.
And at that moment lethal weapon became sacred object.
There is no contradiction here – only fierce grace.
I hope you can remember this when you receive the chemo.
I hope you can discover the sacred weapon flowing through your veins diffusing into tissue.
May you bathe in the powers of earth and air and water, and let fire consume the cancer.
No poison here to haunt your life – only fierce grace.
Life is full of grace—sometimes it's wonderful grace, beautiful grace, moments of bliss and happiness and joy, and sometimes it's fierce grace…But this fierceness is also beautiful.
It helps orient us deeper and deeper into our true nature…
Life itself has a tremendous capacity to show us truth, to wake us up, and yet, many of us avoid this thing called life, even as it is attempting to wake us up.
The divine itself is Life in motion.
The divine is using the situations of our lives to accomplish its own awakening, and many times it takes the difficult situations to wake us up…
If we’re ready to turn and face them, we can see and receive the gifts that they have to offer…
Adyashanti, The End of Your World.