GRACE, a Name we can all Adopt

GRACE, a Name we can all Adopt June 19, 2016

A store clerk looked at my credit card last week and asked, “What does your name mean, Anita? It is so beautiful”. I responded that I once knew, but had forgotten… that I would google it.

Apparently, my name means GRACE and I couldn’t have been happier to learn or re-learn this little fact. I have always loved that word.

While I was preparing for yoga with the ladies of the Phila. Federal Detention Center (FDC), I decided to research the meaning of many of their names:

Donna- lady
Lee- shelter from the storm
Amy- beloved
Michele- gift from God
Gwen- blessed
Stacey -resurrection

I asked them to lie on their backs and after centering through breath to begin to repeat, “I am …fill in your name” and after a few rounds, replace your name with the meaning of your name. I spoke gently of “who” they are when they drop the unhelpful labels (like inmate) and false identities (like criminal).

I suggested we practice together in the spirit of honoring how we each share all of those strong and lovely qualities. Then, I explain that in yogic terms how we speak of karma and what you put out into the world will have equal repercussions–like in physics, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. We are taught to be careful and intentionally put out more good than bad into the world!!


Along comes this thing called GRACE to upend this karmic concept; where all of us get a second chance and a third and a fourth. No matter what crime or sin or evil we’ve committed, we can turn to the Light and allow it to overcome or transform the darkness– THROUGH GRACE. Yes, it is a radical concept– Love interrupts the course of our karmic path and redirects us, not just onto a new path but we find we have a new and deeper understanding of who we are in relationship to God and to one another.

My favorite, simple poem is Mary Oliver’s :

Pay Attention
Be Astonished
Tell About it
I continue to be astonished that it is by feeling an actual dying “within” the dark wound itself, that energy is released and converted. Especially in stillness, we find we can surrender our wrongs and our trauma. Infinite spirit uses them as raw material to create something new, an original melody meant to be sung in our voice alone. We must die to the sad, same, old tune and awaken to a new song in our hearst.

The beloved Maya Angelou passed away last week and left us with her incredible message of love, personal empowerment and yes, transformation. Ms. Angelou said,

I would like to be known as an intelligent woman, a courageous woman, a loving woman, a woman who teaches by being.

Back in class it is now 3:15 p.m. and time for final rest for the ladies of the FDC. They recline into savasana and listen as I describe this as one of the most difficult poses because we are left alone to just “Be“.


There is no one instructing us, no one encouraging usgraceor guiding us any longer. How much self- trust and knowledge have we cultivated to “Be” here? It’s brave and vulnerable and totally worth it to stay.

I suggest we might try resting in the knowledge that GRACE is personal and For us… Lest we might begin to think that all our effort, all our self-improvement was the reason for our shining, expansive heart.

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