Touching the Mind: Connecting Sensations, Feelings, Thoughts and Movement – Part 3

Karma and Grace

These mysteries of memory and novelty are, I believe, more helpfully approached through the concepts of Karma and Grace. Karma refers to the idea that we are continually depositing our entire personal past upon each succeeding moment of our conscious present, and that these deposits are made up of unchangeable events in that past. We can never escape what we have done, or what we have been. These things have made us what we are, and in this sense our Karma is our accumulated burden and debt, the conditions which we have created and with which we must move forward. But it is also possible to be stimulated toward new directions, toward that which we have not yet done or become. This brings us to the concept of Grace.

Grace refers to the idea that every moment of the present includes not only the past but also the invaluable seed of a present novelty, an unforeseen experience that has the power to act upon what our past might become. These novelties in our landscape of perception are occurring constantly, but they are usually overwhelmed by the mass and momentum of Karma and by our beliefs of what must be that are based upon what has been. But Karma is not the only determinant of our journey. We may always have the same baggage from the past, but this does not mean that we are bound for any inevitable destination. The rails we have travelled got us to where we are, but it is possible to be given a new ticket, and to change trains. Or to fly.

These novelties of the moment are doorways through which we can discover the option of stepping off the relentless wheel of Karma, our past, and into a state of Grace, which now adds these seeds of novelty to that past and which have the fragile potential of changing everything in our future, a future that is not at this present moment yet determined. This is the therapeutic moment, the spiritually transforming kernel of consciousness that is the interface between the repetitious depositing of our past and the opening towards what we might become. These potentially transformative events in the landscape of our perception have the possibility of occurring every time we engage in the touch of flesh with flesh, when another’s history touches our own and makes us aware of what has been for another–and could be for us– perceived and acted upon differently.

There is a story I like. Two students were sitting with their guru under a large willow tree. The first asked, “Master, how many more lifetimes will it take me to achieve enlightenment?” The guru replied, “I think perhaps two or three hundred more.” This student was dismayed that after all his disciplined efforts there remained so many lifetimes of labor to realize his goal, and he collapsed in grief. The second student, unsettled by the answer and its devastating result for the first one, resolved nevertheless to ask the same question, “Master, how many lifetimes will I have to labor to achieve my enlightenment?” The guru pointed upwards toward the large willow and replied, “As many lifetimes as there are leaves on this tree.” This second student was so overjoyed to hear that there would indeed be a successful end to his efforts that he immediately entered Nirvana.

And this is what I meant when asked by the woman in my class, “What do you mean by reaching the mind?”

Excerpted from Deane Juhan: Reaching the Mind with Touch with permission of the author.

Deane Juhan resides with his wife Jessica Turken in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is author of the book, Job’s Body: A Handbook for Bodywork, and can be reached at

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