Sunday, July 29, 2018


Image found on Age-of-America
A young man was married to a woman struggling with drug addiction. She was unable to care for their infant son, he worked on a construction site all day, and his family was in another state. One night in the midst of a terrible fight, he looked in his son's crib and saw that the baby was shaking. In desperation, carrying his child, the following night he went to a support group for people living with a family member's addiction. Beyond all rational explanation, he began to feel hope, and even more surprising, he got the idea to take his baby to work. The foreman's wife set up a tiny nursery in the management shed and other women came in to help. The young man began to experience kindness in people he had never before known.

A woman with Stage IV cancer diagnosis walked along a beach contemplating suicide. When a starfish with a broken point scurried up the sand to catch a wave, she recognized the presence of the grail. She chose to live, and to live well. To her his meant taking the necessary care of herself and sharing her journey with others. She bought a starfish pin and wore it near her heart to remind herself that she had learned the lesson of love from a starfish.

A community was bereft when a beloved neighbor, a firefighter, died on 9/11. One night at a community meeting, the discussion inspired a novel idea: he was a gardener and to memorialize him, they would build a community in their small park. Today, "Pete's Garden" blooms with annuals and perennials in the summer and is stays green with pines in the winter; people relax on the benches, and strangers became forever friends. 

These are the grail moments--the small or huge insights, ideas, and openings that shift our reality, heal our suffering, and transform our lives. The grail is life itself.


The Holy Grail was the chalice use to collect Christ's blood from where he hung on the cross, and it was buried with him. When his tomb was opened three days later, both the living Christ and the grail were gone.

Over the centuries, the grail has come to symbolize that which heals all wounds. Less an object than a shift of mind, the grail represents the moment when a small life opens up to a greater reality in which we live but rarely see. These are the moments when we receive help from a more than human source, when we feel fully alive and flowing with life, and as a result are enabled to take inspired, life-generating action. You don't have to believe in a god to experience these transcendent moments; the imagination will do.

I have found that the old stories passed down among generations contain the healing we so long for now in our personal and collective lives. The great teacher Jean Houston observes in A Mythic Life that the Arthurian legend of Parsifal can show us how to transform modern breakdown into breakthrough.  

Found on DeviantArt
Parsifal was a young and untested knight (the name Parsifal can be translated as fool or innocent) who finds himself in a wasteland where everything was crumbling and all living things were dying -- flowers no longer bloomed, rivers had dried up, animals and people were sick in body and spirit. This was the kingdom of the Fisher King, a monarch who suffered from an unknown illness caused by a wound in his leg; his illness had infected the land and no one knew how to cure it. 

Directed to a castle that suddenly manifested within a mist, that night Parsifal saw a magnificent chalice, glowing brighter than all the candles in the hall, being carried back and forth by a beautiful young woman. This chalice was the Holy Grail. Throughout the ages, the Grail became known as the container of the life force that healed all wounds. Parsifal vowed to find out the secret of the Grail the next day. But when he woke up the following morning, the castle was empty; there was not a soul around to ask. Seized with fear, Parsifal jumped on this horse and rode back across the drawbridge just as it was rising and the castle was becoming enshrouded in mist.

For many years after that, Parsifal wandered in a dark forest, trying to find his way back to the Grail Castle by sorting through the tangled roots. During this time, he had many adventures, but he lived without passion, longing for the joy he had felt for one night, in what seemed to be a dream. But these years were not really about loss; they forced the knight to go on an inner journey as well as an outer one. What he lost was his innocence, naivete, and his unconsciousness. What he gained was simplicity, clarity, and maturity. Like a blade, he was sharpened in the fire of adversity. 

Finally, one day he asked a simple question: “Where is the grail? Whom should it serve?”

With that question, life opened: the earth turned green, waters flowed, the drawbridge to the Grail Castle lowered, the ailing Fisher King was healed, and the kingdom too was restored to health. The Grail was brought out of the castle to serve the world.

The message of the grail legend is that healing is possible. We heal as we serve. 

One path to our own Grail is to discover our deep story and share it with caring others. At the same time, as the myth tells us, we begin the healing of our broken land.

Ask Yourself:

1. How does the Parsifal myth translate into your experience? Write yourself into the myth to find your own grail path. Play with it: rewrite the myth from the different perspectives of Parsifal, the ailing king, the Grail itself, and the land -- both in its dying time and in its rebirth. 

2. What is the question you need to ask? Try a few on the page and see where they lead.

3. A story isn't over until it is told. Share your transforming insight, if you have one, no matter how small and insignificant it may seem, with someone who cares.

4. What do you take from this exercise? What needs to happen? And what is the smallest, least difficult step you can take into a larger life? 

A new path beckons. One in which you are not alone, but now part of a life-giving grid of fellow seekers of their own Grails.

All rights reserved, Juliet Bruce, 2018. Excerpt from book in progress.