Grace and Grit
A Tale of Love, Loss, and Liberation
A short clip of Treya talking to a live audience about her journey, the only known footage of Treya anywhere in the world
“It takes grace, yes — and grit!”
– Treya Killam Wilber
In 1983, Ken Wilber met the love of his life.
Her name was Terry Killam, or Treya as she later called herself. She was beautiful, intelligent, deeply conscious, and more full of life and vitality than anyone Ken had ever met. She had a wonderfully playful sense of humor, was passionate about nature, art, service, psychology, and spirituality, and radiated warmth and kindness from her very core.
“It was love at first touch.” There was a powerful and undeniable sense of familiarity that both Ken and Treya felt when they met. She was the woman Ken had been waiting for his entire life, and before long they were married.
Just ten days after their wedding, before they really had a chance to begin their life together, Treya was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. For the next five years, Treya and Ken did everything they possibly could to recover from this devastating illness, including a full arsenal of orthodox and alternative treatments, before Treya’s life came to an untimely end in 1989.
Their story is chronicled in Grace and Grit, a book published by Ken in 1991, and recently adapted to film by director Sebastian Siegel. It’s a story of incredible suffering, of radical liberation, and of an ever-present love that transcends time and space itself—a love that reaches so far beyond life and death, both seem like very small things in comparison. It is one of the greatest love stories ever told, and once you’ve heard it, you will never be the same again.
As Ken reads, Ken slides seamlessly from one narration to the next, evoking a sense that that there is only one single Spirit here — that through every experience, behind every distinct set of eyes, this One Spirit is tasting the pain and sweetness of its own manifestation, moment to moment. It’s love loving love, always and forever.
In Ken's words:
“I haven’t talked about Treya’s death in public since she died in 1989. And even though this was one of the most important events in my life and changed me forever, it’s still in a sense too close to me. When I read sections of this book just to myself in private, I still cry. So I’m a little bit worried that by the time I get to the end of the book, and especially the last chapter, that I’ll be a dribbling, drooling, slobbering idiot. And I’m going to ask you to just please help me with that and put up with that.
This was an extraordinary five years in my life, and five years that will stay with me forever. So I’m going to spend an hour or two and go through some of the main sections, and hopefully give you a flavor of what this relationship was like, and what this path of conscious love was like.
We didn’t choose the path of conscious love. We were both practicing a discipline—I was practicing Zen and Dzogchen Tibetan Buddhism, and Treya was practicing Vipassana. But when we fell as desperately in love as we did, then that love became our teacher. We were thrown onto a path of conscious love. And we had no formal teacher in that, except the power of the love itself. And it constantly surfaced and resurfaced and resurfaced, and in a sense held our hand and walked us forward. And I think you will see what I mean with this.”