“Grace is the universe loving you”
a friend told me that a few days ago. How beautiful is that?
Lately, when I wake up in the early morning, still snuggling and trying to convince myself to get the day started, I take a moment to connect with my inner Guide and with my soul. I ask for guidance, and I pray to feel once again that presence, that warmth in the hearth that makes me sure that everything is going to be allright, no matter how, and reminds me that all I have to do is to say yes, and surrender.
Well, not always my prayers work. Mara, the demon of delusion is often a guest in my inner skies, robbing me of my faith in life, trust, confidence and sense of wholeness and oness.
In those moments I fall again into believing that I really have to effort, and “do” it, do more and do better otherwise all of my world will just collapse into a black hole.
In those moments I forget that it’s just Mara, it’s not real, it’s not the truth and I forget to call for grace.
Many demons I’ve been able to make friends with: my inner judge, the critics, the performer and many others, but Mara is still the one I fight, the one I’m not able to invite to my table as a guest. Whenever he’s around I disappear, and he becomes the landscape of life.
Mara is really a tricky one. In buddhism he’s considered the most malignant of all demons. He’s doubt personified, and when I fall into his grip, life looks and feels like a dull desert of duties and delusions.
Grace disappears, God desappears, I desappear and the robotic me shows up, making crumbs of my life.
When I finally recognize the place where I ended up, when I aknowledge Mara and stop fighting, my experience of life becomes tridimensional again, and trust springs in my heart.
I experience it as wonder, curiosity around how life wants to unfold, and as a sense of intimacy with all that is. Feeling intimate with Life itself.
Of course trust is trust because we actually don’t know how things will turn out, if we will succeed or not. Trust is jumping not knowing whether the net will be there, or not.
And if I look behind to my life experiences, I can see that this “Mara vs Trust” game has always been around.
I’m a gambler, I love to risk and I’ve been told very often that I am courageous but I don’t think it’s about courage really, it’s more about checking out who’s right: Mara or Grace? Will the net appear in the end, or not?
It’s my personal match with God.
For years, the word “God” has had a strong negative association for me.
I had a hard time even to write it with capital letter.
C’mon, who’s God?!? God??? I could relate to Goddess, Life, Universe, Absolute, even Source. But God!
This was largely a result of disillusionment with organized religion, the control and claims of dogma, and the perceived hypocrisy of the church. And primary school with nuns!
But when I started meditating I discovered spirituality. So different from religion!
Thru meditation I met prayer, and learned how to talk to God face to face, bringing out all that I have inside, feelings, emotions, as raw as they sometimes can be. To scream, to dance, to cry and swear my way to God. In the beginning and for a long while I was just pissed off with him. Why have you forsaken me ??
I felt as if God cheated on me, promised things that never came. The happily ever after. All your dreams will come true when you grow up (and if you behave, of course). That sort of things. I grew up and behaved but life kept being the same messy one!
But then Grace was the next surprise that spirituality brought in my life... a sweetness and gentleness in the heart descended, and life changed its face. For ever.
Through Grace, I have been able to perceive the Absolute directly, sometimes. To smell its fragrance.
At this stage of my life, my preferred name for this Infinite Love is Grace.
She has a feminine presence at the moment, to help me through my current set of lessons. She has so many names. So many forms. So many faces.
But always a sweet, soft warm presence in my chest and in my heart that makes me safe and held.
Ilaria Di Donato
Learning to trust
My favourite days, my real holidays, are when I can let go of the watch, of plans and programs, and just follow the flow, becoming receptive to how the day wishes to unfold without any schedule or interference of the mind.
Without any idea on how it should be or any useless attempts to control.
That's when I relax, and I can really rest and feel nourished.
In those days my prayer is:
I offer this day to you, guide me. Take me Home.
Nowadays, I find myself silently repeating these words more frequently in everyday situations. I am learning to trust more. To listen more closely. To look for that inner voice. To act on it with courage. To let go of the illusion of control more and more.
My favourite spiritual practice is in finding the delicate balance between effort, doing my best, and surrender. It’s a dance that brings me freedom and relaxation (most of the times, and frustration some other times).
When I remember and maintain enough awareness in the moment, I know that all is well in all of existance, always. It's just perfect as it is, always, even if I don't have a clue or feel pissed off.
The Heart knows this to be true even when the conditioned mind believes otherwise. Its ideas of how things “should be” are so limited, limiting and tiring!
Santa Teresa once said: “I don’t claim anything of the work. It’s His work. I’m like a little pencil in His hand. That’s all. He does the thinking. He does the writing. The pencil has nothing to do with it.” How beautiful is that? How freeing also, in a way. Tremendously liberating. And frustrating also! That part of me that wants to make it right and make a difference and know better etc... it’s just smashed down when I acknowledge that.
It’s not about me...
This idea resonates so deeply for me that it somehow finds its way into my own meditation. In my dance.
The first and deepest form of meditation for me was dance, movement. My soul loves to dance, wants to dance, and I am learning more and more to dissolve into the dance. "Let me be your dance, You the dancer" was the prayer that raised from my heart when I first met meditation and started journeying on a spiritual path.
That’s why moving the body and dancing our way towards prayer is my practice and what I often offer to those who want to work with me.
Opening the body is the best shortcut towards opening the heart and the mind to our soul, to Grace and to God. To trust and let go, to surrender and crack open. To cross all of our darkness, meet Mara or whatever demon we’re busy with, and dance our way to freedom. Our way home.
TRUST THE DARKNESS NOW
If you are lost.
If nothing makes sense anymore.
If all your reference points
If the old life is crumbling now.
If the mind is foggy, tired, busy.
If the organism is exhausted
and longs to rest.
This is a rite of passage,
not an error.
You are healing
in your own original way.
Contact the ground now.
Breathe. In, out.
Make room for the visitors:
The sorrow, doubt, fear, anger.
An ancient emptiness -
They just want to be felt.
They just want to pass through.
You are a vessel, not a separate self.
You are a sky, not the passing weather.
An old life is falling away.
A new life is being born.
Others may not understand.
But trust anyway.
Contact the ground.
- Jeff Foster
Ilaria Di Donato