Grace, by Matteo Schlitz
To walk this path with grace:
It was only four years ago that, when watching my grandfather’s ashes be poured into the Indian Ocean, an extended relative, an older gentleman credited with bringing Yoga to the coast of Kenya, leaned in and slowly, carefully, asked me and my cousin “What is time?”. He was smoking a joint, a curious sight at a memorial, but when you bring Italians, Americans, and Kenyans together on a Mozambique Dhow, to celebrate the life of a man who brought everyone together through an illegitimate relationship, perhaps it should have been expected.
At the time, after trying to give a respectful response, my cousin and I attempted to contain our giggles. Oh Guiles! Always the “out there” hippie uncle. Of course, I loved him, he was family. Yet him and his wife where always a little different. During my time in Kenya growing up, I did enjoy the vegetarian dinners at their cottage, watching them smoke spliffs without a hint of shame, and their laid-back nature. However, it was not until a few years later, that I began to realize just how far-out and beautiful this branch of my family really was.
Four years later, I went over to their cottage for dinner. Naturally, a lot had happened since my grandfather’s memorial. I had begun an adventure in actively looking to go deeper within. I was blessed, falling in love with yoga, becoming part of a spiritual community and family, and having the opportunity to dance with a few very beautiful plants medicines. I had just gotten back from a trip visiting a new friend’s yoga and meditation center. The trip had been wonderful; a beautiful opportunity to spend time exploring and discussing a young adult’s spiritual path. Something I am very grateful for, as at times, despite the overwhelmingly incredible blessings I find on this journey, I can feel a bit isolated. I am in my fourth and final year at a university that I was recruited to play soccer at. Coming in, soccer was truly my identity. It was always what I was going to do with my life, in some capacity, and naturally, my social group stemmed from the team. I live with my team and was made captain my final season. You can imagine what a shock it was to quit the team a week into preseason. Despite quitting, I am still close friends with a lot of my teammates. I truly love them for the incredible and inspiring people they are. However, they are all going down a much different, more corporate path. I don’t think all of your friends need to be similar to you, and actually, feel very blessed to learn from them every day. Yet the truth is at times I have felt very removed in New York, in a college environment. Sometimes I wish I was not the hippie in the group, but instead in a group of hippies! Spending the time with Aja was inspiring; watching someone only a few years older dedicate themselves so honestly, while finding balance and joy. When I expressed this feeling of isolation to Fiammetta at dinner she said to me: “To awaken may at times feel like a burden, for once you have seen the truth there is no going back”.
I am reluctant to use the word awaken, because I believe we are contently “waking up”, drifting in and out of consciousness yet steadily heading deeper towards our truth. However, I understand the point she was trying to get across. I am eternally grateful for this path: the experiences it has already given me, the love it has showed me, the connections that have appeared and grown, and the direction it appears to be propelling me in. That being said, it has been a rapid and dramatic shift from where I was just 3-4 years ago. The shift has at times been very difficult for me to accept. Perhaps because I was attached to a certain idea of who I was, or who I should be. I was certainly attached to the idea of how I was viewed by others. Of course, to a certain extent, I still am, but I am learning and trying to let go of these attachments.
Recently, I have been thinking about the importance of shedding attachments in a path towards freedom. The more I look in, the more I realize how much there is to let go of: and letting go can be hard. Attachments to beautiful things, like family and friends, where I aspire to love unconditionally, instead of through an attached idea or expectation of how this relationship “should” be. Attachment to desires, which I am learning affects our perception. Attachments to my thoughts and ego, as I attempt to channel a deeper space, the witnesser, who watches without judgment. To shed attachments is to surrender. This word seems to take a new meaning on my path every day.
Now, through all these detachments, from the knowing that everything is temporary (and perfect), and from the understanding that the self is an illusion and is in fact part of something greater than language may communicate, it may be easy to become reckless. Feeling like none of our decisions matter, perhaps they were predetermined, so why should we care? The paradox is that when we accept that we are nothing, we realize we are everything!
That’s where grace ties in. Can we surrender to the universe with grace, so that instead of reckless, we can use our understanding to be brave? To be everything, instead of nothing. To make this short life a fulfilled one. Without fear, without attachment, and filled with love. Nothing but love!