Waking up…

The house is quiet. All the people in my house (Daalu, Anji, my parents visiting from India) are resting, taking a nap this afternoon. I can hear the wind rustling through the trees, a gentle breeze through the late afternoon light. Anji is moving in her sleep, slowly crossing over from sleep to awake-ness. Have you ever been aware of that exact moment when it happens? There is possibly one definite moment when we are no longer sleeping, and fully awake. Isn’t that true of every time when we are no longer drifting in thought, but have become fully conscious and awake, present in the moment. The more we can pay attention to this moment of waking up, the more often we have the opportunity to begin again. And this beginning again and again and again and letting go of the past and the future and entering more fully into the now – this I feel is what builds our resilience and inner strength and open heart.

Of course, some moments are harder than others to enter into, they test the vulnerability of the heart, of how much we can stay open, not through sheer will but through gentleness. And yet, isn’t this too an opportunity through compassion, to begin again? Perhaps, that is why Rumi says:

“Why should we grieve that we have been sleeping?

It does not matter how long we’ve been unconscious.

We are groggy, but let the guilt go.

Feel the motions of tenderness

around you, the bouyancy.”

(translated by Coleman Barks)

For me, it is the time of year when my heart is tested, as many experiences from the school year near their end. This week, I had my last day of class with my seniors. I had always wanted to do this, this is the first year that I actually managed to do it: to write a card for each of my seniors, wishing them luck on their new adventures. My hope is that many years from now, one of them will find the card when they most need it, and know how much their Calculus teacher appreciated them!

Anji is nearing the end of her second grade, and that too is bittersweet, to see how much she has grown and learned this year, and all the many new experiences she has embraced so openly and bravely. She truly is an inspiration to me. Each last assembly, recital, homework and warm-up finds me moved, and my heart tender and my eyes close to tears. Somewhat ironic, as I have been suffering from dry eyes lately!

So, as we take in this incredible beauty of the summer, its fullness, fragrances and intensity, may we continue to wake up to our experiences and live more fully in the present…!

With love, S.

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The best season of our lives…

May 1st, 2018

This morning I did something that influenced the rest of my day. My phone was nearly out of storage and I wanted to see if there were any old videos I could part with on my phone. That led me to seeing some of Anji’s videos when she was really little. She is now seven and a half. It was so wonderful! One video in particular of her about a year old, walking around and munching on this cookie with music playing in the background and my soft face filled with the light of love.

Anji woke up soon after and joined me in watching another video of herself at about three years old, singing an Indian song. It was so sweet, to see how much time has passed and how much she has grown and yet how there are these essential qualities to her that are the same in all these years that I have known her and cherish in her, as her mother.

When I dropped her off at school and watched her in my rear view mirror, her tall sweet self chatting with her teacher while holding her backpack and the big paper bag in her hands that had her costume for Romeo and Juliet later this week, it really struck me. How quickly this time will go by, and how soon she will be all grown up, and how much it means to me to be part of this growing up, witnessing this amazing process of her becoming and being Anji. My heart felt tender and grateful to be alive on this particular day.

This poignancy in life, this unmistakable fleetingness of it, of time passing and of firsts and lasts are what make us cherish life even more, and make it even more urgent for us to be present for those moments. How easy it is to forget this! Perhaps Spring makes this even clearer- this miracle of nature, of growth and blossoming into a new phase in life while letting go of the residues of winter, to create more space for love and light. May you have a spring in your step and delight in your heart! I leave you with Wu Men’s poem:

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.

With Love, S.

April – May Reflections

April 2018

April was a month of connecting with old friends. After nearly 13 years, I visited with my college roommate and her family in North Carolina. Another dear friend flew in from Canada to join us turning our time together into a rocking reunion. It was amazing to see each other and to begin where we left off, to share our journeys, our lives, and to realize that even though we have all changed so much over the years, we are also all still the same; there is an unchanged core within us – almost as if even back then, one could look through and see the futures each of us has chosen! We stayed up each night until late, chatting, the way we used to back in hostel days. I look at our pictures of being together, and we all look radiant! It was also tremendous fun for our kids to connect; and to see my friends in their children, like this continuity of life through the next generation.

Interestingly, around the same time, I was connected with my department buddies back from college through Whatsapp. This too was bittersweet – to see family photos of college classmates and get a snapshot of past and present. Things we remember (and don’t remember!) back from those days. To learn where each person is, and how their journey has been in the past 17 years. It was also interesting how much of the music I (and others in the group!) remembered from college days and the memories associated with the songs. Recently, I heard on NPR that our brain makes associations with music and life experiences more vividly from ages of 17 – 21. It made so much sense; how often music from that time transports me back instantly to key experiences from that time…

What I did find was that my mind juggling between past and present started to get tiring; and while introspection and reflection can be so powerful, I feel much more grounded anchored in the present! A weekend break from my phone was much needed and deserved!

What has April brought for you? Or May and spring? I’m just catching up on my blog, as you can tell!

With Love, S.

Musings on a plane ride…

April 14, 2018

We are 26000 feet about ground, my seven year old daughter Anji and I. What is it about being high up that brings such perspective? It is finally April break, and we are on the way to seeing my dear buddies from college – a last minute impromptu trip. And all my morning struggles of getting laundry done, packing, having breakfast and getting ready to leave for our trip seem so minor right now up here in the sky. I feel more relaxed and happy than I remember feeling this week, and Anji seems much calmer as well. Without the distractions of everyday life, I have enjoyed her company these last few hours, of reading a book together, hearing her talk about her toys, watching a service dog together, commenting on various peoples’ shoes, checking out others luggages…you get the gist! We finished Spiderwick chronicles book 2 together and now we will have to wait to borrow the next one from the library.

Anji even slept, head on my lap, on the coach to Boston, sweet darling warm and sweaty and in her own thoughts and dreams. Maybe this is why I love traveling, going somewhere and getting out of my usual routine, this chance to witness my loved ones up close and seeing the amazing qualities they possess that makes me love them so much!

With love, S.

Reflections on a snow-day…

It has been a while since I wrote in this space. The recent snow, though has wreaked havoc on our school routines, has brought some time for reflection and pause, which is a welcome respite during the busyness of our lives.

The snow… I was explaining to Anji last week how incredible it was that I had not seen snow in my entire life until I became an adult and came here to the United States. How hard that must be for her to imagine, growing up with it. Though I don’t like driving in snow, I love snow days. I love watching snow fall like puffy cotton falling, how it makes the trees look so beautiful, with puffy bits hanging on, and how calm and clear things seem to be on a crispy winter morning under the sun. Winter, with its short days and long cozy evenings is meant for slowing down our rhythm. One of the things this winter has found me immersed in, is reading books: I read five of a series of books called The secrets of the immortal Nicholas Flamel, a fantasy series; and am now beginning my second book of the Neopolitan novels by Elena Ferrente. The Oscar season always brings with it, the joy of escaping into a good movie. I enjoyed in particular, the shape of water and the Black Panther. Early dinners and board games after have become a favorite ritual of ours on some of the school nights. After intentionally deciding as a family to cut down on our commitments towards after school activities, it feels like we have more time to read together, to have spacious time, and make time for joy.

It’s funny, this thing we call joy. Reading ‘hardwiring happiness’ recently, I am reminded yet again, the elusive quality of joy. So much of our joy comes from ordinary moments in our lives; and how easily they pass us by when we are not paying attention. And how paying attention requires us to slow down. And how slowing down, is not always comfortable. On Sunday morning, I was making my hot cup of tea, while Anji was having her breakfast. I felt this rush of feeling, of good health and gratitude to have an open day, a healthy child (bouncing back from a cold), food to eat and a bright morning. It is hard to describe this feeling; since so often it comes with trying to hold on to it, by analyzing why and how to make it continue. In that moment, I felt perfectly contented. I am sure my mood went through changes during the course of the day, reacting to circumstances; but I remembered that rush of feeling several times that day; its memory brought me more happiness.

It is so easy to take for granted these moments. For example, today Anjali showed me traditions from around the world in this cook book she is reading. (I know: I have a daughter who reads cookbooks for fun!). When I asked her about our traditions, she said we didn’t have any! I was dismayed since I have spent so many years trying to cultivate traditions (like coconut laddoos for Diwali, chocolate bark for Xmas etc!). Then I reminded her of our simple tradition: of having dinner together as a family each day: such a simple thing, but so easily taken for granted. And I saw her have an AHA moment. I think, when we remember to celebrate the simple things, with easy delight and happiness, we show our little ones how to do it.

So, may this winter, and snow bring you some ordinary moments of everyday delight; moments that nourish us and make us better capable to respond with kindness to an increasingly volatile world around us. May we appreciate these moments and take them in!

Love, S.

Changing selves…changing relationships…

I have often thought about this question: do we change with time? Is there an essential part of us that stays the same? When I visit India and see old friends, I’m often told that I haven’t changed at all. And yet, I also know that like a new haircut or a way of dressing, there is always change on the outside, but also on the inside. To me it feels like every experience we have, every person with whom we have a meaningful interaction, changes us in some way. When I think back on my own life, I can point to not just the people who have come and gone and changed me in some way, but also to specific experiences connected to those people, that have remained with me. It sometimes feels to me like I am a screen on which experiences pass through like a movie, but I as a screen also change and evolve in color and texture.

Obviously, the most significant people in my life have changed/transformed me the most. I know that my own choices in relationships have made me who I am today, every step of the way. My partner, my daughter, my closest friends have made me who I am, or maybe MORE of who I am even as I become more of them! But then also are the people who come into our lives not by choice, but by chance or without choice. These people, close family members, room mates, neighbors, people we have seen everyday at some point in our life, too change us, impacting us in ways we can never expect, more so perhaps than the people we choose to have in our life. This ME is colored by all of these experiences, and relationships…

I think of friends from the past, their sweet contributions to my self, moments shared over joy or despair, camaraderie or friendship, a friendly acquaintance or a deep relationship. I think of friends who are no longer in my life but have somehow changed the direction that my life was headed, like a river that is gently moved to a slightly different path. I think of friends who have provided that helping hand without expecting anything in return, during sickness or a crisis; during a rough spot or a smile on a difficult day. I think of the amazing thing about serendipity. Do we attract the people in our lives? Or do they arrive perhaps sent by a guardian angel somewhere looking out for us, giving us a chance on change, on possibility, on trying a different experience than we have been used to…

I think of the unexpectedness of it all. Bumping into a familiar face after a long time and how that can literally change the course of our lives. (That has happened to me, with one of my closes friends!). I do believe, every person in our life has a role to play, somehow, sent at just the right time, to be there in some way that we perhaps cannot comprehend. Sometimes, other stuff (like our own issues!) get in the way, but ultimately, every moment offers the potential for newness, of rediscovering ourselves in ways we cannot know, cannot conceive or imagine, and of appreciating the mystery and possibilities in life. Even when experiences are unpleasant, we do learn something; if nothing else, we can always learn compassion!

May we continually remind ourselves to be present and open to all that unfolds in life. Here is to embracing all of our experiences and gratitude for all the people who have touched us with their love and friendship!

With love, S.

Setting Goals…

It has been a while since I wrote in this space…and I can only attribute it to laziness. I do have many ideas to write on that float in and out of my head, and before I can act on them, they are gone, poof!

It has been a wonderful summer. One of those incredible, lazy, long days kinda summer. We got some swim camps in, before a luxurious month in India, and back for another week of camp and a week off before school started. Perhaps, this was one of the times when I truly let myself relax. I read, I took naps, I ate good food and I spent time with family. This will be one of my cherished summers…

Of course the first week of school is both a welcome change and a big step change! Anji is in second grade (!) and I’m entering into my fifth year of teaching (!). I feel excited to see familiar and new faces of students and to begin using my mind and creativity again in the classroom. The school routine is wonderful too – both Anji and I do well on it. Anji is now familiar with her school and has friends and is excited for learning new things and facing new challenges. With her seventh birthday a week away, she is definitely going through a growth phase. It’s like her body cannot hold still and is bursting with energy and she is rushing through like the wind in the trees, exuberant and joyful. Sometimes, it is hard to keep up with her energy, but most of the time, it is a wonderful blessing to see her be active and full of optimism.

About a week ago, Anji and I sat and worked on goals for this year. I started with ‘school goals’ (of course, school being on top of my mind!) while Anji started with ‘happy goals’. One of us has our priorities right! :). We worked on happy goals, home goals, school goals and spending money goals. ( One additional category of relationship goals for me). I have to say, Anji’s goals were more direct and clear as compared to mine. For example: ‘don’t buy things you don’t need!’ under spending money goals and ‘don’t sulk’ under happy goals. Once I read hers, I gave a second try at making my goals simpler and more direct. My top happy-ness goals are: walk (at least 10 min everyday), meditate (at least 10 min everyday) and make time to play with Anji (at least half hour everyday). I’m pleased to say that by being concrete, I have managed to keep up with my goals 84% of the time! (guess how many days that is 🙂 ). Among other goals are ‘read new books together’ and ‘tidy only once a day’. The last one is particularly hard for me, since I can get obsessive about tidying. It feels good to have easier and more challenging goals, and I hope this can help me stay more disciplined. Funny, me saying this, for I am one of those for whom discipline has never been an issue. But perhaps, lately, I have been getting a bit too relaxed about it… 🙂

Hope your school year is off to a wonderful start. With the new moon coming up this week, it is a wonderful time to set intentions (or goals!) for yourself. If you have one you would like to share, I would love to hear it!

Be well and be happy!

S.