Shuba’s Weblog

Journeys of the soul…

Musings on beauty…

I’m thinking this morning of beauty. Dressed in a white frock with pink flowers – in tulle – with a pink jacket on top, our daughter Anjali, is looking gorgeous. At age 2, she has her own tastes for clothes – has had them for as long as she has been able to express herself – and she seldom likes to wear dresses. But this morning, she wanted to and I was more than happy to give in. Her preschool class is celebrating Valentine’s Day and the white and pink seemed right. That when combined with heart barrettes on her hair, two of them, one on each side, and her black pants.

I hardly ever have time to get Anjali dressed nicely (or myself) for school. It’s usually the basics – something she can move easily in and is warm. So it made me feel great to see her look so beautiful and healthy (knock on wood). And as I reached for my usual puffy warm jacket, she tugged at my royal blue one. My royal blue jacket is gorgeous – bought at saks-avenue a few years ago over thanksgiving break, it is the most beautiful jacket I have ever owned. I hardly ever wear it because it looks so fancy but how can one refuse a vision in pink and white? So I gave in – and felt gorgeous myself.

Basking in a few compliments, I’m moved to write about beauty today. The kind of beauty that sneaks up on us and makes our heart warm. It’s the kind of beauty that takes us by surprise and reminds us of our capacity to be touched by love.

Last night I went to bed grumpy, feeling tired – and not feeling appreciated enough by my hubby for all that I do. I wanted someone to notice all that I do – all the laundry, the groceries, the time I spend with my daughter, and the other million things that a Mom does each day. And this morning I expressed my feelings as best as I could. My sweet husband said he would listen better and try to appreciate me more.

And then after he has gone upstairs to take a shower – I open the fridge for something and see it. The jar of walnuts. He had put them back from the counter in an effort to clean up. It makes my smile. Only my sweet darling could put walnuts in the fridge! He was trying. And I was touched.

Some moments come unbidden without forcing, arising on their own and changing the course of our day. Days when Anjali comes in quietly into our room at 5.00 am and climbs into the bed under the sheets and snuggles next to me, her tiny being so warm and small and full of heart. Even though we know we have to take her back in 5 minutes, back to her own bed, I savor those five minutes for which I have no words and that I didn’t make happen.

This morning after all the snow we have had, the skies were clear, the sun shining and the sky was still purple in places from early morning sun rise. Anji and I talked about squirrels and when they will come out. And Valentines day and what that means. I asked Anjali if she wanted to give someone in her class a valentine. I told her I would be giving one to dad. And she says, ‘I want to give valentine to Dada’!. Dad is her hero after all, the one who has endless patience with her, always attentive, never says No and plays with her every night at bath time. Of course Dad was her valentine. And mine. For keeping the walnuts in the fridge and washing my mug of left-over Bournvita.

So here is wishing you a happy valentines day – to spend with love and appreciate the love in your life. You only live once. (Unless you are James Bond, in which case you only live twice!).

With Love, S.

1 Comment »

A sucker for beauty…

I am a sucker for beauty. Whether it is a sunny day, or the shine of my daughter’s brown-black hair or her silhouette against the window in the morning sky as she stands at the sill or the pink sunset on a winter day or the sight of my husband Abhi curled up on the couch, I love every moment of beauty and I have a hard time when it changes.

I look at each fulfilling day and it has so many small moments of inexpressible beauty that I can only marvel at, that come unbidden in my life simply because I have made the space to show up. Each day has moments of exhaustion, needs unmet and things undone that I wish I could have gotten to. Some times they bring tears that wash away the grief of being human, of being limited sometimes in perspective, energy, compassion and wisdom.

Words want to flow through me like a river, but something is stopping them – this need for them to be amazing and lead me somewhere of some true understanding and insight whereas the only place I want to be is here right now. In a sleeping house, with the candle lit, and incense burning of sandalwood and the quiet sounds of my daughter napping and the distant thought of my husband getting a break and watching a movie. The more distant thoughts of my sister arriving in India, and going through immigration and my parents delight at seeing her. And the even more distant thoughts of Anji waking up and going outside to get some more of this wonderful sunshine. And thoughts of knitting this beautiful purple sweater, and all the while when I knit the wondering of the next project I will work on, as I slowly make my way back to this stitch, this knit, this soft yarn that will envelope my daughter in warmth. Thoughts of friendships and brunches and teas that may or may not happen but still keep me warm company on a holiday Friday.

All the thoughts of what I’m supposed to accomplish or write or teach or find a job vanish in this space. All the thoughts of dinner to make, laundry to fold, bed to make disappear. The lingering sensations from the warm shower on my body and my slightly damp hair remind me of quiet moments where silence is sweet. Moments of meditation where there is stillness amidst all the thoughts remind me that there is space. Slowly as I write this, I feel the urge to hold my daughter’s tiny warm hands again. I hold her hands when she goes down the stairs even though she is perfectly capable of going down herself, because there is just nothing like holding her hands, feeling her protect me from all the things I am not, and feeling her bless me into all the things I want to be. When she sleeps, she looks just like the baby she was over two years ago, the same peace, and the same feeling of the unknown dreams and sensations that keep her company.

Distant sounds of trucks and planes come and fade away. Sounds of my typing arise and fall as my own thoughts compose themselves without my volition. Abundance holds itself in this room where everything is just as it should be.

I’m a sucker for beauty and I want to hold on just one more moment…

With Love, S.

1 Comment »

On Gladness…

What does it mean to be happy? When are we truly happy? what makes us happy?

I have been thinking of this lately. that happiness doesn’t have to do with my circumstance or finances as much as a state of mind where I appreciate what I have.

Its funny, I have gone through times when I’ve thought, ‘I would be happy if only…’. And then times when I’ve simply been happy. And the moments when I’ve felt alive and engaged and joyful have had nothing to do with accomplishments or vacations or sunny days. They have mostly had to do with small moments. Moments that come unbidden and surprise me.

Like when I come up before bed and find that my two year old has arranged the three tiny goddess figurines to all sit in one tiny chair and I smile wondering how she balanced them. Or when my husband can rub my feet and talk to me lovingly when I’m being cranky and irritable because we got late for bed, even though he is the one who had been up since 4.30 that morning. Or when my earrings match everything I wear and they are my favorite and I find them right by the counter. Or when I do yoga stretches in the library saying om – namaha so I stay awake – and Anji thinks its funny. Or when we run run run up the steps to go potty time, or when she recounts the book we read earlier and says sincerely, ‘swoosh goes the fan’ again! Or when I see her tiny fingers trying to imitate the movement of her teacher as she practices itsy bits spider. Or I see the trees move in the breeze nothing holding them back except their own roots, roots they can count on.

Perhaps when we notice gladness, there is more gladness to see. And we hold it lightly in our hearts, knowing it will pass. Everything changes, people lose homes in the course of a single day and that today what we have, the smattering of small moments, joys and successes is everything that can change our lives. As Mary Oliver says, ‘joy is not made to be a crumb’.

With Love, S.

2 Comments »

Transitions…

This is the time of transition. Fall is beginning, and in the course of the last couple of weeks we have officially said good-bye to summer in this part of the world. The mornings are foggy and cold and it is hard to get out of bed. The afternoons are pleasant with warmth in the crispness of the air that is especially welcoming after the mornings. And the evenings are so cool, it makes you want to stay out and feel all of it and see the stars, which are starting to come early in the clear skies.

Our own family is going through transitions – both difficult and welcoming. We have begun a new routine with Anjali’s new program where she goes to the preschool three mornings a week for a little more than couple of hours. Following her second birthday over a week ago, we have started potty-training and while sometimes it can be tiring, mostly it is incredibly satisfying to spend time in the bathroom one-on-one reading, singing, playing and creating a positive atmosphere for her around the potty. We have started having dinners on the table, now about once a week, together all three of us – Abhi, Anjali and I. The first time was hurried and Anjali who hardly ever sits still, wanted to get out after just a few minutes with ‘all done!’ Yesterday, perhaps our third or fourth time, she sat and ate with us, with high praise for the food –rice, ghee, peas, carrots, cheese – “yummy yummy!”, she said. Abhi and I ate our meals in peace looking across the table at each other in amazement and gratitude and pride.

There are also difficulties with transitions – and we haven’t missed that either. Anji is more reluctant to let me go anywhere – with the attachment to my primary role of taking her to the potty in time. She has been waking up at night, perhaps because the diapers aren’t as comfortable anymore, and she demands then that I sleep next to her. I haven’t been able to go for my early morning walks – it is too cold for me to venture out the way I used to.

But none of these difficulties have taken the place of peace.

This peace is a surprise. I’m spending so much more time with my daughter now since she is no longer going to day care part-time – and I was terrified of losing my freedom. But it turns out the fear was mostly just a thought. My freedom is intact – the choices in any moment are still mine. And I keep learning what a compassionate response can be when a 2 year old wakes up crying or doesn’t want to share or gets impatient with her own inability to control things. I keep learning my own limits and what helps me get back to that space where I can give without resentment. And there has been an acceptance finally of my role as the primary care giver- which I have been all along but was too scared to admit having been a career woman most of my life before becoming a Mom.

The metamorphosis of life, of changing bodies and changing leaves brings with it a new possibility – of dancing with something new. When we embrace, we no longer suffer. Sure, struggles are still there, but not the added ouch that our thoughts and fears bring. And when we start to pay attention, we realize that the truth in front of us is actually different from our ideas. It is beautiful, freeing and graceful. My daughter is growing into a new level of independence – and as she gingerly steps into it, slowing embracing it as a new way of being, I too am doing the same. And this process seems to me to epitomize the beauty of change. We reach a new place and there is no going back.

With Love, S.

4 Comments »

Bringing the old and new…

It has been a little over two weeks since our return from India. Two weeks of readjustment, recalibration, and tuning up. Jet lag was a part of this recalibration, but only one part of it. The sheer length of the travel and what it took out of Anjali and I, needed us to figure out a new way of relating to each other and the place we called home. When we entered our house after an arduous, over 30 hour travel involving two planes, one bus ride and the stop-overs and start-overs in between, Anjali learnt a new word: home. She ran from one end of our living room to the other, repeating in delight – home, home, home. Indeed we were glad to be home, and see Abhi.

What then unfolding was longing. Missing. Comparing. Anji waking up in the middle of the night asking for the place she left. and me missing the old predictable routine we had had before we left. Ah the comparing mind. The only thing it does is bring suffering. After over a week of this dance, I realized this was a new place we were in. This was unchartered territory. Anji was in a new place – new developments, emotions and the pain of sheer growth. and I had to meet her there. We weren’t going back in time – to before our India trip or to the time of the trip itself. We weren’t time travelers.

Once I made that leap, we could go back in time – cheerfully. Visit our photos and videos from the beach, time with grand parents, seeing planes, long air conditioned car rides, ceiling fans, autos and buses. And we could see with new eyes what was in front of us: abundance.

Indeed in the three weeks we were gone – nature came into full bloom. Spring arrived here, loud and clear. The roads lined with flowers, trees heavy with blossoms and bees, sunshine and warmth and the grass so green it felt like you were wearing a green lens. Everything was so green. Surrounded by this beauty, we countered our jet lags and new routines with gentleness.

So now here I am, finally, on a warm sunny day, writing in this space. I missed it. I missed being here. and I am here now. same as old, and yet new and different. As each of us are in every moment, every day. May we allow ourselves to meet this moment with openness and grace.

With Love, S.

3 Comments »

Yet another ordinary moment…

The instruction I heard from my teacher a couple of weeks ago, was to bring attention to the feeling tone of our experience, whether it is pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. Jack Kornfield in his book ‘The wise heart’ talks more about this feeling tone, one that precedes our reaction to the experience (such as clinging, aversion, boredom etc depending on the feeling tone). It has been interesting to practice this the past few days. What I’m finding is that there are a lot of moments that are neutral in their feeling tone. There isn’t anything fantastic happening, but there isn’t anything that is difficult either. As I bring attention to these moments, I start to see them shift to pleasant, as if simply becoming aware of these moments brings a pleasant quality to them. An appreciation that things are okay, and a spaciousness when one isn’t attached to something.

Sometimes thoughts come into my head in these moments: most often it is, how come I get to experience this peace? Amazement at my own good fortune, that things are well, and there isn’t much to worry about. So many people not very far from where I live, have lost their homes in the hurricane and have so much to worry about. Sometimes, the thought comes, I’m sure this is going to end, and my dear friend suffering will come up. Another time, it was, if everything is good, what will I write about? 😉

But the piece I’m missing is that, as we train our attention to be with the neutral moments, a whole spectrum of our experience opens up, one which we didn’t have access to before. We learn to see what is in front of us – whether it be a worm or a fallen leaf. We learn to be with this brushing of the teeth this morning. This cooking, this washing of dishes. So much of our lives constitutes of neutral moments – we learn to become alive to them. And we learn of the possibility of contentment and gratitude for the gift of life.

To me, this practice keeps opening its doors – the possibilities for exploration are endless.

with metta, S.

Leave a comment »

The flow of life…

When we make room to be imperfect and to make mistakes, we tap into this universal feeling in the world that sometimes we can’t be on top of everything. Sometimes, the human side of us that is vulnerable and overwhelmed comes to the top. Much as we would like to ignore that side of us and pretend that everything is great, that side is very much present, and today – demands attention. When we make room for that to happen, we start truly living where we no longer try to control what we can and cannot experience; instead we embrace everything that comes along: the hurt and the judgments as well as the love and the generosity.

This is a relief really, because we no longer have to pretend to be in control! We can then surrender to the current flowing around us, and let our inner soul guide us to see the choices we do have: how can we be kind and loving and open in the face of this uncertainty of life in each day – the roof falling when we need it the most, or the lack of water when we get really thirsty. When we embrace this too as one of life’s vicissitudes, that is when the skies rain water and the clouds provide the mist for our protection …

What a relief it is to acknowledge the truth of our existence just as it is, and then choose to live and dance with that!! Therein lies freedom…

with love, S.

Leave a comment »

Giving up the need to be perfect…

This is the best advice my counselor gave me when I went to her as an overwhelmed parent of four-month old. And it’s advice I continue to find invaluable.

The thing I’m learning, about being a parent, is that you make mistakes. There are many things you’ll do that you never thought you would. Like putting kitchen towels into the oven and forgetting about it and nearly burning the house down. Or breaking the side mirror of your car coming out of your own garage. Or hearing the fire alarm and rushing outside the house with your baby because you forgot that it was the day of the fire alarm testing. Or falling asleep at work, while in a meeting or reviewing a paper. It’s stuff you just wouldn’t do in your sane mind. And I’m not even talking about the baby stuff we mess up on!!

It’s funny when we are not in it. This giving up of our well defined structured and ‘tidy’ lives so that we may raise babies and voluntarily go through sleep deprivation and chaos. Clearly there has got to be a trade-off, even though it is not always obvious what that is :).

The tradeoff is that we learn what it is to be human. We learn patience and endurance and the kind of unconditional love that we didn’t think we were capable of. We learn flexibility and giving up ‘I should’ and ‘I ought to’ because we have no choice. And we learn the possibility of joy and paying attention because we get to be around babies who don’t know that it can be otherwise.

We get to see things as if for the first time because that is what our babies are doing: seeing paper, grass, socks, teeth, feet, rain and more, for the first time. And they continue to do so everyday. And incredible as it may sound, witnessing this is much more exciting than reviewing a paper on functional near infrared imaging of the brain. (No wonder I fell asleep on that one!). This window of witnessing what it is like to not know the concept of time or gravity, to not experience fear or doubt, to know freedom of expressing yourself just as you are, this is the gift of parenthood. And it somehow makes up for all the hours of sleep we lose and all the neurosis we go through being a parent. Mary Oliver was right when she said, ‘most things that are important, lack a certain neatness’. Amen to that.

With Love,
Shuba

Leave a comment »

Wonder…

Baby Anjali is here. A few weeks of life-changing transitions, of becoming a Mother, caring for another. Not always easy, lots of moments for practice. And in the middle of this, there is wonder…

————————————–
what dreams beneath those sleeping eyes
that make you smile so
what secrets you carry in your fist
that closes and opens so

a puckering, a whimpering, a cry
then the most amazing smile
within moments, you show them all
a rainbow of life and joy

fluttering fingers like feathers
trembling feet soft as petals
the scent of milky white skin –
want to give you a thousand kisses

seeing you, this heart opens
a new being awakens
falling in love, a gentle rain
at long last this wait ends.

with Love, S.

Leave a comment »

Until then…

Until you open your palms
you can’t see how beautiful they are

until you release your grasp
you can’t see what you were holding on to

until you put yourself out there
you can’t know which hurt you still carry

until you experience
you can’t know what you love

until you stay up at night
you can’t see the stars

until you let yourself be
you can’t hear the song of your heart

until you let yourself dance
you can’t know grace in motion

1 Comment »