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

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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…

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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.

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

Beginnings…

The Dance of Elephants
The Dance of Rain
The first snow of the season
The first colors change

The first taste of Ice cream
Cookies and jam
The first scent of lavender
Mistletoe and Jasmine

The first step you take
The first mittens you wear
The first cry of disappointment
And first consolation you get

Your first best friend
Your first Love
Your first vacation
Your first Moonlight

So much to look forward to
A lifetime of Joy
A tender heart full
Of Love and Delight!

Love…

I have written many times about self love. It is probably the most important and on-going practice of my life, practice because it is so hard.

But today, I want to write about the love of the other. The love of another being that touches us, moves us, nourishes us and fills us with happiness. The tender unconditional spontaneous love we experience through relationship with another. And just how much it can fill our hearts with loving-kindness and gratitude.

A grueling couple of days due to unbearable heat, lack of sleep and exhaustion. My mind spinning in circles. and then, like a thirsty traveler in the desert coming across an oasis of water, receiving love from another being, so timely and generous and unconditional. Touched and filling my being.

In a beautiful book I read and reread recently called ‘the elegance of the hedgehog’, one of the protagonists talks about this love:’This pause in time, within time…the peace of mind one experiences on one’s own, one’s certainty of self in the serenity of solitude, are nothing in comparison to the release and openness and fluency one shares with another, in close companionship…When did I first feel so blissfully relaxed in the presence of a man? Today is the first time.’

This connection with another being, this dance that unfolds in easy unburdened intimacy…doesn’t happen always. Sometimes, we struggle to find the right beat, the right moves, falling this way and that. and every now and then, we find the perfect rhythm and we move in unison. and magic happens…

and when that magic happens, soak it all in…

with Love, S.

Generosity of heart…

One of the five precepts of Buddhism, presented in a beautiful way by Amita Schmidt, reads as ‘Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow to practice generosity’. Preparing for a meditation sit tonight, my eyes and thoughts rested on these words. How beautiful. Generosity has always called me deeply. It has been one of the easiest ways for me to feel happy – when I give or receive kindness.

Generosity is a big word. It is expansive, all-encompassing, abundant. The practice of generosity opens our hearts to how much we have to give. And how much we receive each day from others that has the potential to move us and touch our hearts. And the more we pay attention to generosity, the more it appears in our lives.

Today, I was at a flower shop buying a plant for a colleague who just moved into a new space. After shopping, I asked the owner if I could get a sip of water – I was thirsty, and hadn’t anticipated the heat. I anticipated a small glass of water in a cup. The kind man went inside, brought me a chilled bottle of water, and gave it to me free of charge. He didn’t have to. The taste of cool water to a thirsty mouth- I knew I was receiving generosity. Someone giving me something I needed, at just the right moment, out of sheer goodness of heart.

Giving the plant to my colleague – seeing his face light up and come alive. Such a treat, as always when someone receives your gift with delight. With generosity, I always wonder, who is giving and who is receiving. The lines are blurred in the presence of the expansive wide openness of the heart at such a moment.

Have you noticed how it feels, when a friend or loved one gives you their undivided attention? When they listen to what you are saying, truly listen, with no other agenda in mind? Doesn’t it feel special, like basking in glorious sunshine? I love those moments of grace and beauty that loving attention gives us. That too is generosity. The best gift we can give ourselves and others. and certainly the best one we can ever receive.

When I feel particularly scarce in my heart, or needy, I reflect on something good someone has done for me. or that I have done for someone. Some special deed that has brought a spark into the day. and I revel in that goodness, soak it up and let it fill my body and mind slowly like the taste of delicious honey. It never fails to lift me. Try it sometime!

So much of generosity comes from reflection and appreciation. Of ourselves and others. When we feel abundant, we have more to give. And this has nothing to do with our external situations. Even a penniless person can give – the divine grace – through their attention and love. You know how a flowering plant comes alive in the sunshine, how it blooms and flowers ? That is how a person comes alive in the presence of that loving attention.

Feel the breeze touching your skin. The space supporting you. Your body holding you. The coolness under the shade of the trees. The sip of water when you are thirsty. The taste of a cookie. Allow yourself to bask in this generosity that is present in every moment. Receive this grace of love and attention that you long for. Rumi says, (translated by Coleman Barks, The soul of Rumi), in ‘some kiss we want’:

There is some kiss we want with
our whole lives, the touch of
spirit on the body.

That touch of undivided attention and unconditional love – can you give that to yourself ?

With Love,
S.

Relating with compassion…

So much of life is out of our control. We would LOVE for things to go our way, it would be so much easier! but it doesn’t always happen. One minute we are enjoying the clear blue sky and the trees, the next moment, we have hit a rock and are lying flat on our faces. The sheer unpredictability of life can be daunting, if we think about it. Of course, conveniently, we don’t. we pretend everything is stationary in time. and then when things change, we are disappointed.

It always surprises me, the resistance that comes up when things are going a certain way and then they change. I got to witness it (yet again! ) last week. My husband and I were on vacation, and I would have these blissful moments of peace. And then, suddenly without warning, it would change. (new realization – pregnancy hormones really do make your moods volatile!! ) And I would be sitting there in shock wondering where did that moment of peace go ?

We try so hard and do so much, but really we don’t have the tiniest bit of control. Take the body. whether you pay attention or not, the breath is happening. are you doing anything ? You may think, by becoming aware of your breath, that you are making it happen. But that’s not really true. So much activity in our body is happening without our knowledge. digestion, blood circulation, elimination. baby-growing (in my case). the sheer range of happenings in each moment is amazing, and this is just inside us! so is there anything we have a choice in?

The only choice we have, is in how to respond to what comes up in this moment. Not whether we have joys or sorrows, but how we relate to them when they arise. Do we want to relate to them with judgment and self-recrimination, or do we want to relate to them with softness and compassion ?

It has been quite beautiful seeing this new way of being played out in action. In the past couple of weeks, I have had the opportunity to practice with Sharon Salzberg’s guided meditations and cards on loving-kindness in the CD (‘Unplug’). And what amazes me is the space and softness this practice of relating opens up.

To relate with compassion and softness, we have to cultivate the habit to do so. When you get up in the morning, don’t curse yourself for sleeping late (it doesn’t change a thing, believe me! ). When you feel fear, don’t make it worse by adding judgment. When you eat ice-cream don’t berate yourself after the fact.

Relating to ourselves is a journey of each moment, of meeting what arises with lightness, readiness and forgiveness. Of caring for ourselves enough to wish ourselves well. Of patting ourselves at the back for generosity and kindness, and forgiving ourselves for trespasses and hurts. So much beauty in this journey. and freedom.

May we relate to this moment with kindness,
With Love, S.