Shuba’s Weblog

Journeys of the soul…

Rediscovering our being…

It has honestly been such a long time since I wrote my blog last, that I am dismayed. How can it be that somebody who used to write atleast a couple of posts a week, now writes about couple of times a year? Once I let go of judgment, I see that this too perhaps was necessary. Necessary so I can start
afresh,from a place I have never been at before.

So, here I am. Namaste!

Are you conditioned to behave or react in certain habitual ways? According to Buddhist philosophy, we all have some conditioning that we come into, in our lives, either through childhood, traumas, or perhaps even past life times, if you believe in them. If that is indeed the case, where is our freedom? Aha! through discovering our own conditioning by paying attention. And through the process of mindful investigation, we can then be free, by learning to make skillful choices and relearning new habits. Alas, letting go of this conditioning does not happen without realizing them first. And that takes attention. The pause. The noticing. And with noticing, often comes judgment and dismay – is this indeed us, this person who we thought was just fine, on cruise control until now? And it doesn’t happen overnight either. 

Hence, the need for tremendous amount of kindness and compassion, for judging is so easy. Understanding and being compassionate is so much harder.

One of my conditioning is that I need to be perfect somehow – perhaps to win love and affection and / or to prove my self worth. And another is to feel responsible for a lot more than I possibly can be responsible for, as a human being. It probably comes with being sensitive to other’s moods and feelings – it’s hard when you know something is wrong, and there is not always something you can do about it. 

So how do I find freedom? For I do believe, peace and freedom is always possible.

I find that it always starts with understanding. And my daughter is my greatest teacher in this dharma. With her, I can be patient, kind, loving, present, joyful, happy, and open to wonder. She brings out these qualities in me, because of her joy of being and her large heart and her incredible capacity to pay attention. And if I can be that for her, surely I can be that towards myself. And I also find, no matter how I mess up, in her eyes, there is always forgiveness. To her, I am amazing and wonderful. So maybe I could be redeemed in my own eyes, just a tiny bit. And it helps me find that compassion towards myself. 

I am so humbled by this process. Always a beginner, always learning something about myself in the process. I am not perfect. I am reminded of it every single day. If that is true for every one of us, then how much compassion do we need to bring into this world? Compassion so that we can live with ourselves, accept ourselves and more than that, love ourselves just as we are. 

So soften if you will, the next time you tense up in self judgment. Find the inner being, who adores and loves you just as you are. Everything will be okay. 

Peace and metta to you, S.

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On Retreat…

My meditation teacher Doreen has been caring for her mother these past four plus years. Her Mother Anna came to live with her in her 90’s, and these past years have been a profound spiritual journey for Doreen. We as a sangha, a community, have been a witness to this transformation that love invites – indeed asks of us – and we have seen the quality of metta and compassion shine through Doreen in her teachings. Anna passed away recently in March – in a joyful and peaceful manner. Anji and I visited her in her last days – and the room was filled with a sort of joy that I didn’t know could exist near the end. There was so much love in that room. And Anji brought her own pure soul into the room – and connected with Anna at that deep level that only children and old souls can do. It was beautiful to witness.

Talking to Doreen a couple of weeks ago, we were chatting about retreats. After several years, Doreen is going to a formal retreat in the near future –where one is often given formal instructions for practicing mindfulness, and the opportunity to go deeper into our own inner experience in the comfort and protection of silence. I was talking to Doreen about my life and where I am and how difficult it would be for me to go on a retreat right now – much as it is something I have always and would love deeply. My last formal retreat was in 2009, nearly four years ago. And Doreen gently reminded me: Shuba, this is a time of retreat for you, just as it was a time of retreat for me caring for my Mom.

This gentle reminder hit home for me in a deep manner. Many times, I’m torn and indeed amazed, even shocked at times at how little I know of what is going on around in the world. I’m not in touch with news enough, or with people I don’t see in our immediate lives. I’m not on the computer enough (and many times I feel bad that I don’t read the blogs of these wonderful creative beings who take the time to read mine.) My world revolves around my family, and caring for our two and a half year old daughter for the most part – and my own spiritual journey.

I have never skimped on my practice – even now (as before having a child) I usually meditate everyday in some form and read dhamma, connecting with an intention that speaks to me, and listen to talks regularly and attend sits when I can. I write and I reflect and I seem to have time for that. IN a way, it doesn’t even feel like a choice: my practice is how I take care of myself, it is how I tune in and find out how this being inside of me is really doing. And it seems to take priority over so many things. Sometimes I wonder, is this real, the life I am leading? Sometimes I feel lonely and starved for mental stimulation. But other times, this feels more real than anything else I have ever done in my life: there is a urgency right now – to be with what is happening, the emotions, the keeping up with developmental milestones (I’m not sure if they are my daughter’s or mine!). And the letting go.

Mark Coleman, who is one of my favorite teachers when it comes to dhamma talks, says in a talk, that the most important practice in terms of mindfulness/Buddhism can be summed up into two words: Let Go. Let Go Let Go Let Go. As a parent we are challenged to do this everyday, to let go of our ideas, our expectations, our goals and our agendas. We are thrust into this world where our little one doesn’t and cannot understand these concepts (thank god for that!) and we have to let go. It ultimately serves us well – but who said letting go was easy?

This is perhaps my biggest struggle: to let go of what I think is a good day, of what I think my daughter should be like, and the ideas I have that constitute ‘’good parenting’’ which in itself is a trap. Since I have no prior experience in parenting, these ideas are largely questionable: they have not been tested out by my own experience. This to me is an important clue. So I learn the hard way: to let go.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I will meet you there.” Says Rumi of the soul. We keep finding our way back to this field. This field – this abundant peaceful all-knowing compassionate place inside of us knows at a very deep visceral level what the truth is. But we forget in our human ways and conditions. And so we force ourselves to remember.

So I am grateful. To have a time in my life when so much of outer distractions seem to be removed so that my own inner experience comes to the forefront. All of it: sometimes pleasant, sometimes not. And it is just like it is on a retreat: a time for remembering the sacredness of our lives, in its tiny details.

So this is what I say to mothers who resonate with me (and to myself – since I so often forget!): when the retreat ends – however long or short it is – we will be ready to meet the outside world. Until then – this is the journey – and we follow. Lets leave behind our guilt, shall we? And lets take in the love. The love never stops.

With Love, S.

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I am myself!!

I feel the urge to type and type and put into words, the experiences of the last few weeks. It feels like I have traveled eons in this month of May. Coming face to face with my anger, my emotions and finding a way to move through. Coming face to face with my own lack of control and practicing patient acceptance.

And finding a way of saying Yes. Yes to this moment is as it is. Finding a way to abide in metta during my struggles and lean into the support of my own practice and the support of my friendships and relationships. Having slammed doors, yelled, cried, and even broken plates in the privacy of my porch on an afternoon when all else failed, I have let go of everything. And one afternoon, when I saw the crying face of my baby girl, everything dissipated. Just like that. None of the stories mattered anymore. It turns out – there isn’t anything more important to do than this right now. and no one else to be but me. Kindness is possible, no matter what. When we can’t summon kindness, even in that situation, kindness is possible through non-judging.

Beloved Rumi says it best:

‘Your grief for what you’ve lost lifts a mirror
up to where you’re bravely working.
Expecting the worst, you look, and instead
here’s the joyful face you’ve been wanting to see.”

Perhaps it is the way through hardships that we discover the soft heart. The compassionate wise heart. And this is the doorway to joy. I’m finding that joy arises spontaneously when I say, yes to this moment. When I say yes to singing the same lullaby for the 20th time during bedtime for my daughter, I find joy. When I say yes to reading ‘Annie and the wild animals’ for the umpteenth time, I find joy. When I say yes to my feeling low about my back hurting, I find joy. Joy it turns out is present. All the time. It requires me to be in this moment, to participate, to connect and to make choices. And then, it feels like the effort of striving, of trying too hard, of being someone else, falls away.

‘I am myself!’, says Pezzetino, joyfully in this fable when he discovers that he too like all the others is made of little pieces. “I am myself”!! I want to shout out in joy, like Pezzetino.

Perhaps when we discover our own brokenness, our own struggles, and how fragile the identities that we hold so close, we can let them all go. And we can be ourselves, truly and joyfully.

So here is your invitation – to say yes to this moment. And to be yourself. Then you become me, the other and everybody else in this universe!!

With Peace, S.

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winter blues…

It is that time of the year. Mid February when the spirit is ready for spring, but not yet the earth. The snow is still falling and the skies gray, and the winter is still around, much as we yearn for spring, for flowers to bloom, for squirrels to retrieve their nuts, for birds to chirp and the geese to make their journeys back. It is that time of the year when we are ready for change, but change is not yet here.

Winter is a time to go inward and reflect and perhaps the very nature of how long winter can be suggests how much time we need as we flow and we grow and we prepare our seeds of intention for springtime. We worship the growing light and we pay attention to our bodies and we nourish from within when we can. and we cultivate patience and mindfulness – a knowing that, as Shelley puts it, even when winter comes can spring be far behind?

As the sky lightens, it is time to move. or so thinks my daughter Anji as we see her increasingly run around the house as if ready to burst into spring song, the minute it arrives. That readiness is what we prepare for this time of the year. We take care of details, we shed our excess pounds and we make our way to movement and song. We gather together to celebrate the last few rituals of winter – hot chocolate at night, late mornings in bed, even as we start to transition.

Transition is a slow process. We think it happens in a day, that we get through change just like that. But it doesn’t. It is slow and painstaking and gradual and requires us to be with the present in whatever form it is. It requires us to accept our lives, its myraid details, its highs and lows and the even planes when nothing much is happening. It requires us to show up with the same attitude of humility and waiting that we are willing to show our children as we witness their growth – sometimes in huge spurts and sometimes in slow gradualness.

and we learn to perfect our own way into this world one small day at a time – a way of love, heart, gratitude and fullness.

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Being alive…

I wrote to an old friend of mine recently about travel – how I didn’t miss it and how much magic was in my own backyard. I was basking in the glow of contentment that the last few weeks have brought. I spoke too soon.

Yes, there is magic in our backyard. We live in a spectacularly beautiful area, nestled by hills and snowy tree tops, with fresh air and a kind of beauty that grows on you. There are bluejays playing outside our window, and the sunrise in the winter is amazing pink on clear mornings. But somedays, I don’t see this beauty quite the same way. I’m caught in the resistance to whatever is unfolding in my life, and the resistance always sneaks up when I’m not watching. And on such days, the thought of a vacation is sublime.

I know I am well and alive when resentment and stress are present in my life. It is so absurd, but last week I had a cold/flu and it was one of the best weeks of my life because I took it easy and laid low the self-expectations. Once I start back on the wagon of simmering cooking self-judgment and lack of appreciation, I know I have way too much energy!

So what takes us away and what brings us back? I believe most of the time what takes us away is stress, worry, tiredness…when I over schedule myself and my inner resources are at a low, I get tripped up the voices, the same voices that I would have the wisdom to acknowledge and ignore on other times. So first it in itself is a reminder to come back, acknowledge that and the fact that we are human and prone to messing up and being imperfect and saying unkind things and doing unthoughtful deeds. and then the next step is to make room, make space for some R & R, whenever that can happen. An hour of yoga, or a warm bath or a chat with a best friend, all of it helps. If it cannot happen immediately, planning for it helps in a practical way to know that it is coming so we can hang in there.

And then it is bringing a kind of softening, an acknowledging and forgiveness of the things we messed up on. This is what helps the heart soften, learn compassion and be willing to extend it to others when they are in need, because we learn to recognize a heart in distress, from our own experience.

Lastly, we bring in joy. put on some favorite music, dance a little, hop a little, be silly and make our apologies to others.

So today, I apologized to my two-year old daughter for not being patient enough and spacious enough to give her the time she needed to leave the library, for not being thoughtful and caring enough about her tears – her distraught face is still in front of my eyes though she has moved on hours ago. And I learned a hard lesson not to over-schedule myself with work stuff – teaching, astrology readings, managing a home – in the limited time I have to myself.

I think now its time to climb into bed in my favorite pajamas and read Anne Lamott. She always makes me feel better and makes me laugh (or cry, depending…).

With Love, S.

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Happy new year…

I haven’t written in this space for over three weeks. It has been quiet inside. I haven’t felt the urge to share, and I have deeply appreciated the quiet from not using as many words. It was timely and needed.

Life has been providing me with similar opportunities as before, to grow and be kinder and start over and take care of myself on this journey. The lessons always seem to be the same. It has made me humble and also grateful for so many good things in my life.

There appears to be more silence to come, and someday sooner or later, I will pick up where I left and write again.

Until then, I wish you warmest blessings and wishes for the new year. May this year bring many surprises, opportunities to grow and learn and be mindful and compassionate and let our light shine.

With Love, S.

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what do we do ?

What is compassion when your two year old is screaming at around 3.00 in the morning – and nothing you do is exactly right. What do you do when you find that softness in your heart that comes when you look at her sweet body and warm self seems to be utterly missing and there seems no hope in sight. You just want to curl up in bed and ask someone else to make everything okay, but no someone else is Mama! How do you keep your cool when your child is crying and you really have to pee, so that you can all go to bed but even peeing in the middle of the night feels like a luxury, and not just a luxury but the very thing that has turned this night upside down. What do you do when you wake up in the morning, after a groggy couple of hours sleeping next to your two year old, and she is getting down the bed; and before you have been able to awaken the consciousness to get out of the bed, she has peed – on the carpet in front of your altar. What do you do with all the judging thoughts resounding in your head that you suck as a parent and that patience and loving-kindness you want to embody is falling short.

Maybe we learn to recognize how difficult it is when we are hugely attached – as we are to our babies. And what a difficult journey motherhood is. We recognize that we are vulnerable, and that softness can go a long way. We make room for forgiveness for ourselves and our hearts that sometimes fail us despite our best intentions. We learn to love ourselves again and discover our children again on a new day. The sun is shining, the morning is bright and we pick up the pieces and start over again.

With Love, S.

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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.

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One of those days…

Some days are long and hard. They usually come in the wake of the easy joyful ones. On such days, we write. Or we do something that reminds us that not all is lost. There is hope yet, redemption of the soul for all the stuff that we go through in life – for the boxes we are carrying that fall in the middle of the street, or the plates we drop that is the first signal of something going wrong. Something is off and we don’t know how to stop it. Sure there are plenty of warning signals – the kettle boiling over or the sink clogging up. But we are not as smart as we think we are – not when it comes to others. We can barely keep up with ourselves! Its only when the ship is blowing at full steam that we get it! We are far adrift.

It is one of those days. Yeah, it is one of those days.

Then we smile. Not because it is one of those days but because it happens to all of us. It may be something we are doing wrong – which is usually the thought in my head. But maybe it is just life happening: unpleasant and pleasant (neutral too, but I mostly sleep through that one). All of it. We beat ourselves up – could we have stopped this? Could we have said the right thing? Or the wrong thing? Or nothing? Could we have stopped this thing we are on?

No. That’s the right answer. Because we aren’t super human, only human.

Only human, and so extraordinarily human. Its one of those days just so we don’t forget that important piece of wisdom. That we are so vulnerable with a heart that breaks over and over again, and comes together to start over. What is this heart made of? I wonder. What mechanistic fibrous porous elastic osmotic material if that is what there is, is it made of? What cells, what blood, what else? Some moments when I’m convinced that my heart is no longer working, that I can no longer feel anything, something comes up. A stray thought, a loving moment, and suddenly the heart is in full swing.

All it seems to really want is an acknowledgment, a kind ear, a helping hand. Acknowledgment that it is one of those days. Somehow that works. If I could figure out how, I would win the nobel prize. But because I can’t, I’m going to stick with this: this writing on one of those days that reminds me that all is not lost. There is still this amazing delicious frosted lemon poppy seed scone in front of me. And the whiff of jasmine green tea. And outside in the quiet after the rain, the flowers bloom in plenty on the side of the train station. All is not lost. There is still hope.

With Love, S.

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A moment in time…

The Buddha on the windowsill looks at me with his eyes open, as if puzzled: what are you doing? He asks. The candlelight flickers sending shadows on his stony face, like he is grinning, or maybe laughing, or both. I feel very loved, like a benevolent child under the loving eye of her benefactor. The crickets go about their song – continuous but still with gaps. I think of the word intermittent. And my thoughts too flow intermittently. The breeze is gentle on this quiet summer night.

Tonight is a blessing. The lawn mowers have stopped, done with their work on the grass, work that seems to always happen at odd hours in my neighborhood, and not so welcome at times. Certainly not when it is noon and Anjali has just gone to bed, or at 8.00 in the night when I want to finally just be quiet. There are no planes overhead either – maybe the Lebanon airport has Tuesday nights off. Anjali is sleeping – today she didn’t do her usual half hour of singing and talking to herself about her day. Today she was too tired, and her voice dropped after 5 minutes leaving complete silence. And when Anji is sleeping, Abhi tends to be very quiet downstairs, looking at his iphone and possibly making his moves in scrabble, or playing his chess games.

Really the only sounds seem to be the crickets and my typing which feels rhythmic and even. The words are flowing from somewhere, and I watch the screen fill up. I’m amazed that this even makes sense: a moment in my day when I let my guard down – there isn’t my child to feed, to make sure she takes in something even though her urge is to not eat much when she is sick. It’s hard to let go of that habit – it is perhaps the most difficult and draining task sometimes. Today I danced my way through it without my usual strong hold of attachment. Some pieces of bananas, some rice with ghee, a piece of tofu and some dahi. None forced – my daughter, going to be two years old in a couple of weeks, has now learned to say politely, ‘no thank you’ and I stop trying immediately because it is so darn cute.

I actually savored my dinner tonight – a delicious omelette made with mushrooms, chilis and cheese made by Abhi, on delicious sourdough bread. I could feel the gooeyness of the cheese along with the heartiness of the bread and the earthiness of the mushrooms. When was the last time I savored so much of a meal? I don’t remember when.

The words seem to be slowly ebbing as I too gear up for the night. Thought I don’t want to leave yet – I want to sit on this chair forever and let the words flow, as I wait. Perhaps the waiting is for that moment when I will feel the urge to move. And then I will get up, shut this computer and move on. My thoughts will restart into the planning mode and I will let them be as I make my way to bed. There will perhaps be one stray thought that manages to tilt the boat – but maybe tonight I will catch it in time and sleep in peace. This writing here today, on one window of wall somewhere in the Internet world captures one moment of my life when everything is just right and I know it.

In that silence of knowing, I can rest for these few moments.

With Love, S.

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