Shuba’s Weblog

Journeys of the soul…

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.

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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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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.

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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.

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The self we share…

A cup of tea tastes so good at the end of a long, day, especially if it is a Friday. It is especially wonderful on the days when there is nothing on the mind – no complaints, no grievances, no ‘I wish I had’, or ‘I should have’. Just peace. I’m coming to appreciate just how hard earned this peace can be.

Each day seems to have certain crucial moments when the choices I make will decide the course of the day. Many times, these moments have to do with tiredness and my relationship to it. Moments when my tired mind, if unnoticed, slips into reactivity and spirals out of control.

One such moment that occurs often is when I’m giving Anjali, our eighteen-month old daughter, a bath. By that time of the evening, I’ve either spent all day with her or been at work and then spent the last couple of hours with her non-stop. I’m tired and hungry. And if I’m not mindful, soon I’m caught in my own stories – of judgment and blame. In that moment, these stories seem as real as anything else. And they are not pleasant. Tiredness is really not half as bad, as the suffering created by my own drama.

On the days, when I take the bait in that moment, a long tedious battle ensues between my mind and my heart – each one tugging in opposite directions. It reminds me of Rumi’s words, “Thirst is angry with water. Hunger bitter with bread. The cave wants nothing to do with the sun. This is dumb, the self- defeating way we’ve been”.

Yes, it is self-defeating! And how apt that Rumi uses hunger and thirst as metaphors! After watching this play out over and over again, I’ve come to admire the importance and immediacy of this critical juncture in time when my evening could go one way or the other. It could go south, into a full-blown movie, or it could go north.

There are possibilities in the north, and compassion. All it takes is one moment of mindfulness. In that moment, when I lose my attention, I realize what is happening and I come back. I come back first to the feeling of my feet touching the floor. I come back to that smile of my little one playing in the water, joyful as only a child can be. I come back to the sparkle in her eye, and I say a silent prayer that she can’t read my thoughts. And I silently acknowledge: this is what tiredness feels like, and this is what hunger feels like. And all the stories end there.

It is not often that I have the capacity to be present enough to act this skillfully. But on the days that I do make this wise choice, I come down to a loving husband and warm cooked food and then feet up the couch. I rest in the love that my heart feels for Anjali – recounting all the joyful and special moments of the day – most of them simple and yet precious as they can only be for a parent. And the love I feel to have someone to put my feet on and recount my mom stories. And on these days, I feel profoundly grateful, and I remember Rumi’s words: “ You are the source of my life. You separate essence from mud. You honor my soul. You bring rivers from the mountain springs. You brighten my eyes. The wine you offer takes me out of myself into the self we share. Doing that is religion.”

With Love, S.

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I ask for silence…

Yesterday I read this beautiful poem by Pablo Neruda called ‘I ask for silence’. Some poems are like food for the spirit. we read them and our soul sighs in deep contentment. In the poem, Neruda says:

‘But because I ask for silence,
don’t think I’m going to die.
The opposite is true;
it happens I’m going to live.

To be, and to go on being.

I will not be, however, if, inside me,
the crop does not keep sprouting,
the shoots first, breaking through the earth
to reach the light;
but the mothering earth is dark,
and, deep inside me, I am dark.
I am a well in the water of which
the night leaves stars behind
and goes on alone across fields.

It’s a question of having lived so much
that I want to live that much more. ‘

So beautiful. Who am I to comment on this? A simple ordinary soul who enjoys poetry in the dark of the night when the house has gone to sleep so that my own soul may be mothered.

Everything arises and passes away. We write. and hold on some more. and then the words too pass away. When we are willing to let go, is when everything takes on new meaning. We dance this balance between holding on, versus not caring enough. and then miraculously those moments arise when we ‘break through the earth and reach the light.’

With Love, S.

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