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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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.

preoccupations and reminders…

This morning I saw a flock of 16 geese flying through the sky in a beautiful V-formation. What a joyful sight! Perhaps spring is here. The weather is warmer, the snow is melting away and the energy is lighter.

I have been preoccupied. This New Year has brought for me an opportunity to pursue one of my many loves – astrology. Through leading new moon workshops at the Writer’s center in WRJ, made possible by the generous and amazing Joni Cole, I am somehow on the path to following one of my passions – combining astrology with meditation and journaling. The energy in the groups has been so amazing and healing for me as I too learn to live my truth and helps other live theirs. I am learning about groups and balance, structure and flow, yin and yang. And this has, as an added benefit, lead me to doing more readings for people – something I also enjoy immensely. Astrology balances intuition and science and allows for so much creativity and relationships that it continues to amaze me and leave me in awe of the incredible potential each of us hold, and how much we evolve with time.

So I have been preoccupied sometimes; ideas, words and prompts floating through my mind unbidden at moments. And that moment when I realize where I have been, holds a key – to coming back to now and seeing now with new eyes. Not tomorrow, not later, but now. In some ways, I’m even grateful for my preoccupations…

Yesterday, at the library with my daughter, I resisted the urge to check email on my iphone. My thoughts kept returning to this urge but I was staunch. No email. And in doing so, I found the beauty and simplicity of playing with gudiya. I found the awe and inspiration in how she put the straws and the connectors together to build a structure together. And as I was fully present – not pushing her, not withdrawing either, but just there – I was given an unexpected gift. At some point near the end of the play-time she gave me a smile of blissful contentment, leaned over, kissed me and gave me a hug, a simple gesture of her happiness. I was there to receive it.

Somehow these simple moments leave us transformed. These add up so that in the hard moments, we are able to better sustain our mindfulness and stop ourselves from reacting. These moments make our ordinary lives ‘more beautiful’, as gudiya quotes from her book, and they remind us that joy is always a possibility here now. In these geese and in this kiss.

So here is wishing you a spring full of possibility, joy and peace.
With Love, S.

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.

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.

Goodbye…

Just last week I was still employed with the college I have worked at for over ten years, and now I no longer am. Its like it never existed, gone, a decade of doing a certain kind of work and being a certain kind of person. As the zen saying goes, now, there is no trace. In a few weeks, my email id too will expire, and then I will no longer be in the system. Perhaps it will be like I never existed at the college. My office occupied by somebody else, someone more ambitious than me, more hard working and capable and some one who will perhaps move up the ladder, into a bigger office. And then, before you know it, somebody else will have moved in. The nametag outside the door, printed on white paper, will be removed by some graduate student who moves into the outer space enclosing my old office – who will maybe wonder for a second, who this person was. Who may hear of me perhaps over some chance conversation about molar absorption spectra. But there the curiosity will end – there is too much work to do!

And I, as I start a new kind of life, will wonder every now and then about my old life, and what people are working on – which new research project and which new grant. It will be a passing inquiry, a sort of wondering that that doesn’t hold on. My attention will wander to other things and I will soon have forgotten about that momentary inquiry. Or perhaps on a sunny Tuesday day, when I’m sitting outside with Anjali watching her play, I will thank my lucky stars that I’m not at the weekly group meeting we always had on Tuesday mornings, that has governed more schedules in my life than anything else. Or perhaps, I will bump into my ex-Boss in town while grocery shopping, and smile at him with the same care I have always felt for him – a camaraderie for someone who is a good man and works hard. Or maybe it will be his wife I meet, and we will exchange greetings. If I’m with Anjali, she will exclaim at how much Anji has grown and changed, and that will be what marks the passage of time.

I haven’t yet thought of what will replace the energy I gave my job for so many years – all of my twenties. Part of the question has already been answered this past year and half – through becoming a Mom and the energy and attention it takes both of the mind and the body. And how in the midst of reacting to a stream of changes, of happenings, of every day routine, there are these pauses that stop time and make me speechless in awe that my life has changed so much, more than I could ever have imagined. These pauses are the reminder that in spite of that shoulder ache or that tight back muscle, my heart feels more and more open. Open in that sweet love that a parent feels for his or her child and in compassion for myself for all the times I fail to be who I want to be. In these moments, life becomes more alive than ever, and feelings become beautiful and there is an ache in the heart sometimes, a wanting to stop time so that I can hold on to this moment just a little more. This hug from my little girl, of touching her small hands, and hearing her new words, and witness her tireless and fearless ability to want to learn new words, actions and way of being.

Leaving science, I’ve somehow made my way to being with the coolest scientist I have ever known – always wanting to explore and view things differently. I’m in awe of this process – of watching her brain make new connections each day, each connection leading to more questions and a sort of wonder and joy at all that life holds. In these moments, when I feel this ache, I want to hold on desperately for just one more second. Then I remember Blake’s words,

‘He who binds to himself, a joy
Does the winged life destroy.
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise.’

And I want to live in eternity’s sunrise. So here I am, in a different place at a different time, leaving something old, and finding something new. I hope I never lose that sense of gratitude and affection for all that my old has taught me and all the ways I have grown in this past decade working the way I did. It has made me who I am, and brought me to this juncture in time. Now it is time to say my good bye, fondly and with affection. The bells are ringing and it’s time to board the train, a new one this time for a different destination. This new journey is promising – more time, more love, more passion and learning. I intend to enjoy this train ride as much as possible and at some point, I will maybe find out where the train is headed…Or maybe not. Right now, I only have intentions – to read, write, teach, follow my passions, be present and never forget to love each day, every day.

With Love, S.

Endings and Beginnings…

My final post of 2011. On New Year’s eve, it feels apt to reflect on this past year and set new intentions for the coming year. 2011 has been an unforgettable year – a year of letting go and beginning anew. A year of the magic of seeing our daughter go from a 3 month old to becoming a toddler, running around with spoon in her hand, eating naan, and saying naan and sleeping through the night (for which I’m the most grateful! ). She makes me want to be present, want to be more loving, more patient and more of who I really am, deep within.

2011 was a year of change, not just for me, but for many of us, and through the world. Change involves endings and beginnings, and while endings can be painful to come to terms with, beginnings on the other hand hold such possibilities! Such anticipation and such freedom that comes from not knowing. I hope the new year brings peace, now more than ever, for every one of us, joy beyond anything we have known, comfort of loving friends and family, the support of compassion and the embrace of a Friend – the loving heart. I hope this is the year we surrender our fears and do something we never have before – take a leap of faith. I hope we never question our love for ourselves, and do the things we love. I hope we remember and live our intentions each day. And I hope, when someone mentions the gracefulness of the night sky, we can climb up on the roof and dance and say, Like This, the way Rumi did in ‘Like This’, centuries ago.

May we walk in beauty.

With Love, S.