Shuba’s Weblog

Journeys of the soul…

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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Beginnings…

Life is amazing. We hit the wall and think we can’t make it through. And then we take tiny steps gingerly. and suddenly we are flying!!

It has been an incredible year starting with Anjali’s birth on September 11th, 2010. The journey was probably in motion already, but that was the turning point. I look back and see a woman who so wanted to embrace her inner most desires but was afraid to. And now Thanks to Anjali and her amazing superman Dad, my husband Abhi, I’m finding the courage to leave my job as Professor at Dartmouth.

Last month was a month of introspection – of taking the time to be with uncertainty, self-doubt and fear of letting go. Of playing this incessant dance of confusion and clarity. Just like after incessant rain, things clear up in a marvelous way, somehow miraculously, things started coming together.

I found a position at the local community college to teach Math one evening a week. It doesn’t pay much but is just the kind of thing I want to do – put my skills to some practical use in the community. I got some excellent feedback on my writing from the Writers Center – and am thinking of self-publishing my memoirs on becoming a first-time Mom. My beading is on sale in a local store called Brambles (I hope they sell! I’m very proud!)

I can now spend time now with Anjali without feeling guilty about it, without dreading my work, without constantly feeling like I should be working or reading papers or writing grants or going to conferences, which, after a decade of doing them, I no longer want to do.

One evening, as I sat with how crazy it is to leave a secure well-paying job and status for something that is just a hunch, I came across this poem of Rumi called ‘gamble everything for love’ translated by one and only Coleman Barks:

Gamble everything for love,
if you’re a true human being.
If not, leave this gathering.

Half-heartedness doesn’t reach into majesty.
You set out to find God, but then you keep stopping
for long periods at meanspirited roadhouses.

Don’t wait any longer. Dive in the ocean, leave and let the sea be you.’

The message was loud and clear! Rumi is incorrigible! 🙂

I don’t know what my future will look like. and that feels okay. What I wish for is that there is so much of Love that it overflows to everyone around. Gratitude for the abundance in life each day every day. And the knowing or at least striving to be present.

May we find the courage to fly – not in spite of the fear, but with it!

With Love, S.

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Being in the now…

Some days, being present feels as elusive as a butterfly.

Sometimes, it feels like all I do, in my sitting practice as well as real life, is start over again and again and again. I get distracted and then catch myself somewhere else completely and like a groggy traveler waking up in unknown surroundings, I don’t remember how I got there. and then I begin again. body, breath, now. red light, baby, sounds.

And then yesterday, reading Philip Moffit’s wonderful book called ‘Dancing with Life’, I was heartened. He talks about the power of that intention to start over and that it is okay if that is all we ever do.

The freedom in this moment when we realize we are a thousand miles away – is to not judge. The less we judge, the easier it is to come back to the present moment. I loved Larry Rosenberg’s instruction on this: just like a mirror. we simply see and we begin again. That is the practice. sometimes, we are more focused and present. sometimes, we are more distracted and scattered. Mindfulness is noticing and accepting things as they are – be it concentration or diffuseness. That is the practice!

Like the moon reflected in the clear water on a cool night, our spirit is reflected in everything we do and see and hear and think. There is nothing that doesn’t have to be there – everything is just as it is. It is just hard for us to believe that the miracle we so yearn for with our hearts is already happening in front of us! So we close our eyes. And then the moments when we open them – and see that sparkle of rain on the window shining like a thousand diamonds. or the mist in the mountains trembling like a coy bride, holding a secret. When we finally hear, really hear the song of the bird that has been singing since forever. In those moments, we wake up. and that makes up for everything else.

With Love, S.

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The joyful art of being present…

It is a mid-spring afternoon, the weather playing a temperamental mixture of sun and clouds, the newly sprouted leaves dancing in the breeze, the apple blossoms heavy and the bees taking it all in. The geese are joyful making their journeys and it feels like we have a bird sanctuary in our backyard 🙂 I love the lilacs this time of the year, their heavenly scent wafting through the breeze. It all has the magical effect of calming me down.

I have been thinking recently of attention and the art of being present. I often beat myself up when I’m not paying attention, and sometimes, I try very hard to pay attention, and the effort feels heavy and pressured. And I know neither of them is really the wise attention the teachers talk about. Wise attention is relaxed without being heavy, and it is never supposed to be yet another thing to judge ourselves by!

Yet again, it is Anjali, my eight month old, who teaches me how joyful and effortless paying attention really is. She scans the floor in front of her, broadly, and then narrows in on an object of focus. She examines her object of attention with great detail. And then, after a while, she naturally broadens her field of attention again. In all of this, there are naturally moments when she gets lost, like she is somewhere else. When she comes back, it is very graceful like it never happened. And I can’t help thinking, paying attention is really that simple. When we are not paying attention, and we come back, we simply start over again. Just like that. And our field changes and broadens and narrows, going through a natural rhythm. It’s all something we already know, we have always known. We just have to trust it. And as we start to do this, we start to recognize the contentment that children know naturally.

May we bring wise attention into our lives,
with Love,
Shuba.

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Everything passes…

Winter is slowly but surely coming to an end. Yesterday, the snow turned into rain, and last evening, we could hear the drip-drip of melting snow outside the window. This morning, the light was so beautiful, with fog-covered trees that promise to show signs of green soon. It is a reminder that all things come to an end, eventually.

There have been quite a few moments in the last few months when I have wondered aloud, how I could possibly get through this. Moments when I have said out to the universe: ‘I need a break!!’. Sometimes I think of how much we go through as human beings, and how many changes we weather, and how tenuous our existence. And my imagination boggles. My mind can’t fathom how we get through it. When I said this to my Teacher, she reminded me gently, ‘but we do’. Yes, we do get through it. All the changes, all the experiences, all the feelings. And there can be peace when we trust that.

Everything passes. Not because we will it to, but because that is the way things are. Two weeks ago, I was at a difficult place. Now, I am at a better place. I will be in difficult places again, and they will get better. Because things pass, and they change, and some things end and new things begin. Just like spring. Can we take comfort in that? Can we allow what changes to bring us peace?

With Love, Shuba.

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