Shuba’s Weblog

Journeys of the soul…

The (imaginary) bike ride on the road across forever…

I’m sitting on the back porch, and almost feel like dozing off in this mid-afternoon heat. The birds around me are singing, going about their lives, and the tiny squirrel is playing with a wooden box lying on the grass, and the cat drinking water from the bucket we have outside filled up with rain water from last night. There is nothing to do, and nowhere else to be but here.

It’s funny I say that last line, considering that just 10 minutes I did want to be somewhere else. On the drive back home from lunch, we saw bikers on their motorbikes on the highway. It’s a perfect day for that – the breeze ruffling their hairs, the road open, stretching for miles, and I imagine that they have no particular destination in mind, and that only the ride matters… I want to do that. Just take a bike ride that goes on forever, the wind ruffling my hair, the road open on both sides with mountains and the wildflowers of the summer, and all the food in a cooler at the back. It sounds so appealing, right now when sometimes, I feel tied down – by responsibilities of my family – who I love dearly, and this time right now with them too, dearly. Is it possible to feel many ways about something? To love dearly and still sometimes wish the unfettered freedom that comes from being responsible for nobody but your own self? I used to think it was wrong, that you had to feel one-way or the other. Now I give myself permission for all my thoughts to exist.

Coming back to the bike ride, the ride that never ends, on the road across forever: what happens then when you get tired? Or get someplace and you have to stop? Or when you are driving, and your thoughts start to keep you company and they won’t leave you alone. Do you still remember to come back to the breeze? To the road stretching ahead? To the beauty of the journey? Or do you start thinking at some point of all the things that you need to do?

Doesn’t everything end at some point? What then?

Perhaps even if the ride doesn’t last forever, it has given the space, and perspective to think about things differently. Maybe now you want to come back. You want to love dearly. You want to come home. Just like this afternoon outside is giving me the space. Even as I type, I can see a reflection of myself on the computer screen, along with the trees behind, and the chair that I am sitting on – my hands going about their way, just like the birds and the squirrels. Perhaps this is what life is about– we all do our things, the things we are meant to do. And moments when everything finally makes sense. On this rocking chair, seeing this reflection, listening to this bird. Perhaps this is where life really begins. On this breath. And in this space, we remember suddenly: there isn’t a destination that matters, just the journey. And everything is welcome on it!

With love, S.

Ps: This is my 300th post – says wordpress. Hurray!! Couldn’t have kept up this blog without your support, so please keep visiting, reading and sharing your thoughts. And be well..!

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comfort in connectedness…

This morning I woke up scared. I had put Anji back in her crib for the night. It was 6.30 am and she still hadn’t woken up. These past few days she had been waking up at 5.00am crying. For a moment, an image flashed through my mind. What if she tried to get out of the crib, hurt herself and is lying on the floor of her bedroom?

What a terrible image to have the first thing you wake up. That’s fear, just fear, my knowing mind chimed in. She is okay. Just breathe. So I breathed. and sure enough, 5 minutes later, I heard a familiar voice… Mama…and not crying…My beautiful child up in the morning. I couldn’t have been happier.

It had been a hard fought battle the previous afternoon – getting her to sleep in her crib again. After our travel to India, she had started to sleep in the bed, and long story short, it wasn’t working out great. Not for her, not for us. So, with Abhi traveling, I decided to try the crib again. And I let her cry herself to sleep during nap time. It felt like the most terrible thing I had ever done. But this time, my intentions were clear: she needed sleep and she needed to learn to comfort herself. So, stoically, I stayed: in the bathroom sitting on the small stool, praying. Words about tonglen practice from the book I’m reading (‘How to be sick’ by Toni Bernard – just a wonderful book!) came to mind. Tonglen is a tibetian pracice where you breathe in the suffering of yourself and others and breathe out compassion and serenity. For a moment, I imagined connecting to the thousands of Mothers out there, who were like me, trying to do the right thing for their child, even though it was hard. My heart went out. The crying stopped soon after. She had fallen asleep.

Connecting to others in a way like this made me feel not alone. Often times, I’m convinced I must be the only mom facing such issues. Everyone else’s kids must eat properly at the meal times in their high chairs, and sleep without hassle and without needing to be read ‘Boo Hoo Hoo baby’ ten times ‘again’. But such thoughts make me feel alone. This practice made me feel connected. Ah, yes, other moms face this. I’m not alone.

Its funny talking about connection when in fact, these past four days and the rest of this week, I will be playing single parent. Abhi is traveling and normally that is sure to send me into ‘I am alone’ land. But somehow, this time feels different. He is right here, everywhere. We are connected. Not alone.

Connection. Imagined or real, it is a life saver. May we all find comfort in our connection with one another – in whatever way that manifests right now. Perhaps in simply writing in this blog, knowing someone will be reading it.

With Love, S.

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The gladness of letting go…

On saturday I got to go for my first day-long retreat since Anjali was born eighteen months ago. I can’t believe it has been that long! We did sitting and walking meditation most of the day from 9.00am to 4.00pm and were led by a wonderful, funny, wise and skilled teacher called Chas Dicapua from IMS. I was excited for my first retreat and nervous too because I haven’t sat for long periods of time in a while.

The day came, and the morning was busy making lunches and saying goodbyes to hubby and daughter. I reached there on time, hallelujah. Most of my sits were very sleepy and I realized how tired I was. The sitting was physically difficult. I was hungry as well during the morning sittings, and sat there waiting for lunch time. But sometime in the afternoon during a sitting, I came to ‘know’ that I was sitting, that this was the retreat I was waiting for. And that realization brought joy with it.

Even though the sleepiness remained, there was no longer any judgment about it. I could relax, be compassionate and cheerful through my sits and my sleepiness. Around 3.00pm, during the dhamma talk, I caught this thought in my head – ‘I can’t wait to go home and have those oatmeal raisin cookies. yum!! and see my family and hear Anjali’s sweet voice say ‘knock knock, whose in?” When I heard this thought, I found myself laughing – inside. Here I was at this retreat I had been waiting for – and now I couldn’t wait to get home!! The story of our lives.

Coming back from a retreat was hard – it always is. They should have instructions on that! I was miserable because all my reactivity stared me in my face. I was very tired. And I wanted to go back and have some more of that quiet, of that joy of stillness. The ‘opening to your experience’ that the teacher had talked about, seemed impossible to do. And in the middle of my suffering, I wondered if I would ever regain my equanimity.

Everything changes, nothing lasts forever. Thank Goddess! There was a moment when I came back from a walk, and saw, really saw my daughter and how beautiful and alive she looked. In that moment, the joy in my heart returned, and the connection with this moment right now, happened. I could let go of my need for my experience to be other than what it was in this moment, right now.

So here I am, on a monday morning – feeling just ordinary. body breathing, sitting, hands writing. knowing what gladness arises when we go inside. and how we have to let go of everything, every day, every moment, to be truly happy.

With Love, S.

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Responsibility…

Wrote this last evening, finally getting a chance to post…
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Just yesterday, I was thinking how good life is, and how fortunate I am to be doing the things I love. The last few days have been really peaceful.

And then, this morning. Anjali is unwell, with a fever and a cold and a rash of some kind on her face. Her normally cherubic disposition does not know how to deal with this kind of discomfort, and she is responding with the two ways she knows how: crying and being close to Mama. Luckily I don’t resent that, not this time. I don’t have a high-powered job, and it feels nice that my life can more easily accommodate sudden changes like this. But the part I has forgotten, is the emotion a Mother feels when her little one is sick.

A sort of suspension where your heart is in your mouth when you hear your little one cry and see her tiny face puckered up. And when she naps, you wait. A sort of waiting that feels endless. You don’t want the waiting to end because you are finally getting a little time to yourself, but you also want it to end, so that you can know how your little one is doing. And in this waiting, some times the breath stops. You pick it up, and try to let go. But its damned hard. It comes with the territory of being a Mom.

All my life I have run from responsibility. From school days I have never wanted to lead, because then I will be put on the spot and won’t have the chance to change my mind. And fast forward to now, when I have undertaken the biggest responsibility of my life. And what I’m starting to realize is that responsibility doesn’t have to be a burden. Sometimes it feels like it, but we have a choice. Responsibility is not a burden when we hold it lightly. When we notice that we are holding our breath and let go, trusting that the next breath will happen. When we let the waiting go, trusting that things will be okay. When we realize that we can not orchestrate this life, but we can have respond-ability. Perhaps that is really what responsibility is: a call to live this moment as fully as we possibly could before we go to the next one.

Just as I finish this, I hear Anjali waking up…

With Love, S.

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Confessions…

I’m terrible with change. I hate that moment when things were going great and suddenly they aren’t any more. The moment (like this morning), when after peace and contentment, suddenly I’m face-to-face with irritation, anger, frustration, without any warning and left wondering where that joy inside of me disappeared. The moments when I thought I had it all orchestrated perfectly in my head, like a soap opera, and suddenly nothing is going my way. Moments when it looks sunny outside and I decide to go for a walk, only to find a cold breeze blowing my head off, making me wish I had stayed home. Moments when I want to be generous and leave a tip at the cafe only to find that I am out of cash. Moments when I want to tell the yoga teacher how great she was, but am afraid I can’t trust my voice to not break down into tears that I have no explanation for. Moments when I am bone tired after teaching an evening Math class and really just want to have a P&B sandwich, and crash. Instead I sit with hubby and eat lovingly prepared dinner and watch television, all the while resenting it and then judging myself for resenting it. And just before going to bed, hubby tells me that Steve Jobs is no more. That moment when I feel like screaming – why did you have to tell me that now! How am I going to sleep!! Because the fact is Steve Jobs is dead is so sad that I just want to cry, even though I have never met him in my life.

I can’t help thinking we create So much Drama in our lives, simply because we don’t like change. We don’t like it when we can’t control things, and when things don’t go our way (which we are convinced is the ‘right’ way). We hate it when we see someone in pain and there is nothing we can do about it.

That’s why we practice. That’s why in those moments, we try really really hard to take just one breath. and just one more. We tell ourselves – this is what anger feels like. this is what irritation feels like. This is what judgment feels like. We search desperately for that small ounce of kindness buried somewhere inside us. And we try hard to find where and sometimes, what is compassion in that moment. And slowly, surely, inevitably, we find that the judgment, anger and frustration are there no more.

The emotions will never stop coming. That’s what I’m realizing (to my disappointment). It simply is not possible – having emotions – the entire range, is part and parcel of being a human being. If we get angry, that doesn’t mean we have failed. It simply means, well, that we are angry. Being able to be open to that, and accepting and kind is what we endeavor to do in this practice. and we have keep practicing – sometimes for endless difficult moments, like being huddled in a tiny shack under the storm. And without knowing it, the storm ends. The sun comes out. and we are still standing. and so is the hut.

May we continue to be human…
with Love, S.

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Waking up…

The night was troubled – yet another decision to make about sleep training. I had hoped it would get easier each time we have to teach Gudiya* to sleep through the night. Yet, each time, it presents a similar challenge – how to do something that brings pain in the near future, but is more freeing in the long run. This takes wisdom and patience, the kind we can’t always find momentarily, the kind that requires us to make that leap from reacting to a stream of changes, to responding with intention. Intention – this is what I have to keep coming back to. As the Dalai Lama said, my intention was my protection.

This morning – waking up to a refreshed sweet loving Gudiya who snuggles with us, and sings her little songs of joy, as she greets a new world this day. All I want to do is snooze in bed. I try for as long as I can, and then shower and get ready while Abhi spends his morning time with his angel, reading her favorite book ten little fingers and ten little toes, as he chugs through breakfast of coffee and banana. By the time he is done, I’m ready to get a bite to eat and make Gudiya’s lunch and get her ready for day care.

Those 30 minutes seem to last for ever, as I multi-task, engaging her, eating my toast and manning the scrambled eggs for her lunch. Anjali is going round and round our island in the kitchen with a piece of toast in each hand, periodically falling down while practicing her new skill of walking. Each time, she wants to be picked up. Of course. By the time I get her into the car, and say good-bye to Abhi, I feel the familiar feeling of stress. Thank God, day care is just 2 minutes away. Gudiya is happy to see her friends but does not want to let go of Mommy. She would like it all if she could have it :). Darcy distracts her, as I make my way out. It is only after I get out of the driveway of the day care that I remember to take a long breath. Whew. That is a lot of work! My mind, alert from remnants of last night’s meditation remembers – ahhh – this is what stress feels like. There doesn’t need to be judgment about it.

After filling up my near empty gas tank, and straightening up the house and my attire, I barely make it to yoga class with Leslie – after a long time. My body needs it, but my mind is busy with judgments of my ‘tardiness’. I try and let go as best as I can. I tell myself, people have more important things on their mind than spending time reflecting on my tardiness. Thank God for that :).

Slowly, the practice unfolds. Leslie reminds us to pay attention. My mind starts to quiet down. As I do a forward bend, I get a whiff of peanut butter on the knees of my pants from this morning with Anjali. It makes me smile. This is what the practice does – open us up to all that is, in this moment right now. My shoulders start to relax, and open like they haven’t in days. The heat builds up, and then the peace afterwards. Shavasana. Sweet bliss. As I settle in into my body, my being, I feel whole again.

The point of this practice of mindfulness is to be more alive to this experience of being human. This involves feeling all of what it comes with. Confusion, self-doubt and judgment are right there – along with clarity, freedom and lightness of heart. All we can do is cultivate the skillful states of being, so that we do our part in living with wisdom and care. The rest is out of our control. May we move with ease through the changes in our lives – of breath, emotions, body, mind and heart.

With Love, Shuba
*Gudiya: endearment meaning doll.

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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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One Year Old…

It is incredible to see Anjali making connections with her brain in new ways she couldn’t do two weeks ago! She knows that if Mama is not there downstairs, then she must be upstairs, so she makes her way to the end of the living room and tries to climb up the stairs. She has learnt (with Abhi’s help) that there is a short cut to making the sock monkey pop – by simply budging the small thumb on top. She does it and smiles in delight. Yesterday, she took my sunglasses and tried to wear them! She had figured out that that is what people do with them. She says Book – and means Book. She says duck and looks for duck. She waves bye bye and means it. She tries to take her first steps – unsteady but always within reach of support (usually Mama’s legs). And mostly, she is so incredibly happy at all the things she is learning – it makes me cry.

When do we lose that openness to life, to all its wonders, to learning and to exploration? When do we set up those barriers and create those insecurities? Of course, the wise me understands that these too are part of the human life, and that the more compassionate we can be towards our failings and imperfections, the more peace and love we can have. Yet I can’t help marveling at this amazing miracle of human life – that when we come into this world, we are completely open, vulnerable and trusting. And we start setting up boundaries as a way of protection. And slowly we become attached to them!

How can we hold boundaries with Love? How can we realize that this protection is a choice – sometimes we need it. And sometimes we can let it go, let the wind blow through us, and the rain soak us completely. And even if that opening lasts but for a moment, we become a child again – open to wonder, lifting off like an Eagle into the far blue skies of freedom.

May we feel safe so that we may open…

with Love, Shuba

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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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Unconditional Peace…

Sometimes I have this distinct sense of experiencing ‘conditional happiness’. A sense of joy that I know is dependent on the conditions being a certain way. Last week, this was something along these lines: baby is doing good, Dad is doing good, I’m feeling well, day is beautiful, etc etc. We all have days like this, when things are going well. The boat is sailing smoothly. We are grateful, of course. But mostly, we start taking things for granted.

And then the boat starts rocking… 🙂

Suffering, the old trusted friend, comes along. Grasping, wanting, aversion, attachment. They all come at more or less the same time, don’t they? And I see my mind and heart struggle to recover balance. This struggle is always always hard.

And I’ve found that it is on these days that I can no longer take peace for granted. It is on these days that I really practice. I do what is necessary to feel peaceful again. I learn to be present – what other choice is there? And invariably, at the end of these days, my heart is softer and more connected. And I learn once again – letting go is possible. peace is possible.

It makes me realize that when conditions are great, the accompanying happiness is good. But it is when conditions are difficult, that truly presents the opportunity for unconditional peace.

May our hearts become as large as the bottomless ocean, on this journey,
With Love, S.

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