Shuba’s Weblog

Journeys of the soul…

March reflections and April anticipations…

March has flown by! It was a busy month but in a good way. Here were some of the highlights of March for us:

  • Going to Boston to celebrate my niece’s second birthday! It was wonderful to visit and celebrate together and eat amazing food cooked by my sister. Now my niece routinely yells out ‘periyammmaa’ on Facetime, a wonderful feeling!
  • Going to Kripalu as a chaperone with a group of high school students. This was my first trip overnight as a chaperone – we were gone for 4 days – and it was an incredible experience. I got to know the students and the other teachers whom I traveled with better and make new connections. It was during the snow storm mid March and it was so beautiful to watch all the snow from inside. It was truly a retreat, with a lot of yoga, relaxation and mindfulness activities.
  • Anji performed in her first skating show! To raise money for the local children’s hospital, over 50 skaters performed in the show. That last weekend in March was packed with rehearsals and volunteering to get the kids on the ice for their part of the show. It was amazing to watch Anji and just how much fun she had on the ice! It made all the time freezing in the ice rink while she had her lessons so worth it! I felt proud of my diva and her strong will and determination – ice skating was entirely her idea and she worked so hard. I’m proud of you my baba!
  • Watching movies (Beauty and the Beast) and shows (most notably, ‘Humsafar’, a Pakistani show that was emotional moving, tender, a powerhouse of acting talent and the bonus: the music was incredible!) and reading books (Now on the seventh Harry Potter book – so addicted to this series! ) got us through most of the month and the snow.
  • Instant Pot! After hearing my sister rave about it, Daalu purchased it and has taken to cooking on it everyday. And being on the receiving side of it, I can tell you, it is amazing! The food tastes better, there is less hassle and every day, I have lunch packed for me by Daalu from left overs – there is such abundance of food in our home now thanks to Instant Pot!

I feel ready to welcome April. We just finished the third quarter of the year this week at school so grading is at a peak. The bright side of it is getting to listen to the feedback from the students on how things are going for them in my classes. Especially fun are my math one-on-ones – 10 min conversations with my calculus students on calculus, their successes, hobbies and interests. It’s so fun to connect with these students outside of class and it makes me realize even more how much I love my job.

Another week of school before we have spring break and head to Orlando for Disney time! Hoping to make it to Hogwarts and Kennedy Space center, and watching Anji on roller coasters, and most of all, hoping for spring and some warm weather (and no more snow storms! ). Wish you a wonderful, fun, fulfilling, amazing April and Easter!

With love,

S.

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Nine goddess days…

This is the time of the festival of Navaratri, nine nights as it is called in South India, and Dasara as it is called in the North. The goddess in every form is celebrated, and in the south, women and girls are especially honored as depicting the goddess. They are given gifts, bangles, bindis, and everyone wears silk. There are elaborate rangoli designs in colored rice flour outside the house and the waft of jasmine and betal leaves floats by in the house, along with chundal – a traditional lentil dish with cocount made every evening with different types of lentils and beans each day.

Living in the states, I have sporadically celebrated this festival in small ways – making a sweet dish, wearing something nice etc. Since my husband isn’t super traditional and we don’t usually have time off, there isn’t much of a motivation. Usually, the indian community hosts a celebration but I have been to it only once in the past decade of living here. This year, at the last minute, I decided we should go – Anjali and I. So I pulled out our indian clothes from the trunk and we dressed up the way I did as a child, wearing bangles, bindis and beautiful clothes, me a saree and Anjali a salwar suit.

Get there we did – and Anji loved the ‘music time’ and danced and jumped up and down as garba music played on the speakers. (Garba is a dance from the North, especially for this festival where men and women dance going around in a big circle). She wore a black tunic embroidered with gold and maroon and looked like a small goddess herself. We even went around the circle a couple of times dancing together mother and daughter. We had to leave early for bed time, but just to see her dressed up in indian outfit was worth the trip, that along with seeing some dear friends.

I’m going to indian celebrations and making halloween costume (never done that before in my ten years in this country!) for my little one. I never cease to be surprised by what motherhood brings.

Wishing you beauty, peace and light-filled days and nights,
With Love,
S.

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Turning Two…

My dear daughter Anjali has just turned two this week. I can’t believe I have been a Mom for that long – and yet on the other hand, it feels like Anji has been in our lives forever. She has changed our world, and brought in her own brand of joy, delight, independence, curiosity and love into our lives.

On the day of her birthday, she was cranky and fussy, transitioning from gymnastics class onto a doctors’ appointment just before lunch. She was very tired, and after nap, the evening too went by in a usual manner. We didn’t have anything special planned, except a small cupcake which the three of us cut together with two candles. I know she loves routine – and in lieu of the party this weekend, it seemed right. But for me, there was a hesitation. What was so great about this day? I wondered late afternoon. I was pretty tired myself.

It was only later in the day that it dawned on me – as usual Anji was showing me an important lesson: when there are no expectations, you are free to be with what is. She didn’t know what a birthday meant. If it meant presents, that was great. If not, that was great too. She was cranky, fussy, and also joyful and happy. and it was all okay. Everything was just as it should be. She didn’t evaluate it, analyze it or wish it otherwise. And somewhere during the day, I too let go of my expectations.

As a Mom turning two, I feel blessed, grateful and happy that life has allowed me to have the opportunity to spend time with my daughter, to enjoy doing it without too many stresses, and to learn from her how to be present whether it be with the squirrel or the waiting room at the Doc. And most importantly I learn to laugh and play and let go – over and over again.

With Love, S.

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From the heart…

It is now a month since getting my book out. My first book, my labor of love, my second baby. I enjoyed every moment of writing it during the first year of being a Mom. I enjoyed every moment of revisiting it, putting it together, making it into this pink book that is in front of me. I’m glad I did it.

There were many doubts. many many many. The support and inspiration I received from my family and my fellow writers and friends was incredible and made me go on working on it. But the clinching factor was simply that I believe in this practice of showing up, being present, mindful, compassionate and participating in our lives. I believe that liberation is possible no matter what the circumstance – and motherhood provides the perfect context for this practice – the constraints, the utter lack of control, the changes as well as the joys, incredible awe as we delve into child rearing and the learning we do on this path.

This past month has been a dance of holding on too tight or too loose. I have felt disappointed, sad and lonely and have pulled back. I have also felt grateful and joyful and touched and that has propelled me forward. I am reminded of T.S. Eliot’s words: ‘teach me to care and not to care’. Caring is always hard, but when held lightly, can be something beautiful in and of the heart.

I find that something is happening unexpectedly. A path is opening up naturally when I don’t force it. Like interest in the book at Anji’s day care, and my meditation group. Interest in the book from other moms like me in the thick of it, and those who are Moms and want to go down their memory lane taking me along. Interest from dear women friends who want to give it as presents. A connection with other women. Of course.

I know many of you dear readers of mine, fellow bloggers, writers, yogis and friends, who have shared your stories with me as you read mine, have bought the book or intend to. Some of you have posted on Facebook, and on your blog – which has been a gift of encouragement and support. Some of you have talked to me about it and it has come when I needed it. And I have a request for all of you: if you have bought a copy, a review on amazon would be oh so helpful to get the word out. There are none right now. And if you haven’t yet, I hope you will consider it.

With Love, S.

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My book on amazon…

‘The Year of the Rose: reflections of a new mother and lessons in mindfulness and loving-kindness’ is now available on Amazon for purchase, both as ebook and in paperback.

I’m excited, proud, in awe that so much is possible in today’s world, and oh so grateful! If my blog speaks to you, I hope you will consider buying a copy! And please help me spread the word. Every purchase makes room for more such writing to happen…

With love, S.

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Giving up the need to be perfect…

This is the best advice my counselor gave me when I went to her as an overwhelmed parent of four-month old. And it’s advice I continue to find invaluable.

The thing I’m learning, about being a parent, is that you make mistakes. There are many things you’ll do that you never thought you would. Like putting kitchen towels into the oven and forgetting about it and nearly burning the house down. Or breaking the side mirror of your car coming out of your own garage. Or hearing the fire alarm and rushing outside the house with your baby because you forgot that it was the day of the fire alarm testing. Or falling asleep at work, while in a meeting or reviewing a paper. It’s stuff you just wouldn’t do in your sane mind. And I’m not even talking about the baby stuff we mess up on!!

It’s funny when we are not in it. This giving up of our well defined structured and ‘tidy’ lives so that we may raise babies and voluntarily go through sleep deprivation and chaos. Clearly there has got to be a trade-off, even though it is not always obvious what that is :).

The tradeoff is that we learn what it is to be human. We learn patience and endurance and the kind of unconditional love that we didn’t think we were capable of. We learn flexibility and giving up ‘I should’ and ‘I ought to’ because we have no choice. And we learn the possibility of joy and paying attention because we get to be around babies who don’t know that it can be otherwise.

We get to see things as if for the first time because that is what our babies are doing: seeing paper, grass, socks, teeth, feet, rain and more, for the first time. And they continue to do so everyday. And incredible as it may sound, witnessing this is much more exciting than reviewing a paper on functional near infrared imaging of the brain. (No wonder I fell asleep on that one!). This window of witnessing what it is like to not know the concept of time or gravity, to not experience fear or doubt, to know freedom of expressing yourself just as you are, this is the gift of parenthood. And it somehow makes up for all the hours of sleep we lose and all the neurosis we go through being a parent. Mary Oliver was right when she said, ‘most things that are important, lack a certain neatness’. Amen to that.

With Love,
Shuba

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Wonder…

Baby Anjali is here. A few weeks of life-changing transitions, of becoming a Mother, caring for another. Not always easy, lots of moments for practice. And in the middle of this, there is wonder…

————————————–
what dreams beneath those sleeping eyes
that make you smile so
what secrets you carry in your fist
that closes and opens so

a puckering, a whimpering, a cry
then the most amazing smile
within moments, you show them all
a rainbow of life and joy

fluttering fingers like feathers
trembling feet soft as petals
the scent of milky white skin –
want to give you a thousand kisses

seeing you, this heart opens
a new being awakens
falling in love, a gentle rain
at long last this wait ends.

with Love, S.

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Beginnings…

The Dance of Elephants
The Dance of Rain
The first snow of the season
The first colors change

The first taste of Ice cream
Cookies and jam
The first scent of lavender
Mistletoe and Jasmine

The first step you take
The first mittens you wear
The first cry of disappointment
And first consolation you get

Your first best friend
Your first Love
Your first vacation
Your first Moonlight

So much to look forward to
A lifetime of Joy
A tender heart full
Of Love and Delight!

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The mind’s incorrigible ways…

It has been so interesting during my pregnancy to witness my thoughts about my growing body. For the longest time, I wished people would notice my belly, but with the kind of frame I had and the kind of flowy (comfy) clothes I wore, it didn’t seem very perceptible to the outside world. Some days I worried if I was gaining enough weight. Secretly I knew, everything was okay and baby and I were healthy and that is what mattered. But the mind has a will of its own…

And now in my seventh month, finally I’m starting to ‘show’ obviously. People greet me and ask me about my due date and about the heat and how I feel. I love it! And then somewhere is the lingering thought – am I gaining too much weight ?

Can’t help laughing when I think of it. In a nutshell, that is the nature of the mind. Jumping this way and that. Never satisfied and constantly comparing the status quo with the past or the future. Never completely surrendering to the present moment because we still cling on to the ideas that we didn’t even know existed. Our constant worry, dissatisfaction and clinging is what stands in the way – of peace and happiness.

And finally a moment of epiphany yesterday in my belly-dancing class which has a large mirror in front. As I was dancing, I took a moment to really notice, to really see how I looked. And surprising tears sprang to my eyes – how long I had waited for this moment! To show my body proudly, to announce to the world that I was carrying a child within. A moment of peace. Things are as they are. and there is beauty in this.

An interesting exercise to practice in the next few days – to be a silent witness to the ways of the mind without reacting or taking it personally. Can we simply notice the constant ‘burning’ of our mind? And would compassion then arise to comfort our hearts and remind us to be gentle? Join me.

With metta, S.

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Paying attention to Joy…

I noticed recently that we don’t like talking about joy or happiness very much. We love talking about our problems.We also love hearing about others suffering. I was in the bookstore the other day and I was struck by the fact that most books in the ‘have you read’ and bestsellers section had to do with suffering of some kind. Suffering is important and it has the ability to open our hearts to compassion. And yet…

What about Joy ? We don’t often talk about what makes us happy or joyful, and when we were happy. Its like we assume that happiness and joy is simply a natural state of mind that we can take for granted. Nothing special. And yet, it is this state of mind that most of us long for. We pursue what we think is happiness. We long for joy. But we don’t pay very much attention to it.

If we didn’t pay attention to when we are joyful or happy, and what brings us that joy, how will we know when it happens ? Paying attention to joy sustains us, it balances us. It reminds us that there are good times as well as bad. And it nourishes us.

A few days ago, I read a beautiful paragraph by one of my teachers Doreen Schweizer. Titled “Cultivate Happiness and Awaken to Joy,” she wrote, “Moving toward happiness and contentment does not mean that we ignore the suffering around us. It means that, to the extent we can, we come face to face with it and respond wisely and kindly. Trust small steps: Look for joy in yourself and in those you share the world with. Notice dog joy, baby joy, student joy, teacher joy, old-person joy…… Notice how you feel right now. Is there joy?”

I loved these words, and the past few days, I have been holding it in my thoughts. As I walked into a surprisingly sunny spring like day in winter, I noticed my joy at sunshine. (I called it puppy joy, I felt like one! ) Doing yoga after a long time yesterday, I noticed how happy I felt in class. Small things like eating a mango, an unexpected phone call. My own generosity and good acts. It is a very rewarding practice. It’s also neat noticing other people’s joy. It makes your heart feel warm and naturally wish them well. People’s joyful moments are touching. How simple they are.

One of the magnets I came across sums it up: “Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder…”– Thoreau

May we pay attention when that joy comes and sits softly on our shoulders…

with Joy, S.

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