Shuba’s Weblog

Journeys of the soul…

Rediscovering our being…

It has honestly been such a long time since I wrote my blog last, that I am dismayed. How can it be that somebody who used to write atleast a couple of posts a week, now writes about couple of times a year? Once I let go of judgment, I see that this too perhaps was necessary. Necessary so I can start
afresh,from a place I have never been at before.

So, here I am. Namaste!

Are you conditioned to behave or react in certain habitual ways? According to Buddhist philosophy, we all have some conditioning that we come into, in our lives, either through childhood, traumas, or perhaps even past life times, if you believe in them. If that is indeed the case, where is our freedom? Aha! through discovering our own conditioning by paying attention. And through the process of mindful investigation, we can then be free, by learning to make skillful choices and relearning new habits. Alas, letting go of this conditioning does not happen without realizing them first. And that takes attention. The pause. The noticing. And with noticing, often comes judgment and dismay – is this indeed us, this person who we thought was just fine, on cruise control until now? And it doesn’t happen overnight either. 

Hence, the need for tremendous amount of kindness and compassion, for judging is so easy. Understanding and being compassionate is so much harder.

One of my conditioning is that I need to be perfect somehow – perhaps to win love and affection and / or to prove my self worth. And another is to feel responsible for a lot more than I possibly can be responsible for, as a human being. It probably comes with being sensitive to other’s moods and feelings – it’s hard when you know something is wrong, and there is not always something you can do about it. 

So how do I find freedom? For I do believe, peace and freedom is always possible.

I find that it always starts with understanding. And my daughter is my greatest teacher in this dharma. With her, I can be patient, kind, loving, present, joyful, happy, and open to wonder. She brings out these qualities in me, because of her joy of being and her large heart and her incredible capacity to pay attention. And if I can be that for her, surely I can be that towards myself. And I also find, no matter how I mess up, in her eyes, there is always forgiveness. To her, I am amazing and wonderful. So maybe I could be redeemed in my own eyes, just a tiny bit. And it helps me find that compassion towards myself. 

I am so humbled by this process. Always a beginner, always learning something about myself in the process. I am not perfect. I am reminded of it every single day. If that is true for every one of us, then how much compassion do we need to bring into this world? Compassion so that we can live with ourselves, accept ourselves and more than that, love ourselves just as we are. 

So soften if you will, the next time you tense up in self judgment. Find the inner being, who adores and loves you just as you are. Everything will be okay. 

Peace and metta to you, S.

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On Retreat…

My meditation teacher Doreen has been caring for her mother these past four plus years. Her Mother Anna came to live with her in her 90’s, and these past years have been a profound spiritual journey for Doreen. We as a sangha, a community, have been a witness to this transformation that love invites – indeed asks of us – and we have seen the quality of metta and compassion shine through Doreen in her teachings. Anna passed away recently in March – in a joyful and peaceful manner. Anji and I visited her in her last days – and the room was filled with a sort of joy that I didn’t know could exist near the end. There was so much love in that room. And Anji brought her own pure soul into the room – and connected with Anna at that deep level that only children and old souls can do. It was beautiful to witness.

Talking to Doreen a couple of weeks ago, we were chatting about retreats. After several years, Doreen is going to a formal retreat in the near future –where one is often given formal instructions for practicing mindfulness, and the opportunity to go deeper into our own inner experience in the comfort and protection of silence. I was talking to Doreen about my life and where I am and how difficult it would be for me to go on a retreat right now – much as it is something I have always and would love deeply. My last formal retreat was in 2009, nearly four years ago. And Doreen gently reminded me: Shuba, this is a time of retreat for you, just as it was a time of retreat for me caring for my Mom.

This gentle reminder hit home for me in a deep manner. Many times, I’m torn and indeed amazed, even shocked at times at how little I know of what is going on around in the world. I’m not in touch with news enough, or with people I don’t see in our immediate lives. I’m not on the computer enough (and many times I feel bad that I don’t read the blogs of these wonderful creative beings who take the time to read mine.) My world revolves around my family, and caring for our two and a half year old daughter for the most part – and my own spiritual journey.

I have never skimped on my practice – even now (as before having a child) I usually meditate everyday in some form and read dhamma, connecting with an intention that speaks to me, and listen to talks regularly and attend sits when I can. I write and I reflect and I seem to have time for that. IN a way, it doesn’t even feel like a choice: my practice is how I take care of myself, it is how I tune in and find out how this being inside of me is really doing. And it seems to take priority over so many things. Sometimes I wonder, is this real, the life I am leading? Sometimes I feel lonely and starved for mental stimulation. But other times, this feels more real than anything else I have ever done in my life: there is a urgency right now – to be with what is happening, the emotions, the keeping up with developmental milestones (I’m not sure if they are my daughter’s or mine!). And the letting go.

Mark Coleman, who is one of my favorite teachers when it comes to dhamma talks, says in a talk, that the most important practice in terms of mindfulness/Buddhism can be summed up into two words: Let Go. Let Go Let Go Let Go. As a parent we are challenged to do this everyday, to let go of our ideas, our expectations, our goals and our agendas. We are thrust into this world where our little one doesn’t and cannot understand these concepts (thank god for that!) and we have to let go. It ultimately serves us well – but who said letting go was easy?

This is perhaps my biggest struggle: to let go of what I think is a good day, of what I think my daughter should be like, and the ideas I have that constitute ‘’good parenting’’ which in itself is a trap. Since I have no prior experience in parenting, these ideas are largely questionable: they have not been tested out by my own experience. This to me is an important clue. So I learn the hard way: to let go.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I will meet you there.” Says Rumi of the soul. We keep finding our way back to this field. This field – this abundant peaceful all-knowing compassionate place inside of us knows at a very deep visceral level what the truth is. But we forget in our human ways and conditions. And so we force ourselves to remember.

So I am grateful. To have a time in my life when so much of outer distractions seem to be removed so that my own inner experience comes to the forefront. All of it: sometimes pleasant, sometimes not. And it is just like it is on a retreat: a time for remembering the sacredness of our lives, in its tiny details.

So this is what I say to mothers who resonate with me (and to myself – since I so often forget!): when the retreat ends – however long or short it is – we will be ready to meet the outside world. Until then – this is the journey – and we follow. Lets leave behind our guilt, shall we? And lets take in the love. The love never stops.

With Love, S.

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I am myself!!

I feel the urge to type and type and put into words, the experiences of the last few weeks. It feels like I have traveled eons in this month of May. Coming face to face with my anger, my emotions and finding a way to move through. Coming face to face with my own lack of control and practicing patient acceptance.

And finding a way of saying Yes. Yes to this moment is as it is. Finding a way to abide in metta during my struggles and lean into the support of my own practice and the support of my friendships and relationships. Having slammed doors, yelled, cried, and even broken plates in the privacy of my porch on an afternoon when all else failed, I have let go of everything. And one afternoon, when I saw the crying face of my baby girl, everything dissipated. Just like that. None of the stories mattered anymore. It turns out – there isn’t anything more important to do than this right now. and no one else to be but me. Kindness is possible, no matter what. When we can’t summon kindness, even in that situation, kindness is possible through non-judging.

Beloved Rumi says it best:

‘Your grief for what you’ve lost lifts a mirror
up to where you’re bravely working.
Expecting the worst, you look, and instead
here’s the joyful face you’ve been wanting to see.”

Perhaps it is the way through hardships that we discover the soft heart. The compassionate wise heart. And this is the doorway to joy. I’m finding that joy arises spontaneously when I say, yes to this moment. When I say yes to singing the same lullaby for the 20th time during bedtime for my daughter, I find joy. When I say yes to reading ‘Annie and the wild animals’ for the umpteenth time, I find joy. When I say yes to my feeling low about my back hurting, I find joy. Joy it turns out is present. All the time. It requires me to be in this moment, to participate, to connect and to make choices. And then, it feels like the effort of striving, of trying too hard, of being someone else, falls away.

‘I am myself!’, says Pezzetino, joyfully in this fable when he discovers that he too like all the others is made of little pieces. “I am myself”!! I want to shout out in joy, like Pezzetino.

Perhaps when we discover our own brokenness, our own struggles, and how fragile the identities that we hold so close, we can let them all go. And we can be ourselves, truly and joyfully.

So here is your invitation – to say yes to this moment. And to be yourself. Then you become me, the other and everybody else in this universe!!

With Peace, S.

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About love and loving…

Today I want to talk about love. Not the love that drowns us that envelopes us in a haze, that is so beautiful that we can’t bear a moment without it, that makes our hearts melt in sweetness but the love that is steady and deep and burning like a flame and never stops – not for the winds or the rains. It just keeps burning and getting stronger day by day.

This is the kind of love my 2-year old daughter teaches me. The love that exists when she won’t take a nap and I lose it and yell at her, and she adds – ‘mom still loves you’. And my heart breaks. In that moment, I don’t want to love. But my heart can’t help it. This is the burning of that candle that purges all those dark places inside that I would rather not see, but I don’t have a choice. I would rather believe that I am kind, loving and don’t lose my temper and helpful and will not hurt a soul. But I know the truth – I am capable of the other side. I’m capable of slamming doors, being rough, yelling, and I do hurt others. This acceptance is the deep grief of the human heart when we come to terms with all of ourselves and all that we are truly capable of. Even though I would never hurt my child, in that flash of anger, I can see how violence happens. How if I didn’t stop myself and try my best, my emotions would rule me.

So this idea of having a child, of raising your child, of spending time involves what any close relationship does – a facing of our own shadows and the things about ourselves that we would rather not see. IN usual relationships we sometimes make the choice to not go through, to want out. But in a parent – child relationship that is often not and cannot be our choice, and we know that in our hearts. So we agree to go through this journey, of walking through fire sometimes – of losing it and finding it and forgiveness and learning to trust in our own capacities to ride the storms. The storms are inevitable, and they do pass. It’s our choice what we allow them to teach us, and our children.

And the storms always leave behind something – trees broken, hearts broken. This is the way to compassion – this picking up the pieces and putting them together and mending the bridges. Apologies are difficult. They require us to face the facts and the consequences and find ourselves worthy of love and forgiveness. When I say sorry to my daughter, the person I’m really asking for forgiveness from is myself. My daughter readily forgives. She has forgotten the episode and moved on. It is me who is still lingering in that moment that I was who I did not want to be.

And then I make the next choice – to try harder, to be more patient, and to take better care of myself so I don’t reach that place of desperation again. And I make the choice to let go of the guilt, the consuming guilt and start over again. This is now a new moment. The sun is shining. Lets go ride our bikes together, I say. My daughter skips downstairs and runs to put on her helmet. My heart still hurts, but this is a new moment. I’m here now.

With Love, S.

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Changing desires…

It is a beautiful spring day. Yes, spring is here! finally! The leaves are coming out of the ground and the first flowers have appeared in our compound. The breeze is blowing and there is promise of warmer weather and long summer days yet to come. Ahhhhh. I love this feeling, of change and new life and moving ahead.

I have also been amazed at the shifting of my desires. About a month ago, I was sure I needed to find a job that was more than my very part-time teaching math at community college, and that needed to be now. it turns out what I needed was a change – and when a weekend materialized in the form of time away from home, it served the purpose! Just one night away with family in beautiful Burlington, VT – we all felt restored and my mind felt quieter than it had been for a while. Its a good lesson to learn: sometimes we need a change – but it doesn’t have to be a life-altering one like getting a new job! Before we make the life-changing ones, can we try the smaller ones?

This is also the first school break that I have asked for help in the form of child-care and it has felt simply wonderful to allow myself a break. Life feels so much more spacious when you have had a hot chocolate on your own in a cafe without having your toddler around! I’m also learning an important shift in my own perspective – that much as I love being a Mom and its who I am most of my day, it isn’t personal. It has its amazing rewards as well as challenges and learning, and at the end of the day, it is still what I bring to it. And I bring attention and care to it when I take care of myself. What a good lesson! One that I keep relearning and discovering and every time feels like the first time!

Whats interesting to me is that when we pause, when we take a step back, we can actually witness the moving of our desires – how they keep changing, morphing into new shapes and sizes. We are tempted to respond to each one, but we don’t always have to. if we simply watch, they will shape-shift. and it gives us such insight into our own minds, our patterns and where we react and when. What our triggers are. I know what some of mine are, which make me reactive and my mind go nuts. exhaustion, doing too much, too many expectations (that are unrealistic), bank balances, and not knowing. And I’m coming to see their cycles, and learning to see them pass by and learning not to react and learning what kindness is and connecting to my deepest heart’s desires.

I would love to hear yours. send me a message or post a comment on this post.

with Love, S.

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winter blues…

It is that time of the year. Mid February when the spirit is ready for spring, but not yet the earth. The snow is still falling and the skies gray, and the winter is still around, much as we yearn for spring, for flowers to bloom, for squirrels to retrieve their nuts, for birds to chirp and the geese to make their journeys back. It is that time of the year when we are ready for change, but change is not yet here.

Winter is a time to go inward and reflect and perhaps the very nature of how long winter can be suggests how much time we need as we flow and we grow and we prepare our seeds of intention for springtime. We worship the growing light and we pay attention to our bodies and we nourish from within when we can. and we cultivate patience and mindfulness – a knowing that, as Shelley puts it, even when winter comes can spring be far behind?

As the sky lightens, it is time to move. or so thinks my daughter Anji as we see her increasingly run around the house as if ready to burst into spring song, the minute it arrives. That readiness is what we prepare for this time of the year. We take care of details, we shed our excess pounds and we make our way to movement and song. We gather together to celebrate the last few rituals of winter – hot chocolate at night, late mornings in bed, even as we start to transition.

Transition is a slow process. We think it happens in a day, that we get through change just like that. But it doesn’t. It is slow and painstaking and gradual and requires us to be with the present in whatever form it is. It requires us to accept our lives, its myraid details, its highs and lows and the even planes when nothing much is happening. It requires us to show up with the same attitude of humility and waiting that we are willing to show our children as we witness their growth – sometimes in huge spurts and sometimes in slow gradualness.

and we learn to perfect our own way into this world one small day at a time – a way of love, heart, gratitude and fullness.

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Being alive…

I wrote to an old friend of mine recently about travel – how I didn’t miss it and how much magic was in my own backyard. I was basking in the glow of contentment that the last few weeks have brought. I spoke too soon.

Yes, there is magic in our backyard. We live in a spectacularly beautiful area, nestled by hills and snowy tree tops, with fresh air and a kind of beauty that grows on you. There are bluejays playing outside our window, and the sunrise in the winter is amazing pink on clear mornings. But somedays, I don’t see this beauty quite the same way. I’m caught in the resistance to whatever is unfolding in my life, and the resistance always sneaks up when I’m not watching. And on such days, the thought of a vacation is sublime.

I know I am well and alive when resentment and stress are present in my life. It is so absurd, but last week I had a cold/flu and it was one of the best weeks of my life because I took it easy and laid low the self-expectations. Once I start back on the wagon of simmering cooking self-judgment and lack of appreciation, I know I have way too much energy!

So what takes us away and what brings us back? I believe most of the time what takes us away is stress, worry, tiredness…when I over schedule myself and my inner resources are at a low, I get tripped up the voices, the same voices that I would have the wisdom to acknowledge and ignore on other times. So first it in itself is a reminder to come back, acknowledge that and the fact that we are human and prone to messing up and being imperfect and saying unkind things and doing unthoughtful deeds. and then the next step is to make room, make space for some R & R, whenever that can happen. An hour of yoga, or a warm bath or a chat with a best friend, all of it helps. If it cannot happen immediately, planning for it helps in a practical way to know that it is coming so we can hang in there.

And then it is bringing a kind of softening, an acknowledging and forgiveness of the things we messed up on. This is what helps the heart soften, learn compassion and be willing to extend it to others when they are in need, because we learn to recognize a heart in distress, from our own experience.

Lastly, we bring in joy. put on some favorite music, dance a little, hop a little, be silly and make our apologies to others.

So today, I apologized to my two-year old daughter for not being patient enough and spacious enough to give her the time she needed to leave the library, for not being thoughtful and caring enough about her tears – her distraught face is still in front of my eyes though she has moved on hours ago. And I learned a hard lesson not to over-schedule myself with work stuff – teaching, astrology readings, managing a home – in the limited time I have to myself.

I think now its time to climb into bed in my favorite pajamas and read Anne Lamott. She always makes me feel better and makes me laugh (or cry, depending…).

With Love, S.

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Being with pain…

The pain is receding slowly. The drugged feeling is still there from the medications I am on, but the morning is so misty and quiet that I can’t help sinking into it. This past few days, have been dark. I have felt humbled by my body. Having pulled a muscle in my lower back a couple of days ago, I have felt pain, sharp shooting pain that made moving impossible. Thanks to medications, I’m slowly healing, but this is not one of those journeys I would ever take of my own volition. “Hey, lets see how this works”, were not my words. In my defense, I did not think, ‘why me?’ Rather, I thought ‘How come? How did this happen?’ I’m speechless at that quality of change that can take us walking, running, dancing, to being in bed, in an instant. I’m amazed at the speed of this change, and humbled and even sort of in a haze at how unpredictable life really is. And in every instant, I’m aware that this is temporary in a way, because I can feel my body healing, but what about those for whom this is not temporary? What about those who live with pain on a daily basis?

I’m getting a sense of how it is to be let down by your body.

I think in a way, when something like this happens we make space for gratitude. Gratitude for that same body that manages so many other things so well, that breathes, moves, feels sensations and keeps us alive. Maybe it is time to say a prayer to that body, to take in the fullness of all that it feels, the sensations, the spaciousness and the contracting. Maybe it is time to make room to be in the body without regrets or wants, but to simply be. And just maybe, that is where the freedom is.

And we make room to say a silent prayer for all those and all that which helps us, supports us and makes room for healing.

With Love, S.

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what do we do ?

What is compassion when your two year old is screaming at around 3.00 in the morning – and nothing you do is exactly right. What do you do when you find that softness in your heart that comes when you look at her sweet body and warm self seems to be utterly missing and there seems no hope in sight. You just want to curl up in bed and ask someone else to make everything okay, but no someone else is Mama! How do you keep your cool when your child is crying and you really have to pee, so that you can all go to bed but even peeing in the middle of the night feels like a luxury, and not just a luxury but the very thing that has turned this night upside down. What do you do when you wake up in the morning, after a groggy couple of hours sleeping next to your two year old, and she is getting down the bed; and before you have been able to awaken the consciousness to get out of the bed, she has peed – on the carpet in front of your altar. What do you do with all the judging thoughts resounding in your head that you suck as a parent and that patience and loving-kindness you want to embody is falling short.

Maybe we learn to recognize how difficult it is when we are hugely attached – as we are to our babies. And what a difficult journey motherhood is. We recognize that we are vulnerable, and that softness can go a long way. We make room for forgiveness for ourselves and our hearts that sometimes fail us despite our best intentions. We learn to love ourselves again and discover our children again on a new day. The sun is shining, the morning is bright and we pick up the pieces and start over again.

With Love, S.

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A stranger…

Last evening, I had this memory of a woman, a stranger who changed something in me during the course of a day. I wanted to write about it. It made me think – this could be a great prompt! So I invite you to write on this topic – a stranger in your life who made a difference. I would be honored if you decide to share it, either in the comments section or in your blog and leave a link. Here is mine…

——————–

We were at the waiting lounge in Frankfurt. We had just landed from our first flight, Boston to Frankfurt, and there was another waiting of about four hours before our next flight to Chennai. I was traveling alone with Anji, 18 months old at the time. Abhi was going to join us in Mumbai a week later.

Anji was playing near the window of the lounge watching the planes go by, doing her usual thing, when I saw Her. She was perhaps in her mid thirties or early forties – I have always been terrible at telling people’s age – and had a boy with her. She was sitting on one of those lounge chairs – they have a few in airports which are always taken pretty soon – where you can put our your legs and lean back. She was watching Anjali play and smiled across at me. She had an open, friendly face. I could tell she was a south-indian too, by her salwar kameez attire – and maybe she had a bindi. We exchanged greetings – her name was Soumya, and found out our destinations were the same.

Soumya was traveling with her husband and her five year old son to meet her parents and in-laws. She commented on how cute Anji was. Anji at that time liked to eat on her own and I remember her saying how amazing that was. We talked a few pleasantries, where we each lived and so on. Nothing major. Just friendly. The long afternoon wore on as I walked around, strolling Anji in her stroller – at various points for diaper changes, snacks and mostly hoping she would fall asleep. I don’t remember if she did – there were too many journeys on that big trip to India to recall the exact details.

But what I remember was when we landed in Chennai many hours later. Anji was exhausted (even adults feel half-dead after the excruciatingly long travel), it was about 2.00 at night. All our supplies of juice and milk was over and by the time I had remembered to ask the flight attendant it had been too late – they had closed everything. Everything in the airport was shut. She was hungry, tired and I was exhausted and feeling very lonely as she cried and cried and wouldn’t stop and I stood there at the baggage claim praying that my luggage would arrive soon and this would stop and feeling sort of numb.

Soumya stepped in. Like a guardian angel. She distracted Anji, offered her a snack, and got me together simply by her compassionate presence. She told me she had been in those exact shoes before on a previous travel and knew exactly what I was going through. A porter offered to find some milk in a nearby café and took our bottles. Anji started to calm down. By the time the milk came, she had dozed off.

That night, I needed someone, I needed help. Soumya was that help. She arrived at the time when I needed someone to remind me what compassion was. She connected with me as a Mom and I will never forget how it changed my perspective in that instant. Somehow everything became more manageable because I was no longer alone.

At some point we exchanged numbers, I don’t remember when. Her sister was waiting for her, and I spotted my Dad as we walked out finally with our baggage in hand. We said goodbyes. I probably may never see her again. I hope that I will though. I still smile thinking of her.

With love, S.

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