Waking up…

The house is quiet. All the people in my house (Daalu, Anji, my parents visiting from India) are resting, taking a nap this afternoon. I can hear the wind rustling through the trees, a gentle breeze through the late afternoon light. Anji is moving in her sleep, slowly crossing over from sleep to awake-ness. Have you ever been aware of that exact moment when it happens? There is possibly one definite moment when we are no longer sleeping, and fully awake. Isn’t that true of every time when we are no longer drifting in thought, but have become fully conscious and awake, present in the moment. The more we can pay attention to this moment of waking up, the more often we have the opportunity to begin again. And this beginning again and again and again and letting go of the past and the future and entering more fully into the now – this I feel is what builds our resilience and inner strength and open heart.

Of course, some moments are harder than others to enter into, they test the vulnerability of the heart, of how much we can stay open, not through sheer will but through gentleness. And yet, isn’t this too an opportunity through compassion, to begin again? Perhaps, that is why Rumi says:

“Why should we grieve that we have been sleeping?

It does not matter how long we’ve been unconscious.

We are groggy, but let the guilt go.

Feel the motions of tenderness

around you, the bouyancy.”

(translated by Coleman Barks)

For me, it is the time of year when my heart is tested, as many experiences from the school year near their end. This week, I had my last day of class with my seniors. I had always wanted to do this, this is the first year that I actually managed to do it: to write a card for each of my seniors, wishing them luck on their new adventures. My hope is that many years from now, one of them will find the card when they most need it, and know how much their Calculus teacher appreciated them!

Anji is nearing the end of her second grade, and that too is bittersweet, to see how much she has grown and learned this year, and all the many new experiences she has embraced so openly and bravely. She truly is an inspiration to me. Each last assembly, recital, homework and warm-up finds me moved, and my heart tender and my eyes close to tears. Somewhat ironic, as I have been suffering from dry eyes lately!

So, as we take in this incredible beauty of the summer, its fullness, fragrances and intensity, may we continue to wake up to our experiences and live more fully in the present…!

With love, S.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.