Shuba’s Weblog

Journeys of the soul…

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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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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preoccupations and reminders…

This morning I saw a flock of 16 geese flying through the sky in a beautiful V-formation. What a joyful sight! Perhaps spring is here. The weather is warmer, the snow is melting away and the energy is lighter.

I have been preoccupied. This New Year has brought for me an opportunity to pursue one of my many loves – astrology. Through leading new moon workshops at the Writer’s center in WRJ, made possible by the generous and amazing Joni Cole, I am somehow on the path to following one of my passions – combining astrology with meditation and journaling. The energy in the groups has been so amazing and healing for me as I too learn to live my truth and helps other live theirs. I am learning about groups and balance, structure and flow, yin and yang. And this has, as an added benefit, lead me to doing more readings for people – something I also enjoy immensely. Astrology balances intuition and science and allows for so much creativity and relationships that it continues to amaze me and leave me in awe of the incredible potential each of us hold, and how much we evolve with time.

So I have been preoccupied sometimes; ideas, words and prompts floating through my mind unbidden at moments. And that moment when I realize where I have been, holds a key – to coming back to now and seeing now with new eyes. Not tomorrow, not later, but now. In some ways, I’m even grateful for my preoccupations…

Yesterday, at the library with my daughter, I resisted the urge to check email on my iphone. My thoughts kept returning to this urge but I was staunch. No email. And in doing so, I found the beauty and simplicity of playing with gudiya. I found the awe and inspiration in how she put the straws and the connectors together to build a structure together. And as I was fully present – not pushing her, not withdrawing either, but just there – I was given an unexpected gift. At some point near the end of the play-time she gave me a smile of blissful contentment, leaned over, kissed me and gave me a hug, a simple gesture of her happiness. I was there to receive it.

Somehow these simple moments leave us transformed. These add up so that in the hard moments, we are able to better sustain our mindfulness and stop ourselves from reacting. These moments make our ordinary lives ‘more beautiful’, as gudiya quotes from her book, and they remind us that joy is always a possibility here now. In these geese and in this kiss.

So here is wishing you a spring full of possibility, joy and peace.
With Love, S.

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Musings on beauty…

I’m thinking this morning of beauty. Dressed in a white frock with pink flowers – in tulle – with a pink jacket on top, our daughter Anjali, is looking gorgeous. At age 2, she has her own tastes for clothes – has had them for as long as she has been able to express herself – and she seldom likes to wear dresses. But this morning, she wanted to and I was more than happy to give in. Her preschool class is celebrating Valentine’s Day and the white and pink seemed right. That when combined with heart barrettes on her hair, two of them, one on each side, and her black pants.

I hardly ever have time to get Anjali dressed nicely (or myself) for school. It’s usually the basics – something she can move easily in and is warm. So it made me feel great to see her look so beautiful and healthy (knock on wood). And as I reached for my usual puffy warm jacket, she tugged at my royal blue one. My royal blue jacket is gorgeous – bought at saks-avenue a few years ago over thanksgiving break, it is the most beautiful jacket I have ever owned. I hardly ever wear it because it looks so fancy but how can one refuse a vision in pink and white? So I gave in – and felt gorgeous myself.

Basking in a few compliments, I’m moved to write about beauty today. The kind of beauty that sneaks up on us and makes our heart warm. It’s the kind of beauty that takes us by surprise and reminds us of our capacity to be touched by love.

Last night I went to bed grumpy, feeling tired – and not feeling appreciated enough by my hubby for all that I do. I wanted someone to notice all that I do – all the laundry, the groceries, the time I spend with my daughter, and the other million things that a Mom does each day. And this morning I expressed my feelings as best as I could. My sweet husband said he would listen better and try to appreciate me more.

And then after he has gone upstairs to take a shower – I open the fridge for something and see it. The jar of walnuts. He had put them back from the counter in an effort to clean up. It makes my smile. Only my sweet darling could put walnuts in the fridge! He was trying. And I was touched.

Some moments come unbidden without forcing, arising on their own and changing the course of our day. Days when Anjali comes in quietly into our room at 5.00 am and climbs into the bed under the sheets and snuggles next to me, her tiny being so warm and small and full of heart. Even though we know we have to take her back in 5 minutes, back to her own bed, I savor those five minutes for which I have no words and that I didn’t make happen.

This morning after all the snow we have had, the skies were clear, the sun shining and the sky was still purple in places from early morning sun rise. Anji and I talked about squirrels and when they will come out. And Valentines day and what that means. I asked Anjali if she wanted to give someone in her class a valentine. I told her I would be giving one to dad. And she says, ‘I want to give valentine to Dada’!. Dad is her hero after all, the one who has endless patience with her, always attentive, never says No and plays with her every night at bath time. Of course Dad was her valentine. And mine. For keeping the walnuts in the fridge and washing my mug of left-over Bournvita.

So here is wishing you a happy valentines day – to spend with love and appreciate the love in your life. You only live once. (Unless you are James Bond, in which case you only live twice!).

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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Fall…

Sometimes life is full of surprises. Just when I’m cruising along, something hits me like a ton of bricks. Nasty cold, headaches, awful rainy weather…IT doesn’t seem to take much. But it brings with it humility.

Nothing lasts – and it is a good reminder this season. I feel a tinge of sadness as I watch the leaves fall outside our window – the trees shedding their autumn garb getting ready for the winter. I so want to hold on. Hey wait! don’t go! But my words fall like the leaves in the cool air. Not much I can do about this.

My only respite is to remember this is how I felt last year during the fall time, and the year before. It always happens. and then when the time passes and the first snow of the season arrives, there is joy again. Perhaps this is the dance we will do until eternity – joy, gladness, sadness, heaviness. Perhaps it is the sure sign that we are alive.

Sadness doesn’t have enough space in our lives. We think we have to be happy, joyful brimming with good cheer all the time. But thats not possible so we set ourselves to feel bad. But when we make space to be sad, to embrace what our hearts feel naturally – with the passing of seasons, friendships and ice creams, the things we love – life becomes more real. We become more honest. There is no pretending anymore.

So I finally did what I needed to – went for a long walk – took in the foliage, hues of yellow, the leaves scattered everywhere, falling. I felt the cool air touch my skin, the leaves telling me their goodbyes in soft whispers. I felt my heart open just a little bit. It was all okay. There was enough space to hold it all.

With Love, S.

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Simple moments…

There are some moments, when we are in them and fully present, we see the miracle of life – how simple it all really is. Its when conditions come together – conditions we had no control over – but we are right there. And in doing so, we get to witness beauty and grace in its full expression.

I’m thinking as I write this, of our moments today at the farmers market this evening, with Anji dancing to music, and me sitting right there near her. There was no one to meet, no play dates or plans made, so we were free to be. The music was jazz/blues so it was very relaxing. The wind on the cool fall day ruffled our heads and the sky overhead was a bright blue. People were browsing the stalls, new students at the college filling up brown bags, girls carrying flowers, parents with small kids pottering about. In the midst of all this was stillness. Perhaps it was stillness in here. Everything was just as it should be.

I looked at her, my daughter, two years old, her hair tousled from her nap earlier, her nose slightly crusty from her cold, in her polka dot jacket and pink pants. She was in bliss – she was dancing to music. She was with her Mom. It wasn’t too noisy. Her world was complete. And in its completeness, I was included.

I had lost my patience earlier in the afternoon when she had an accident with the potty training. We had been patient – she and I and Abhi – in this endeavor and she was starting to get the hang of it, liked it even, being bare-butt so much of the time. And then in a moment of absorption while trying to build this miserable tent for the third time in 20 minutes, my attention was focused elsewhere and she did it, her business. I was annoyed – and I knew it in that moment. I took a deep breath but it took a few minutes to settle down – the resistance.

Perhaps that moment was perfect too – I just wasn’t there to see it – I was busy being somewhere else –the place where I didn’t have to clean up, where things were the way I wanted.

When things don’t go our way, how we respond is a good thermometer of our inner readiness and calm. Like food dropping from the plate on a freshly vacuumed floor, or potty accidents, or unexpected red light. If we are not in a place of readiness, it’s a good signal to slow down, to take that deep breath and to start over again. And when we are, that is worth noting as well.

So I lost my patience over potty, but I found it – hiding in the fall breeze at the market, under the wide-open blue sky, surrounded by trees that will change color soon, with my daughter dancing. In that moment, seeing freedom in motion, love in my heart, I scooped her up, and gave her a big kiss. And then I let go so she could go back to dancing.

Some moments are just right – the conditions absolutely perfect – that is when miracles happen. We don’t control them but we can show up!

With Love, S.

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One of those days…

Some days are long and hard. They usually come in the wake of the easy joyful ones. On such days, we write. Or we do something that reminds us that not all is lost. There is hope yet, redemption of the soul for all the stuff that we go through in life – for the boxes we are carrying that fall in the middle of the street, or the plates we drop that is the first signal of something going wrong. Something is off and we don’t know how to stop it. Sure there are plenty of warning signals – the kettle boiling over or the sink clogging up. But we are not as smart as we think we are – not when it comes to others. We can barely keep up with ourselves! Its only when the ship is blowing at full steam that we get it! We are far adrift.

It is one of those days. Yeah, it is one of those days.

Then we smile. Not because it is one of those days but because it happens to all of us. It may be something we are doing wrong – which is usually the thought in my head. But maybe it is just life happening: unpleasant and pleasant (neutral too, but I mostly sleep through that one). All of it. We beat ourselves up – could we have stopped this? Could we have said the right thing? Or the wrong thing? Or nothing? Could we have stopped this thing we are on?

No. That’s the right answer. Because we aren’t super human, only human.

Only human, and so extraordinarily human. Its one of those days just so we don’t forget that important piece of wisdom. That we are so vulnerable with a heart that breaks over and over again, and comes together to start over. What is this heart made of? I wonder. What mechanistic fibrous porous elastic osmotic material if that is what there is, is it made of? What cells, what blood, what else? Some moments when I’m convinced that my heart is no longer working, that I can no longer feel anything, something comes up. A stray thought, a loving moment, and suddenly the heart is in full swing.

All it seems to really want is an acknowledgment, a kind ear, a helping hand. Acknowledgment that it is one of those days. Somehow that works. If I could figure out how, I would win the nobel prize. But because I can’t, I’m going to stick with this: this writing on one of those days that reminds me that all is not lost. There is still this amazing delicious frosted lemon poppy seed scone in front of me. And the whiff of jasmine green tea. And outside in the quiet after the rain, the flowers bloom in plenty on the side of the train station. All is not lost. There is still hope.

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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liberation…

Those of you who have followed my blog and read my latest posts know that I have had a couple of hard weeks. I never regret them. Suffering always reminds me to practice compassion and to pay attention especially to moments of spaciousness and contentment. It makes me ask for help, and help always appears – in many forms. Sometimes, when I need it and I’m ready, help is everywhere!

I love to go on walks, and one of my favorites is a loop near my house which goes downhill and then up hill back. I’ve found often that the downhill part is great, very easy – but my mind tends to be distracted. But when I get to the uphill part, I’m always present. My breathing is heavy and I have no option but to pay attention to make it easier on myself to walk uphill. Thats the way life is. When the going gets tough, we really start practicing – we don’t take liberation for granted anymore.

What is freedom? what is liberation? Its a lesson that comes over and over in my life. I used to think freedom was doing what I wanted when I wanted. One of the images that comes to mind, is going on my bike downhill, from my home in graduate school days. I could see all of the town, and it was so beautiful, and the sensation of my hair flying in the breeze, feeling the joy move through me – that was freedom. Then my idea of freedom changed – another image that comes to mind is when on retreat, seeing this deer standing outside my cabin, just there, right there. And I was right there – present with the deer. That was freedom. Nowhere else to be. Now, when I feel stuck sometimes – unable to go on retreats or have bike rides whenever I want, I come back to liberation.

One of the ways help came was through ‘Fierce Grace’, a documentary on spiritual teacher Ram Dass. He is finding freedom in none other than a stroke. Surely I can find freedom within the constraints of mothering. But thinking about liberation isn’t liberation. Sitting in meditation I held this thought – but nothing happened. Only later on, relaxed, present, I realized: liberation is when we are right here – not holding on to anything or pushing back anything. No grasping or clinging. Everything is just as it is.

Our ability to be present is strengthened every time we pay attention to these moments of spaciousness – when we are open, not attached to anything in particular, and present. It doesn’t mean we don’t have desires, but our desires don’t rule us.

So, here I am, in this moment, liberated. Determined to pay attention so these moments. And somehow miraculously, just by doing so, I find more and more of them.

Blessings and with Love, S.

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