Shuba’s Weblog

Journeys of the soul…

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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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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I keep on falling…

…in and out of love…’. I was thinking of this song by Alicia Keys in the shower this morning. I even sang it, and thought to myself, this is what I will write about in my blog. Not about the song, but how true it is of my experience as a Mom.

I keep on falling in love with my daughter Anjali – and it only always happens after I fall out of love with her. I still always love her of course – but some days I don’t feel quite as ‘in love’. Not at 5.00 am some mornings when she wakes me up and I just want to sleep. Not at 10.00 in the morning on some days when I am so tired and I just want a nap – and she wants to hop and jump and go outside. And not during nap times – when it becomes a battle where I seem to have lost my intuition about how to get her to sleep. I find on such moments, that I ask for help. Where is Love? Where is that DEAR DEAR LOVE?

And somehow miraculously, as a result of my asking, love comes. Always after my anguish. In the form of sweetness. It is Anji who intuits that her Mom needs a break, and she comes up and cuddles with me in the bed. Or she devices a game of hide and seek and hides behind the curtain watching for squirrels as I come up from behind. and she giggles. Thats one of her new words, ‘giggle’. It makes me smile.

It seems to me, its always about how open we are to love, even when we don’t feel loving. How present we are in feeling that disconnection. Many times, I feel amazingly alive and present even as I am aching with disconnection and tiredness. As long as there isn’t judgment in it. And then that sweet moment when things turn around, when the falling in love happens all over again – those moments are well worth living for. For those moments of joy touch the deep aching heart like nothing else.

So then the moments pass. And we get some sleep and some perspective. and we realize how lucky we are to have love.

With Love, S.

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Is this one or is this two?

I have often wanted to write about this dance of separation and union that unfolds in the deep love between a mother and a child. How there are these profound moments of connection I feel with Anjali when I’m watching her play outside, walking in the fresh air, listening to the sound of the crows in our neighborhood and pausing whenever a car goes by. When she is pointing to the trees and the leaves and wanting to sit up on the cold bench with me – not minding the cold for an iota of a second. There is no separation between us – we feel, we take in, we see. I see my own surroundings as if for the very first time, and it never fails to delight me every single time.

Or like the mornings when we come down and I put on the Christmas tree lights, and feel her joy in seeing the tree light up, pointing to the snowflakes and the angel on top. Or the moment when the discovery of the teaspoon amidst the array of blocks brings out an exclamation: ‘OOOO’ that makes me smile. Or in the mornings when I’m lying in bed and I can hear her up, playing with Abhi and suddenly, she comes running into the bedroom in a pitter patter of small feet, and says Mama! And as I swing her into bed with me, I feel her utter uncomplicated delight. In these incredible moments, there isn’t a she and there isn’t an I, only a We.

I’m equally aware of the moments when there is a she and there is an I. And the I needs space. I need some time out. I’m tired from the demands of caring for a baby, changing the diapers, running after her to get her to eat, or to not put that paint brush into her mouth. When I’m with a friend and can’t finish my fruit salad with pudding, or when I’m cajoling her to not eat tissue paper and she doesn’t listen and I feel a twinge of irritation. Or sometimes when it takes half hour to get her dressed for the cold because she thinks its a game, and all I really want to do is sit and finish a warm cup of tea by myself and put my legs up, without somebody needing me. The moments when we are out of eggs and bread and milk and we have to do grocery shopping and just thinking of the effort it involves makes me sigh. It’s the moments when she is sick and I have tended to her for what feels like many ages that I desperately want to curl up in bed under the sheets. I’m so tired. These moments, I feel the agony of separation and disconnection from my gudiya and it hurts more than the actual physical fatigue.

This morning reading the lines of Wu Men brings it alive:

‘Moon and clouds are the same
mountain and valley are diffeent
All are blessed; all are blessed.
Is this one or is this two?’

These words make me smile. I don’t think Wu Men was thinking of motherhood when he wrote this, but he has hit that deep place in my heart that knows the truth. Sometimes there is one, and sometimes there is two. That is simply the way it is. This heart moves through it seamlessly. It is the mind that finds a difference.

May we welcome all that comes on this journey.

With Love, S.

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Beginnings…

Life is amazing. We hit the wall and think we can’t make it through. And then we take tiny steps gingerly. and suddenly we are flying!!

It has been an incredible year starting with Anjali’s birth on September 11th, 2010. The journey was probably in motion already, but that was the turning point. I look back and see a woman who so wanted to embrace her inner most desires but was afraid to. And now Thanks to Anjali and her amazing superman Dad, my husband Abhi, I’m finding the courage to leave my job as Professor at Dartmouth.

Last month was a month of introspection – of taking the time to be with uncertainty, self-doubt and fear of letting go. Of playing this incessant dance of confusion and clarity. Just like after incessant rain, things clear up in a marvelous way, somehow miraculously, things started coming together.

I found a position at the local community college to teach Math one evening a week. It doesn’t pay much but is just the kind of thing I want to do – put my skills to some practical use in the community. I got some excellent feedback on my writing from the Writers Center – and am thinking of self-publishing my memoirs on becoming a first-time Mom. My beading is on sale in a local store called Brambles (I hope they sell! I’m very proud!)

I can now spend time now with Anjali without feeling guilty about it, without dreading my work, without constantly feeling like I should be working or reading papers or writing grants or going to conferences, which, after a decade of doing them, I no longer want to do.

One evening, as I sat with how crazy it is to leave a secure well-paying job and status for something that is just a hunch, I came across this poem of Rumi called ‘gamble everything for love’ translated by one and only Coleman Barks:

Gamble everything for love,
if you’re a true human being.
If not, leave this gathering.

Half-heartedness doesn’t reach into majesty.
You set out to find God, but then you keep stopping
for long periods at meanspirited roadhouses.

Don’t wait any longer. Dive in the ocean, leave and let the sea be you.’

The message was loud and clear! Rumi is incorrigible! 🙂

I don’t know what my future will look like. and that feels okay. What I wish for is that there is so much of Love that it overflows to everyone around. Gratitude for the abundance in life each day every day. And the knowing or at least striving to be present.

May we find the courage to fly – not in spite of the fear, but with it!

With Love, S.

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The flow of life…

When we make room to be imperfect and to make mistakes, we tap into this universal feeling in the world that sometimes we can’t be on top of everything. Sometimes, the human side of us that is vulnerable and overwhelmed comes to the top. Much as we would like to ignore that side of us and pretend that everything is great, that side is very much present, and today – demands attention. When we make room for that to happen, we start truly living where we no longer try to control what we can and cannot experience; instead we embrace everything that comes along: the hurt and the judgments as well as the love and the generosity.

This is a relief really, because we no longer have to pretend to be in control! We can then surrender to the current flowing around us, and let our inner soul guide us to see the choices we do have: how can we be kind and loving and open in the face of this uncertainty of life in each day – the roof falling when we need it the most, or the lack of water when we get really thirsty. When we embrace this too as one of life’s vicissitudes, that is when the skies rain water and the clouds provide the mist for our protection …

What a relief it is to acknowledge the truth of our existence just as it is, and then choose to live and dance with that!! Therein lies freedom…

with love, S.

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Being in the now…

Some days, being present feels as elusive as a butterfly.

Sometimes, it feels like all I do, in my sitting practice as well as real life, is start over again and again and again. I get distracted and then catch myself somewhere else completely and like a groggy traveler waking up in unknown surroundings, I don’t remember how I got there. and then I begin again. body, breath, now. red light, baby, sounds.

And then yesterday, reading Philip Moffit’s wonderful book called ‘Dancing with Life’, I was heartened. He talks about the power of that intention to start over and that it is okay if that is all we ever do.

The freedom in this moment when we realize we are a thousand miles away – is to not judge. The less we judge, the easier it is to come back to the present moment. I loved Larry Rosenberg’s instruction on this: just like a mirror. we simply see and we begin again. That is the practice. sometimes, we are more focused and present. sometimes, we are more distracted and scattered. Mindfulness is noticing and accepting things as they are – be it concentration or diffuseness. That is the practice!

Like the moon reflected in the clear water on a cool night, our spirit is reflected in everything we do and see and hear and think. There is nothing that doesn’t have to be there – everything is just as it is. It is just hard for us to believe that the miracle we so yearn for with our hearts is already happening in front of us! So we close our eyes. And then the moments when we open them – and see that sparkle of rain on the window shining like a thousand diamonds. or the mist in the mountains trembling like a coy bride, holding a secret. When we finally hear, really hear the song of the bird that has been singing since forever. In those moments, we wake up. and that makes up for everything else.

With Love, S.

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The joyful art of being present…

It is a mid-spring afternoon, the weather playing a temperamental mixture of sun and clouds, the newly sprouted leaves dancing in the breeze, the apple blossoms heavy and the bees taking it all in. The geese are joyful making their journeys and it feels like we have a bird sanctuary in our backyard 🙂 I love the lilacs this time of the year, their heavenly scent wafting through the breeze. It all has the magical effect of calming me down.

I have been thinking recently of attention and the art of being present. I often beat myself up when I’m not paying attention, and sometimes, I try very hard to pay attention, and the effort feels heavy and pressured. And I know neither of them is really the wise attention the teachers talk about. Wise attention is relaxed without being heavy, and it is never supposed to be yet another thing to judge ourselves by!

Yet again, it is Anjali, my eight month old, who teaches me how joyful and effortless paying attention really is. She scans the floor in front of her, broadly, and then narrows in on an object of focus. She examines her object of attention with great detail. And then, after a while, she naturally broadens her field of attention again. In all of this, there are naturally moments when she gets lost, like she is somewhere else. When she comes back, it is very graceful like it never happened. And I can’t help thinking, paying attention is really that simple. When we are not paying attention, and we come back, we simply start over again. Just like that. And our field changes and broadens and narrows, going through a natural rhythm. It’s all something we already know, we have always known. We just have to trust it. And as we start to do this, we start to recognize the contentment that children know naturally.

May we bring wise attention into our lives,
with Love,
Shuba.

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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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Learning unconditional Love…

There are days I’m so tired that if I close my eyes, I could sleep for a million years. Some days, this is not a problem. I have the wisdom to know that this won’t last, and that some nights are better than the others. And then some days, this is a huge problem! I find my mind repeating over and over again how tired I am. It is this endless loop and negative thoughts arise easily in this loop. I forget the wisdom and I feel lost.

And then, not everyday, but once in a while, I have a breakthrough. Instead of resisting the ouch of tiredness with the stories that my mind comes up with, I feel it. How does being tired feel? Where does it manifest physically? And what can help me? Just acknowledging this makes me feel better! And that tiny space inside my heart starts to open…

It takes tremendous compassion to love the person we are when we are tired and sleep-deprived. On such days, I find myself having mean thoughts, acting unskillfully, and saying things I wouldn’t under normal circumstances. These episodes quickly turn into opportunities for judgment, which only makes everything ten times worse. My mind starts doing all sorts of dances: comparing, resisting, judging none of which feel generous in any sort of way.

And then the few golden moments: when I see that I’m judging, and I see the underlying conditions (lack of sleep!) that have given rise to the actions. I understand and forgive as a friend would. I think of Anjali, I smile and start over. It is a new moment. It is by no means a guarantee that I won’t act unskillfully again, but it does feel more generous in my heart.

I’m starting to understand unconditional love. It is about loving ourselves, not only when we are acting generously and we are on top of things and as present and loving as can be, but also when we are mean and acting with fear and not able to be as present. I’ve often found that when I’m willing to understand and forgive, my mind stops its “I’ dance, and is more willing to look outside of myself. And then I realize that life is challenging sometimes, not just for me, but for everyone. It opens the doors to compassion.

On days when I have moments like this, I can receive the joy with which Anjali greets the same toys and the same curtains and the same dryer. And I can share her delight in being loved.

With Love, S.

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