Shuba’s Weblog

Journeys of the soul…

Changing selves…changing relationships…

I have often thought about this question: do we change with time? Is there an essential part of us that stays the same? When I visit India and see old friends, I’m often told that I haven’t changed at all. And yet, I also know that like a new haircut or a way of dressing, there is always change on the outside, but also on the inside. To me it feels like every experience we have, every person with whom we have a meaningful interaction, changes us in some way. When I think back on my own life, I can point to not just the people who have come and gone and changed me in some way, but also to specific experiences connected to those people, that have remained with me. It sometimes feels to me like I am a screen on which experiences pass through like a movie, but I as a screen also change and evolve in color and texture.

Obviously, the most significant people in my life have changed/transformed me the most. I know that my own choices in relationships have made me who I am today, every step of the way. My partner, my daughter, my closest friends have made me who I am, or maybe MORE of who I am even as I become more of them! But then also are the people who come into our lives not by choice, but by chance or without choice. These people, close family members, room mates, neighbors, people we have seen everyday at some point in our life, too change us, impacting us in ways we can never expect, more so perhaps than the people we choose to have in our life. This ME is colored by all of these experiences, and relationships…

I think of friends from the past, their sweet contributions to my self, moments shared over joy or despair, camaraderie or friendship, a friendly acquaintance or a deep relationship. I think of friends who are no longer in my life but have somehow changed the direction that my life was headed, like a river that is gently moved to a slightly different path. I think of friends who have provided that helping hand without expecting anything in return, during sickness or a crisis; during a rough spot or a smile on a difficult day. I think of the amazing thing about serendipity. Do we attract the people in our lives? Or do they arrive perhaps sent by a guardian angel somewhere looking out for us, giving us a chance on change, on possibility, on trying a different experience than we have been used to…

I think of the unexpectedness of it all. Bumping into a familiar face after a long time and how that can literally change the course of our lives. (That has happened to me, with one of my closes friends!). I do believe, every person in our life has a role to play, somehow, sent at just the right time, to be there in some way that we perhaps cannot comprehend. Sometimes, other stuff (like our own issues!) get in the way, but ultimately, every moment offers the potential for newness, of rediscovering ourselves in ways we cannot know, cannot conceive or imagine, and of appreciating the mystery and possibilities in life. Even when experiences are unpleasant, we do learn something; if nothing else, we can always learn compassion!

May we continually remind ourselves to be present and open to all that unfolds in life. Here is to embracing all of our experiences and gratitude for all the people who have touched us with their love and friendship!

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.

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Independence day…

I’m having the good fortune of attending a women’s writing circle, with an amazing group of women. We each get to write our stories from the heart and share them – and it has been an absolutely uplifting experience. Here is one story that has come out of me, based on Joni Cole’s prompt: independence.

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One of the times when I felt truly independent in my life was on my 10 day silent retreat in Sonoma county in 2009. I had the wonderful good fortune to be in a small retreat – only 15 of us, with Michele Mcdonald, our teacher. Even though every day had a structure to it – periods of sitting and walking meditations, meal times, interview with the teacher and so on – I just remember time extending by. Time to simply be. I remember that it took a few days to settle into the quiet – but slowly the mind became clearer. I could really take in the beauty of my surroundings – the redwood trees were so tall – I had never seen anything like it. The zendo was so beautiful, the walkway from my cabin to the bath halls a lovely walk. The space in front of the dining hall was open and in late afternoon, deers would hop by unafraid or maybe accustomed to our presence. In the late evening, I remember seeing the sun set – the entire process talking over half hour as if slow motion – and I would see it through the cracks of the hall where I would be doing walking meditation – and I remember the pause before I would give in and came outside to see it more clearly. I remember walking by this slope by the garden and from there, I could see the entire valley – mountains, trees, stretching in front of me. I remember the silence this one afternoon when I saw a squirrel up there on one of the trees – seemed so impossibly high – and then drop down. Everything was slowed down – and that squirrel dropping had me hold my breath, until I saw it safely scurry up the branch below.

Freedom to me is surrender. It is surrender to our circumstances, our situations, so that we may have a choice in how we want to respond to it, to our lives. It is the freedom we have, when we get up in a crabby mood, and can see it and make a choice – on how to be with it. It’s the freedom we have to stop ourselves when we need to, and let ourselves go when we need to. It’s the feeling of effortlessness – that happens when there is no resistance. The precious moments of independence that have been most dear to me, have been when I really want to nap in late afternoon after a tiring day with our toddler Anjali, and its not possible – and I make a choice to let go of my needs and wants, and choose playfulness. Independence is for me, the feeling of time stopping – there is nothing I need to do. I have realized over time, that it isn’t necessarily that there isn’t anything to be done, but more that I am relaxed and there is no hurriedness so I can respond to what needs to be done with spaciousness.

Independence is letting go of my grievances – about my family or friends – so that I can make my choices out of love. It is letting go of the need to be on retreats to feel truly present. It is letting go of the need to feel or be a certain way. When I come out in the morning and look at the blue sky – it reminds me always of independence. There is so much space to hold everything – that even in the most difficult circumstances it is possible to be free. Independence is doing the things we care about while letting go of the need for them to be a certain way.

May we all be free and may we have peace.

with Love, S.

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The places we fear…

Who among us hasn’t feared something? Fear, yet another emotion in the spectrum of human emotions – anger, rage, jealousy, kindness, love, compassion. The places that scare us have so much to teach us.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to sit with my fears. It was easy because I am in a situation about which there is some anxiety and a deep unexplainable irrational fear. I could sense how my body clenched up when my thoughts went to this particular situation. How my stomach muscles tensed and I sat on the edge of my cushion. and then I acknowledged that this is what fear feels like. acknowledge – that itself seemed a big relief!

Sometimes our deepest fears are hard to realize and acknowledge. It is much easier to pretend they don’t exist or simply react to them. The simplest way to become aware of our fears is through our body. by being present in our body. Then to acknowledge them in a non-judgmental way. Things are as they are. and that is okay. That creates space for compassion to arise. and wise action.

As long as we deny our fears, we continue to react, instead of responding, out of habit. There is no freedom there, because we feel like we have no choice. But once we acknowledge, there is a choice. Do we want to continue doing what we did or do we want to respond in a new way? We can think practically, on whether our fears are legitimate, is there a way to work with it, and is there a way to look at it differently that reflects our true intentions.

Not to say that is easy. But each step we take in the direction of honesty and truth, we come closer to freedom. of choice. Just like we can loosen the grasp of desire by mindfulness, we can loosen the grasp of the fears that hold us against our will.

Rumi says:

“Why do you stay in prison
when the door is so wide open?

Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.
Live in silence.”

Let us open the prison doors…may we be free,
With Metta, S.

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