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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That wild, that loving in the heaven of earth…

I’m thinking this morning of the Mary Oliver poem on Luke. I’m driving gudiya to the preschool she goes three mornings a week. I’m singing the Illayaraja’s ‘Kanmani’ song to her, and feeling generally uplifted. And all the thoughts – the weighing of the good and bad in my life and its various variations disappear. Poof. Just like that.

The reason my life has come into review this week is because I have a job interview this afternoon, my second one with this imaging research group. The position is for a research analyst and is reminiscent of my graduate student days – before I got mired into the world of writing grants, and managing students – and gave it all up to be home more with gudiya and to keep my sanity. At my previous interview with the group, they asked me, why would you apply for this staff position, given your CV? My only answer was that I wanted to do just research without all the responsibilities that a faculty job involved. That is part of the truth. The real truth is that my life as a Mom has plenty of responsibility in it. I don’t want to seek more – not of my own volition.

But am I ready to go back into work? This involves a full-time job and I am sure I don’t want that. “But you could work 30 hours a week” – chimed in my whatever-you-want-to-hear-dearie mind – if they would be amenable to that. I am not sure I want that either. But then gudiya starts school this Fall – Montessori – and I am scared at the thought of my life passing by while I wait for her to be back from school. I can think of all kinds of rationalizations, but really I am feeling the urge to move, to change, even as I am scared to death about it. I love my life as it is, part of me exclaims. Not yet, not already!

Anyways, as I am singing kanmani after dropping off gudiya, memories of my college days flash by. They were among the favorite days of my life. I have had the most incredible friends who saw through me and accepted me and loved me. So many dear friends come to mind. I was lucky to meet many amazing people. We had fun times and I have been meaning to share old photos from those days on FB. They have been out and about in our living room – I have been showing them to gudiya, but mostly just enjoying seeing them myself.

And this thought hits me as I am reminiscing and driving: we did not know then – in those carefree college days – that it would not last. We would never have that time again – the time when we were young, without responsibilities, of fun and flirting, and of discovering our own selves through our new-found relationships. If we had known, would we have appreciated it more?

And what about now? Here is another phase in my life that is pretty amazing. To have the time and make the choices to be able to witness the growing miracle of my daughter – and my husband as a Dad – and to discover what it is like to be young again – and what it is like to play. What it is like to read the same book for the 10th time and still witness the same incredible laughter and joy as the first time from Gudiya, and to witness her unending, enduring energy and capacity for play, imagination and fun. Of long summer days of farmers markets and cold winter days of story times and libraries. Of bouncy houses and meeting other Moms and sharing stories and making connections.

What is different about this time now is I know: that this doesn’t last. Its one of those bitter-sweet things about childhoods. These carefree days of my gudiya as a toddler learning, playing, growing will pass. Just as my gudiya’s early months passed by – the miracle of seeing her sit up, seeing her crawl and then walk and then learn to talk and then put ideas together. They will never be back again. The miracles continue but I don’t take it for granted. Mostly.

And then sometimes I do. I forget.

Like some days when she refuses to take a nap – there have been more of them lately. I’m exhausted, cranky and want out. Some escape from what seems sometimes a lasting-forever cycle of snacks, potty times, books, and cooking and washing dishes and laundry. I can’t seem to remember anything else. Is this what I signed up for? In that moment of judgment – and of course there is judgment – that’s the most ready weapon when we tether on the edge of exhaustion – I forget and I take it for granted. I forget the miracle of having a healthy child, of having the luxury of being home, of feeling these frustrations and still knowing I love my babe. Thank goodness, I always wake up. In time to appreciate.

So really, it is okay. This is life. That is the truth of it. We may make choices based on what we want, what feels good, what is pleasant, what our priorities are but at the end of the day, our choices are about relationships. And it begins with a relationship with ourselves – how we relate to all of this, all of ourselves – all the moods and all the feelings.

So after a week of weighing and feeling weighed down, I am finding the light, the light that is streaming through the windows, the gorgeous sunshine of a spring day, a day full of possibilities, a light that is everywhere. I don’t know what my future will be and it is okay. What I do know is that feeling Mary Oliver was talking about in Luke and how…

“…easily
she adored
every blossom

not in the serious
careful way
that we choose
this blossom or that blossom

the way we praise or don’t praise –
the way we love
or don’t love –
but the way

we long to be –
that happy
in the heaven of earth –
that wild, that loving.”

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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A moment in time…

The Buddha on the windowsill looks at me with his eyes open, as if puzzled: what are you doing? He asks. The candlelight flickers sending shadows on his stony face, like he is grinning, or maybe laughing, or both. I feel very loved, like a benevolent child under the loving eye of her benefactor. The crickets go about their song – continuous but still with gaps. I think of the word intermittent. And my thoughts too flow intermittently. The breeze is gentle on this quiet summer night.

Tonight is a blessing. The lawn mowers have stopped, done with their work on the grass, work that seems to always happen at odd hours in my neighborhood, and not so welcome at times. Certainly not when it is noon and Anjali has just gone to bed, or at 8.00 in the night when I want to finally just be quiet. There are no planes overhead either – maybe the Lebanon airport has Tuesday nights off. Anjali is sleeping – today she didn’t do her usual half hour of singing and talking to herself about her day. Today she was too tired, and her voice dropped after 5 minutes leaving complete silence. And when Anji is sleeping, Abhi tends to be very quiet downstairs, looking at his iphone and possibly making his moves in scrabble, or playing his chess games.

Really the only sounds seem to be the crickets and my typing which feels rhythmic and even. The words are flowing from somewhere, and I watch the screen fill up. I’m amazed that this even makes sense: a moment in my day when I let my guard down – there isn’t my child to feed, to make sure she takes in something even though her urge is to not eat much when she is sick. It’s hard to let go of that habit – it is perhaps the most difficult and draining task sometimes. Today I danced my way through it without my usual strong hold of attachment. Some pieces of bananas, some rice with ghee, a piece of tofu and some dahi. None forced – my daughter, going to be two years old in a couple of weeks, has now learned to say politely, ‘no thank you’ and I stop trying immediately because it is so darn cute.

I actually savored my dinner tonight – a delicious omelette made with mushrooms, chilis and cheese made by Abhi, on delicious sourdough bread. I could feel the gooeyness of the cheese along with the heartiness of the bread and the earthiness of the mushrooms. When was the last time I savored so much of a meal? I don’t remember when.

The words seem to be slowly ebbing as I too gear up for the night. Thought I don’t want to leave yet – I want to sit on this chair forever and let the words flow, as I wait. Perhaps the waiting is for that moment when I will feel the urge to move. And then I will get up, shut this computer and move on. My thoughts will restart into the planning mode and I will let them be as I make my way to bed. There will perhaps be one stray thought that manages to tilt the boat – but maybe tonight I will catch it in time and sleep in peace. This writing here today, on one window of wall somewhere in the Internet world captures one moment of my life when everything is just right and I know it.

In that silence of knowing, I can rest for these few moments.

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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Hanuman’s magic…

I was about 12 years old, when I overheard my Grandma and one of my cousins talking about Hanuman. They were saying how chanting Hanuman Chalisa, in praise of Hanuman the monkey God, made one brave and courageous like him. At the time, I was quite shy and afraid of many things. So I took it to heart and decided to learn the chant. Everyday, I would chant Hanuman Chalisa while bicyling to school. I believed in the prayer. and I did become more brave – my faith in Hanuman was complete. I chanted the shloka every day through college. When I came to the US, I stopped, not by any particular choice, it just happened that way. And then when I got pregnant, I thought of Hanuman again. I needed to get through this new phase with love, and not fear. and Hanuman could help me do that. The Hanuman of my heart always did.

Stories of Hanuman abound – he is the mighty, courageous, brave son of the Wind God. And also generous, wise and humble devotee of Lord Ram. His devotion to Lord Rama was utter and pure. He climbed mountains and crossed Oceans for Ram. There are many pictures of Hanuman as worshipped in mythology – of him carrying the Sanjeevani mountain – the entire mountain of herbs to cure Lakshman, Ram’s brother. Of him by the feet of Lord Ram, Sita and Lakshman. The one I have, which is one of my favorites, is of him hugging Ram. The embrace says it all – the friendship, love and devotion that is possible on the path. The merging of the devotee with the God. A faith that is beyond doubt.

This morning, looking at the picture, my heart filled with that love and joy again. Anjali was in my lap, studying all the pictures in the altar studiously. And then as I explained the magic of Hanuman to her, she smiled at me – like she understood completely. She got it!

May we bring the Hanuman of our hearts alive…
with Love, Shuba.

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Love…

I have written many times about self love. It is probably the most important and on-going practice of my life, practice because it is so hard.

But today, I want to write about the love of the other. The love of another being that touches us, moves us, nourishes us and fills us with happiness. The tender unconditional spontaneous love we experience through relationship with another. And just how much it can fill our hearts with loving-kindness and gratitude.

A grueling couple of days due to unbearable heat, lack of sleep and exhaustion. My mind spinning in circles. and then, like a thirsty traveler in the desert coming across an oasis of water, receiving love from another being, so timely and generous and unconditional. Touched and filling my being.

In a beautiful book I read and reread recently called ‘the elegance of the hedgehog’, one of the protagonists talks about this love:’This pause in time, within time…the peace of mind one experiences on one’s own, one’s certainty of self in the serenity of solitude, are nothing in comparison to the release and openness and fluency one shares with another, in close companionship…When did I first feel so blissfully relaxed in the presence of a man? Today is the first time.’

This connection with another being, this dance that unfolds in easy unburdened intimacy…doesn’t happen always. Sometimes, we struggle to find the right beat, the right moves, falling this way and that. and every now and then, we find the perfect rhythm and we move in unison. and magic happens…

and when that magic happens, soak it all in…

with Love, S.

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Seeing…

The sweetness of the soul
is reflected in the one who sees
The gentle caress of attention
reveals the heart’s light and darkness

The playful breeze touches
the body melts within
what grows stronger
is the flame burning within

With Love, S.

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Generosity of heart…

One of the five precepts of Buddhism, presented in a beautiful way by Amita Schmidt, reads as ‘Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow to practice generosity’. Preparing for a meditation sit tonight, my eyes and thoughts rested on these words. How beautiful. Generosity has always called me deeply. It has been one of the easiest ways for me to feel happy – when I give or receive kindness.

Generosity is a big word. It is expansive, all-encompassing, abundant. The practice of generosity opens our hearts to how much we have to give. And how much we receive each day from others that has the potential to move us and touch our hearts. And the more we pay attention to generosity, the more it appears in our lives.

Today, I was at a flower shop buying a plant for a colleague who just moved into a new space. After shopping, I asked the owner if I could get a sip of water – I was thirsty, and hadn’t anticipated the heat. I anticipated a small glass of water in a cup. The kind man went inside, brought me a chilled bottle of water, and gave it to me free of charge. He didn’t have to. The taste of cool water to a thirsty mouth- I knew I was receiving generosity. Someone giving me something I needed, at just the right moment, out of sheer goodness of heart.

Giving the plant to my colleague – seeing his face light up and come alive. Such a treat, as always when someone receives your gift with delight. With generosity, I always wonder, who is giving and who is receiving. The lines are blurred in the presence of the expansive wide openness of the heart at such a moment.

Have you noticed how it feels, when a friend or loved one gives you their undivided attention? When they listen to what you are saying, truly listen, with no other agenda in mind? Doesn’t it feel special, like basking in glorious sunshine? I love those moments of grace and beauty that loving attention gives us. That too is generosity. The best gift we can give ourselves and others. and certainly the best one we can ever receive.

When I feel particularly scarce in my heart, or needy, I reflect on something good someone has done for me. or that I have done for someone. Some special deed that has brought a spark into the day. and I revel in that goodness, soak it up and let it fill my body and mind slowly like the taste of delicious honey. It never fails to lift me. Try it sometime!

So much of generosity comes from reflection and appreciation. Of ourselves and others. When we feel abundant, we have more to give. And this has nothing to do with our external situations. Even a penniless person can give – the divine grace – through their attention and love. You know how a flowering plant comes alive in the sunshine, how it blooms and flowers ? That is how a person comes alive in the presence of that loving attention.

Feel the breeze touching your skin. The space supporting you. Your body holding you. The coolness under the shade of the trees. The sip of water when you are thirsty. The taste of a cookie. Allow yourself to bask in this generosity that is present in every moment. Receive this grace of love and attention that you long for. Rumi says, (translated by Coleman Barks, The soul of Rumi), in ‘some kiss we want’:

There is some kiss we want with
our whole lives, the touch of
spirit on the body.

That touch of undivided attention and unconditional love – can you give that to yourself ?

With Love,
S.

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Relating with compassion…

So much of life is out of our control. We would LOVE for things to go our way, it would be so much easier! but it doesn’t always happen. One minute we are enjoying the clear blue sky and the trees, the next moment, we have hit a rock and are lying flat on our faces. The sheer unpredictability of life can be daunting, if we think about it. Of course, conveniently, we don’t. we pretend everything is stationary in time. and then when things change, we are disappointed.

It always surprises me, the resistance that comes up when things are going a certain way and then they change. I got to witness it (yet again! ) last week. My husband and I were on vacation, and I would have these blissful moments of peace. And then, suddenly without warning, it would change. (new realization – pregnancy hormones really do make your moods volatile!! ) And I would be sitting there in shock wondering where did that moment of peace go ?

We try so hard and do so much, but really we don’t have the tiniest bit of control. Take the body. whether you pay attention or not, the breath is happening. are you doing anything ? You may think, by becoming aware of your breath, that you are making it happen. But that’s not really true. So much activity in our body is happening without our knowledge. digestion, blood circulation, elimination. baby-growing (in my case). the sheer range of happenings in each moment is amazing, and this is just inside us! so is there anything we have a choice in?

The only choice we have, is in how to respond to what comes up in this moment. Not whether we have joys or sorrows, but how we relate to them when they arise. Do we want to relate to them with judgment and self-recrimination, or do we want to relate to them with softness and compassion ?

It has been quite beautiful seeing this new way of being played out in action. In the past couple of weeks, I have had the opportunity to practice with Sharon Salzberg’s guided meditations and cards on loving-kindness in the CD (‘Unplug’). And what amazes me is the space and softness this practice of relating opens up.

To relate with compassion and softness, we have to cultivate the habit to do so. When you get up in the morning, don’t curse yourself for sleeping late (it doesn’t change a thing, believe me! ). When you feel fear, don’t make it worse by adding judgment. When you eat ice-cream don’t berate yourself after the fact.

Relating to ourselves is a journey of each moment, of meeting what arises with lightness, readiness and forgiveness. Of caring for ourselves enough to wish ourselves well. Of patting ourselves at the back for generosity and kindness, and forgiving ourselves for trespasses and hurts. So much beauty in this journey. and freedom.

May we relate to this moment with kindness,
With Love, S.

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