Shuba’s Weblog

Journeys of the soul…

Old and new…

Writing from Tuckerbox during winter break! It feels like months or years since I have been here, and it probably has been! The coffee shop has expanded and now offers Turkish breakfast and lunch in addition to American staples. I like the familiarity of the seat by the window overlooking the train station, and I also like the newness of being waited on instead of ordering at the counter. New versus old: I think I just found the theme of this post!

Here is what is old and familiar in no particular order:

• Anjali is still our alarm clock for the day. Now 6 years old, she wakes us up every morning with calling out the time (6.14 am today!), and climbing into our bed to snuggle. It’s our cozy time of the day. I remember a lifetime ago, fighting to get up earlier to have some time to myself. Nowadays, I have no such qualms. I love snuggling, being in between sleep and wakefulness and grabbing those few extra minutes of hugging a warm body before beginning the day. Especially when it is the first day of winter break!

• We live in the same house that we have lived in now for nearly nine years. The view from Anjali’s room shows the sun streaming through the clouds above the trees in the horizon. The snow has nearly melted after yesterday’s warmth, but not quite. The view has been familiar for as long as I remember being in this room – and yet as I look around the room, I notice how much has changed. There are snuggly toys in every corner of the room, books strewn in different places (in various nook places that Anjali sets up for herself), pencils, markers, and smaller toy figures at various places on the floor. The room of a growing, creating, book loving, BIG on cuddle toys child that Anjali is.

• As I come down the stairs, on the dining table is the recorder that Anjali has been learning to play (new!). It’s a busy morning – we are looking for the wand, for the wizard camp that Anjali is off to this morning. Abhi saves the day by reminding us that something fell under the piano last night. Lo, and behold, the wand is found and peace is restored.

• Pulling into art gallery this morning is familiar, as Anjali has done camp here before, most recently last summer. And yet, all the children have probably grown a few inches taller. The teacher looks happy to see familiar faces and I imagine, that she marvels at their growth. On my drive back, I think of how the teachers would feel if a kid stops coming to camp the next year. Would they notice? Would the child be missed? I don’t imagine that when people move, they would write to their camp teachers that the children will not be coming to the camp anymore. I make a mental note to do that, if we ever move. Though perhaps that is the last thing on one’s mind when you are moving! Why wait to move? Maybe I will write a note today – just saying how much appreciate the art camps Anjali has been coming to.

• I notice how hard it is to write about what is different. There are so many small things that feel different – but would they count? I wonder. Like taking care of my skin again, especially my face and going for a facial sort of regularly. Its something I never had to before! I was mostly blessed with good skin and did minimum of maintenance. But now, as I grow older, my skin needs a little bit more loving care and I feel so good doing it!

• Being back at dance class again is new! Making it to class regularly once a week (5 weeks now!) feels like a huge accomplishment – it means that I have made a choice once a week to take sometime to do something I enjoy and love and that is good for my body! I don’t know why this is so hard to do, when it seems pretty easy to make the choice to do music or skating lessons for Anjali ! I realize that some of it is that I love routine. I genuinely love sitting to dinner with my family and eating together. I love bath time and reading books with Anjali and the predictability of the routine. I give up both of them but just for the day!

• Getting back to date nights (or rather, movie dates!) is new. Having one-on-one time with Daalu more regularly feels like entering a new phase in the ‘parenting’ journey somehow! This weekend we watched the movie Lion. Really nice movie with a wonderful uplifting ending. We saw Hidden Figures a couple of weeks ago, which I absolutely loved and didn’t expect to be so good! and told all my students to go watch (a wonderful intro to factoring and the usefulness of Euler’s method – If you can’t tell yet, I am a math teacher! ). Date night is possible mainly thanks to a wonderful sitter whom Anjali adores.

• Ice-skating is new. Anjali started skating lessons in the fall and watching her progress inspired me to try skating. While I am still pretty slow, it feels amazing to try something new, and to skate with Anjali, even if only for short bursts of time (she is so much faster than me! )

There are some things I would like to try this year, inspired by my friend Maribel, who though no longer physically with us, continues to inspire me to live life without fear and embrace every new experience that comes along the way:

New recipes, new places to visit, to see more movies outside my comfort zone, read more books, make it to a retreat, feel more beautiful, make new friends, cherish old friends, choose forgiveness whenever possible, say No to guilt, appreciate others when possible and be kind and have fun and be silly and not fit into a box and dance more often!

With love to you!
S.

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Thanksgiving…

The moments that leave the clearest trace in our minds, it seems to me, are the ones for which we show up. When we felt that sensation of air touching our faces, or the warmth of that hug, the scent of that pancake or the sound of that song, taking in the experience, holding the memory in our bodies. Today, running on the green with my 5-year old daughter Anjali, feeling her joy and laughter as the fresh air touched our faces, and we fell on the grass laughing, catching the ball, is one of those moments. What a precious gift, it felt like, to have time to be with each other, without rushing.

As a mom, some of my sweetest moments are when I am holding her, taking in the beauty in her eyes, in her being, smelling her hair, running with her, listening to her explain the rules of her new game, weaving my fingers through her silky (sometimes stubborn) hair. In witnessing her moods, her ever evolving independence, her amazing capacity for concentration and work like doing mazes, working on puzzles, applying glitter glue on the stars she cut out so carefully…Or when she comes into our room every morning, ready to greet a new day, with the pride of having accomplished a good night’s sleep or when she wakes me up from an afternoon nap, always so excited to share the happenings I missed…she brings so much joy and peace into our world, just by being.

“Good luck to mom, love, Anjali”, said one of her notes. Another note was wrapped on a present – one of my bags – and said: “happy happy birthday to you”. Though it is not yet my birthday – and yet such a sweetness of thought. The tender lovingness of her care and her contentment in being, as she hums a song, or dances across the rug in a leap of faith… Being present for these moments is what makes me happy, and fills me up, so that I too am content in my child’s joy. Perhaps, I am the child here – ever evolving – learning to step back, or lean forward, making mistakes and learning from them – dancing this song and the next as I hope I am imparting whatever is most meaningful to me. Being kind, making time, playing, dancing when the music comes on, singing on top of the voice, in the car, and seeing the sunrise and the full moon. As I witness the unfolding of the most amazing mystery of seeing my daughter grow – into her being.

With love, S.

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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.

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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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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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Happy new year…

I haven’t written in this space for over three weeks. It has been quiet inside. I haven’t felt the urge to share, and I have deeply appreciated the quiet from not using as many words. It was timely and needed.

Life has been providing me with similar opportunities as before, to grow and be kinder and start over and take care of myself on this journey. The lessons always seem to be the same. It has made me humble and also grateful for so many good things in my life.

There appears to be more silence to come, and someday sooner or later, I will pick up where I left and write again.

Until then, I wish you warmest blessings and wishes for the new year. May this year bring many surprises, opportunities to grow and learn and be mindful and compassionate and let our light shine.

With Love, S.

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A sucker for beauty…

I am a sucker for beauty. Whether it is a sunny day, or the shine of my daughter’s brown-black hair or her silhouette against the window in the morning sky as she stands at the sill or the pink sunset on a winter day or the sight of my husband Abhi curled up on the couch, I love every moment of beauty and I have a hard time when it changes.

I look at each fulfilling day and it has so many small moments of inexpressible beauty that I can only marvel at, that come unbidden in my life simply because I have made the space to show up. Each day has moments of exhaustion, needs unmet and things undone that I wish I could have gotten to. Some times they bring tears that wash away the grief of being human, of being limited sometimes in perspective, energy, compassion and wisdom.

Words want to flow through me like a river, but something is stopping them – this need for them to be amazing and lead me somewhere of some true understanding and insight whereas the only place I want to be is here right now. In a sleeping house, with the candle lit, and incense burning of sandalwood and the quiet sounds of my daughter napping and the distant thought of my husband getting a break and watching a movie. The more distant thoughts of my sister arriving in India, and going through immigration and my parents delight at seeing her. And the even more distant thoughts of Anji waking up and going outside to get some more of this wonderful sunshine. And thoughts of knitting this beautiful purple sweater, and all the while when I knit the wondering of the next project I will work on, as I slowly make my way back to this stitch, this knit, this soft yarn that will envelope my daughter in warmth. Thoughts of friendships and brunches and teas that may or may not happen but still keep me warm company on a holiday Friday.

All the thoughts of what I’m supposed to accomplish or write or teach or find a job vanish in this space. All the thoughts of dinner to make, laundry to fold, bed to make disappear. The lingering sensations from the warm shower on my body and my slightly damp hair remind me of quiet moments where silence is sweet. Moments of meditation where there is stillness amidst all the thoughts remind me that there is space. Slowly as I write this, I feel the urge to hold my daughter’s tiny warm hands again. I hold her hands when she goes down the stairs even though she is perfectly capable of going down herself, because there is just nothing like holding her hands, feeling her protect me from all the things I am not, and feeling her bless me into all the things I want to be. When she sleeps, she looks just like the baby she was over two years ago, the same peace, and the same feeling of the unknown dreams and sensations that keep her company.

Distant sounds of trucks and planes come and fade away. Sounds of my typing arise and fall as my own thoughts compose themselves without my volition. Abundance holds itself in this room where everything is just as it should be.

I’m a sucker for beauty and I want to hold on just one more moment…

With Love, S.

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On Gladness…

What does it mean to be happy? When are we truly happy? what makes us happy?

I have been thinking of this lately. that happiness doesn’t have to do with my circumstance or finances as much as a state of mind where I appreciate what I have.

Its funny, I have gone through times when I’ve thought, ‘I would be happy if only…’. And then times when I’ve simply been happy. And the moments when I’ve felt alive and engaged and joyful have had nothing to do with accomplishments or vacations or sunny days. They have mostly had to do with small moments. Moments that come unbidden and surprise me.

Like when I come up before bed and find that my two year old has arranged the three tiny goddess figurines to all sit in one tiny chair and I smile wondering how she balanced them. Or when my husband can rub my feet and talk to me lovingly when I’m being cranky and irritable because we got late for bed, even though he is the one who had been up since 4.30 that morning. Or when my earrings match everything I wear and they are my favorite and I find them right by the counter. Or when I do yoga stretches in the library saying om – namaha so I stay awake – and Anji thinks its funny. Or when we run run run up the steps to go potty time, or when she recounts the book we read earlier and says sincerely, ‘swoosh goes the fan’ again! Or when I see her tiny fingers trying to imitate the movement of her teacher as she practices itsy bits spider. Or I see the trees move in the breeze nothing holding them back except their own roots, roots they can count on.

Perhaps when we notice gladness, there is more gladness to see. And we hold it lightly in our hearts, knowing it will pass. Everything changes, people lose homes in the course of a single day and that today what we have, the smattering of small moments, joys and successes is everything that can change our lives. As Mary Oliver says, ‘joy is not made to be a crumb’.

With Love, S.

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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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Transitions…

This is the time of transition. Fall is beginning, and in the course of the last couple of weeks we have officially said good-bye to summer in this part of the world. The mornings are foggy and cold and it is hard to get out of bed. The afternoons are pleasant with warmth in the crispness of the air that is especially welcoming after the mornings. And the evenings are so cool, it makes you want to stay out and feel all of it and see the stars, which are starting to come early in the clear skies.

Our own family is going through transitions – both difficult and welcoming. We have begun a new routine with Anjali’s new program where she goes to the preschool three mornings a week for a little more than couple of hours. Following her second birthday over a week ago, we have started potty-training and while sometimes it can be tiring, mostly it is incredibly satisfying to spend time in the bathroom one-on-one reading, singing, playing and creating a positive atmosphere for her around the potty. We have started having dinners on the table, now about once a week, together all three of us – Abhi, Anjali and I. The first time was hurried and Anjali who hardly ever sits still, wanted to get out after just a few minutes with ‘all done!’ Yesterday, perhaps our third or fourth time, she sat and ate with us, with high praise for the food –rice, ghee, peas, carrots, cheese – “yummy yummy!”, she said. Abhi and I ate our meals in peace looking across the table at each other in amazement and gratitude and pride.

There are also difficulties with transitions – and we haven’t missed that either. Anji is more reluctant to let me go anywhere – with the attachment to my primary role of taking her to the potty in time. She has been waking up at night, perhaps because the diapers aren’t as comfortable anymore, and she demands then that I sleep next to her. I haven’t been able to go for my early morning walks – it is too cold for me to venture out the way I used to.

But none of these difficulties have taken the place of peace.

This peace is a surprise. I’m spending so much more time with my daughter now since she is no longer going to day care part-time – and I was terrified of losing my freedom. But it turns out the fear was mostly just a thought. My freedom is intact – the choices in any moment are still mine. And I keep learning what a compassionate response can be when a 2 year old wakes up crying or doesn’t want to share or gets impatient with her own inability to control things. I keep learning my own limits and what helps me get back to that space where I can give without resentment. And there has been an acceptance finally of my role as the primary care giver- which I have been all along but was too scared to admit having been a career woman most of my life before becoming a Mom.

The metamorphosis of life, of changing bodies and changing leaves brings with it a new possibility – of dancing with something new. When we embrace, we no longer suffer. Sure, struggles are still there, but not the added ouch that our thoughts and fears bring. And when we start to pay attention, we realize that the truth in front of us is actually different from our ideas. It is beautiful, freeing and graceful. My daughter is growing into a new level of independence – and as she gingerly steps into it, slowing embracing it as a new way of being, I too am doing the same. And this process seems to me to epitomize the beauty of change. We reach a new place and there is no going back.

With Love, S.

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