Shuba’s Weblog

Journeys of the soul…

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 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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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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Reflections on the lake…

I’m standing in the lake with Anjali. It is about 6.00 in the morning on a saturday.

We are at the lake house which my dear friend Stella’s lovely niece Fern has rented, where we spent last night. This morning, we woke up really early – Anji and I. Anji started squirming next to me on the bed at about 4.00am– the result of crashing early last evening. I appreciated her valiant effort to go back to sleep, until she finally gave up at around 4.45am and said, mama, up! And then pointed to the bedroom door and added, ‘Door open it!’

So I got out of the bed, and we went out to the living room. We each pottered around, I changed her diaper – gave her some snacks – and then made the unfortunate decision to take her out on the porch to see this water bird, one that looked like a stork, that just sat motionless on a rock on the lake. Once on the porch, she could see the water. Of course, next came the plea. Water! Water! Water!

Anji loves the water. Its like she was born to be in the water. The first time she saw a beach, she was wild with delight. Last afternoon, her first time at the lake, she stood in the water with all of us, and looked just so happy. She saw the fishes and the bugs, and heard the frogs and she looked so big… and so small. She was so tiny, bulked up in her suit. She played, she explored her boundaries and mostly she was content to just be. No ipad, no iphone, no music. The nature provided all the entertainment she needed.

Today, right now, it is just the two of us. I thought the water would be very cold, but it isn’t. It feels nice. And it feels very still. We don’t see the fishes we saw yesterday– maybe they are still sleeping! I see a couple of loons swimming – and suddenly they disappear under the water. I didn’t know they could do that. I wait to see when they will come out – and suddenly they are at the other end. Can they travel so fast, or are these different ones? I wonder. I feel so present and so still – as if waiting for something, as if both of us are waiting for something. The household is sleeping – it seems everyone is. But not the frogs. And not this squirrel that is perched precariously on this bush eating something – a flower perhaps. Anji says: squirrel swimming. She is proud of stringing the two words together. I don’t know for sure if they can.

Anji turns her attention back to the water. She goes a bit further into the lake, the water still only her knee-deep. She loses her balance – and I catch her – so that she is swimming. It’s sweet. I’m thinking: this is incredible. I’m out here at 6.00 in the morning, which I would never do if it weren’t for Anji. I’m waiting for someone to tell me this is stupid, and she will catch a cold. But it doesn’t feel stupid. It feels wonderful!

It is also sweet to witness her trust that allows her to relax into this space. She moves towards the sandy shore – and comes back in. she doesn’t want to leave yet. I don’t know if I want to either.

Life feels so simple in this moment. We can be here as long as we want, until we want to leave – as long as she doesn’t get too cold. And when we want to leave, we can. I want to carry that with me…

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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Unconditional Peace…

Sometimes I have this distinct sense of experiencing ‘conditional happiness’. A sense of joy that I know is dependent on the conditions being a certain way. Last week, this was something along these lines: baby is doing good, Dad is doing good, I’m feeling well, day is beautiful, etc etc. We all have days like this, when things are going well. The boat is sailing smoothly. We are grateful, of course. But mostly, we start taking things for granted.

And then the boat starts rocking… 🙂

Suffering, the old trusted friend, comes along. Grasping, wanting, aversion, attachment. They all come at more or less the same time, don’t they? And I see my mind and heart struggle to recover balance. This struggle is always always hard.

And I’ve found that it is on these days that I can no longer take peace for granted. It is on these days that I really practice. I do what is necessary to feel peaceful again. I learn to be present – what other choice is there? And invariably, at the end of these days, my heart is softer and more connected. And I learn once again – letting go is possible. peace is possible.

It makes me realize that when conditions are great, the accompanying happiness is good. But it is when conditions are difficult, that truly presents the opportunity for unconditional peace.

May our hearts become as large as the bottomless ocean, on this journey,
With Love, S.

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Paying attention to Joy…

I noticed recently that we don’t like talking about joy or happiness very much. We love talking about our problems.We also love hearing about others suffering. I was in the bookstore the other day and I was struck by the fact that most books in the ‘have you read’ and bestsellers section had to do with suffering of some kind. Suffering is important and it has the ability to open our hearts to compassion. And yet…

What about Joy ? We don’t often talk about what makes us happy or joyful, and when we were happy. Its like we assume that happiness and joy is simply a natural state of mind that we can take for granted. Nothing special. And yet, it is this state of mind that most of us long for. We pursue what we think is happiness. We long for joy. But we don’t pay very much attention to it.

If we didn’t pay attention to when we are joyful or happy, and what brings us that joy, how will we know when it happens ? Paying attention to joy sustains us, it balances us. It reminds us that there are good times as well as bad. And it nourishes us.

A few days ago, I read a beautiful paragraph by one of my teachers Doreen Schweizer. Titled “Cultivate Happiness and Awaken to Joy,” she wrote, “Moving toward happiness and contentment does not mean that we ignore the suffering around us. It means that, to the extent we can, we come face to face with it and respond wisely and kindly. Trust small steps: Look for joy in yourself and in those you share the world with. Notice dog joy, baby joy, student joy, teacher joy, old-person joy…… Notice how you feel right now. Is there joy?”

I loved these words, and the past few days, I have been holding it in my thoughts. As I walked into a surprisingly sunny spring like day in winter, I noticed my joy at sunshine. (I called it puppy joy, I felt like one! ) Doing yoga after a long time yesterday, I noticed how happy I felt in class. Small things like eating a mango, an unexpected phone call. My own generosity and good acts. It is a very rewarding practice. It’s also neat noticing other people’s joy. It makes your heart feel warm and naturally wish them well. People’s joyful moments are touching. How simple they are.

One of the magnets I came across sums it up: “Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder…”– Thoreau

May we pay attention when that joy comes and sits softly on our shoulders…

with Joy, S.

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