Shuba’s Weblog

Journeys of the soul…

Setting Goals…

It has been a while since I wrote in this space…and I can only attribute it to laziness. I do have many ideas to write on that float in and out of my head, and before I can act on them, they are gone, poof!

It has been a wonderful summer. One of those incredible, lazy, long days kinda summer. We got some swim camps in, before a luxurious month in India, and back for another week of camp and a week off before school started. Perhaps, this was one of the times when I truly let myself relax. I read, I took naps, I ate good food and I spent time with family. This will be one of my cherished summers…

Of course the first week of school is both a welcome change and a big step change! Anji is in second grade (!) and I’m entering into my fifth year of teaching (!). I feel excited to see familiar and new faces of students and to begin using my mind and creativity again in the classroom. The school routine is wonderful too – both Anji and I do well on it. Anji is now familiar with her school and has friends and is excited for learning new things and facing new challenges. With her seventh birthday a week away, she is definitely going through a growth phase. It’s like her body cannot hold still and is bursting with energy and she is rushing through like the wind in the trees, exuberant and joyful. Sometimes, it is hard to keep up with her energy, but most of the time, it is a wonderful blessing to see her be active and full of optimism.

About a week ago, Anji and I sat and worked on goals for this year. I started with ‘school goals’ (of course, school being on top of my mind!) while Anji started with ‘happy goals’. One of us has our priorities right! :). We worked on happy goals, home goals, school goals and spending money goals. ( One additional category of relationship goals for me). I have to say, Anji’s goals were more direct and clear as compared to mine. For example: ‘don’t buy things you don’t need!’ under spending money goals and ‘don’t sulk’ under happy goals. Once I read hers, I gave a second try at making my goals simpler and more direct. My top happy-ness goals are: walk (at least 10 min everyday), meditate (at least 10 min everyday) and make time to play with Anji (at least half hour everyday). I’m pleased to say that by being concrete, I have managed to keep up with my goals 84% of the time! (guess how many days that is 🙂 ). Among other goals are ‘read new books together’ and ‘tidy only once a day’. The last one is particularly hard for me, since I can get obsessive about tidying. It feels good to have easier and more challenging goals, and I hope this can help me stay more disciplined. Funny, me saying this, for I am one of those for whom discipline has never been an issue. But perhaps, lately, I have been getting a bit too relaxed about it… 🙂

Hope your school year is off to a wonderful start. With the new moon coming up this week, it is a wonderful time to set intentions (or goals!) for yourself. If you have one you would like to share, I would love to hear it!

Be well and be happy!

S.

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Waking up…

The night was troubled – yet another decision to make about sleep training. I had hoped it would get easier each time we have to teach Gudiya* to sleep through the night. Yet, each time, it presents a similar challenge – how to do something that brings pain in the near future, but is more freeing in the long run. This takes wisdom and patience, the kind we can’t always find momentarily, the kind that requires us to make that leap from reacting to a stream of changes, to responding with intention. Intention – this is what I have to keep coming back to. As the Dalai Lama said, my intention was my protection.

This morning – waking up to a refreshed sweet loving Gudiya who snuggles with us, and sings her little songs of joy, as she greets a new world this day. All I want to do is snooze in bed. I try for as long as I can, and then shower and get ready while Abhi spends his morning time with his angel, reading her favorite book ten little fingers and ten little toes, as he chugs through breakfast of coffee and banana. By the time he is done, I’m ready to get a bite to eat and make Gudiya’s lunch and get her ready for day care.

Those 30 minutes seem to last for ever, as I multi-task, engaging her, eating my toast and manning the scrambled eggs for her lunch. Anjali is going round and round our island in the kitchen with a piece of toast in each hand, periodically falling down while practicing her new skill of walking. Each time, she wants to be picked up. Of course. By the time I get her into the car, and say good-bye to Abhi, I feel the familiar feeling of stress. Thank God, day care is just 2 minutes away. Gudiya is happy to see her friends but does not want to let go of Mommy. She would like it all if she could have it :). Darcy distracts her, as I make my way out. It is only after I get out of the driveway of the day care that I remember to take a long breath. Whew. That is a lot of work! My mind, alert from remnants of last night’s meditation remembers – ahhh – this is what stress feels like. There doesn’t need to be judgment about it.

After filling up my near empty gas tank, and straightening up the house and my attire, I barely make it to yoga class with Leslie – after a long time. My body needs it, but my mind is busy with judgments of my ‘tardiness’. I try and let go as best as I can. I tell myself, people have more important things on their mind than spending time reflecting on my tardiness. Thank God for that :).

Slowly, the practice unfolds. Leslie reminds us to pay attention. My mind starts to quiet down. As I do a forward bend, I get a whiff of peanut butter on the knees of my pants from this morning with Anjali. It makes me smile. This is what the practice does – open us up to all that is, in this moment right now. My shoulders start to relax, and open like they haven’t in days. The heat builds up, and then the peace afterwards. Shavasana. Sweet bliss. As I settle in into my body, my being, I feel whole again.

The point of this practice of mindfulness is to be more alive to this experience of being human. This involves feeling all of what it comes with. Confusion, self-doubt and judgment are right there – along with clarity, freedom and lightness of heart. All we can do is cultivate the skillful states of being, so that we do our part in living with wisdom and care. The rest is out of our control. May we move with ease through the changes in our lives – of breath, emotions, body, mind and heart.

With Love, Shuba
*Gudiya: endearment meaning doll.

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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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Karuna…

The more I practice being mindful, the more I realize the need to cultivate and practice karuna, or compassion. How else can we get through life when so much is changing all the time? The Buddha called the uncertainty of life, the ‘dukkha’, translated loosely as suffering, but really is the quality of dissatisfaction. What we do when we become aware of this in a momentary way makes all the difference. Dukkha exists. We can’t do much about that. How we respond though, is clearly our choice. Our conditioned response is to resist, because feeling the ouch of dukkha is painful. But not so painful as the resistance to it! When we learn to soften through our difficult times, we learn a new way of being, one that doesn’t depend so much on circumstance, and instead depends only on how willing we are to forgive and be compassionate and start over. every day, every moment, every breath.

When Anjali was really little, crying was her main form of communication. When she cried, it always threw me off-guard, in a tizzy, and I would be at a loss on how to respond. And then I realized a way to get through it. I would sing to her, and that would calm her down enough, so that I could then focus on figuring out what she really needed, with a clearer mind. And then I realized: the mind (and heart) when agitated, was very much like a baby. We could force our way in trying to figure out what was wrong. Or we could sing a gentle song, soothe the mind and then treat the wound with equanimity. It seems to me, the second approach is much gentler, and often results in a wiser response. Its something we’ll have many many opportunities to practice. Perhaps, the whole point of dukkha is to develop this compassionate heart…I think of some of my Teachers who embody this, and it gives me hope. Every moment that I have the gift of experiencing the comfort of a compassionate heart strengthens my faith. Peace is possible!

May we find ways to comfort our hearts during moments of dukkha, and find our way to peace,
with metta, Shuba

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Meeting this Moment…

One of my favorite poems is by a Zen monk Wu Men from the 12th Century, and goes as:

ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
When your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.

I love these lines. The simplicity of it and the unconditional peace that underlies it. It IS that simple. When you don’t expect this moment to be anything other than what it is, then there is profound beauty and peace in that.

It is simple, but not easy! I would be sitting with Anjali, playing with her, when this thought would come into my head: if only I could meditate now. I need only 10 minutes. Oh, imagine 10 minutes of meditation! That would feel so good. When will she sleep so I can get my 10 minutes… ? How quickly, the experience goes from enjoying my little one’s play to wanting something else other than what is. My mind chooses meditation because it is something I love very much. Your mind could choose key lime pie. Or a new car. It doesn’t matter what it is, just that wanting takes us away from the present moment.

There is a turning point in an experience like this, that repeats itself in various versions many many times in a day for each of us. It is how we respond when we realize that we are wanting. We are conditioned to judge ourselves which makes it even harder to return to the present moment.

What about a different response? Ahhh, wanting, my dear friend, there you are again! So easy, and like a mirror, we return to where we were. Ahhh, wanting. That familiar comrade of mine. So much space in that. A sense of lightness. Connection.

And then there are those moments of unconditional peace that we do experience in our lives. When we are present and don’t wish things to be other than what they are. In such moments, we can offer our gratitude. So many conditions come together to make a moment of peace happen! And like Wu Man, we understand in that moment that this right now is the best season of our lives!

With Love, Shuba

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Starting over…

Yesterday was New Year’s. It wasn’t the best of days here at home. Some tiredness, some tantrums, some sleepiness, some uneasiness. The day went by so quickly and I had a vague sense of dissatisfaction. Like the day had somehow fallen short of my expectations, even though I didn’t quite know what they were. I’m sure we all have had days like this.

So imagine my delight when I realized this morning that I can start over. I can begin again. Whatever those expectations were, I had the choice to drop them and come back to this day, this moment. just like that. That is what life offers us over and over again. A chance to start over. wherever we are. To come into it with a fresh perspective. To bring gratitude and love into our lives over and over again. To learn to forgive and let go. What a tremendous gift!

It leaves me expansive with delight. something so ordinary. coming back to the breath. to my feet on this ground. To my hands typing on this computer. To the sound of snow melting outside the window. Baby sleeping next to me. Very ordinary. and yet so much here!

It doesn’t matter that we get lost in our stories and expectations. Its the coming back that matters. the ability to start over. And its not a race! Even one moment of mindfulness in a day can wake us up. That’s all we need – a single moment of being present.

May we start over a million times each day!

With Love and Best wishes for a love and gratitude-filled new year, S.

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A gentle witness to the mind…

what am I trying to write about today ?

Loopyness of the mind. My mind has officially become loopy. and there is no way around it, I have to admit it. Most often I start writing, and I have no idea what I’m writing about. 10 minutes later, I have forgotten what my original intention was in getting on my blog. I think the biggest practice my pregnancy is teaching me is to let go of the need to be a certain way, to identify with what I thought was my ‘self’. A self, if there was one, I no longer remember. And I have to start over again and again. What could be a better practice for me? Someone who loves accomplishment.

I sit diligently on my cushion everyday, and after my meditation practice, I have no idea what I just did, and I have to start over as soon as I step outside the room. You might ask, why I take the trouble then, to sit. That is where my faith in my knowing has deepened. Some core part of me appreciates the deep peace and well-being I feel after sitting. But it cannot use any words to describe them, nor can it hold on to them. In some way, every day, I feel like a beginner, because I don’t remember what my previous sit was like.

I know, I could easily get distraught about this fact – of losing my identity. But I don’t, because I recognize that getting distraught doesn’t help. Gentleness and compassion on the other hand, does. Surrounding myself with people who understand and are supportive helps. So that is what I practice. A much needed lesson in letting go, starting over and new found appreciation for things that I may have missed before.

Having a loopy mind, it turns out, has benefits 🙂 Of course, they say, after child birth, all the hormones come crashing down, and I will probably return to my neurotic, obsessive and controlling self. But for now, lets just say, this actually may be the best thing that ever happened to me.

With honesty, S.

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Beginnings…

The Dance of Elephants
The Dance of Rain
The first snow of the season
The first colors change

The first taste of Ice cream
Cookies and jam
The first scent of lavender
Mistletoe and Jasmine

The first step you take
The first mittens you wear
The first cry of disappointment
And first consolation you get

Your first best friend
Your first Love
Your first vacation
Your first Moonlight

So much to look forward to
A lifetime of Joy
A tender heart full
Of Love and Delight!

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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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