This valentines day is one for the books. For the past couple of days I have been running a fever, headache and cold, all classic symptoms of the flu. Except I thought I was over my quota! I had one just two weeks ago – that time it was laryngitis and I had to cancel class and it happened to be Abhi’s birthday. Sickness is pretty much my nemesis. It may be because I didn’t get sick very often growing up, so even at 30 plus, I don’t get it that it passes.
I tried sitting with it, but all I could feel was a haze enveloping me. What’s funny is that, I realized I had a fever only while I was practicing Joseph Goldstein’s 9 minute meditation on sunday evening, when I was feeling the heat and the cold in my body. I realized after getting up that I was never warm!
So yesterday, Abhi stayed home and made me hot soupy lentils for lunch, and in the evening he did the groceries and entered the door with half a dozen red roses. Normally I would be over the moon – I LOVE flowers. But I could just summon a Thank you, and wanted to crawl into bed again. I’m even scared of going to the Doc – what if they put me in the hospital? I hate hospitals, the only time I’m brave in hospitals is when it involves Anjali. When it comes to me, I’m just a plain sissy. Though at Abhi’s insistence, I’m seeing a Doc this afternoon – but not looking forward to it!
So, here we are on Valentines day, sick. But there is a silver lining. There always is. Anjali is doing great. and I got to sleep for hours cuddling with my hubby, taken care of in every possible way. I just lie in bed and call out for things and they appear miraculously. My feet get massaged at night when I’ve been cold. I’ve been held a lot. The red roses seem almost unnecessary in this light of care. Maybe, being sick is not such a bad thing after all.
…after a three week journey to India with little nine month old Anjali and hubby.
As we all settle in, my thoughts keep returning back home, the lovely memories and hearts captured by our little one. Babies have such a wonderful way of meeting change – with wonder and openness and without comparing or judging. At each juncture, Anjali surprised us with her way of adapting to the newness of the situation and making the most of it. Like the heat of Chennai and the humidity of Mumbai. The airports and security checks and air travel. New places and new homes. One incident that comes to mind was when we went to a temple and Anjali was to be weighed in a large scale so that we could donate equal measure of rice. We were sure she was going to say, she had had it! She had just woken up from a short nap. Instead she sat on the scale, gave us a big smile, and proceeded to examine the chains with which the scale was held with great curiosity. It was a kodak moment!
What also surprised me was how calm and patient I was through all this, traveling with Anjali. I was traveling alone on our way back, since Abhi had returned earlier. And I found that she and I had this amazing connection where we were in sync with each other. She would turn to me, with each change, to check in and see my response. And if it was an okay, she was okay too! Witnessing that and being on the receiving end was a precious gift. That is in addition to seeing my parents and Abhi’s parents as grand parents, and realizing how amazing they were!
Returning back home has its own set of challenges and wonders. Its nice to be settled back at home again at the end of a long journey. Its also hard because we miss what we had, the love and convenience of having family around. So yet again, we face life in all of its uncertainties and changes. And as our hearts learn to make their way to equanimity, I can’t help feeling grateful for everything that comes our way. The changes that force us to grow and respond in wiser ways, and how we learn something about ourselves in the process. May this learning continue, with love and kindness…
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
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.
Baby Anjali is here. A few weeks of life-changing transitions, of becoming a Mother, caring for another. Not always easy, lots of moments for practice. And in the middle of this, there is wonder…
what dreams beneath those sleeping eyes
that make you smile so
what secrets you carry in your fist
that closes and opens so
a puckering, a whimpering, a cry
then the most amazing smile
within moments, you show them all
a rainbow of life and joy
fluttering fingers like feathers
trembling feet soft as petals
the scent of milky white skin –
want to give you a thousand kisses
seeing you, this heart opens
a new being awakens
falling in love, a gentle rain
at long last this wait ends.
with Love, S.
Until you open your palms
you can’t see how beautiful they are
until you release your grasp
you can’t see what you were holding on to
until you put yourself out there
you can’t know which hurt you still carry
until you experience
you can’t know what you love
until you stay up at night
you can’t see the stars
until you let yourself be
you can’t hear the song of your heart
until you let yourself dance
you can’t know grace in motion
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.