Shuba’s Weblog

Journeys of the soul…

Vday woes…

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.

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returning home…

…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…

With Love,
Shuba

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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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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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Wonder…

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.

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Until then…

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

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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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The waves of magic that wake us up…

Being on a spiritual path is a difficult journey. Seeking truth and freedom is not always easy, especially since most of us have to balance our wishes for a meaningful, fulfilling life with the real-world demands of having a job, making money, paying the bills, getting the chores done. Sometimes time isn’t enough. Sometimes, inspiration just is lacking. We are in a spiritual rut and we know we need to get out. We need inspiration. What does one do ?

This is where, I think, symbols come in handy. Symbols are something of a reminder. They have the potential to wake us up from our stupor and reach the place of wonder that our heart knows, again. These symbols are cultivated over time by paying attention. They could be, and are, generally simple things which are meaningful to us. Like the photo of a loved one from a memorable moment. A favorite book of poems. Seeing the squirrel dig out the nuts. Finding the tulips bloom one morning. Fresh snow on the ground. The ocean’s tides that so unfailingly reaching the shore. Letters that loved ones wrote to us. A phone message from a friend just in time.

Trees are one of my symbols. The pines standing so tall, so beautiful. The word that comes to mind is ‘stalwart’. They are such stalwarts of strength and protection. And yet so flexible that they dance with the slightest breeze. Just the rhythm of their swaying reminds me of the magic. Of the journey to freedom. Every once in a while I would stop and watch on the trees dance. and my heart would smile.

What represents freedom to you? See if you can pay attention to what wakes you up. What lightens your heart at the end of a long dark day. Is it the Full Moon so splendid in its glory, due in just a couple of days ? Is it a clear night of stars that you happen to witness ? Is it the sound of rain outside the windows ? Is it the smile that lights up the eyes of your friend ? Or the tune that the birdie outside plays in the morning ? Or maybe it is just a bowl of steaming oatmeal on a cold spring morning or the smell of fresh pot of coffee.

What is it that wakes you up ?

With Love, S.

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