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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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 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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liberation…

Those of you who have followed my blog and read my latest posts know that I have had a couple of hard weeks. I never regret them. Suffering always reminds me to practice compassion and to pay attention especially to moments of spaciousness and contentment. It makes me ask for help, and help always appears – in many forms. Sometimes, when I need it and I’m ready, help is everywhere!

I love to go on walks, and one of my favorites is a loop near my house which goes downhill and then up hill back. I’ve found often that the downhill part is great, very easy – but my mind tends to be distracted. But when I get to the uphill part, I’m always present. My breathing is heavy and I have no option but to pay attention to make it easier on myself to walk uphill. Thats the way life is. When the going gets tough, we really start practicing – we don’t take liberation for granted anymore.

What is freedom? what is liberation? Its a lesson that comes over and over in my life. I used to think freedom was doing what I wanted when I wanted. One of the images that comes to mind, is going on my bike downhill, from my home in graduate school days. I could see all of the town, and it was so beautiful, and the sensation of my hair flying in the breeze, feeling the joy move through me – that was freedom. Then my idea of freedom changed – another image that comes to mind is when on retreat, seeing this deer standing outside my cabin, just there, right there. And I was right there – present with the deer. That was freedom. Nowhere else to be. Now, when I feel stuck sometimes – unable to go on retreats or have bike rides whenever I want, I come back to liberation.

One of the ways help came was through ‘Fierce Grace’, a documentary on spiritual teacher Ram Dass. He is finding freedom in none other than a stroke. Surely I can find freedom within the constraints of mothering. But thinking about liberation isn’t liberation. Sitting in meditation I held this thought – but nothing happened. Only later on, relaxed, present, I realized: liberation is when we are right here – not holding on to anything or pushing back anything. No grasping or clinging. Everything is just as it is.

Our ability to be present is strengthened every time we pay attention to these moments of spaciousness – when we are open, not attached to anything in particular, and present. It doesn’t mean we don’t have desires, but our desires don’t rule us.

So, here I am, in this moment, liberated. Determined to pay attention so these moments. And somehow miraculously, just by doing so, I find more and more of them.

Blessings and 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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My book on amazon…

‘The Year of the Rose: reflections of a new mother and lessons in mindfulness and loving-kindness’ is now available on Amazon for purchase, both as ebook and in paperback.

I’m excited, proud, in awe that so much is possible in today’s world, and oh so grateful! If my blog speaks to you, I hope you will consider buying a copy! And please help me spread the word. Every purchase makes room for more such writing to happen…

With love, S.

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Independence day…

I’m having the good fortune of attending a women’s writing circle, with an amazing group of women. We each get to write our stories from the heart and share them – and it has been an absolutely uplifting experience. Here is one story that has come out of me, based on Joni Cole’s prompt: independence.

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One of the times when I felt truly independent in my life was on my 10 day silent retreat in Sonoma county in 2009. I had the wonderful good fortune to be in a small retreat – only 15 of us, with Michele Mcdonald, our teacher. Even though every day had a structure to it – periods of sitting and walking meditations, meal times, interview with the teacher and so on – I just remember time extending by. Time to simply be. I remember that it took a few days to settle into the quiet – but slowly the mind became clearer. I could really take in the beauty of my surroundings – the redwood trees were so tall – I had never seen anything like it. The zendo was so beautiful, the walkway from my cabin to the bath halls a lovely walk. The space in front of the dining hall was open and in late afternoon, deers would hop by unafraid or maybe accustomed to our presence. In the late evening, I remember seeing the sun set – the entire process talking over half hour as if slow motion – and I would see it through the cracks of the hall where I would be doing walking meditation – and I remember the pause before I would give in and came outside to see it more clearly. I remember walking by this slope by the garden and from there, I could see the entire valley – mountains, trees, stretching in front of me. I remember the silence this one afternoon when I saw a squirrel up there on one of the trees – seemed so impossibly high – and then drop down. Everything was slowed down – and that squirrel dropping had me hold my breath, until I saw it safely scurry up the branch below.

Freedom to me is surrender. It is surrender to our circumstances, our situations, so that we may have a choice in how we want to respond to it, to our lives. It is the freedom we have, when we get up in a crabby mood, and can see it and make a choice – on how to be with it. It’s the freedom we have to stop ourselves when we need to, and let ourselves go when we need to. It’s the feeling of effortlessness – that happens when there is no resistance. The precious moments of independence that have been most dear to me, have been when I really want to nap in late afternoon after a tiring day with our toddler Anjali, and its not possible – and I make a choice to let go of my needs and wants, and choose playfulness. Independence is for me, the feeling of time stopping – there is nothing I need to do. I have realized over time, that it isn’t necessarily that there isn’t anything to be done, but more that I am relaxed and there is no hurriedness so I can respond to what needs to be done with spaciousness.

Independence is letting go of my grievances – about my family or friends – so that I can make my choices out of love. It is letting go of the need to be on retreats to feel truly present. It is letting go of the need to feel or be a certain way. When I come out in the morning and look at the blue sky – it reminds me always of independence. There is so much space to hold everything – that even in the most difficult circumstances it is possible to be free. Independence is doing the things we care about while letting go of the need for them to be a certain way.

May we all be free and may we have peace.

with Love, S.

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The (imaginary) bike ride on the road across forever…

I’m sitting on the back porch, and almost feel like dozing off in this mid-afternoon heat. The birds around me are singing, going about their lives, and the tiny squirrel is playing with a wooden box lying on the grass, and the cat drinking water from the bucket we have outside filled up with rain water from last night. There is nothing to do, and nowhere else to be but here.

It’s funny I say that last line, considering that just 10 minutes I did want to be somewhere else. On the drive back home from lunch, we saw bikers on their motorbikes on the highway. It’s a perfect day for that – the breeze ruffling their hairs, the road open, stretching for miles, and I imagine that they have no particular destination in mind, and that only the ride matters… I want to do that. Just take a bike ride that goes on forever, the wind ruffling my hair, the road open on both sides with mountains and the wildflowers of the summer, and all the food in a cooler at the back. It sounds so appealing, right now when sometimes, I feel tied down – by responsibilities of my family – who I love dearly, and this time right now with them too, dearly. Is it possible to feel many ways about something? To love dearly and still sometimes wish the unfettered freedom that comes from being responsible for nobody but your own self? I used to think it was wrong, that you had to feel one-way or the other. Now I give myself permission for all my thoughts to exist.

Coming back to the bike ride, the ride that never ends, on the road across forever: what happens then when you get tired? Or get someplace and you have to stop? Or when you are driving, and your thoughts start to keep you company and they won’t leave you alone. Do you still remember to come back to the breeze? To the road stretching ahead? To the beauty of the journey? Or do you start thinking at some point of all the things that you need to do?

Doesn’t everything end at some point? What then?

Perhaps even if the ride doesn’t last forever, it has given the space, and perspective to think about things differently. Maybe now you want to come back. You want to love dearly. You want to come home. Just like this afternoon outside is giving me the space. Even as I type, I can see a reflection of myself on the computer screen, along with the trees behind, and the chair that I am sitting on – my hands going about their way, just like the birds and the squirrels. Perhaps this is what life is about– we all do our things, the things we are meant to do. And moments when everything finally makes sense. On this rocking chair, seeing this reflection, listening to this bird. Perhaps this is where life really begins. On this breath. And in this space, we remember suddenly: there isn’t a destination that matters, just the journey. And everything is welcome on it!

With love, S.

Ps: This is my 300th post – says wordpress. Hurray!! Couldn’t have kept up this blog without your support, so please keep visiting, reading and sharing your thoughts. And be well..!

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Making memories…

It is hot hot hot in chennai. We are all complaining, all of us except Anjali, my nineteen month old daughter on her second visit to India. She is totally taking it in her stride with good cheer. And she has her instincts right – be outside in the morning when the breeze from the beach blows, go for drives in the ac car, and avoid crowded marriage halls under all costs.

Our time in chennai has so far been wonderful, relaxed for me, with my mom and dad revolving around Anji in a way that I can’t find words for. Its like magic, seeing their attention given so freely and watching them anticipate her every need and make sure she eats, she sleeps and she plays. On phone calls, I overhear each of them relating proud moments of how quickly she picks up things, how smart she is, and how even tempered (and how good with the iPad!). It is sweet and it makes me realize how special the bond between grandparents and kids are. It makes me glad I made this trip.

In the same room that I once studied for exams, read Jeffrey archer in bed and dreamed of potential boyfriends as a teenager, my darling daughter now lies, curled up on her belly with her face buried in the bed, dreaming her own dreams. It feels incredible that life comes a full circle, that it is my turn to give my parents: joy the kind only grandparents know and presence, of being and listening to their lives and their routines, now lonely without their two daughters, the apples of their eyes.

In this past week, Anjali has met new people, had new experiences and adventures, and our routines have been forgotten as we have played the way one plays during the summer vacation. I am a sucker for routines. Back home, If you told me I would let my child go to bed late or skip nap time to go to the beach, I would have scoffed. And here I am doing it.

I realize I’m learning the art of letting go, not just for myself, but also as an act of generosity, of giving the people I love something they will cherish – new memories. I learn too of the struggles my own parents went through when we were children, the struggles they never talked about, but they can now, with a sense of camaraderie. I too am a parent. This unspoken acknowledgment speaks volumes…

Mostly I feel peace, in this room that I grew up and that my daughter will know, and I hope, will come to make her own sweet memories, of hot summers and water melons and getting muddy on the beach, of power cuts and movie theaters and bhel puri and of crowded restaurants, loving relatives and pampering by her grandpa and grandma,

Tomorrow we head to a different city, Mumbai and Anjali will meet a different set of grandparents and I will get to see my beloved hubby.

So here is to sweet reunions, new experiences and to Childhood lived again, through generations…

With love,
S.

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