The best season of our lives…

May 1st, 2018

This morning I did something that influenced the rest of my day. My phone was nearly out of storage and I wanted to see if there were any old videos I could part with on my phone. That led me to seeing some of Anji’s videos when she was really little. She is now seven and a half. It was so wonderful! One video in particular of her about a year old, walking around and munching on this cookie with music playing in the background and my soft face filled with the light of love.

Anji woke up soon after and joined me in watching another video of herself at about three years old, singing an Indian song. It was so sweet, to see how much time has passed and how much she has grown and yet how there are these essential qualities to her that are the same in all these years that I have known her and cherish in her, as her mother.

When I dropped her off at school and watched her in my rear view mirror, her tall sweet self chatting with her teacher while holding her backpack and the big paper bag in her hands that had her costume for Romeo and Juliet later this week, it really struck me. How quickly this time will go by, and how soon she will be all grown up, and how much it means to me to be part of this growing up, witnessing this amazing process of her becoming and being Anji. My heart felt tender and grateful to be alive on this particular day.

This poignancy in life, this unmistakable fleetingness of it, of time passing and of firsts and lasts are what make us cherish life even more, and make it even more urgent for us to be present for those moments. How easy it is to forget this! Perhaps Spring makes this even clearer- this miracle of nature, of growth and blossoming into a new phase in life while letting go of the residues of winter, to create more space for love and light. May you have a spring in your step and delight in your heart! I leave you with Wu Men’s poem:

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

With Love, S.

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April – May Reflections

April 2018

April was a month of connecting with old friends. After nearly 13 years, I visited with my college roommate and her family in North Carolina. Another dear friend flew in from Canada to join us turning our time together into a rocking reunion. It was amazing to see each other and to begin where we left off, to share our journeys, our lives, and to realize that even though we have all changed so much over the years, we are also all still the same; there is an unchanged core within us – almost as if even back then, one could look through and see the futures each of us has chosen! We stayed up each night until late, chatting, the way we used to back in hostel days. I look at our pictures of being together, and we all look radiant! It was also tremendous fun for our kids to connect; and to see my friends in their children, like this continuity of life through the next generation.

Interestingly, around the same time, I was connected with my department buddies back from college through Whatsapp. This too was bittersweet – to see family photos of college classmates and get a snapshot of past and present. Things we remember (and don’t remember!) back from those days. To learn where each person is, and how their journey has been in the past 17 years. It was also interesting how much of the music I (and others in the group!) remembered from college days and the memories associated with the songs. Recently, I heard on NPR that our brain makes associations with music and life experiences more vividly from ages of 17 – 21. It made so much sense; how often music from that time transports me back instantly to key experiences from that time…

What I did find was that my mind juggling between past and present started to get tiring; and while introspection and reflection can be so powerful, I feel much more grounded anchored in the present! A weekend break from my phone was much needed and deserved!

What has April brought for you? Or May and spring? I’m just catching up on my blog, as you can tell!

With Love, S.

Reflections on a snow-day…

It has been a while since I wrote in this space. The recent snow, though has wreaked havoc on our school routines, has brought some time for reflection and pause, which is a welcome respite during the busyness of our lives.

The snow… I was explaining to Anji last week how incredible it was that I had not seen snow in my entire life until I became an adult and came here to the United States. How hard that must be for her to imagine, growing up with it. Though I don’t like driving in snow, I love snow days. I love watching snow fall like puffy cotton falling, how it makes the trees look so beautiful, with puffy bits hanging on, and how calm and clear things seem to be on a crispy winter morning under the sun. Winter, with its short days and long cozy evenings is meant for slowing down our rhythm. One of the things this winter has found me immersed in, is reading books: I read five of a series of books called The secrets of the immortal Nicholas Flamel, a fantasy series; and am now beginning my second book of the Neopolitan novels by Elena Ferrente. The Oscar season always brings with it, the joy of escaping into a good movie. I enjoyed in particular, the shape of water and the Black Panther. Early dinners and board games after have become a favorite ritual of ours on some of the school nights. After intentionally deciding as a family to cut down on our commitments towards after school activities, it feels like we have more time to read together, to have spacious time, and make time for joy.

It’s funny, this thing we call joy. Reading ‘hardwiring happiness’ recently, I am reminded yet again, the elusive quality of joy. So much of our joy comes from ordinary moments in our lives; and how easily they pass us by when we are not paying attention. And how paying attention requires us to slow down. And how slowing down, is not always comfortable. On Sunday morning, I was making my hot cup of tea, while Anji was having her breakfast. I felt this rush of feeling, of good health and gratitude to have an open day, a healthy child (bouncing back from a cold), food to eat and a bright morning. It is hard to describe this feeling; since so often it comes with trying to hold on to it, by analyzing why and how to make it continue. In that moment, I felt perfectly contented. I am sure my mood went through changes during the course of the day, reacting to circumstances; but I remembered that rush of feeling several times that day; its memory brought me more happiness.

It is so easy to take for granted these moments. For example, today Anjali showed me traditions from around the world in this cook book she is reading. (I know: I have a daughter who reads cookbooks for fun!). When I asked her about our traditions, she said we didn’t have any! I was dismayed since I have spent so many years trying to cultivate traditions (like coconut laddoos for Diwali, chocolate bark for Xmas etc!). Then I reminded her of our simple tradition: of having dinner together as a family each day: such a simple thing, but so easily taken for granted. And I saw her have an AHA moment. I think, when we remember to celebrate the simple things, with easy delight and happiness, we show our little ones how to do it.

So, may this winter, and snow bring you some ordinary moments of everyday delight; moments that nourish us and make us better capable to respond with kindness to an increasingly volatile world around us. May we appreciate these moments and take them in!

Love, S.

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.

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.

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.

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.