Being with pain…

The pain is receding slowly. The drugged feeling is still there from the medications I am on, but the morning is so misty and quiet that I can’t help sinking into it. This past few days, have been dark. I have felt humbled by my body. Having pulled a muscle in my lower back a couple of days ago, I have felt pain, sharp shooting pain that made moving impossible. Thanks to medications, I’m slowly healing, but this is not one of those journeys I would ever take of my own volition. “Hey, lets see how this works”, were not my words. In my defense, I did not think, ‘why me?’ Rather, I thought ‘How come? How did this happen?’ I’m speechless at that quality of change that can take us walking, running, dancing, to being in bed, in an instant. I’m amazed at the speed of this change, and humbled and even sort of in a haze at how unpredictable life really is. And in every instant, I’m aware that this is temporary in a way, because I can feel my body healing, but what about those for whom this is not temporary? What about those who live with pain on a daily basis?

I’m getting a sense of how it is to be let down by your body.

I think in a way, when something like this happens we make space for gratitude. Gratitude for that same body that manages so many other things so well, that breathes, moves, feels sensations and keeps us alive. Maybe it is time to say a prayer to that body, to take in the fullness of all that it feels, the sensations, the spaciousness and the contracting. Maybe it is time to make room to be in the body without regrets or wants, but to simply be. And just maybe, that is where the freedom is.

And we make room to say a silent prayer for all those and all that which helps us, supports us and makes room for healing.

With Love, S.


The beginners mind

The days blur into one another – as I spend more time with Anjali and less time in pursuits of my own. This scares me sometimes – I must be doing something wrong! Why do I not remember the special feeling of a Friday – the end of the work-week? Now Friday feels like any other day!

It is moments like this that offer us the profound opportunity to cultivate beginners mind. Beginners mind is truly the challenge to cultivate when it is the same mundane routine everyday – snacks, meals, naps and diapers, laundry, washing dishes and more dishes, bath and playgrounds. It is also the most needed and the most rewarding. Because everyday routine offers a glimpse of something deeper – to be with our yearning for change and our resistance to change – both at the same time. To be with the conflict of breaking it up, and the comfort of holding it together. To see with new eyes what we didn’t think we could – and the possibility of it becoming something we couldn’t imagine.

All of this sounds lofty when you think of washing dishes and folding clothes. It is and it isn’t. Often when I’m washing dishes is when my mind is most caught up in planning ahead – meals, outings, emails and so on. And it is the coming back to this green plastic plate holding remnants of my daughters’ food that holds the key to my happiness: the reminder of a day of nourishment and satisfaction. It is this folding of small clothes that she is fast outgrowing – the blue frock with flowers she likes so much and which is way above her knees now in just a couple of months that reminds me of time passing by. This frock that I have to hide from her as I fold it, because otherwise she will want to wear this instead of what she is already wearing! Or her cute pajamas with blue cars that she looks so adorable in, in the morning when she wakes up next to us, having got there at some insanely early hour, her hair tousled, her spirit uplifted and ready for the day. Yesterday when she woke up, she pulled my hand and said ‘mama upping!’. Even in my sleep, I couldn’t help but smile.

These moments are what we get to take in when we cultivate the beginners mind. We get to see deeper into what we are really doing here. It is easy to forget that – in the midst of the tiredness and the reacting to a stream of needs and wants, disciplining and easing up and juggling schedules and trying to make it to that dance class or yoga or book group we so enjoy. We get to see that we are living, and there is love and this joy that is unfolding right in front of us, screaming at us to wake up and be restored in beauty and delight, this too will pass. So we may as well take it in.

With Love, S.


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.

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.

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.


I’m terrible with change. I hate that moment when things were going great and suddenly they aren’t any more. The moment (like this morning), when after peace and contentment, suddenly I’m face-to-face with irritation, anger, frustration, without any warning and left wondering where that joy inside of me disappeared. The moments when I thought I had it all orchestrated perfectly in my head, like a soap opera, and suddenly nothing is going my way. Moments when it looks sunny outside and I decide to go for a walk, only to find a cold breeze blowing my head off, making me wish I had stayed home. Moments when I want to be generous and leave a tip at the cafe only to find that I am out of cash. Moments when I want to tell the yoga teacher how great she was, but am afraid I can’t trust my voice to not break down into tears that I have no explanation for. Moments when I am bone tired after teaching an evening Math class and really just want to have a P&B sandwich, and crash. Instead I sit with hubby and eat lovingly prepared dinner and watch television, all the while resenting it and then judging myself for resenting it. And just before going to bed, hubby tells me that Steve Jobs is no more. That moment when I feel like screaming – why did you have to tell me that now! How am I going to sleep!! Because the fact is Steve Jobs is dead is so sad that I just want to cry, even though I have never met him in my life.

I can’t help thinking we create So much Drama in our lives, simply because we don’t like change. We don’t like it when we can’t control things, and when things don’t go our way (which we are convinced is the ‘right’ way). We hate it when we see someone in pain and there is nothing we can do about it.

That’s why we practice. That’s why in those moments, we try really really hard to take just one breath. and just one more. We tell ourselves – this is what anger feels like. this is what irritation feels like. This is what judgment feels like. We search desperately for that small ounce of kindness buried somewhere inside us. And we try hard to find where and sometimes, what is compassion in that moment. And slowly, surely, inevitably, we find that the judgment, anger and frustration are there no more.

The emotions will never stop coming. That’s what I’m realizing (to my disappointment). It simply is not possible – having emotions – the entire range, is part and parcel of being a human being. If we get angry, that doesn’t mean we have failed. It simply means, well, that we are angry. Being able to be open to that, and accepting and kind is what we endeavor to do in this practice. and we have keep practicing – sometimes for endless difficult moments, like being huddled in a tiny shack under the storm. And without knowing it, the storm ends. The sun comes out. and we are still standing. and so is the hut.

May we continue to be human…
with Love, S.

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.


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