Shuba’s Weblog

Journeys of the soul…

Happy new year…

I haven’t written in this space for over three weeks. It has been quiet inside. I haven’t felt the urge to share, and I have deeply appreciated the quiet from not using as many words. It was timely and needed.

Life has been providing me with similar opportunities as before, to grow and be kinder and start over and take care of myself on this journey. The lessons always seem to be the same. It has made me humble and also grateful for so many good things in my life.

There appears to be more silence to come, and someday sooner or later, I will pick up where I left and write again.

Until then, I wish you warmest blessings and wishes for the new year. May this year bring many surprises, opportunities to grow and learn and be mindful and compassionate and let our light shine.

With Love, S.

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I keep on falling…

…in and out of love…’. I was thinking of this song by Alicia Keys in the shower this morning. I even sang it, and thought to myself, this is what I will write about in my blog. Not about the song, but how true it is of my experience as a Mom.

I keep on falling in love with my daughter Anjali – and it only always happens after I fall out of love with her. I still always love her of course – but some days I don’t feel quite as ‘in love’. Not at 5.00 am some mornings when she wakes me up and I just want to sleep. Not at 10.00 in the morning on some days when I am so tired and I just want a nap – and she wants to hop and jump and go outside. And not during nap times – when it becomes a battle where I seem to have lost my intuition about how to get her to sleep. I find on such moments, that I ask for help. Where is Love? Where is that DEAR DEAR LOVE?

And somehow miraculously, as a result of my asking, love comes. Always after my anguish. In the form of sweetness. It is Anji who intuits that her Mom needs a break, and she comes up and cuddles with me in the bed. Or she devices a game of hide and seek and hides behind the curtain watching for squirrels as I come up from behind. and she giggles. Thats one of her new words, ‘giggle’. It makes me smile.

It seems to me, its always about how open we are to love, even when we don’t feel loving. How present we are in feeling that disconnection. Many times, I feel amazingly alive and present even as I am aching with disconnection and tiredness. As long as there isn’t judgment in it. And then that sweet moment when things turn around, when the falling in love happens all over again – those moments are well worth living for. For those moments of joy touch the deep aching heart like nothing else.

So then the moments pass. And we get some sleep and some perspective. and we realize how lucky we are to have love.

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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Listening at the steps…

We have a set of stairs that lead from the downstairs with the living room, dining and kitchen, to the upstairs which has the bedrooms and the bath and the study. We have a gate at the top of the stairs, for Anjali – that was installed when she was about a year old. (Now she is 21 months old). But we don’t have a gate at the bottom. Mostly because installing these gates seemed such a pain that I didn’t want to do one more.

So any time Anji approached the stairs, I leave whatever I was doing, to monitor her going up the steps. At the beginning, she was unsteady. But soon, she became a high-speed climber. Now, she likes to go all the way up and close the gate behind her. She is very particular about ‘close’!

The reason I say all of this is that, at the beginning, I had mixed feelings about not installing the gate downstairs. But now it has become one of the best things I did, or rather didn’t do. Whenever we have folks at home or I am too busy doing my own thing – cooking, cleaning etc – Anji will go to the stairs. Steps, she calls them. She knows I will drop whatever I am doing and follow. So she stands there, at the second or fourth step, and sure enough, I come. She then grins at me and says ‘sit’. So we sit on the steps, my daughter and I. and I listen. I know its her signal that she needs some one-on-one with mama.

Like most Moms, when I’m preoccupied, I want to listen, but only manage partially so, which is not really listening. But I find that on the steps, I always listen to my baby. I listen to her making sentences that I don’t always understand. I listen to ‘baby doing hop hop on the steps’. I listen to ‘baby sitting with mama on the steps’. I always listen fully. And I learn something about Anji, and something about me. Something tender and beautiful happens in those moments and my heart is touched.

I wish we all had signals like this when we just need some attention. But then come to think of it, we do. When we are tired, when we are anxious, when our mind is in a loop, when we are judgmental – all signals to stop. Go to those steps, sit and listen. Just like a Mom listens to her little one.

With love, S.

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Relationships, pain and compassion…

I have been thinking recently of relationships – firstly of how I relate with myself – what is the tone of my inner voice and the quality of my attention. Just how much judging and doubt I bring into it – that mostly starts just as a tiny voice that simply wants to be heard. And also about how I relate to the people around me – especially my daughter Anjali.

At eighteen months, Anji has gone through a new development these past couple of weeks–that of developing emotions and their wider range – and with it, the struggle to hold them. The frustration at things not going her way, the disappointment when things end, and pain that she can’t have all her desires fulfilled. At 5.30am, she doesn’t understand why she can’t go out and see the construction (‘uction’ as she calls it…) And she can’t understand why after she had such a great time with her friend Tali yesterday, she has to leave and go down for a nap. Even though nap she did.

And when she woke up and Tali was not there, she cried. Normally my way of relating to her crying would become to make it about me – how I’m failing as a Mother or not doing the right thing for my daughter. Oh the helplessness of watching one’s child cry and not being able to fix it. But here was the opportunity for teaching empathy and compassion.

So yesterday when she cried, I held her and I gave her the words: ‘Anji upset, Anji crying. Anji miss Tali’. She cried some more and repeated ‘Tali Tali’. I listened and nodded and murmured my understanding. I held her some more. ‘Yes, miss Tali’. A few moments later, the crying gave way to whimpering. And soon after, it was replaced with the delight of playing. The tears were forgotten in jumping on the sofa and reading Danny Digger’s truck.

That was a breakthrough for our changing relationship and a valuable reminder for me yet again – that when we are pain, all we need is a simple acknowledgement and understanding. We don’t need fixes and we don’t need solutions. Just being heard is enough.

So when we sit with our own pain and breathe with our heartbreak, that’s what we do. We listen. We don’t react and we don’t try to figure it out. We listen deeply, attentively, and caringly. Our hearts feel like they are going to break, but we keep listening. And then something miraculous starts to happen. Our hearts start to open. The pain starts to feel sweet like wine because there is compassion. And tender like the morning after rain. And in that silence, we see the beauty of our longing for connection, peace, end of suffering and freedom. In that instant, we become free. Free to experience life in the moment – free to be present and make room for joy, gladness, peace or whatever emotion arises next. Joy too will not last forever, as nothing will, but we will be a bit wiser, a bit more gentle with our pain the next time around.

Wishing peace, S.

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Uplifted…

This week has been a miracle in terms of weather. We have had sunny skies and soaring temperatures during a time when snow is usually still on the ground and one is weary of a long winter. The effect of this kind of unseasonably warm weather is that it gets your spirits lifted – and you want to enjoy every ounce of being outside – because you have this secret fear that this may not last. So you take out your bike, and your hiking gear, and you go for a run or you play outside with your kids.

The first two days are incredible. You appreciate every moment of the newness, of the unexpected. You appreciate every moment of shadow and sunshine and long days to be outside. You enjoy the taste of the pistachio gelato that you haven’t had since fall last year. You smile at every one for no apparent reason. You like life and everything in it.

Then you forget. You fall back into your old ways, the ways of the winter, when your body was still cloaked in many layers and you hid behind them. You lament that you don’t have any clothes to wear because your summer clothes are still tucked away in a suitcase. You complain that it is too hot and unsettling because you were not prepared. You exclaim that you didn’t get to enjoy spring weather and have gone from winter to summer. And you forget that everything around you becomes invisible when you are in your stories.

At that point, if you are lucky – something or someone reminds you. “Hey!! Wake up! Look around you! This is incredible. This is magic. Look at the tiny yellow flowers. The sky is blue. Come, be outside and run wild, won’t you? ” For me that someone is my daughter Anjali.

This is her first summer (or like-summer) of being mobile, of being able to walk and run outside in the warm sunshine and she is determined to make full use of it every day. Each day to her is this incredible gift – a day where one has to be outside. There simply isn’t any other choice. So, at 7.00am, sometimes earlier, she takes her stand next to the door, and looks at me with her big black eyes and implores: ‘Outu’!!!! The first day I told her, it is still cold baba. Lets go in a little while. She seemed to see sense in that, for 10 minutes anyway. Then again, it was back to the door: ‘Outu!!’ And that moment when I acquiesce (secretly delighted at how much my daughter loves being outside, taking after her mother), she does a little dance and breathes fast in anticipation and says ‘outu outu’, like the words are the secret to the world’s most incredible sight. Of course they are. Children know something we forget.

The other day when we were standing by the berry hush. Anjali picked up a berry from the ground. I stood there watching – anticipating that she would try to put it into her mouth and I would have to say No. Instead, she took and berry and tried to put it back on the tree. Of course. It is that intuitive.

That is where the berry belongs and this right here – in this summer outside is where we belong. What we have today is a gift. Of course we forget. We forget that change is an invitation to start afresh, be more of who we want to be. And then something or someone reminds us. And in that moment, we remember. We become awake. And life becomes a little lighter, a little more interesting. That is when we are uplifted.

So today, I sit outside on the porch. Today, there are no complaints, just unadulterated, unexpected and grateful enjoyment of this gorgeous sunny day.

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sweet slumber…

What is the time of the day when your defenses are down? when you can be utterly vulnerable and open, and let go of all that you hold on to? when you trust in some body or something to hold you when you do let go? For me, that time of the day is bed time. sweet slumber. Its the time when I can drop my worries and rest in peace.

I wasn’t a worrier, but somehow I have become one. Motherhood, wifehood, job changes and so on. Familiar story. Now I worry a lot – about my daughter Anjali and her eating, my husband and how tired he looks sometimes, myself and my changing identity (s). I worry about others I love, how they are doing and how I am letting them down by not being as available as I used to. I judge my worrying too which makes it worse. At various times of the day, my practice makes me notice my leaning forward trying hard to control things that I can’t possibly. My noticing helps me relax – when I am non-juding. I practice compassion and softening. But then I’m not a bodhisatva. I fail a lot.

It is at night, that I truly let go. Just before climbing into bed with my sweet hubby, I pause by Anjali’s door. Somehow there is magic at that threshold. I smell the whiff of her scent in her bedroom – that scent of diapers and diaper cream and baby lotion and another scent that is uniquely hers – a milky sweetness. I hear her breathing in peace, occasionally shuffling around in her bed. she always lies face down, and I can imagine her sweet face burrowed into the soft comforter underneath her. As I stand there silently, my entire body reaches a peace. everything is okay. everything is alright. It is time for bed. Tomorrow is a new day, who knows what it will bring!

with Love, S.

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first heartbreak and first break!

Yesterday I got my first reject in the mail: for a piece I wrote on mind fog. Its an essay I spent a great deal of time and love on, and that is very close to my heart. I sent it to a buddhist magazine that I like reading, and the Editor wrote a nice note that they couldn’t accept it.

Interestingly, when you don’t hear back, there is still hope. But when you do hear back and it is a reject, in that moment, the heart breaks just a little bit. I tried not to dwell on it, but I did reread the piece, and thought to myself, perhaps this doesn’t fit the magazine. Though I say I tried not to dwell, dwell I did, moping around the house with Anjali in tow, feeling sorry for myself.

And then I happened to read the chapter on doubt from the lovely book ‘writing down the bones’, which I had borrowed from the lovely Joni Cole at the writers center (Joni’s workshop had been the inspiration for my mind fog piece). The chapter hit home, and the tears came. Of course, we doubt everything when something doesn’t work out!

But here is the amazing thing: I just dropped off Anjali at daycare and her teacher congratulated me on my article getting published. YES! My first piece in print, in the local magazine Kid Stuff. Divine intervention? A little bit of luck? Great timing? Perhaps all of it. I came into the house and did a happy dance. If you get a chance to see this magazine in the local shops (it is free), be sure to read my piece. It looks beautiful and reads beautiful, even if it is me saying so…

With Love, S.

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It is possible to start over…

The single most important reason I write this blog is probably to remind myself of the possibility of peace. It doesn’t matter how rough a day is, or how bad a situation, or how disconnected I feel from myself, peace is always possible.

Last night I was irritated with Abhi, mostly because I was exhausted and scared because Anjali has a cold and I was taken flash back to the last time she had cold and it became something else. I noticed, I practiced compassion though I couldn’t stop the hum in my head. I felt grateful to get a chance break of meeting a dear friend. And before I went to bed, I looked at the card next to my bedside table: show me a day when the world isn’t new. and I remembered it this morning when I woke up : this day is different. This moment is different. Anjali still has a cold, but I’m not trapped in my fear. I’m present right now when it is simply a cold.

I happened to come across the phrase from the Kur’an recently: ‘There is no reality but God, there is only God’. This phrase struck me in its beauty – what a beautiful intention to remind oneself of at least five times a day!

I don’t have a specific answer for what is God, but I know the God in my heart, and the vastness and kindness this God is capable of. I agree with Walt Whitman when he says:

‘I hear and behold God in every object, yet I understand God not in the least,
Nor do I understand who there can be more wonderful than myself.’

This connection with my self is what brings me back to this moment. This acknowledgment of everything I feel – the judging, the rewarding, the anguish and doubt, and the hope and joy, and gratitude for all the love in my life. And this unconditional love that I give my daughter, I learn to give myself. And I remember, over five times a day that it is possible to start now, over, again. This is why I write.

with Love, S.

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I open my eyes because I love mountains…

Leaves in a stream move without a plan
Clouds in the valley drift without design
I close my eyes and everything is fine
I open them because I love mountains.

These lines are from a poem by Stonehouse, a zen monk who lived in the 12th century in China. I love these lines so much. I know exactly what he means in the first three lines. I love solitude, I love the time when I’m by myself and everything is fine. I know my place in this world, and feel deeply rooted to where I am – strong and centered and at peace with things are they are.

And then I open my eyes. I enter this world, of playing the many different roles –a mom, a wife, a friend, a colleague, a teacher, a daughter, a sister, and more. Sometimes I play them gracefully and lightly, but a lot of the time, I see a myriad of emotions come up: impatience, irritation, frustration, judgment, imperfection, reactivity, as much as love, amazement, wonder, freedom, space and gratitude. I push away the first set of emotions and grasp tightly to the second set. But whose judgment am I using? Why is one wrong and the other right? As a human being, will I not experience anger, frustration and jealousy? Can I make room for them so that compassion may arise?

Then perhaps I may have a chance to see deeper that there is something beautiful in everything. Not just in love and peace, but in anger and impatience as well, and for me, this week, in loneliness. When we sit and feel the pain, there is such an aching beauty in it, how loneliness feels utterly desolate and yet is simply passing by, and in the very next moment, it is possible to feel connection. This surprises me to no extent – our capacity for joy and peace and space amidst utter chaos.

Many times, I find myself asking: I have so much! So much to be grateful for. Why the struggle? Why this loneliness? And the answer always comes later: so that I may know that suffering passes. Everything passes. And nothing brings more peace than sitting with one’s own pain.

Poet Hafiz says: Don’t surrender your loneliness so quickly. Let it cut more deep. Let if ferment and season you as few human or even divine ingredients can. Something missing in my heart tonight has made my eyes so soft my voice so tender, my need of God absolutely clear…

In loneliness, we seek true companionship – the one that can only be found inside. There are times when I’m aware that I have all the love in this world and still felt lonely – and allowing myself to feel it lets me find the friend inside, the one who knows like nobody else does, what I really need in loneliness.

Waking up and realizing it as a gift only comes by only if we are sleep in the first place. Gratitude for kindness becomes oh so clear after a dark night of judgment. And connection is never more profound as when we have sat with our loneliness. Doing so is when I come to know what Stonehouse means in his last line, when he says that I open my eyes because I love mountains.

With Love, S.

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