Shuba’s Weblog

Journeys of the soul…

Rediscovering our being…

It has honestly been such a long time since I wrote my blog last, that I am dismayed. How can it be that somebody who used to write atleast a couple of posts a week, now writes about couple of times a year? Once I let go of judgment, I see that this too perhaps was necessary. Necessary so I can start
afresh,from a place I have never been at before.

So, here I am. Namaste!

Are you conditioned to behave or react in certain habitual ways? According to Buddhist philosophy, we all have some conditioning that we come into, in our lives, either through childhood, traumas, or perhaps even past life times, if you believe in them. If that is indeed the case, where is our freedom? Aha! through discovering our own conditioning by paying attention. And through the process of mindful investigation, we can then be free, by learning to make skillful choices and relearning new habits. Alas, letting go of this conditioning does not happen without realizing them first. And that takes attention. The pause. The noticing. And with noticing, often comes judgment and dismay – is this indeed us, this person who we thought was just fine, on cruise control until now? And it doesn’t happen overnight either. 

Hence, the need for tremendous amount of kindness and compassion, for judging is so easy. Understanding and being compassionate is so much harder.

One of my conditioning is that I need to be perfect somehow – perhaps to win love and affection and / or to prove my self worth. And another is to feel responsible for a lot more than I possibly can be responsible for, as a human being. It probably comes with being sensitive to other’s moods and feelings – it’s hard when you know something is wrong, and there is not always something you can do about it. 

So how do I find freedom? For I do believe, peace and freedom is always possible.

I find that it always starts with understanding. And my daughter is my greatest teacher in this dharma. With her, I can be patient, kind, loving, present, joyful, happy, and open to wonder. She brings out these qualities in me, because of her joy of being and her large heart and her incredible capacity to pay attention. And if I can be that for her, surely I can be that towards myself. And I also find, no matter how I mess up, in her eyes, there is always forgiveness. To her, I am amazing and wonderful. So maybe I could be redeemed in my own eyes, just a tiny bit. And it helps me find that compassion towards myself. 

I am so humbled by this process. Always a beginner, always learning something about myself in the process. I am not perfect. I am reminded of it every single day. If that is true for every one of us, then how much compassion do we need to bring into this world? Compassion so that we can live with ourselves, accept ourselves and more than that, love ourselves just as we are. 

So soften if you will, the next time you tense up in self judgment. Find the inner being, who adores and loves you just as you are. Everything will be okay. 

Peace and metta to you, 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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That wild, that loving in the heaven of earth…

I’m thinking this morning of the Mary Oliver poem on Luke. I’m driving gudiya to the preschool she goes three mornings a week. I’m singing the Illayaraja’s ‘Kanmani’ song to her, and feeling generally uplifted. And all the thoughts – the weighing of the good and bad in my life and its various variations disappear. Poof. Just like that.

The reason my life has come into review this week is because I have a job interview this afternoon, my second one with this imaging research group. The position is for a research analyst and is reminiscent of my graduate student days – before I got mired into the world of writing grants, and managing students – and gave it all up to be home more with gudiya and to keep my sanity. At my previous interview with the group, they asked me, why would you apply for this staff position, given your CV? My only answer was that I wanted to do just research without all the responsibilities that a faculty job involved. That is part of the truth. The real truth is that my life as a Mom has plenty of responsibility in it. I don’t want to seek more – not of my own volition.

But am I ready to go back into work? This involves a full-time job and I am sure I don’t want that. “But you could work 30 hours a week” – chimed in my whatever-you-want-to-hear-dearie mind – if they would be amenable to that. I am not sure I want that either. But then gudiya starts school this Fall – Montessori – and I am scared at the thought of my life passing by while I wait for her to be back from school. I can think of all kinds of rationalizations, but really I am feeling the urge to move, to change, even as I am scared to death about it. I love my life as it is, part of me exclaims. Not yet, not already!

Anyways, as I am singing kanmani after dropping off gudiya, memories of my college days flash by. They were among the favorite days of my life. I have had the most incredible friends who saw through me and accepted me and loved me. So many dear friends come to mind. I was lucky to meet many amazing people. We had fun times and I have been meaning to share old photos from those days on FB. They have been out and about in our living room – I have been showing them to gudiya, but mostly just enjoying seeing them myself.

And this thought hits me as I am reminiscing and driving: we did not know then – in those carefree college days – that it would not last. We would never have that time again – the time when we were young, without responsibilities, of fun and flirting, and of discovering our own selves through our new-found relationships. If we had known, would we have appreciated it more?

And what about now? Here is another phase in my life that is pretty amazing. To have the time and make the choices to be able to witness the growing miracle of my daughter – and my husband as a Dad – and to discover what it is like to be young again – and what it is like to play. What it is like to read the same book for the 10th time and still witness the same incredible laughter and joy as the first time from Gudiya, and to witness her unending, enduring energy and capacity for play, imagination and fun. Of long summer days of farmers markets and cold winter days of story times and libraries. Of bouncy houses and meeting other Moms and sharing stories and making connections.

What is different about this time now is I know: that this doesn’t last. Its one of those bitter-sweet things about childhoods. These carefree days of my gudiya as a toddler learning, playing, growing will pass. Just as my gudiya’s early months passed by – the miracle of seeing her sit up, seeing her crawl and then walk and then learn to talk and then put ideas together. They will never be back again. The miracles continue but I don’t take it for granted. Mostly.

And then sometimes I do. I forget.

Like some days when she refuses to take a nap – there have been more of them lately. I’m exhausted, cranky and want out. Some escape from what seems sometimes a lasting-forever cycle of snacks, potty times, books, and cooking and washing dishes and laundry. I can’t seem to remember anything else. Is this what I signed up for? In that moment of judgment – and of course there is judgment – that’s the most ready weapon when we tether on the edge of exhaustion – I forget and I take it for granted. I forget the miracle of having a healthy child, of having the luxury of being home, of feeling these frustrations and still knowing I love my babe. Thank goodness, I always wake up. In time to appreciate.

So really, it is okay. This is life. That is the truth of it. We may make choices based on what we want, what feels good, what is pleasant, what our priorities are but at the end of the day, our choices are about relationships. And it begins with a relationship with ourselves – how we relate to all of this, all of ourselves – all the moods and all the feelings.

So after a week of weighing and feeling weighed down, I am finding the light, the light that is streaming through the windows, the gorgeous sunshine of a spring day, a day full of possibilities, a light that is everywhere. I don’t know what my future will be and it is okay. What I do know is that feeling Mary Oliver was talking about in Luke and how…

“…easily
she adored
every blossom

not in the serious
careful way
that we choose
this blossom or that blossom

the way we praise or don’t praise –
the way we love
or don’t love –
but the way

we long to be –
that happy
in the heaven of earth –
that wild, that loving.”

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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Endings and Beginnings…

My final post of 2011. On New Year’s eve, it feels apt to reflect on this past year and set new intentions for the coming year. 2011 has been an unforgettable year – a year of letting go and beginning anew. A year of the magic of seeing our daughter go from a 3 month old to becoming a toddler, running around with spoon in her hand, eating naan, and saying naan and sleeping through the night (for which I’m the most grateful! ). She makes me want to be present, want to be more loving, more patient and more of who I really am, deep within.

2011 was a year of change, not just for me, but for many of us, and through the world. Change involves endings and beginnings, and while endings can be painful to come to terms with, beginnings on the other hand hold such possibilities! Such anticipation and such freedom that comes from not knowing. I hope the new year brings peace, now more than ever, for every one of us, joy beyond anything we have known, comfort of loving friends and family, the support of compassion and the embrace of a Friend – the loving heart. I hope this is the year we surrender our fears and do something we never have before – take a leap of faith. I hope we never question our love for ourselves, and do the things we love. I hope we remember and live our intentions each day. And I hope, when someone mentions the gracefulness of the night sky, we can climb up on the roof and dance and say, Like This, the way Rumi did in ‘Like This’, centuries ago.

May we walk in beauty.

With Love, S.

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Confessions…

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.

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One Year Old…

It is incredible to see Anjali making connections with her brain in new ways she couldn’t do two weeks ago! She knows that if Mama is not there downstairs, then she must be upstairs, so she makes her way to the end of the living room and tries to climb up the stairs. She has learnt (with Abhi’s help) that there is a short cut to making the sock monkey pop – by simply budging the small thumb on top. She does it and smiles in delight. Yesterday, she took my sunglasses and tried to wear them! She had figured out that that is what people do with them. She says Book – and means Book. She says duck and looks for duck. She waves bye bye and means it. She tries to take her first steps – unsteady but always within reach of support (usually Mama’s legs). And mostly, she is so incredibly happy at all the things she is learning – it makes me cry.

When do we lose that openness to life, to all its wonders, to learning and to exploration? When do we set up those barriers and create those insecurities? Of course, the wise me understands that these too are part of the human life, and that the more compassionate we can be towards our failings and imperfections, the more peace and love we can have. Yet I can’t help marveling at this amazing miracle of human life – that when we come into this world, we are completely open, vulnerable and trusting. And we start setting up boundaries as a way of protection. And slowly we become attached to them!

How can we hold boundaries with Love? How can we realize that this protection is a choice – sometimes we need it. And sometimes we can let it go, let the wind blow through us, and the rain soak us completely. And even if that opening lasts but for a moment, we become a child again – open to wonder, lifting off like an Eagle into the far blue skies of freedom.

May we feel safe so that we may open…

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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Seven Months Old…

Anjali turned seven months old today. It feels like yesterday when she was born, and I held her in my arms for the very first time. It was like magic. I still feel like that when she dozes off in my arms at the end of the day. So precious, and so beautiful.

This morning when I woke up, I was irritated and resentful, because I had a cold and Anjali had a cold and our routines were upset. And instead of working, I would be home taking care of her. My mind said, ‘I hope to God this is the last cold of the season!’. I was tired at having to deal with sicknesses yet again. and the worry and anxiety it often brings along, for me.

And somehow during the course of the day, that resentment turned into gratitude. Having the chance to witness Anjali, see her endless curiosity (inspite of a cold!) and her playfulness cheered me. She grabbed at my pen when I was writing. She spent 20 minutes playing with the yellow food packet of pureed apple and banana she had just finished up, studiously studying the writing on it. At the car appointment, while waiting, she watched each person passing her by, as if they were her long lost friend. She smiled at the Doctor as if he was her best friend, and at the Nurse like she was throwing a party. She patiently hung out next to me as I did yoga. She lasted till shivasana, and then she was done! 🙂 Sure she fussed, and her nose ran like a fountain. But she was also happy.

So instead of being at work, I was home! what a blessing! Sometimes, changes are blessings in disguise. We resent them, we resist them. and finally when we relax into them, they turn out okay :).

May we find our ways to peace, whatever effort that takes…
with Love,
Shuba.

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Thursday…

Thursday is the day
I sit with God and
play a game of
question & answer.

Why am I tired? I ask,
Because you are.
A human being,
says God.

How do I open myself
to Love? comes one more.
By being, and receiving
comes the gentle reply.

Will you touch me,
and hold me? I ask.
I already do,
says God.

How will I know,
your presence?
By being with everything
you see. That is me.

Will you wipe my tears
and show me joy?
Open your eyes!
Its in front of you.

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