Shuba’s Weblog

Journeys of the soul…

Moon and clouds, Mountain and valley…

‘Moon and clouds are the same

Mountain and valley are different

All are blessed, all are blessed

Is this one or is this two? ‘

 

This beautiful zen poem by Wu Men came into my mind today. Anjali (nickname Anji), my six and a half year old daughter has a soft spot for babies and stuffies. She loves her snugglies – she has about a hundred of them in her room, and is always looking to add a new one. For a while there, I bought every lego set, gears, blocks I could, and then I realized that she didn’t care for building, all the blocks came in handy only to play house with her stuffies. She loves to invent and create and to her, building was incidental – the story it helped make was what she was interested in. Anjali has always loved stories – I believe that is how she taught herself to read – the possibility that she could have direct access to them without waiting for an adult to read them to her!

Anyhow, this is incidental to my main story today. A couple of days ago, Anji mentioned the notion that I loved her more when she was a baby. We had visited a neighbor’s baby and she was touched by how beautiful the baby was and how tiny. She was drawn into that quiet love, and perhaps without having a tangible memory, she was lamenting the days gone of being held and taken care of. I vehemently tried to rationalize with her – how I loved her so much more having seen her grow and become who she is. But I could tell that she thought they were just rationalizations.

So coming to Wu Men’s poem. ‘Moon and clouds are the same’. It made me think of this phase in a mother’s life (and child’s life) where there is no separation between child and parent. When Anji was little, what she felt was what I felt! I could not separate her tears, her tantrums, nor her joy and her delight from mine. Every new step she took was also a new step for me. We grew together and as she learned the first steps of independence and growth, so did I. Through preschool and kindergarten; she blossomed first into learning her capabilities and boundaries and then exploring her social life. I was by her side, and yet also giving her increasing level of independence. And then before we knew it, our little girl was off to first grade! A whole day of school, of new rules, of learning, of so much creativity and managing so many relationships of her own. My girl took a big step forward. And so did I.

So did I – into rediscovering myself. I dipped back into books, into having my relationships in a new way and mostly giving permission to myself to explore what I wanted. When this phase began, I don’t know. And while, it has felt like this was necessary for me to grow, I have never really given thought to the end that it brought too – the end of an era of togetherness of moods, joys and a baby-mothering love. Perhaps, this is what Anji laments, and yearns for, this end of a time in a mother and child’s life even as she steps so confidently into a world that she navigates herself for so much of the day, so bravely and joyfully.

‘Mountain and valley are different’. And yet – are we different? Sometimes I think Anji can read minds – she will say what I’m thinking, or know how I feel. She doesn’t miss a nuance. And I know every tear and laugh of hers. Especially when she gets silly and laughs just like she did as a baby. Sometimes, in the busyness of life, I’m distracted running from one thing to the other, and it is she who stops me. ‘Mom, are you stressed?’ My Buddha baba asks. Sweet pea, thanks for the reminder! We learn something each day. That everything comes a full circle. And ‘All are blessed, All are blessed!’ I don’t know whether this is one, or is this two, but I know it changes depending on the day. As Wu Men also said:

‘ten thousand flowers in spring, moon in autumn

cool breeze in summer, snow in winter

when your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things

this is the best season of your life!’

 

So here is a reminder to enjoy the season of mothering that you are in.

With love, S.

 

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About love and loving…

Today I want to talk about love. Not the love that drowns us that envelopes us in a haze, that is so beautiful that we can’t bear a moment without it, that makes our hearts melt in sweetness but the love that is steady and deep and burning like a flame and never stops – not for the winds or the rains. It just keeps burning and getting stronger day by day.

This is the kind of love my 2-year old daughter teaches me. The love that exists when she won’t take a nap and I lose it and yell at her, and she adds – ‘mom still loves you’. And my heart breaks. In that moment, I don’t want to love. But my heart can’t help it. This is the burning of that candle that purges all those dark places inside that I would rather not see, but I don’t have a choice. I would rather believe that I am kind, loving and don’t lose my temper and helpful and will not hurt a soul. But I know the truth – I am capable of the other side. I’m capable of slamming doors, being rough, yelling, and I do hurt others. This acceptance is the deep grief of the human heart when we come to terms with all of ourselves and all that we are truly capable of. Even though I would never hurt my child, in that flash of anger, I can see how violence happens. How if I didn’t stop myself and try my best, my emotions would rule me.

So this idea of having a child, of raising your child, of spending time involves what any close relationship does – a facing of our own shadows and the things about ourselves that we would rather not see. IN usual relationships we sometimes make the choice to not go through, to want out. But in a parent – child relationship that is often not and cannot be our choice, and we know that in our hearts. So we agree to go through this journey, of walking through fire sometimes – of losing it and finding it and forgiveness and learning to trust in our own capacities to ride the storms. The storms are inevitable, and they do pass. It’s our choice what we allow them to teach us, and our children.

And the storms always leave behind something – trees broken, hearts broken. This is the way to compassion – this picking up the pieces and putting them together and mending the bridges. Apologies are difficult. They require us to face the facts and the consequences and find ourselves worthy of love and forgiveness. When I say sorry to my daughter, the person I’m really asking for forgiveness from is myself. My daughter readily forgives. She has forgotten the episode and moved on. It is me who is still lingering in that moment that I was who I did not want to be.

And then I make the next choice – to try harder, to be more patient, and to take better care of myself so I don’t reach that place of desperation again. And I make the choice to let go of the guilt, the consuming guilt and start over again. This is now a new moment. The sun is shining. Lets go ride our bikes together, I say. My daughter skips downstairs and runs to put on her helmet. My heart still hurts, but this is a new moment. I’m here now.

With Love, S.

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Being alive…

I wrote to an old friend of mine recently about travel – how I didn’t miss it and how much magic was in my own backyard. I was basking in the glow of contentment that the last few weeks have brought. I spoke too soon.

Yes, there is magic in our backyard. We live in a spectacularly beautiful area, nestled by hills and snowy tree tops, with fresh air and a kind of beauty that grows on you. There are bluejays playing outside our window, and the sunrise in the winter is amazing pink on clear mornings. But somedays, I don’t see this beauty quite the same way. I’m caught in the resistance to whatever is unfolding in my life, and the resistance always sneaks up when I’m not watching. And on such days, the thought of a vacation is sublime.

I know I am well and alive when resentment and stress are present in my life. It is so absurd, but last week I had a cold/flu and it was one of the best weeks of my life because I took it easy and laid low the self-expectations. Once I start back on the wagon of simmering cooking self-judgment and lack of appreciation, I know I have way too much energy!

So what takes us away and what brings us back? I believe most of the time what takes us away is stress, worry, tiredness…when I over schedule myself and my inner resources are at a low, I get tripped up the voices, the same voices that I would have the wisdom to acknowledge and ignore on other times. So first it in itself is a reminder to come back, acknowledge that and the fact that we are human and prone to messing up and being imperfect and saying unkind things and doing unthoughtful deeds. and then the next step is to make room, make space for some R & R, whenever that can happen. An hour of yoga, or a warm bath or a chat with a best friend, all of it helps. If it cannot happen immediately, planning for it helps in a practical way to know that it is coming so we can hang in there.

And then it is bringing a kind of softening, an acknowledging and forgiveness of the things we messed up on. This is what helps the heart soften, learn compassion and be willing to extend it to others when they are in need, because we learn to recognize a heart in distress, from our own experience.

Lastly, we bring in joy. put on some favorite music, dance a little, hop a little, be silly and make our apologies to others.

So today, I apologized to my two-year old daughter for not being patient enough and spacious enough to give her the time she needed to leave the library, for not being thoughtful and caring enough about her tears – her distraught face is still in front of my eyes though she has moved on hours ago. And I learned a hard lesson not to over-schedule myself with work stuff – teaching, astrology readings, managing a home – in the limited time I have to myself.

I think now its time to climb into bed in my favorite pajamas and read Anne Lamott. She always makes me feel better and makes me laugh (or cry, depending…).

With Love, S.

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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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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.

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peace like a river…

At this story time we go to, on Tuesday mornings that my wonderful friend Nelleke introduced us to, the teacher sings this song, ‘peace like a river’. It’s a beautiful song, and Anji loves it, especially the words ‘peace like a river’ and ‘love like the ocean’.

I’m thinking as I write this, what an apt metaphor river is, for peace. Peace really is like a river, meandering, swaying, taking its own course, but drenching us with love when it passes by. We can’t make peace happen, though we can set the intention. We can’t hold on to peace, for it ebbs and flows its own way. But when we pay attention, we start to realize that peace doesn’t have as much to do with circumstances as much as our state of mind.

Sometimes, I’m struck by the fact that I can be in the most embarrassing of situations and still find a way to be at peace, mostly when I don’t make it into a full blown drama about me. There are times when I think I’m at peace with something, but it comes back again and in a different light and I’m forced to be honest with how I really feel (rather than hoping I feel a certain way!). And sometimes, I don’t feel peaceful at all, but somehow being with the not-peace makes me find my way back again.

I have had moments of drama, plenty in fact, in the past few weeks, but somehow that feels okay. I know for sure, more of it will be upcoming too, since I love things a certain way so I very often struggle when they don’t go that certain way, but that too feels okay. Underlying all of this, I’m trying to hold on lightly to this simple thought: I’m doing my day’s work. And I do it to the best of my attention and knowledge as I can. And when I fail, I start again.

Somehow this thought is comforting. Perhaps this is the secret to peace: one moment, one day at a time. And this too, is part of holding on: maybe if I remember this secret, I will always have peace. But I won’t. And that too is okay.

So here is a thought today, right now. Check in. Is there peace? And if there isn’t, can there be a small space, an inclining towards it? And what can help nourish it? And if you are so inclined, please share your thoughts with me here in this space…

With Love, S.

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A stranger…

Last evening, I had this memory of a woman, a stranger who changed something in me during the course of a day. I wanted to write about it. It made me think – this could be a great prompt! So I invite you to write on this topic – a stranger in your life who made a difference. I would be honored if you decide to share it, either in the comments section or in your blog and leave a link. Here is mine…

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We were at the waiting lounge in Frankfurt. We had just landed from our first flight, Boston to Frankfurt, and there was another waiting of about four hours before our next flight to Chennai. I was traveling alone with Anji, 18 months old at the time. Abhi was going to join us in Mumbai a week later.

Anji was playing near the window of the lounge watching the planes go by, doing her usual thing, when I saw Her. She was perhaps in her mid thirties or early forties – I have always been terrible at telling people’s age – and had a boy with her. She was sitting on one of those lounge chairs – they have a few in airports which are always taken pretty soon – where you can put our your legs and lean back. She was watching Anjali play and smiled across at me. She had an open, friendly face. I could tell she was a south-indian too, by her salwar kameez attire – and maybe she had a bindi. We exchanged greetings – her name was Soumya, and found out our destinations were the same.

Soumya was traveling with her husband and her five year old son to meet her parents and in-laws. She commented on how cute Anji was. Anji at that time liked to eat on her own and I remember her saying how amazing that was. We talked a few pleasantries, where we each lived and so on. Nothing major. Just friendly. The long afternoon wore on as I walked around, strolling Anji in her stroller – at various points for diaper changes, snacks and mostly hoping she would fall asleep. I don’t remember if she did – there were too many journeys on that big trip to India to recall the exact details.

But what I remember was when we landed in Chennai many hours later. Anji was exhausted (even adults feel half-dead after the excruciatingly long travel), it was about 2.00 at night. All our supplies of juice and milk was over and by the time I had remembered to ask the flight attendant it had been too late – they had closed everything. Everything in the airport was shut. She was hungry, tired and I was exhausted and feeling very lonely as she cried and cried and wouldn’t stop and I stood there at the baggage claim praying that my luggage would arrive soon and this would stop and feeling sort of numb.

Soumya stepped in. Like a guardian angel. She distracted Anji, offered her a snack, and got me together simply by her compassionate presence. She told me she had been in those exact shoes before on a previous travel and knew exactly what I was going through. A porter offered to find some milk in a nearby café and took our bottles. Anji started to calm down. By the time the milk came, she had dozed off.

That night, I needed someone, I needed help. Soumya was that help. She arrived at the time when I needed someone to remind me what compassion was. She connected with me as a Mom and I will never forget how it changed my perspective in that instant. Somehow everything became more manageable because I was no longer alone.

At some point we exchanged numbers, I don’t remember when. Her sister was waiting for her, and I spotted my Dad as we walked out finally with our baggage in hand. We said goodbyes. I probably may never see her again. I hope that I will though. I still smile thinking of her.

With love, S.

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Simple moments…

There are some moments, when we are in them and fully present, we see the miracle of life – how simple it all really is. Its when conditions come together – conditions we had no control over – but we are right there. And in doing so, we get to witness beauty and grace in its full expression.

I’m thinking as I write this, of our moments today at the farmers market this evening, with Anji dancing to music, and me sitting right there near her. There was no one to meet, no play dates or plans made, so we were free to be. The music was jazz/blues so it was very relaxing. The wind on the cool fall day ruffled our heads and the sky overhead was a bright blue. People were browsing the stalls, new students at the college filling up brown bags, girls carrying flowers, parents with small kids pottering about. In the midst of all this was stillness. Perhaps it was stillness in here. Everything was just as it should be.

I looked at her, my daughter, two years old, her hair tousled from her nap earlier, her nose slightly crusty from her cold, in her polka dot jacket and pink pants. She was in bliss – she was dancing to music. She was with her Mom. It wasn’t too noisy. Her world was complete. And in its completeness, I was included.

I had lost my patience earlier in the afternoon when she had an accident with the potty training. We had been patient – she and I and Abhi – in this endeavor and she was starting to get the hang of it, liked it even, being bare-butt so much of the time. And then in a moment of absorption while trying to build this miserable tent for the third time in 20 minutes, my attention was focused elsewhere and she did it, her business. I was annoyed – and I knew it in that moment. I took a deep breath but it took a few minutes to settle down – the resistance.

Perhaps that moment was perfect too – I just wasn’t there to see it – I was busy being somewhere else –the place where I didn’t have to clean up, where things were the way I wanted.

When things don’t go our way, how we respond is a good thermometer of our inner readiness and calm. Like food dropping from the plate on a freshly vacuumed floor, or potty accidents, or unexpected red light. If we are not in a place of readiness, it’s a good signal to slow down, to take that deep breath and to start over again. And when we are, that is worth noting as well.

So I lost my patience over potty, but I found it – hiding in the fall breeze at the market, under the wide-open blue sky, surrounded by trees that will change color soon, with my daughter dancing. In that moment, seeing freedom in motion, love in my heart, I scooped her up, and gave her a big kiss. And then I let go so she could go back to dancing.

Some moments are just right – the conditions absolutely perfect – that is when miracles happen. We don’t control them but we can show up!

With Love, S.

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Turning Two…

My dear daughter Anjali has just turned two this week. I can’t believe I have been a Mom for that long – and yet on the other hand, it feels like Anji has been in our lives forever. She has changed our world, and brought in her own brand of joy, delight, independence, curiosity and love into our lives.

On the day of her birthday, she was cranky and fussy, transitioning from gymnastics class onto a doctors’ appointment just before lunch. She was very tired, and after nap, the evening too went by in a usual manner. We didn’t have anything special planned, except a small cupcake which the three of us cut together with two candles. I know she loves routine – and in lieu of the party this weekend, it seemed right. But for me, there was a hesitation. What was so great about this day? I wondered late afternoon. I was pretty tired myself.

It was only later in the day that it dawned on me – as usual Anji was showing me an important lesson: when there are no expectations, you are free to be with what is. She didn’t know what a birthday meant. If it meant presents, that was great. If not, that was great too. She was cranky, fussy, and also joyful and happy. and it was all okay. Everything was just as it should be. She didn’t evaluate it, analyze it or wish it otherwise. And somewhere during the day, I too let go of my expectations.

As a Mom turning two, I feel blessed, grateful and happy that life has allowed me to have the opportunity to spend time with my daughter, to enjoy doing it without too many stresses, and to learn from her how to be present whether it be with the squirrel or the waiting room at the Doc. And most importantly I learn to laugh and play and let go – over and over again.

With Love, S.

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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.

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