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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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.

 

Old and new…

Writing from Tuckerbox during winter break! It feels like months or years since I have been here, and it probably has been! The coffee shop has expanded and now offers Turkish breakfast and lunch in addition to American staples. I like the familiarity of the seat by the window overlooking the train station, and I also like the newness of being waited on instead of ordering at the counter. New versus old: I think I just found the theme of this post!

Here is what is old and familiar in no particular order:

• Anjali is still our alarm clock for the day. Now 6 years old, she wakes us up every morning with calling out the time (6.14 am today!), and climbing into our bed to snuggle. It’s our cozy time of the day. I remember a lifetime ago, fighting to get up earlier to have some time to myself. Nowadays, I have no such qualms. I love snuggling, being in between sleep and wakefulness and grabbing those few extra minutes of hugging a warm body before beginning the day. Especially when it is the first day of winter break!

• We live in the same house that we have lived in now for nearly nine years. The view from Anjali’s room shows the sun streaming through the clouds above the trees in the horizon. The snow has nearly melted after yesterday’s warmth, but not quite. The view has been familiar for as long as I remember being in this room – and yet as I look around the room, I notice how much has changed. There are snuggly toys in every corner of the room, books strewn in different places (in various nook places that Anjali sets up for herself), pencils, markers, and smaller toy figures at various places on the floor. The room of a growing, creating, book loving, BIG on cuddle toys child that Anjali is.

• As I come down the stairs, on the dining table is the recorder that Anjali has been learning to play (new!). It’s a busy morning – we are looking for the wand, for the wizard camp that Anjali is off to this morning. Abhi saves the day by reminding us that something fell under the piano last night. Lo, and behold, the wand is found and peace is restored.

• Pulling into art gallery this morning is familiar, as Anjali has done camp here before, most recently last summer. And yet, all the children have probably grown a few inches taller. The teacher looks happy to see familiar faces and I imagine, that she marvels at their growth. On my drive back, I think of how the teachers would feel if a kid stops coming to camp the next year. Would they notice? Would the child be missed? I don’t imagine that when people move, they would write to their camp teachers that the children will not be coming to the camp anymore. I make a mental note to do that, if we ever move. Though perhaps that is the last thing on one’s mind when you are moving! Why wait to move? Maybe I will write a note today – just saying how much appreciate the art camps Anjali has been coming to.

• I notice how hard it is to write about what is different. There are so many small things that feel different – but would they count? I wonder. Like taking care of my skin again, especially my face and going for a facial sort of regularly. Its something I never had to before! I was mostly blessed with good skin and did minimum of maintenance. But now, as I grow older, my skin needs a little bit more loving care and I feel so good doing it!

• Being back at dance class again is new! Making it to class regularly once a week (5 weeks now!) feels like a huge accomplishment – it means that I have made a choice once a week to take sometime to do something I enjoy and love and that is good for my body! I don’t know why this is so hard to do, when it seems pretty easy to make the choice to do music or skating lessons for Anjali ! I realize that some of it is that I love routine. I genuinely love sitting to dinner with my family and eating together. I love bath time and reading books with Anjali and the predictability of the routine. I give up both of them but just for the day!

• Getting back to date nights (or rather, movie dates!) is new. Having one-on-one time with Daalu more regularly feels like entering a new phase in the ‘parenting’ journey somehow! This weekend we watched the movie Lion. Really nice movie with a wonderful uplifting ending. We saw Hidden Figures a couple of weeks ago, which I absolutely loved and didn’t expect to be so good! and told all my students to go watch (a wonderful intro to factoring and the usefulness of Euler’s method – If you can’t tell yet, I am a math teacher! ). Date night is possible mainly thanks to a wonderful sitter whom Anjali adores.

• Ice-skating is new. Anjali started skating lessons in the fall and watching her progress inspired me to try skating. While I am still pretty slow, it feels amazing to try something new, and to skate with Anjali, even if only for short bursts of time (she is so much faster than me! )

There are some things I would like to try this year, inspired by my friend Maribel, who though no longer physically with us, continues to inspire me to live life without fear and embrace every new experience that comes along the way:

New recipes, new places to visit, to see more movies outside my comfort zone, read more books, make it to a retreat, feel more beautiful, make new friends, cherish old friends, choose forgiveness whenever possible, say No to guilt, appreciate others when possible and be kind and have fun and be silly and not fit into a box and dance more often!

With love to you!
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 Retreat…

My meditation teacher Doreen has been caring for her mother these past four plus years. Her Mother Anna came to live with her in her 90’s, and these past years have been a profound spiritual journey for Doreen. We as a sangha, a community, have been a witness to this transformation that love invites – indeed asks of us – and we have seen the quality of metta and compassion shine through Doreen in her teachings. Anna passed away recently in March – in a joyful and peaceful manner. Anji and I visited her in her last days – and the room was filled with a sort of joy that I didn’t know could exist near the end. There was so much love in that room. And Anji brought her own pure soul into the room – and connected with Anna at that deep level that only children and old souls can do. It was beautiful to witness.

Talking to Doreen a couple of weeks ago, we were chatting about retreats. After several years, Doreen is going to a formal retreat in the near future –where one is often given formal instructions for practicing mindfulness, and the opportunity to go deeper into our own inner experience in the comfort and protection of silence. I was talking to Doreen about my life and where I am and how difficult it would be for me to go on a retreat right now – much as it is something I have always and would love deeply. My last formal retreat was in 2009, nearly four years ago. And Doreen gently reminded me: Shuba, this is a time of retreat for you, just as it was a time of retreat for me caring for my Mom.

This gentle reminder hit home for me in a deep manner. Many times, I’m torn and indeed amazed, even shocked at times at how little I know of what is going on around in the world. I’m not in touch with news enough, or with people I don’t see in our immediate lives. I’m not on the computer enough (and many times I feel bad that I don’t read the blogs of these wonderful creative beings who take the time to read mine.) My world revolves around my family, and caring for our two and a half year old daughter for the most part – and my own spiritual journey.

I have never skimped on my practice – even now (as before having a child) I usually meditate everyday in some form and read dhamma, connecting with an intention that speaks to me, and listen to talks regularly and attend sits when I can. I write and I reflect and I seem to have time for that. IN a way, it doesn’t even feel like a choice: my practice is how I take care of myself, it is how I tune in and find out how this being inside of me is really doing. And it seems to take priority over so many things. Sometimes I wonder, is this real, the life I am leading? Sometimes I feel lonely and starved for mental stimulation. But other times, this feels more real than anything else I have ever done in my life: there is a urgency right now – to be with what is happening, the emotions, the keeping up with developmental milestones (I’m not sure if they are my daughter’s or mine!). And the letting go.

Mark Coleman, who is one of my favorite teachers when it comes to dhamma talks, says in a talk, that the most important practice in terms of mindfulness/Buddhism can be summed up into two words: Let Go. Let Go Let Go Let Go. As a parent we are challenged to do this everyday, to let go of our ideas, our expectations, our goals and our agendas. We are thrust into this world where our little one doesn’t and cannot understand these concepts (thank god for that!) and we have to let go. It ultimately serves us well – but who said letting go was easy?

This is perhaps my biggest struggle: to let go of what I think is a good day, of what I think my daughter should be like, and the ideas I have that constitute ‘’good parenting’’ which in itself is a trap. Since I have no prior experience in parenting, these ideas are largely questionable: they have not been tested out by my own experience. This to me is an important clue. So I learn the hard way: to let go.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I will meet you there.” Says Rumi of the soul. We keep finding our way back to this field. This field – this abundant peaceful all-knowing compassionate place inside of us knows at a very deep visceral level what the truth is. But we forget in our human ways and conditions. And so we force ourselves to remember.

So I am grateful. To have a time in my life when so much of outer distractions seem to be removed so that my own inner experience comes to the forefront. All of it: sometimes pleasant, sometimes not. And it is just like it is on a retreat: a time for remembering the sacredness of our lives, in its tiny details.

So this is what I say to mothers who resonate with me (and to myself – since I so often forget!): when the retreat ends – however long or short it is – we will be ready to meet the outside world. Until then – this is the journey – and we follow. Lets leave behind our guilt, shall we? And lets take in the love. The love never stops.

With Love, S.

I am myself!!

I feel the urge to type and type and put into words, the experiences of the last few weeks. It feels like I have traveled eons in this month of May. Coming face to face with my anger, my emotions and finding a way to move through. Coming face to face with my own lack of control and practicing patient acceptance.

And finding a way of saying Yes. Yes to this moment is as it is. Finding a way to abide in metta during my struggles and lean into the support of my own practice and the support of my friendships and relationships. Having slammed doors, yelled, cried, and even broken plates in the privacy of my porch on an afternoon when all else failed, I have let go of everything. And one afternoon, when I saw the crying face of my baby girl, everything dissipated. Just like that. None of the stories mattered anymore. It turns out – there isn’t anything more important to do than this right now. and no one else to be but me. Kindness is possible, no matter what. When we can’t summon kindness, even in that situation, kindness is possible through non-judging.

Beloved Rumi says it best:

‘Your grief for what you’ve lost lifts a mirror
up to where you’re bravely working.
Expecting the worst, you look, and instead
here’s the joyful face you’ve been wanting to see.”

Perhaps it is the way through hardships that we discover the soft heart. The compassionate wise heart. And this is the doorway to joy. I’m finding that joy arises spontaneously when I say, yes to this moment. When I say yes to singing the same lullaby for the 20th time during bedtime for my daughter, I find joy. When I say yes to reading ‘Annie and the wild animals’ for the umpteenth time, I find joy. When I say yes to my feeling low about my back hurting, I find joy. Joy it turns out is present. All the time. It requires me to be in this moment, to participate, to connect and to make choices. And then, it feels like the effort of striving, of trying too hard, of being someone else, falls away.

‘I am myself!’, says Pezzetino, joyfully in this fable when he discovers that he too like all the others is made of little pieces. “I am myself”!! I want to shout out in joy, like Pezzetino.

Perhaps when we discover our own brokenness, our own struggles, and how fragile the identities that we hold so close, we can let them all go. And we can be ourselves, truly and joyfully.

So here is your invitation – to say yes to this moment. And to be yourself. Then you become me, the other and everybody else in this universe!!

With Peace, S.

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.