Shuba’s Weblog

Journeys of the soul…

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.

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Changing desires…

It is a beautiful spring day. Yes, spring is here! finally! The leaves are coming out of the ground and the first flowers have appeared in our compound. The breeze is blowing and there is promise of warmer weather and long summer days yet to come. Ahhhhh. I love this feeling, of change and new life and moving ahead.

I have also been amazed at the shifting of my desires. About a month ago, I was sure I needed to find a job that was more than my very part-time teaching math at community college, and that needed to be now. it turns out what I needed was a change – and when a weekend materialized in the form of time away from home, it served the purpose! Just one night away with family in beautiful Burlington, VT – we all felt restored and my mind felt quieter than it had been for a while. Its a good lesson to learn: sometimes we need a change – but it doesn’t have to be a life-altering one like getting a new job! Before we make the life-changing ones, can we try the smaller ones?

This is also the first school break that I have asked for help in the form of child-care and it has felt simply wonderful to allow myself a break. Life feels so much more spacious when you have had a hot chocolate on your own in a cafe without having your toddler around! I’m also learning an important shift in my own perspective – that much as I love being a Mom and its who I am most of my day, it isn’t personal. It has its amazing rewards as well as challenges and learning, and at the end of the day, it is still what I bring to it. And I bring attention and care to it when I take care of myself. What a good lesson! One that I keep relearning and discovering and every time feels like the first time!

Whats interesting to me is that when we pause, when we take a step back, we can actually witness the moving of our desires – how they keep changing, morphing into new shapes and sizes. We are tempted to respond to each one, but we don’t always have to. if we simply watch, they will shape-shift. and it gives us such insight into our own minds, our patterns and where we react and when. What our triggers are. I know what some of mine are, which make me reactive and my mind go nuts. exhaustion, doing too much, too many expectations (that are unrealistic), bank balances, and not knowing. And I’m coming to see their cycles, and learning to see them pass by and learning not to react and learning what kindness is and connecting to my deepest heart’s desires.

I would love to hear yours. send me a message or post a comment on this post.

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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Bird wings…

This morning was hard. Lately the mornings have been hard. Anji has been waking up in the middle of the night or early in the morning and sometimes both. And we bring her over to our bed – and after that, any sleep, if existent is broken – with her turns around and her breathing and her milky honey like scent pervading my consciousness. My consciousness isn’t mine anymore. Most times, this feels like a tender and sweet intrusion to my dreams, but sometimes, I just want to sleep. I want a lot of sleep. So much sleep, as much as a human being can possibly get.

My child’s colds make this scenario worse – more Mama time, more clinginess and comfort – to be expected for all of us when we are sick, but somehow the toll is always on Mama.

So this morning after dropping off my nearly 2-year old at day care, which she did not want and made her protests clear, I made my way to yoga Level I. Sometimes I’m wary of the levels – I can’t always do what I think I can and that sometimes overstretches me. But today the level was just what my body needed. I slowly settled in, letting all the judgments drop as Sharon’s kind words made its way to my heart. This felt familiar. My body responded of its own wisdom so that I could finally relax into my own being. At one point, Sharon said, discover your strength. I had forgotten I had strength! It felt marvelous to own up to my body and my strength.

So here I am, after yoga, at my favorite café, where the people behind the counter are quietly friendly, writing.

I want to write about the rain and the sunshine. The alternating dance between the two – and one that is essential. I want to write about Rumi’s words in ‘Bird wings’, ‘Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes. if it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed.’ I want to write about how suffering is hard, change is hard. And change happens all the time. Children grow up and their needs change. The peace we are sure has taken root in our hearts and will always be there, dissolves leaving us in tears. Friendships change and people disappoint us sometimes. Our hearts sag under the pain, until the time when we discover the strength within. And as the saying goes, there is no greater strength than gentleness.

It is always gentleness that makes me find my way again. It is gentleness towards myself, and all my failings. Like being unable to be present with my daughter when I drop her at daycare and she is in tears, and I don’t have the right words to console her because I desperately need this day for me. To be unable to say the right words to my husband when he asks me at 4.30 this morning, is everything okay, and its not and I want him to help but I also want him to go back to sleep because I know he has a busy day ahead. My failing to pick up the phone and call my friends when I feel alone – that makes me feel more alone.

It’s always gentleness that brings me back. An intention that is picked up again by my heart in full force, out of desperation. And I find the strength again to life up my head and my shoulders and start over.

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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The details…

Today I feel a loss of words I want to write so much but I am unable to! Everyday I see people who inspire me. Ordinary people, who bear their burdens, who have lesser than I do, but also have something more that is sweet in its humanness. The woman who did my pedicure yesterday, migrated from Darjeeling India where there are mountains and tea and cold weather and people speak a different language, to here, chennai which is coffee drinking, very hot and people speak Tamil. It was her acceptance that struck me- this is how things are – and the something else she brought to her work, a sort of gentle attention to detail. You can do anything well, with care, that’s what I learn.

Like Mary, who gives me a massage every other day, for Rupees 120, which is the equivalent of 2 $. She comes at 11.00am, after having worked in three houses, since 6.30am. She tells me she hasn’t eaten anything because she is fasting for her youngest son to get married, and will only eat after finishing her work and prayer, at around 2.00pm. And yet her massage is perfect, the pressure, the gentleness, and mainly the attention.

I love the cd of carefully chosen Tamil songs that our driver Chandran has made, that makes you want to drive forever. When he plays with Anji on the beach, I wonder if he plays like that, has the time to, with his 2 year old daughter. Our driver in Mumbai whom Anji calls Abbu, tells me that he still hasn’t seen his sister’s kids, who are 5 and 3, because there hasn’t been any time. When he picks up Anji, his face lights up, the way we have never seen.

I love the way the vegetable vendor chooses the chikkus for us. 40 rupees he says, which is less than a dollar.

Perhaps it is because I’m visiting that I can be a witness. I can hear the different sounds in the morning, of crows, and cars and dogs coexisting and not get annoyed at being woken up, or see the cluttered dining table with fruits and snacks, and medicines and glasses and mosquito vaporizers and not feel the need to clean up. I can simply be. And in being there is this space in which it seems obvious that my problems aren’t much. Here people deal with much more, with a smiling face and a brave front.

And that I have so much. So much to be grateful for.

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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Enlightening cold…

I read this poem this morning by a japanese zen master Ryokan, with a smile:

Too lazy to be ambitious,
I let the world take care of itself.
Ten days’ worth of rice in my bag;
a bundle of twigs by the fireplace.
Why chatter about delusion and enlightenment?
Listening to the night rain on my roof,
I sit comfortably, with both legs stretched out.

Isn’t it a wonderful image? That enlightenment isn’t in words and doing or trying too hard. Perhaps it is in not doing as much, living simply and sometimes taking the time to simply sit comfortably with both legs stretched out.

Even though I love writing about being mindful, my husband reminded me yesterday, that if I was mindful why did I have to do all the extra work I did in spite of having a bad cold and a voice like Mogambo in Mr. India. He was right. I talk about making space to be, and I do it diligently to the best of my ability. I also like getting things done! and accomplishment is one of my favorite things – even if it is sometimes just finishing the grocery shopping or making the dinner. Perhaps that is why I believe in the discipline of a practice: otherwise how would people like me, doers essentially, learn to relax? Even relaxation needs setting aside of time!

And every now and then, we stop trying so hard. We realize we can drop all the stuff we carry and let the world take care of itself. and we can pause to have that hot tea and read poetry and take our time in the shower. We can listen to the night rain and not have to apologize. It helps if we have somebody to remind us that it is okay to do this. This morning, it was Abhi for me. Maybe I can be that for you.

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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