The spirit of thanksgiving…

A friend of mine asked me to share something inspiring/thoughtful for thanksgiving day. All I can think of, is being here, being alive, what a gift that is.

 

A dear friend of mine, passed away nearly two years ago on new year’s eve, after a battle with cancer. She was a few months shy of 40, and she left behind three kids, the youngest of whom was 2. She was so full of life, always friendly, bringing people together, honest, generous, and a runner. The memory of her running by the trees is still vivid in my mind. I think of how much she loved her children and how much she wanted to hold them. I think of how lucky I am that I can still hold my child, hug, cuddle, live, run, walk, breathe and be here. She would have loved to be here. And she did amazing things in her short life.

 

I have this gift of aliveness and it seems to me to be the most precious thing in the world. What am I going to do with my one life? How am I going to appreciate this-ness, this moment, this being, this listening, this ocean of sensations that my body can feel and the ocean of thoughts that my mind can create and bring into reality? How am I going to honor all those whom my heart loves, and who love me and have embraced all that is unique and quirky about me? How am I going to embrace all that Earth has so generously provided for me never asking for anything in return? This is what I hope that I can spend my one life marveling and wondering about.

 

So take a moment to pause today, and reflect on all the blessings in your life. I leave you with Mary Oliver’s poem:

https://www.loc.gov/poetry/180/133.html

 

With love, S.

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Waking up…

The house is quiet. All the people in my house (Daalu, Anji, my parents visiting from India) are resting, taking a nap this afternoon. I can hear the wind rustling through the trees, a gentle breeze through the late afternoon light. Anji is moving in her sleep, slowly crossing over from sleep to awake-ness. Have you ever been aware of that exact moment when it happens? There is possibly one definite moment when we are no longer sleeping, and fully awake. Isn’t that true of every time when we are no longer drifting in thought, but have become fully conscious and awake, present in the moment. The more we can pay attention to this moment of waking up, the more often we have the opportunity to begin again. And this beginning again and again and again and letting go of the past and the future and entering more fully into the now – this I feel is what builds our resilience and inner strength and open heart.

Of course, some moments are harder than others to enter into, they test the vulnerability of the heart, of how much we can stay open, not through sheer will but through gentleness. And yet, isn’t this too an opportunity through compassion, to begin again? Perhaps, that is why Rumi says:

“Why should we grieve that we have been sleeping?

It does not matter how long we’ve been unconscious.

We are groggy, but let the guilt go.

Feel the motions of tenderness

around you, the bouyancy.”

(translated by Coleman Barks)

For me, it is the time of year when my heart is tested, as many experiences from the school year near their end. This week, I had my last day of class with my seniors. I had always wanted to do this, this is the first year that I actually managed to do it: to write a card for each of my seniors, wishing them luck on their new adventures. My hope is that many years from now, one of them will find the card when they most need it, and know how much their Calculus teacher appreciated them!

Anji is nearing the end of her second grade, and that too is bittersweet, to see how much she has grown and learned this year, and all the many new experiences she has embraced so openly and bravely. She truly is an inspiration to me. Each last assembly, recital, homework and warm-up finds me moved, and my heart tender and my eyes close to tears. Somewhat ironic, as I have been suffering from dry eyes lately!

So, as we take in this incredible beauty of the summer, its fullness, fragrances and intensity, may we continue to wake up to our experiences and live more fully in the present…!

With love, S.

Reflections on a snow-day…

It has been a while since I wrote in this space. The recent snow, though has wreaked havoc on our school routines, has brought some time for reflection and pause, which is a welcome respite during the busyness of our lives.

The snow… I was explaining to Anji last week how incredible it was that I had not seen snow in my entire life until I became an adult and came here to the United States. How hard that must be for her to imagine, growing up with it. Though I don’t like driving in snow, I love snow days. I love watching snow fall like puffy cotton falling, how it makes the trees look so beautiful, with puffy bits hanging on, and how calm and clear things seem to be on a crispy winter morning under the sun. Winter, with its short days and long cozy evenings is meant for slowing down our rhythm. One of the things this winter has found me immersed in, is reading books: I read five of a series of books called The secrets of the immortal Nicholas Flamel, a fantasy series; and am now beginning my second book of the Neopolitan novels by Elena Ferrente. The Oscar season always brings with it, the joy of escaping into a good movie. I enjoyed in particular, the shape of water and the Black Panther. Early dinners and board games after have become a favorite ritual of ours on some of the school nights. After intentionally deciding as a family to cut down on our commitments towards after school activities, it feels like we have more time to read together, to have spacious time, and make time for joy.

It’s funny, this thing we call joy. Reading ‘hardwiring happiness’ recently, I am reminded yet again, the elusive quality of joy. So much of our joy comes from ordinary moments in our lives; and how easily they pass us by when we are not paying attention. And how paying attention requires us to slow down. And how slowing down, is not always comfortable. On Sunday morning, I was making my hot cup of tea, while Anji was having her breakfast. I felt this rush of feeling, of good health and gratitude to have an open day, a healthy child (bouncing back from a cold), food to eat and a bright morning. It is hard to describe this feeling; since so often it comes with trying to hold on to it, by analyzing why and how to make it continue. In that moment, I felt perfectly contented. I am sure my mood went through changes during the course of the day, reacting to circumstances; but I remembered that rush of feeling several times that day; its memory brought me more happiness.

It is so easy to take for granted these moments. For example, today Anjali showed me traditions from around the world in this cook book she is reading. (I know: I have a daughter who reads cookbooks for fun!). When I asked her about our traditions, she said we didn’t have any! I was dismayed since I have spent so many years trying to cultivate traditions (like coconut laddoos for Diwali, chocolate bark for Xmas etc!). Then I reminded her of our simple tradition: of having dinner together as a family each day: such a simple thing, but so easily taken for granted. And I saw her have an AHA moment. I think, when we remember to celebrate the simple things, with easy delight and happiness, we show our little ones how to do it.

So, may this winter, and snow bring you some ordinary moments of everyday delight; moments that nourish us and make us better capable to respond with kindness to an increasingly volatile world around us. May we appreciate these moments and take them in!

Love, S.

Simple pleasures…and happy-ness!

You know how sometimes you need that break to reset the clock, and remind you to slow down? It was wonderful to get away during spring break. We returned on Thursday and I spent the next two days frantically cleaning our home – reorganizing furniture, getting rid of clutter. With the nice weather, my soul now feels more at peace with my home and surroundings. Feeling the wind ruffle my hair, the air cool on my skin as I went for a short walk during Anji’s music lesson. Riding our bikes around the condo after we returned from school…Just hanging out on the table after dinner, coloring in my book, listening to Anjali play music while Abhi filled her bath upstairs… Simple pleasures make the day. Somehow they always have, for me.

 

We had a fantastic time in Orlando – it has been a while since the three of us traveled together as a family, especially involving plane travel. Looking up from the book I was reading on the plane, I saw Abhi engrossed in his reading and Anji engrossed in hers. We are all so alike – our love for books, for independence and for time and space to just be. It’s one of the reasons I love my family and I feel grateful that we are similar in that way. We are also each different and unique and that’s fun too – to navigate during a vacation and figure out things that each of us likes. Probably, Abhi gets the rough end of the bargain – since he usually goes along with what Anji and I want. But every now and then, he gets what he likes best too – watching a movie or playing a solid game of chess. Simple pleasures make the day.

 

Even though, we did the Disney trip and even saw a rocket launch from the space center, want to know my favorite part? Lounging by the pool, feeling the heat on my skin, watching Anji do the water slide, and dipping into my book. Adventures are fun! But for me, it is always the down time that makes me appreciate everything else and brings me a sense of gratitude and wholeness. That’s all we did, the last day – lounge, swim, shower, get a massage, eat delicious food and yummy key lime pie. Somehow, it was the best day of all…

 

What is it that makes your day? What makes you happy? Did you see clear blue skies today or twinkling stars in the night? Or the smile on the face of an eager child? Or feel the rush of something new? Or the comfort of something old? (like your favorite snuggly pajamas!). Here is an invitation – pay attention when you get happy like that, shining from the inside. It will light up the space inside of you. As Rumi says, “No one knows what makes the soul wake up so happy! Maybe a dawn breeze has blown the veil from the face of God.”

 

With love, S.

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.

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.

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.