Shuba’s Weblog

Journeys of the soul…

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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liberation…

Those of you who have followed my blog and read my latest posts know that I have had a couple of hard weeks. I never regret them. Suffering always reminds me to practice compassion and to pay attention especially to moments of spaciousness and contentment. It makes me ask for help, and help always appears – in many forms. Sometimes, when I need it and I’m ready, help is everywhere!

I love to go on walks, and one of my favorites is a loop near my house which goes downhill and then up hill back. I’ve found often that the downhill part is great, very easy – but my mind tends to be distracted. But when I get to the uphill part, I’m always present. My breathing is heavy and I have no option but to pay attention to make it easier on myself to walk uphill. Thats the way life is. When the going gets tough, we really start practicing – we don’t take liberation for granted anymore.

What is freedom? what is liberation? Its a lesson that comes over and over in my life. I used to think freedom was doing what I wanted when I wanted. One of the images that comes to mind, is going on my bike downhill, from my home in graduate school days. I could see all of the town, and it was so beautiful, and the sensation of my hair flying in the breeze, feeling the joy move through me – that was freedom. Then my idea of freedom changed – another image that comes to mind is when on retreat, seeing this deer standing outside my cabin, just there, right there. And I was right there – present with the deer. That was freedom. Nowhere else to be. Now, when I feel stuck sometimes – unable to go on retreats or have bike rides whenever I want, I come back to liberation.

One of the ways help came was through ‘Fierce Grace’, a documentary on spiritual teacher Ram Dass. He is finding freedom in none other than a stroke. Surely I can find freedom within the constraints of mothering. But thinking about liberation isn’t liberation. Sitting in meditation I held this thought – but nothing happened. Only later on, relaxed, present, I realized: liberation is when we are right here – not holding on to anything or pushing back anything. No grasping or clinging. Everything is just as it is.

Our ability to be present is strengthened every time we pay attention to these moments of spaciousness – when we are open, not attached to anything in particular, and present. It doesn’t mean we don’t have desires, but our desires don’t rule us.

So, here I am, in this moment, liberated. Determined to pay attention so these moments. And somehow miraculously, just by doing so, I find more and more of them.

Blessings and 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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How much we take for granted…

Here is part of a piece I wrote based on Joni Cole’s prompt at the ‘prompt and pinot workshop’, finally getting a chance to post…

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Sometimes it amazes me how much we tend to sleep through and take for granted. I come down in the morning ready with a critical eye of what needs to be cleaned up from last night, and how much paint from ‘blue blue’ yesterday – our painting session with eighteen-month old Anji (who I convince myself is a budding Picasso) is on the hardwood floor. But every now and then, I stop. I look around at my home – and it hits me. This realization that we created this home, this space, Abhi and I, we started this family. We came here from a land far away, went through the immigrant experience and all else that life threw at us this past ten years. And all of this adds to the beauty of now, this moment, this sweet hand tugging at my pants asking for ‘dudu’ and ‘cracker’.

Some days are crappy, and I forget. I get enmeshed in my own suffering and my own story, and I play my own drama over and over in my head. I go through all my grievances – but really I just want to be heard. I want to be heard for my humanness – simple humanness that also seems astonishing sometimes. The sheer experience of being human and always trying to control that which we can’t, and trying to keep sane with the changes that happen everyday, many of them small but that still leave their mark on the bodies so that at night when we finally sleep, there is a collective sigh of finally letting go.

When I’m in my suffering Zone, everything is terrible. But then something small happens – something almost like magic. That moment when my mind says, ‘nothing ever works!’ I hear a deeper voice – in all honesty – like a Mom saying, ‘honey that is simply not true’. That voice that reminds me of the smile this morning, or that unexpected sun streaming through the window, a surprise after the dour weather prediction. Or that unexpected compliment from partner or friend, or the moment when I pick up Anji from daycare and her face lights up. And in that small moment of reminder, something shifts. I get out of the drama, out of my own head and the movie ends. I come to the real life – and then it hits me again – how much we take for granted. How much is right in this moment.

With Love, S.

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Vday woes…

This valentines day is one for the books. For the past couple of days I have been running a fever, headache and cold, all classic symptoms of the flu. Except I thought I was over my quota! I had one just two weeks ago – that time it was laryngitis and I had to cancel class and it happened to be Abhi’s birthday. Sickness is pretty much my nemesis. It may be because I didn’t get sick very often growing up, so even at 30 plus, I don’t get it that it passes.

I tried sitting with it, but all I could feel was a haze enveloping me. What’s funny is that, I realized I had a fever only while I was practicing Joseph Goldstein’s 9 minute meditation on sunday evening, when I was feeling the heat and the cold in my body. I realized after getting up that I was never warm!

So yesterday, Abhi stayed home and made me hot soupy lentils for lunch, and in the evening he did the groceries and entered the door with half a dozen red roses. Normally I would be over the moon – I LOVE flowers. But I could just summon a Thank you, and wanted to crawl into bed again. I’m even scared of going to the Doc – what if they put me in the hospital? I hate hospitals, the only time I’m brave in hospitals is when it involves Anjali. When it comes to me, I’m just a plain sissy. Though at Abhi’s insistence, I’m seeing a Doc this afternoon – but not looking forward to it!

So, here we are on Valentines day, sick. But there is a silver lining. There always is. Anjali is doing great. and I got to sleep for hours cuddling with my hubby, taken care of in every possible way. I just lie in bed and call out for things and they appear miraculously. My feet get massaged at night when I’ve been cold. I’ve been held a lot. The red roses seem almost unnecessary in this light of care. Maybe, being sick is not such a bad thing after all.

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My dervish…

Rumi writes, ‘ For a dervish every day feels like Friday, the beginning of a holiday, a fresh setting out that will not have an end. Dressed in the soul’s handsomeness, you’re a whole month of Fridays, sweet outside, sweet in.’

I thought of the last couple of lines this morning, as I looked at Anjali’s splotchy swollen face. She was sweet outside, sweet in. This past week has been so rough for her, and for us. We have been to the emergency room twice, because all of a sudden she couldn’t walk. The first time the diagnosis was toxic synovitis, which is inflammation of the hip, due to a viral type infection. She got better over the weekend. But then she took a turn for the worse yesterday with rashes all over her legs, feet and face, and again unable to walk. We went to ER again, and this time the diagnosis was HSP Vasculitis which is inflammation of the blood vessels that causes the rashes and the joints to swell up. My poor child. I can only imagine her pain. And in the middle of all of this, she has the capacity to stay present – with the pain by crying, but also with the times when there isn’t pain, by playing with Teddy. Teddy, given to her at the hospital, is her new best friend. She has kissed Teddy, and showed me his nose, eyes. She showed my the sky photos on the ceiling of the ER room, and the crows this morning at home. She has the incredible capacity to start over again and again, that has no end. And my challenge right now, is to cultivate this same beginner’s mind, with her on this journey.

So, on my thirty-second birthday, I ask for patience, presence, gratitude and support as we get through this. My friends and family continue to call and email, which has been a life-saver since Abhi is in Dubai right now. My yoga is holding me together as I remember my own needs in all of this. And somehow incredibly, I’m starting to remember to find the moments of space and connection in the midst of turmoil.

May we all have compassion and peace on our journeys. Please hold us in your prayers that Anjali recover completely and soon.

With Love,
Shuba

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My attachment…

Last week, I caught a new thought in my head: I’m getting attached to my writing. Maybe I shouldn’t be doing it!

It made me do a 180 degree turn and take a look at my choices. Like any yogi, I have experienced many a times how attachment leads to suffering. And I guess I thought I was being clever when I thought, maybe I could avoid attachment altogether if I stopped doing what I want.

Except it doesn’t work that way. We can’t really negate what we feel and still be happy. If we get attached, we get attached. Saying, ‘don’t!’ doesn’t really help. It requires way too much concentration and focus to constantly keep a look out for the big A word. That kind of focus, I may have had in another life-time. But not right now, definitely not right now.

Perhaps a better wiser solution to attachment is to not make it a problem. To acknowledge when it arises. and notice if that recognition does anything. To accept attachment as a gentle friend joining in for a tea party – but will leave in a bit. Inevitably. Somebody else will come through that door, that we will attach to, and we will forget all about this one. Noticing the arising and the passing away of attachment, just as it is, without judgment can be the window into freedom from suffering.

So, yes, I got attached to my writing. There is a piece I wrote for my writing group, that I spent more time than I ever have on one essay. I caught my mind in the middle of various things thinking about it, and words in it, and I wanted to run to it every moment of free time I got, rereading it, and making changes. And then I noticed. I let go. There was a moment of peace, of surrender. And then something else came up. My daughter saying a new word, ‘come’!. And a Mom’s pride. I get attached to that too. And I learn to let go.

Thank god there are so many opportunities to practice. Some day, perhaps we will become enlightened beings, and we will get it. Until then, we learn to be with what is, right now.

With Love, S.

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the dance of wanting…

I was thinking last night about how our suffering doesn’t really depend a whole lot on circumstance. I know this in theory of course. But every now and then it really sinks in.

Right now, I have the kind of life I would have given anything for, two years ago. I have a lovely family – the most amazing generous man as a husband and the cutest funniest most loving daughter. More than that, right now I have the freedom to do what I want, at least in the short term. Anjali goes to day care part-time and on these days I get to meditate, go for a walk, write, bead, prepare for my basic math class or attend my student meeting. It doesn’t sound like a lot, compared to the job I used to do, and it is all stuff that I really like. New mothers would kill to have time like this to themselves. And then last night, I caught myself complaining how I missed going somewhere and meeting people and doing something that feels more important. (More important than what? I forgot to ask my mind that.) My mind went racing: maybe I need to get a full-time job!

Imagine. Our minds are so totally nuts, chasing after endless wants. Nothing is ever perfect. How can it be, when as soon as we land somewhere, we start planning our next trip!

Clearly, this is the adjustment phase, the one that comes after the honeymoon phase. It’s the sinking in of a new life-style, and the making of different choices than I would have before, and the learning to live on new financial terms. It is only after acceptance that I can get to a place of knowing if this new life is right for me. If the choices I have made are right for now. It was apt that, at the weekly sit last night, the discussion of acceptance came up. How important is to practice acceptance of things as they are, before we find our way to wise action.

The scariest part is, amidst this peaceful livelihood, there is the uncertainty of the future. What will I be doing next year this time? I don’t know. And that uncertainty is hard to be with sometimes. Can I recognize it for what it is? Can I use it as an opportunity to practice being with rather than pushing away what is? Can I learn compassion?

Sometimes, in writing about mindfulness, I start thinking that I know something about the practice. And then I find I don’t know anything. It is humbling. And I start over. That is the beauty of it. There is always opportunity for practicing a beginner’s mind. It changes every moment, every breath. Can we be with this one? And just the next one?

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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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Waking up…

The night was troubled – yet another decision to make about sleep training. I had hoped it would get easier each time we have to teach Gudiya* to sleep through the night. Yet, each time, it presents a similar challenge – how to do something that brings pain in the near future, but is more freeing in the long run. This takes wisdom and patience, the kind we can’t always find momentarily, the kind that requires us to make that leap from reacting to a stream of changes, to responding with intention. Intention – this is what I have to keep coming back to. As the Dalai Lama said, my intention was my protection.

This morning – waking up to a refreshed sweet loving Gudiya who snuggles with us, and sings her little songs of joy, as she greets a new world this day. All I want to do is snooze in bed. I try for as long as I can, and then shower and get ready while Abhi spends his morning time with his angel, reading her favorite book ten little fingers and ten little toes, as he chugs through breakfast of coffee and banana. By the time he is done, I’m ready to get a bite to eat and make Gudiya’s lunch and get her ready for day care.

Those 30 minutes seem to last for ever, as I multi-task, engaging her, eating my toast and manning the scrambled eggs for her lunch. Anjali is going round and round our island in the kitchen with a piece of toast in each hand, periodically falling down while practicing her new skill of walking. Each time, she wants to be picked up. Of course. By the time I get her into the car, and say good-bye to Abhi, I feel the familiar feeling of stress. Thank God, day care is just 2 minutes away. Gudiya is happy to see her friends but does not want to let go of Mommy. She would like it all if she could have it :). Darcy distracts her, as I make my way out. It is only after I get out of the driveway of the day care that I remember to take a long breath. Whew. That is a lot of work! My mind, alert from remnants of last night’s meditation remembers – ahhh – this is what stress feels like. There doesn’t need to be judgment about it.

After filling up my near empty gas tank, and straightening up the house and my attire, I barely make it to yoga class with Leslie – after a long time. My body needs it, but my mind is busy with judgments of my ‘tardiness’. I try and let go as best as I can. I tell myself, people have more important things on their mind than spending time reflecting on my tardiness. Thank God for that :).

Slowly, the practice unfolds. Leslie reminds us to pay attention. My mind starts to quiet down. As I do a forward bend, I get a whiff of peanut butter on the knees of my pants from this morning with Anjali. It makes me smile. This is what the practice does – open us up to all that is, in this moment right now. My shoulders start to relax, and open like they haven’t in days. The heat builds up, and then the peace afterwards. Shavasana. Sweet bliss. As I settle in into my body, my being, I feel whole again.

The point of this practice of mindfulness is to be more alive to this experience of being human. This involves feeling all of what it comes with. Confusion, self-doubt and judgment are right there – along with clarity, freedom and lightness of heart. All we can do is cultivate the skillful states of being, so that we do our part in living with wisdom and care. The rest is out of our control. May we move with ease through the changes in our lives – of breath, emotions, body, mind and heart.

With Love, Shuba
*Gudiya: endearment meaning doll.

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