Some days, being present feels as elusive as a butterfly.
Sometimes, it feels like all I do, in my sitting practice as well as real life, is start over again and again and again. I get distracted and then catch myself somewhere else completely and like a groggy traveler waking up in unknown surroundings, I don’t remember how I got there. and then I begin again. body, breath, now. red light, baby, sounds.
And then yesterday, reading Philip Moffit’s wonderful book called ‘Dancing with Life’, I was heartened. He talks about the power of that intention to start over and that it is okay if that is all we ever do.
The freedom in this moment when we realize we are a thousand miles away – is to not judge. The less we judge, the easier it is to come back to the present moment. I loved Larry Rosenberg’s instruction on this: just like a mirror. we simply see and we begin again. That is the practice. sometimes, we are more focused and present. sometimes, we are more distracted and scattered. Mindfulness is noticing and accepting things as they are – be it concentration or diffuseness. That is the practice!
Like the moon reflected in the clear water on a cool night, our spirit is reflected in everything we do and see and hear and think. There is nothing that doesn’t have to be there – everything is just as it is. It is just hard for us to believe that the miracle we so yearn for with our hearts is already happening in front of us! So we close our eyes. And then the moments when we open them – and see that sparkle of rain on the window shining like a thousand diamonds. or the mist in the mountains trembling like a coy bride, holding a secret. When we finally hear, really hear the song of the bird that has been singing since forever. In those moments, we wake up. and that makes up for everything else.
With Love, S.
…after a three week journey to India with little nine month old Anjali and hubby.
As we all settle in, my thoughts keep returning back home, the lovely memories and hearts captured by our little one. Babies have such a wonderful way of meeting change – with wonder and openness and without comparing or judging. At each juncture, Anjali surprised us with her way of adapting to the newness of the situation and making the most of it. Like the heat of Chennai and the humidity of Mumbai. The airports and security checks and air travel. New places and new homes. One incident that comes to mind was when we went to a temple and Anjali was to be weighed in a large scale so that we could donate equal measure of rice. We were sure she was going to say, she had had it! She had just woken up from a short nap. Instead she sat on the scale, gave us a big smile, and proceeded to examine the chains with which the scale was held with great curiosity. It was a kodak moment!
What also surprised me was how calm and patient I was through all this, traveling with Anjali. I was traveling alone on our way back, since Abhi had returned earlier. And I found that she and I had this amazing connection where we were in sync with each other. She would turn to me, with each change, to check in and see my response. And if it was an okay, she was okay too! Witnessing that and being on the receiving end was a precious gift. That is in addition to seeing my parents and Abhi’s parents as grand parents, and realizing how amazing they were!
Returning back home has its own set of challenges and wonders. Its nice to be settled back at home again at the end of a long journey. Its also hard because we miss what we had, the love and convenience of having family around. So yet again, we face life in all of its uncertainties and changes. And as our hearts learn to make their way to equanimity, I can’t help feeling grateful for everything that comes our way. The changes that force us to grow and respond in wiser ways, and how we learn something about ourselves in the process. May this learning continue, with love and kindness…
This is the best advice my counselor gave me when I went to her as an overwhelmed parent of four-month old. And it’s advice I continue to find invaluable.
The thing I’m learning, about being a parent, is that you make mistakes. There are many things you’ll do that you never thought you would. Like putting kitchen towels into the oven and forgetting about it and nearly burning the house down. Or breaking the side mirror of your car coming out of your own garage. Or hearing the fire alarm and rushing outside the house with your baby because you forgot that it was the day of the fire alarm testing. Or falling asleep at work, while in a meeting or reviewing a paper. It’s stuff you just wouldn’t do in your sane mind. And I’m not even talking about the baby stuff we mess up on!!
It’s funny when we are not in it. This giving up of our well defined structured and ‘tidy’ lives so that we may raise babies and voluntarily go through sleep deprivation and chaos. Clearly there has got to be a trade-off, even though it is not always obvious what that is :).
The tradeoff is that we learn what it is to be human. We learn patience and endurance and the kind of unconditional love that we didn’t think we were capable of. We learn flexibility and giving up ‘I should’ and ‘I ought to’ because we have no choice. And we learn the possibility of joy and paying attention because we get to be around babies who don’t know that it can be otherwise.
We get to see things as if for the first time because that is what our babies are doing: seeing paper, grass, socks, teeth, feet, rain and more, for the first time. And they continue to do so everyday. And incredible as it may sound, witnessing this is much more exciting than reviewing a paper on functional near infrared imaging of the brain. (No wonder I fell asleep on that one!). This window of witnessing what it is like to not know the concept of time or gravity, to not experience fear or doubt, to know freedom of expressing yourself just as you are, this is the gift of parenthood. And it somehow makes up for all the hours of sleep we lose and all the neurosis we go through being a parent. Mary Oliver was right when she said, ‘most things that are important, lack a certain neatness’. Amen to that.
Sometimes I have this distinct sense of experiencing ‘conditional happiness’. A sense of joy that I know is dependent on the conditions being a certain way. Last week, this was something along these lines: baby is doing good, Dad is doing good, I’m feeling well, day is beautiful, etc etc. We all have days like this, when things are going well. The boat is sailing smoothly. We are grateful, of course. But mostly, we start taking things for granted.
And then the boat starts rocking… 🙂
Suffering, the old trusted friend, comes along. Grasping, wanting, aversion, attachment. They all come at more or less the same time, don’t they? And I see my mind and heart struggle to recover balance. This struggle is always always hard.
And I’ve found that it is on these days that I can no longer take peace for granted. It is on these days that I really practice. I do what is necessary to feel peaceful again. I learn to be present – what other choice is there? And invariably, at the end of these days, my heart is softer and more connected. And I learn once again – letting go is possible. peace is possible.
It makes me realize that when conditions are great, the accompanying happiness is good. But it is when conditions are difficult, that truly presents the opportunity for unconditional peace.
May our hearts become as large as the bottomless ocean, on this journey,
With Love, S.
Anjali turned seven months old today. It feels like yesterday when she was born, and I held her in my arms for the very first time. It was like magic. I still feel like that when she dozes off in my arms at the end of the day. So precious, and so beautiful.
This morning when I woke up, I was irritated and resentful, because I had a cold and Anjali had a cold and our routines were upset. And instead of working, I would be home taking care of her. My mind said, ‘I hope to God this is the last cold of the season!’. I was tired at having to deal with sicknesses yet again. and the worry and anxiety it often brings along, for me.
And somehow during the course of the day, that resentment turned into gratitude. Having the chance to witness Anjali, see her endless curiosity (inspite of a cold!) and her playfulness cheered me. She grabbed at my pen when I was writing. She spent 20 minutes playing with the yellow food packet of pureed apple and banana she had just finished up, studiously studying the writing on it. At the car appointment, while waiting, she watched each person passing her by, as if they were her long lost friend. She smiled at the Doctor as if he was her best friend, and at the Nurse like she was throwing a party. She patiently hung out next to me as I did yoga. She lasted till shivasana, and then she was done! 🙂 Sure she fussed, and her nose ran like a fountain. But she was also happy.
So instead of being at work, I was home! what a blessing! Sometimes, changes are blessings in disguise. We resent them, we resist them. and finally when we relax into them, they turn out okay :).
May we find our ways to peace, whatever effort that takes…
It is the kind of day, where you just want to sit by the window, have a cup of tea and watch the rain fall. Nothing fanciful, nothing dramatic, and Oh! so full of peace. I happen to be among the fortunate few, who is doing exactly this: sitting by the window and watching the rain fall. The sound of rain seems to say everything. I can’t think of anything to add.
May the hope of spring rain that begins so many things on this Earth, bring peace into our hearts.
With Love, Shuba.
On Valentines’ day, it is only appropriate to muse on Love. Love, the giddy drug that melts our hearts and creates a softness in it. When there is love, we know it. It is unmistakable. Everything feels good, no matter how difficult things are. We are connected to the flow of life.
What about when there isn’t love? Isn’t there merit in knowing what that feels like? how painful disconnection from ourselves and others is? How lonely that feels.
In life, there is always both. We encounter moments of profound love. and we also ache in disconnection. and by allowing space for both, we realize that underneath is this spacious awareness that knows and feels everything. That spacious awareness, that tenderness that makes room to breathe, that we can count on. That is also the knowledge that we are alive! we are meant to experience it all. and keep showing up and opening, closing, opening, closing. As Rumi says: ‘Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birdwings.’
With Love, Shuba