Shuba’s Weblog

Journeys of the soul…

Turning Two…

My dear daughter Anjali has just turned two this week. I can’t believe I have been a Mom for that long – and yet on the other hand, it feels like Anji has been in our lives forever. She has changed our world, and brought in her own brand of joy, delight, independence, curiosity and love into our lives.

On the day of her birthday, she was cranky and fussy, transitioning from gymnastics class onto a doctors’ appointment just before lunch. She was very tired, and after nap, the evening too went by in a usual manner. We didn’t have anything special planned, except a small cupcake which the three of us cut together with two candles. I know she loves routine – and in lieu of the party this weekend, it seemed right. But for me, there was a hesitation. What was so great about this day? I wondered late afternoon. I was pretty tired myself.

It was only later in the day that it dawned on me – as usual Anji was showing me an important lesson: when there are no expectations, you are free to be with what is. She didn’t know what a birthday meant. If it meant presents, that was great. If not, that was great too. She was cranky, fussy, and also joyful and happy. and it was all okay. Everything was just as it should be. She didn’t evaluate it, analyze it or wish it otherwise. And somewhere during the day, I too let go of my expectations.

As a Mom turning two, I feel blessed, grateful and happy that life has allowed me to have the opportunity to spend time with my daughter, to enjoy doing it without too many stresses, and to learn from her how to be present whether it be with the squirrel or the waiting room at the Doc. And most importantly I learn to laugh and play and let go – over and over again.

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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Yet another ordinary moment…

The instruction I heard from my teacher a couple of weeks ago, was to bring attention to the feeling tone of our experience, whether it is pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. Jack Kornfield in his book ‘The wise heart’ talks more about this feeling tone, one that precedes our reaction to the experience (such as clinging, aversion, boredom etc depending on the feeling tone). It has been interesting to practice this the past few days. What I’m finding is that there are a lot of moments that are neutral in their feeling tone. There isn’t anything fantastic happening, but there isn’t anything that is difficult either. As I bring attention to these moments, I start to see them shift to pleasant, as if simply becoming aware of these moments brings a pleasant quality to them. An appreciation that things are okay, and a spaciousness when one isn’t attached to something.

Sometimes thoughts come into my head in these moments: most often it is, how come I get to experience this peace? Amazement at my own good fortune, that things are well, and there isn’t much to worry about. So many people not very far from where I live, have lost their homes in the hurricane and have so much to worry about. Sometimes, the thought comes, I’m sure this is going to end, and my dear friend suffering will come up. Another time, it was, if everything is good, what will I write about? 😉

But the piece I’m missing is that, as we train our attention to be with the neutral moments, a whole spectrum of our experience opens up, one which we didn’t have access to before. We learn to see what is in front of us – whether it be a worm or a fallen leaf. We learn to be with this brushing of the teeth this morning. This cooking, this washing of dishes. So much of our lives constitutes of neutral moments – we learn to become alive to them. And we learn of the possibility of contentment and gratitude for the gift of life.

To me, this practice keeps opening its doors – the possibilities for exploration are endless.

with metta, S.

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The flow of life…

When we make room to be imperfect and to make mistakes, we tap into this universal feeling in the world that sometimes we can’t be on top of everything. Sometimes, the human side of us that is vulnerable and overwhelmed comes to the top. Much as we would like to ignore that side of us and pretend that everything is great, that side is very much present, and today – demands attention. When we make room for that to happen, we start truly living where we no longer try to control what we can and cannot experience; instead we embrace everything that comes along: the hurt and the judgments as well as the love and the generosity.

This is a relief really, because we no longer have to pretend to be in control! We can then surrender to the current flowing around us, and let our inner soul guide us to see the choices we do have: how can we be kind and loving and open in the face of this uncertainty of life in each day – the roof falling when we need it the most, or the lack of water when we get really thirsty. When we embrace this too as one of life’s vicissitudes, that is when the skies rain water and the clouds provide the mist for our protection …

What a relief it is to acknowledge the truth of our existence just as it is, and then choose to live and dance with that!! Therein lies freedom…

with love, S.

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Being in the now…

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.

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Giving up the need to be perfect…

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.

With Love,
Shuba

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A Peace of Mind…

This morning I had a chance to just hang out, after yoga, with a cup of tea, a piece of cheese, and some grapes, by the window watching the rain and the new leaves that are growing so quickly now in spring. I realized that my mind was very calm, and there was nothing I was wanting or chasing after. Thoughts kept coming and going, slowly, but I wasn’t holding on to any particular one. I kept coming back to the leaves and the taste of grapes in my mouth. It was a feeling of peace.

It has taken its time coming. My mind has been busy the last few days with stories and ideas and thoughts that I keep getting caught in. The main thought in my mind has been that I should be feeling peaceful. But I haven’t been. And that somehow felt like a judgment of sorts.

I always forget this: that peace isn’t something we can manufacture. If the conditions are right, it will come. and as soon as we go grasping after it, it vanishes. And like everything else, it passes. And that is not a problem, that is simply the way it is.

All we can do is show up, present the right conditions such as generosity and love and kindness, and accept whatever comes along. And every once in a while, what comes along is Peace 🙂 And then we can appreciate it while it lasts!

Wishing you Peace and a Lovely Spring,
With Love, S.

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Karuna…

The more I practice being mindful, the more I realize the need to cultivate and practice karuna, or compassion. How else can we get through life when so much is changing all the time? The Buddha called the uncertainty of life, the ‘dukkha’, translated loosely as suffering, but really is the quality of dissatisfaction. What we do when we become aware of this in a momentary way makes all the difference. Dukkha exists. We can’t do much about that. How we respond though, is clearly our choice. Our conditioned response is to resist, because feeling the ouch of dukkha is painful. But not so painful as the resistance to it! When we learn to soften through our difficult times, we learn a new way of being, one that doesn’t depend so much on circumstance, and instead depends only on how willing we are to forgive and be compassionate and start over. every day, every moment, every breath.

When Anjali was really little, crying was her main form of communication. When she cried, it always threw me off-guard, in a tizzy, and I would be at a loss on how to respond. And then I realized a way to get through it. I would sing to her, and that would calm her down enough, so that I could then focus on figuring out what she really needed, with a clearer mind. And then I realized: the mind (and heart) when agitated, was very much like a baby. We could force our way in trying to figure out what was wrong. Or we could sing a gentle song, soothe the mind and then treat the wound with equanimity. It seems to me, the second approach is much gentler, and often results in a wiser response. Its something we’ll have many many opportunities to practice. Perhaps, the whole point of dukkha is to develop this compassionate heart…I think of some of my Teachers who embody this, and it gives me hope. Every moment that I have the gift of experiencing the comfort of a compassionate heart strengthens my faith. Peace is possible!

May we find ways to comfort our hearts during moments of dukkha, and find our way to peace,
with metta, Shuba

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This being human is a guest house…

‘This being human is a guest house,
every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.’

I memorized these words from ‘Guest House’ by Rumi. This poem is so resonant of the experience of being human. How there is a certain ‘wonder’ about it – we never know what each day is going to bring. Literally. We have no way of knowing! Some days have it all in packets of it – the joy, the depression and the meanness. The wounds and the hurt. The gratitude and the amazement. How do we hold it all? How do we stand there as the wind blows and keep our jackets? Maybe we don’t.

He goes on to say ‘welcome and entertain them all even if they are a crowd of sorrows who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture.’ Maybe it is a good thing for the furniture to go. For the house to become empty. For our selves to dissolve. The harder we hold on to our ‘selves’ and identity, the more it hurts to let them go. And the more peace we feel when we do become naked.

Rumi goes on to say: ‘the dark thought, the shame, the malice – meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.’ What a revolutionary thought! To be okay with the malice and darkness of our hearts. To invite them in, instead of turning them away at the door with a broomstick the way we customarily like to do! To be okay with the loneliness and pain that accompanies being human, for it does, as much as the happiness and joy does. To embrace the spectrum of human life – because we can, because we are alive, and because this heart can feel!!

He ends by saying, ‘Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond’. This is hard practice. It involves surrender and grace. Unconditional Love and unquestionable self-worth. Trust. And this trust is what allows us to finally BE – dance with life as it unfolds.

May we find our ways in this Universe with Love,
Shuba.

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The Rhythm of Life…

It is so hard for us to trust in the rhythm of life. Even though it happens in every moment, every day: the in breath and the out breath. the expansion and the contraction. the tension and the release. The push and the pull inherent in life.

We are so caught up in the judging of our experiences, in pressing the ‘like’ and the ‘dislike’ buttons that we forget that this push and pull is life unfolding. It is how things work, it is the human experience.

Health and sickness. Another manifestation of this dance. Both Anjali and I have been sick these past couple of days with cold. Anjali is my 4-month old daughter. It has given me the opportunity to witness how each of us have gone through this experience. I have, in addition to being physically tired, added to the misery by thinking of how I brought this on to myself and her, how I could have avoided it, how this is awful, and how I wish I didn’t have to go through this. Anjali has been tired and fussy as well, but she hasn’t wished the experience otherwise. And there is something freeing in that.

We have all had times when we have gone through something difficult, but it has felt less difficult because of our acceptance of things as they are. And sometimes, it has felt tremendously hard because of our wishing things were otherwise. This too, is the push and pull we can notice. That gives us another insight into the human experience. As Rumi says, ‘Listen, and feel the beauty of your separation, the unsayable absence.’

With love, S.

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