Shuba’s Weblog

Journeys of the soul…

Moon and clouds, Mountain and valley…

‘Moon and clouds are the same

Mountain and valley are different

All are blessed, all are blessed

Is this one or is this two? ‘

 

This beautiful zen poem by Wu Men came into my mind today. Anjali (nickname Anji), my six and a half year old daughter has a soft spot for babies and stuffies. She loves her snugglies – she has about a hundred of them in her room, and is always looking to add a new one. For a while there, I bought every lego set, gears, blocks I could, and then I realized that she didn’t care for building, all the blocks came in handy only to play house with her stuffies. She loves to invent and create and to her, building was incidental – the story it helped make was what she was interested in. Anjali has always loved stories – I believe that is how she taught herself to read – the possibility that she could have direct access to them without waiting for an adult to read them to her!

Anyhow, this is incidental to my main story today. A couple of days ago, Anji mentioned the notion that I loved her more when she was a baby. We had visited a neighbor’s baby and she was touched by how beautiful the baby was and how tiny. She was drawn into that quiet love, and perhaps without having a tangible memory, she was lamenting the days gone of being held and taken care of. I vehemently tried to rationalize with her – how I loved her so much more having seen her grow and become who she is. But I could tell that she thought they were just rationalizations.

So coming to Wu Men’s poem. ‘Moon and clouds are the same’. It made me think of this phase in a mother’s life (and child’s life) where there is no separation between child and parent. When Anji was little, what she felt was what I felt! I could not separate her tears, her tantrums, nor her joy and her delight from mine. Every new step she took was also a new step for me. We grew together and as she learned the first steps of independence and growth, so did I. Through preschool and kindergarten; she blossomed first into learning her capabilities and boundaries and then exploring her social life. I was by her side, and yet also giving her increasing level of independence. And then before we knew it, our little girl was off to first grade! A whole day of school, of new rules, of learning, of so much creativity and managing so many relationships of her own. My girl took a big step forward. And so did I.

So did I – into rediscovering myself. I dipped back into books, into having my relationships in a new way and mostly giving permission to myself to explore what I wanted. When this phase began, I don’t know. And while, it has felt like this was necessary for me to grow, I have never really given thought to the end that it brought too – the end of an era of togetherness of moods, joys and a baby-mothering love. Perhaps, this is what Anji laments, and yearns for, this end of a time in a mother and child’s life even as she steps so confidently into a world that she navigates herself for so much of the day, so bravely and joyfully.

‘Mountain and valley are different’. And yet – are we different? Sometimes I think Anji can read minds – she will say what I’m thinking, or know how I feel. She doesn’t miss a nuance. And I know every tear and laugh of hers. Especially when she gets silly and laughs just like she did as a baby. Sometimes, in the busyness of life, I’m distracted running from one thing to the other, and it is she who stops me. ‘Mom, are you stressed?’ My Buddha baba asks. Sweet pea, thanks for the reminder! We learn something each day. That everything comes a full circle. And ‘All are blessed, All are blessed!’ I don’t know whether this is one, or is this two, but I know it changes depending on the day. As Wu Men also said:

‘ten thousand flowers in spring, moon in autumn

cool breeze in summer, snow in winter

when your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things

this is the best season of your life!’

 

So here is a reminder to enjoy the season of mothering that you are in.

With love, S.

 

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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.

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Transitions…

This is the time of transition. Fall is beginning, and in the course of the last couple of weeks we have officially said good-bye to summer in this part of the world. The mornings are foggy and cold and it is hard to get out of bed. The afternoons are pleasant with warmth in the crispness of the air that is especially welcoming after the mornings. And the evenings are so cool, it makes you want to stay out and feel all of it and see the stars, which are starting to come early in the clear skies.

Our own family is going through transitions – both difficult and welcoming. We have begun a new routine with Anjali’s new program where she goes to the preschool three mornings a week for a little more than couple of hours. Following her second birthday over a week ago, we have started potty-training and while sometimes it can be tiring, mostly it is incredibly satisfying to spend time in the bathroom one-on-one reading, singing, playing and creating a positive atmosphere for her around the potty. We have started having dinners on the table, now about once a week, together all three of us – Abhi, Anjali and I. The first time was hurried and Anjali who hardly ever sits still, wanted to get out after just a few minutes with ‘all done!’ Yesterday, perhaps our third or fourth time, she sat and ate with us, with high praise for the food –rice, ghee, peas, carrots, cheese – “yummy yummy!”, she said. Abhi and I ate our meals in peace looking across the table at each other in amazement and gratitude and pride.

There are also difficulties with transitions – and we haven’t missed that either. Anji is more reluctant to let me go anywhere – with the attachment to my primary role of taking her to the potty in time. She has been waking up at night, perhaps because the diapers aren’t as comfortable anymore, and she demands then that I sleep next to her. I haven’t been able to go for my early morning walks – it is too cold for me to venture out the way I used to.

But none of these difficulties have taken the place of peace.

This peace is a surprise. I’m spending so much more time with my daughter now since she is no longer going to day care part-time – and I was terrified of losing my freedom. But it turns out the fear was mostly just a thought. My freedom is intact – the choices in any moment are still mine. And I keep learning what a compassionate response can be when a 2 year old wakes up crying or doesn’t want to share or gets impatient with her own inability to control things. I keep learning my own limits and what helps me get back to that space where I can give without resentment. And there has been an acceptance finally of my role as the primary care giver- which I have been all along but was too scared to admit having been a career woman most of my life before becoming a Mom.

The metamorphosis of life, of changing bodies and changing leaves brings with it a new possibility – of dancing with something new. When we embrace, we no longer suffer. Sure, struggles are still there, but not the added ouch that our thoughts and fears bring. And when we start to pay attention, we realize that the truth in front of us is actually different from our ideas. It is beautiful, freeing and graceful. My daughter is growing into a new level of independence – and as she gingerly steps into it, slowing embracing it as a new way of being, I too am doing the same. And this process seems to me to epitomize the beauty of change. We reach a new place and there is no going back.

With Love, S.

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One Year Old…

It is incredible to see Anjali making connections with her brain in new ways she couldn’t do two weeks ago! She knows that if Mama is not there downstairs, then she must be upstairs, so she makes her way to the end of the living room and tries to climb up the stairs. She has learnt (with Abhi’s help) that there is a short cut to making the sock monkey pop – by simply budging the small thumb on top. She does it and smiles in delight. Yesterday, she took my sunglasses and tried to wear them! She had figured out that that is what people do with them. She says Book – and means Book. She says duck and looks for duck. She waves bye bye and means it. She tries to take her first steps – unsteady but always within reach of support (usually Mama’s legs). And mostly, she is so incredibly happy at all the things she is learning – it makes me cry.

When do we lose that openness to life, to all its wonders, to learning and to exploration? When do we set up those barriers and create those insecurities? Of course, the wise me understands that these too are part of the human life, and that the more compassionate we can be towards our failings and imperfections, the more peace and love we can have. Yet I can’t help marveling at this amazing miracle of human life – that when we come into this world, we are completely open, vulnerable and trusting. And we start setting up boundaries as a way of protection. And slowly we become attached to them!

How can we hold boundaries with Love? How can we realize that this protection is a choice – sometimes we need it. And sometimes we can let it go, let the wind blow through us, and the rain soak us completely. And even if that opening lasts but for a moment, we become a child again – open to wonder, lifting off like an Eagle into the far blue skies of freedom.

May we feel safe so that we may open…

with Love, Shuba

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Knowing…

This space in my heart
that is as wide as the ocean
how did it come to last
even as it gently meanders
this way and that
forgetting sometimes
of its own existence
and then waking up again
in awe to the breadth and width
of its own expansiveness
That moment, it all
comes together
things become clear
knowing happens
and takes my breath away

With Love, 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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returning home…

…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…

With Love,
Shuba

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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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Learning unconditional Love…

There are days I’m so tired that if I close my eyes, I could sleep for a million years. Some days, this is not a problem. I have the wisdom to know that this won’t last, and that some nights are better than the others. And then some days, this is a huge problem! I find my mind repeating over and over again how tired I am. It is this endless loop and negative thoughts arise easily in this loop. I forget the wisdom and I feel lost.

And then, not everyday, but once in a while, I have a breakthrough. Instead of resisting the ouch of tiredness with the stories that my mind comes up with, I feel it. How does being tired feel? Where does it manifest physically? And what can help me? Just acknowledging this makes me feel better! And that tiny space inside my heart starts to open…

It takes tremendous compassion to love the person we are when we are tired and sleep-deprived. On such days, I find myself having mean thoughts, acting unskillfully, and saying things I wouldn’t under normal circumstances. These episodes quickly turn into opportunities for judgment, which only makes everything ten times worse. My mind starts doing all sorts of dances: comparing, resisting, judging none of which feel generous in any sort of way.

And then the few golden moments: when I see that I’m judging, and I see the underlying conditions (lack of sleep!) that have given rise to the actions. I understand and forgive as a friend would. I think of Anjali, I smile and start over. It is a new moment. It is by no means a guarantee that I won’t act unskillfully again, but it does feel more generous in my heart.

I’m starting to understand unconditional love. It is about loving ourselves, not only when we are acting generously and we are on top of things and as present and loving as can be, but also when we are mean and acting with fear and not able to be as present. I’ve often found that when I’m willing to understand and forgive, my mind stops its “I’ dance, and is more willing to look outside of myself. And then I realize that life is challenging sometimes, not just for me, but for everyone. It opens the doors to compassion.

On days when I have moments like this, I can receive the joy with which Anjali greets the same toys and the same curtains and the same dryer. And I can share her delight in being loved.

With Love, S.

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