Living itself as a friend…

Meditation is old and honorable, so why should I not sit, every morning of my life, on the hillside, looking into the shining world? Because, properly attended to, delight, as well as havoc, is suggestion. Can one be passionate about the just, the ideal, the sublime, and the holy, and yet commit to no labor in its cause?’ -Mary Oliver

I love these words by Mary Oliver and I believe them whole heartedly! At its core, walking a spiritual path requires discipline, it requires commitment and labor, it requires showing up when things are good and showing up when things are not so good. It requires sitting on the cushion when we feel alert and balanced and full of vigor and also when we feel tired and sleepy and not so full of vigor! Above all, it requires letting go of purpose and agenda…and trusting that wherever we are is exactly where we need to be.

‘Be courageous and discipline yourself…Work. Keep digging your well. Don’t think about getting off from work. Water is there somewhere.’, says Rumi. All these wise words point to showing up and doing the work.

And yet, how do we respond when we forget to show up? That too is part of the practice! Do we berate ourselves and pile on the self judgement or do we soften in tenderness for the challenging life circumstances that have prevented us from coming to our mat, or cushion? Above all, do we give ourselves permission to begin over?

Beginning over and over is the practice. And we do it not because its what we should do, but because we have a choice and it’s what we choose to do. And every time we choose to begin over, we open the door to spontaneous joy, the joy that arises from making time to listen to our soul, our spirit, the inner most voice inside that speaks only when we become silent… And that spontaneous joy that ‘comes and sits softly on my shoulder’ (in the words of Thoreau) gives me the courage to stay on the path.

So, here is to discipline and joy and supporting each other on the path…

With metta, S

Ps: please enjoy my latest collage for which I used Brush Dance’s Rumi calendar from 2007 as backdrop…

In taking the photograph, the reflection of the window adds an interesting dimension! The words at the bottom are from Rumi as well.

Creative living…

One of my absolute favorite poems of Rumi is this one…translated by Coleman Barks:

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

Everyday life presents us opportunities to do what we love, in little and big ways, whether it is because we are frightened or because we are joyful! This has never been more true perhaps than now, for us who are living through this pandemic. We have experienced contraction and expansion in a variety of ways and most of all we have all experienced transformation…

For me, these past few months have opened up a well of creative living… whether it is in trying new recipes or foods, or in crafting collages and knitting projects and designing jewelry or in simply playing with time in spontaneous ways…Professionally, I am a high school math teacher so being in the classroom everyday presents its own challenges and rewards, but most of all, it reminds me to take care of myself, model that for my daughter and make time for play!

As I was talking to a friend about my new projects , she suggested starting a creativity journal! I don’t want to use yet another blog space but thought I would experiment using this space for some of my work…it will certainly help me be more regular in blogging!

So hope you enjoy what is to come…. this collage below is inspired by my intentions for my upcoming teacher training program and was done on this snow day today, with my amazing incredibly talented ten year old daughter who made her own collage (not shown here) and will probably start her own blog when she is old enough! 🙂

The woodpecker, according to Ted Andrews, author of Animal Speak, represents new rhythms, and we sighted a couple of woodpeckers in our yard on New Year’s Day! It also represents discrimination, in what we take on in life so that we protect our time and our practice! And I really wanted to find a seat to represent meditation. Finally, the background is from the Nature Conservancy 2020 calendar!

With metta, S

Lessons from the ocean…

What is it about the ocean that brings such peace? Is there anything that I could say that has not been said before, and more eloquently than others?

Even so, I’m going to try to capture some felt experiences of being at the beach this past week in Maine:

  • Things arise and they pass away. If you pay attention, you can just discern a wave crashing, even as another is rising…and it is a never ending cycle. Just like the breath. That is comforting. It also reminded me of a powerful realization that my breath will be with my until the moment I die! Literally. So, if I am ever terrified or scared, I just need to remember to breathe. I actually understood what Rumi meant by: ‘Don’t let your throat tighten with fear. Take sips of breath all day and night!’.
  • What wild abandon looks like. My daughter Anjali is a water lover and a good swimmer. At nine, she sits down on the sand and lets the waves crash over her. She jumps into waves. She runs a race with them. She lays down and allows the ocean to embrace her. I have never met anyone like her, with no fear, and no self-consciousness. And the water was ice-cold! It was inspiring and it pushed me to let go a little bit of control. To let go, and lean in. Into the unknown and the uncertainty of this moment!
  • Thoughts arise and pass. We don’t have to act on them. We can, if we choose to. But there is that moment of choice, and in that moment also abides the freedom. If only we can slow down. It is easy to slow down by the ocean, to be lulled into the state of being, witnessing and abiding in love.
  • When we relax into the moment, give up our plans and agendas, we actually have more energy! I found that I had boundless energy to go with the flow, and at the end of the day, I felt at peace. No resistance, no pushing away.
  • So much beauty surrounds us. We can so easily take it for granted. Especially now, more than ever, we see our surroundings with new eyes. ‘A feeling of fullness comes, but usually it takes some bread to bring it. Beauty surrounds us, but usually we need to be walking in a garden to know it.’ (Rumi)
  • Appreciating the body. The body without which experience on this earth would not be possible. As Mary Oliver says in ‘Red bird explains himself’, “for truly the body needs a song, a spirit, a soul. And no less, to make this work, the soul has need of a body, and I am both of the earth and I am of the inexplicable beauty of heaven“.

So, let’s breathe. Feel the ocean within us. And ‘enjoy this being washed with a secret we sometimes know, and then not’ (Rumi)

With prayers and love,

Ocean blues…

It has been nearly two weeks since I wrote last! The days are flying by, and we are at the home stretch of summer vacation. Since I wrote last, we spent a few days in Ogunquit, Maine. I grew up in south India, about a ten minute walk from the beach, and I took this for granted! Now, living in picturesque and mountainous New England, I don’t make enough visits to the ocean. This time when we went, a mere couple of hours of driving, I realized how much I had missed the beach. There is something that happens when you are around the ocean. A slow letting go of all the worries and anxieties you didn’t even know you carried, and in its place, a deep wisdom growing its roots within you. I slept so well, and woke up the next morning feeling alert and clearer than I had in days. Everything made sense and everything was perfect. Such is the magic of the ocean.

I would be remiss, if I did not admit to having a few less-than-graceful moments. Balancing the needs of your family, while still managing to get your own needs met, is an ever-shifting dance! We had a great breakfast the first day (Daalu, my husband’s favorite meal!), and of course, swimming in the beach (Anji’s favorite activity!), but it got too hot to go on the marginal way, which is what I really wanted. Anji was a bit at the receiving end of my disappointment, and at one point, I was losing it, and I told her, “why don’t we walk in silence until the end of the street, and by then, I will have it together”. She replied: “Mom, even if you are mad, I would rather you be social with me than silent!” She said it in such an earnest and kind and non-judging way, it cracked me up and lightened up my mood. Of course, I would love to be social with you my sweetheart!

We did make it to the marginal way the next day, bright and early, and Anji and I had an amazing time wandering through the little coves.

And she and Daalu enjoyed some quality time swimming in the ocean. We also made it to Cape Nubble Lighthouse, which was so scenic and beautiful!

My beloved friend joined us for the last day, and it was heart-filling! More beach and play time, and dinner at the lovely Rose Cove Patio, and shopping through the streets of downtown at night.

When we got back, I had a few days of ocean blues… I really missed seeing the ocean. The rhythm of the tide, the calm of the expanse of water, the sight of the kites diving into the water, seagulls looking for food, burst of blooms along the pathways, and so much room for everything to be. But then when I pause, I can see within me, the same deep, lasting peace. And a reminder that “You are not a drop in the ocean, you are an entire ocean in a drop.” (Rumi)

Namaste, S.

The joy of the hummingbird…

A couple of days ago, we saw a hummingbird! I just happened to look outside through our porch door and there was this tiny bird just hovering over the blossoms. I felt a shiver of happiness at having caught such a fleeting moment of beauty. In Ted Andrews’ book, Animal Speak, hummingbird represents hope and joy. So of course the next day, I took Anji to the gardeners store to get a hummingbird feeder. Talk about attachment! Of course I wanted more of that joy!

While we were at the store, the person at the counter, this very helpful and cheerful man told us that every spring lots of hummingbirds visited the green house behind for the amazing flowers. So you can guess where we went next!

Even though it is not spring but summer, we set out to see all of the plants they have. I had no idea the store was so big! We walked first to see the sun and then the shade annuals. Then we saw the shade perennials, these incredible varieties of Hostas. We ended with a tour of the sun perennials – beautiful hydrageneas, rose bushes, lilac bushes etc. As we walked, the sun so pleasant on our faces, feeling so relaxed and peaceful, Anjali holding my hand as she pointed out various facts she observed, I felt a tremendous sense of contentment at having taken this detour. How luxurious it felt in that moment to take the time to just be, to be spontaneous, follow our desires, not have to rush and be able to enjoy the beauty.

Tonight, as I reminisced about the garden with Anji, she pointed out wisely: Mom don’t worry, the hummingbirds will come for the nectar you put out. Even if it doesn’t happen right away, they will surely come.


Namaste, S.

Our visit to the Bridge of Flowers…

Coming home…

It is my first day of school vacation. My second year of teaching has flown by, and it has brought me such learning, and growth and appreciation, I feel grateful to find something I cherish and love doing everyday. I love my students, and my colleagues, and I love that I am paid to do math everyday!

And I also love my school vacation.

On this beautiful quiet morning, after dropping off Anjali, now 4 and ¾ as she reminded me this morning, I walked on the meandering roads near my house and I couldn’t help marveling at how my life has unfolded here in the upper valley. I came here as a graduate student to Dartmouth college, when I was 21. And I just never left. It has been nearly 14 years now. It wasn’t a love affair from the beginning, I can tell you that for sure. In fact I cried those beginning months, to be back home, to be around people again. And then one starry night, I walked outside from a show at the Hopkins center, and that’s when I knew. I was going to stay.

It is amazing to me that such a small place can hold so much. The beautiful magnificent fall – in all its triumphant colors that change everyday, culminating in a rich golden dance of leaves that lead into nothingness. And then the beauty of pure white snow and the trees clothed in white, the snowy banks and mountains and the feel of icy cold air on the cheeks. Everything feels so still in the winter. And then the melting and the nothingness in between – before the buds shoot forth and miracle of life happens again. The trees and plants grow leaves, and somehow in a span of a magical month, everything is green again. And now, as I gaze around me, I’m greeted in all directions by the lushness of green. Who knew there were so many shades of green? Not to mention the flowers. Each walk I go, I discover a new bloom, a new kind of flower, a new scent. My heart is made so happy! And I am in awe of this unfolding that happens every year without fail, and that I get to be the witness to this beauty of transformation.

Each year seems to bring something new. This year, after living in our home for over 7 years, we saw a black bear in our back yard for the first time! It wasn’t large, but it had come to find seed at our bird feeder, which we then had to take down. In the last year and half, we have seen and learned the names of over 10 species of birds come to our yard, and listened to their calls and watched their way of patiently waiting for their turn at the feeder. In the roads around my home, I have taken countless walks. I have walked with friends, I have walked as a pregnant woman, as a new mother with my baby snug in the wrap next to me, as mom pushing the stroller with my child, more recently walking side-by-side with my daughter, and then sometimes like this morning, alone by myself. Life has come a full circle. And as I take each footstep up the hill lined with purple and yellow wild flowers, I know I am home.

So here is to the place closest to my heart, my home, the place I have lived longer than any other place in my life, the place that bears witness to my own transformation. I bow to you in gratitude and joy!

With love, S.