Monday, December 29, 2014

Watching Oneself

Raghav was having some physical discomfort, to which his reaction is usually kind of extreme and often very loud (for us). It was this time too.

Only this time, a few minutes later, he comes up to me and says this:

"The key is to be calm when this is happening.....and not get anxious. See, now I am better, and so I am calm."

I smiled and asked: "What?" (because he was being calm after and not during what he was going through).

He figured that out himself though and said smiling:" Yeah...I know what I just said kind of doesn't make sense..." :)

A few minutes later, he added:
"I was anxious when that was happening and my breath was short and fast. The key is for me to slow down my breathing when it is happening, so that I don't get anxious. Then I will be calm."

Friday, December 26, 2014

Living Wisdom

We (Raghav and I) were planning what to take with us today to spend the day again with my sister and family. When we are home by ourselves, we don't need to plan our days. We decide what to do in the moment. But when we are with people who like to plan and 'know' what they need to do next, we are learning to flow with that too. So here is our conversation from this morning....

Me: Do you want to think about what you would like to take with you today, or what you want to do with A today?

R: He loves Minecraft. I don't think I need to take anything else.

Me: I don't think R (my sister) likes A watching Minecraft all day. She shared that with me yesterday. Why don't you think about taking a DVD to watch with him today, as he likes watching movies and R doesn't mind him doing that I think?

R: But why doesn't she like Minecraft?

Me: I think because there is killing mobs etc.

R: Yes, but it is only a game! And that is what adds realism to it. If you couldn't die in Minecraft or other things couldn't die in Minecraft, it would not be real at all.

Me: What do you mean by realism or realistic?

R: Well, dying and killing other people is 'real'. That's what happens in real the world.

I smiled and nodded.

Me: Do you think that by playing games that have violence in them, there is a chance that you will or might become violent in real life?

R: No! It is only a game! I won't be violent in real life because I don't want to. By playing these games, there is a 99.9% chance that I will not become violent.

Me: (smiling) So there is a 0.1% chance that you might become violent in real life?

R: Yes. Because I cannot predict the future can I?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

To see what we don't want to see....

We were just leaving to go home, after spending the whole day at my parents' place with my sister and little nephews. Raghav was packing all his stuff into his bags. My little nephew was trying to help him, and picked up Raghav's new Lego creation - a train that he had just finished building over two days. As he was carrying and moving it to the bag, it fell from his hand and parts of it came off. Raghav screamed - his eyes closed tight, his hands fisted, his teeth grit hard, his whole body taut with anger. My little nephew looked a bit rattled and upset as he clung to my father, hugging him tight while sitting on his lap. He didn't budge from there for the rest of the time that we were there.

Soon, there were more screams from Raghav (when Raghav screams, he really SCREAMS!!) as he picked up the pieces and figured out that one piece was actually broken. Six adults (each with their own thoughts), one bewildered little baby, one kid who was like a mini volcano erupting, and another little kid who seemed confused and upset.

Raghav ran away screaming into another room. I went with him. For the first time I think, Raghav allowed me to go near him and hold him. Usually he needs and would ask for his space (to be physically away) when he was going through some strong emotions. I held him and asked if he was feeling angry. "I am really really very angry!!!....with A!!", he screamed, bursting into tears. "That piece is cannot be fixed! he should not hold it that way...he must carry it with two hands!", he cried.

I understood how he felt. This was a new set that we had got him for Christmas, after many many months. Both my nephew and Raghav had sat down to build with their new sets today. Raghav was heartbroken that the set he had wanted for so long, what he had waited to get and build for so long, was broken. It was a little piece that was broken. But it was not only a little piece.

My husband and I sat down to try and figure out with Raghav as to which piece had broken. Everyone else was around watching us.
My mother added: " What do you get out of screaming? Is it going to get fixed?"
Raghav replied vehemently, screaming even more:"I can't help it! I am angry!"
And I added quietly: "He is very angry and so wants to scream."

My husband picked up the train and examined it. Raghav showed him where it had broken. We realised that it could not be fixed, nor could it be stuck with strong glue, as that part would then become immobile. But the train could still move on tracks. My husband showed that to him. We suggested that he could remember to carry that part separately in his hand, every time he was carrying the train, so that it would not fall off again. Raghav agreed. He then tried to fix the other parts that had come off. But they weren't fixing properly as he was already very irritated. We heard a few more screams as he tried to fix them again and again. My husband suggested that he put everything in the bag as they were and go home and try and fix them, as he would be in a better space - calmer and less angry. "No, I won't be calmer!", Raghav screamed.

All he was looking for was for us to stay with him and his anger in that moment. He was not asking for it to be fixed or wished away. "I am very angry. Can you all just listen to that and accept that? Can you stop telling me how to make it go away?" Those were his words without words. I am not sure how many of us really 'listened' to that.

I looked at my nephew. I wanted to hug them both. But realised that both were not in a space to receive that. I asked him if he was trying to help Raghav, when he carried the train. He nodded and said yes. I turned to Raghav and shared with him how A was trying to help him, but that it probably slipped from his hand and fell. "That's not the way he should carry it", said Raghav. "I know, but A didn't know that," I added. And we left it at that.

Soon enough, he finished fixing the parts that he had been trying to fix through his anger, and was ready to leave. I went over to my little nephew, rubbed his back gently and whispered to him that Raghav was now very angry, but that he would probably be okay tomorrow. I told him we would meet tomorrow and we said our byes to leave to go home. My husband whispered to Raghav, asking if he would like to go and give A a hug and say something to him. Raghav shook his head vehemently, refusing to do that. We said bye to everyone and left quietly.

Later that night, just before getting ready to sleep, I asked Raghav how he was feeling.
"I feel better now. I am not angry," he said with a little smile.
I told him how I had spoken to my sister and that they were planning to come over to our place tomorrow.
"Ok....oh, then I have to remember to give those two red Lego pieces to A....his set doesn't have them, or he has lost them....I want to give two of mine to him, so he can finish off that car tomorrow. I have to help him finish that", he said. We both smiled, hugged each other and went to sleep.

So much had transpired in that little time. There was so much to learn for all of us. It wasn't about the children. It wasn't about what had happened. It was about a lot of other things....things to do with each of us and how we look at ourselves and our own thoughts and emotions. What was important to us? The process or the end? To sort things out and 'fix' them, or take things as they are, let things be and find their own levels in their own time?

This was my learning today....

Often we are so focused on the pattern we are creating or the stitches we are making, mostly focusing on trying to 'finish' the pattern or stitch, instead of watching how we are holding the cloth or needle, how we are moving it, and how it disappears into one hole and comes out through the other.

It is in these gaps between holes that the most important things happen.

Yet, we often forget this and get lost in how we can get down to 'bridging' the gap between the holes.

This is what we mostly do with all our interactions. We are often so focused on finding solutions and managing the situation, rather than staying with the emotions and our humanness. We get caught in the 'product' instead of the 'process'.

A knitter only appears to be knitting yarn. 
Also being knitted are winks, mischief, sighs, 
fragrant possibilities, wild dreams. 

~Dr. SunWolf

I also want to add here, the lovely piece about ANGER, written by the poet David Whyte. I feel that it is quite a misunderstood emotion and one that is often wished away by most people.....


is the deepest form of compassion, for another, for the world, for the self, for a life, for the body, for a family and for all our ideals, all vulnerable and all, possibly about to be hurt. Stripped of physical imprisonment and violent reaction, anger is the purest form of care, the internal living flame of anger always illuminates what we belong to, what we wish to protect and what we are willing to hazard ourselves for. What we usually call anger is only what is left of its essence when it reaches the lost surface of our mind or our body’s incapacity to hold it, or the limits of our understanding. What we name as anger is actually only the incoherent physical incapacity to sustain this deep form of care in our outer daily life; the unwillingness to be large enough and generous enough to hold what we love helplessly in our bodies or our mind with the clarity and breadth of our whole being.

What we have named as anger on the surface is the violent outer response to our own inner powerlessness, a powerlessness connected to such a profound sense of rawness and care that it can find no proper outer body or identity or voice, or way of life to hold it. What we call anger is often simply the unwillingness to live the full measure of our fears or of our not knowing, in the face of our love for a wife, in the depth of our caring for a son, in our wanting the best, in the face of simply being alive and loving those with whom we live.

Our anger breaks to the surface most often through our feeling there is something profoundly wrong with this powerlessness and vulnerability; anger too often finds its voice strangely, through our incoherence and through our inability to speak, but anger in its pure state is the measure of the way we are implicated in the world and made vulnerable through love in all its specifics: a daughter, a house, a family, an enterprise, a land or a colleague. 

Anger turns to violence and violent speech when the mind refuses to countenance the vulnerability of the body in its love for all these outer things - we are often abused or have been abused by those who love us but have no vehicle to carry its understanding, who have no outer emblems of their inner care or even their own wanting to be wanted. Lacking any outer vehicle for the expression of this inner rawness they are simply overwhelmed by the elemental nature of love’s vulnerability. In their helplessness they turn their violence on the very people who are the outer representation of this inner lack of control.

But anger truly felt at its center is the essential living flame of being fully alive and fully here, it is a quality to be followed to its source, to be prized, to be tended, and an invitation to finding a way to bring that source fully into the world through making the mind clearer and more generous, the heart more compassionate and the body larger and strong enough to hold it. What we call anger on the surface only serves to define its true underlying quality by being a complete and absolute mirror-opposite of its true internal essence.

©2014 David Whyte
Excerpted from ‘ANGER’ From CONSOLATIONS: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words

Friday, December 19, 2014

What I don't like in myself is what I don't like in others

Conversations from this morning....

R woke up wanting to build a surprise for me out of his Lego blocks - for Christmas. He has been building little things because Christmas is his favourite festival. A little later, he came out of his room with a Lego creation of a little Santa on a sleigh with presents, pulled by Rudolph. Then we got talking about presents.
Me: What do you think is the best present/gift you have got?
R: You, appa and myself.
Me: So why do you feel that this is the best gift?
R: I don't know....I love you both a lot....and I love myself....I know it sounds a bit weird to say that 'I love myself' hear me saying it about myself...
Me: Why do you feel it is weird? Do you think it is wrong to feel and say that you love yourself?
R: No. I don't feel it is wrong. I just love myself. But it sounds weird.
Me: Is there anything that you don't like about yourself?
R: No. I like everything.
Me: Is there anything that you don't like about other people?
R: Yes. There is one thing I can think of. I don't like people getting angry with me.
Me: Do you like yourself getting angry?
R: No.
Me: Why?
R: I don't know. It is because of the way it makes me feel inside....And with other people, like with my friends, what I don't like about them comes through experience....what happens when I am with them. So if I like them 100 percent in the beginning, then if something happens that I don't like, then it comes down by say 1%.
Me: you don't like people getting angry with you....and you don't like yourself getting angry?
R: Yes....What I don't like in myself is what I don't like in others.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Food Choices

Raghav's gyan this morning from his morning durbar with me .....:)
(His inferences from watching videos on BrainPop and reading a book on body science)

"You can be completely vegetarian and still get all the nutrition your body needs.
But you cannot be completely non-vegetarian and still get all the nutrition that your body needs. You have to have some vegetarian food too. Because non-veg foods give you only a part of what your body needs. And I think most people actually KNOW that."

Minecraft, Trust and Friendship

It is funny and strange how some conversations have their seed in the past and in the future. Much like a dandelion....some conversations start in one place and their many seeds are carried over and across to so many spaces and interactions over time....and it is beautiful to see the pattern, the flow and the journey those seeds take. This was one such conversation....

Yesterday, Raghav expressed a desire to play Minecraft with friends. I was suggesting that he go online and play, as none of his friends here were into Minecraft.

"But I have to have seen or know the person I play with. I cannot play with someone I don't know," he said quite emphatically.

And so he wanted us (my husband and me) to play with him. I agreed to try if he taught me, and also asked if he would like me to ask my friend's son who he had met here and played Minecraft with a few months ago. He was immediately all excited. So I sat and wrote to her, sharing his request.

"But why do you feel that you cannot play with someone you don't know?", I prodded on.
"Because I don't trust them. I cannot play with someone I don't trust....someone whose identity I don't know," he added. And we left it at that.

Later at night, I was telling Raghav how I was going to be in another room, talking to my friend on skype. "Who is that? Is it ***?", he asked. I smiled and said 'yes'.
"But how do you talk to *** when you haven't even seen *** before?", he asked quite surprised.
"I don't know...but I like talking to *** and *** is my friend," I said.
Strangely, my friend and I also ended up talking about trust in our conversation although the conversations flowed from elsewhere! :)

This morning, I broached the same topics again with him.
"Yesterday, you were talking about you can't trust someone you haven't met or don't what does trust mean to you? What does it make you feel inside?", I asked.
With a little more prodding and some choices, he was able to tell me how with some people that he trusted, he was relaxed, comfortable and happy, and how with some others he felt anxious. And then, he came up with this...

"Both people have to feel the same way about trust, for them to trust each other," he said.

"Like I trust you and appa and Joel and Sadie and thatha and patti....and I feel that with the three of us, we feel the same way about you think you and appa feel the same way about trust, the way I do?", he asked.

"....I think you do....but with my friends and thatha and patti, I am not sure they feel the same way about trust like I if I were to play Minecraft with you or appa, and you kill me, then the next time, I would still play the same thing with you again......but with anyone else, even if I trust them, if they kill me in Minecraft, I cannot and will not play that again with them....but I may play something else. So I trust them for some things, but not other things," he added.

"Yes....I you feel that you can trust appa and me for everything and that we three feel the same way about trust....yes, and  that is how I feel with this friend of mine too....I trust *** for everything. Trust is something that I just know and feel inside," I said.

What a beautiful conversation that was....much like a piece of embroidery, being woven slowly with magic and wonder and a lot of heart. Yes, trust is the basis of any relationship....the foundation....on which everything else gets created. Trust is like a stick-it note - it just is or happens in the very first moment of the interaction...and once it is peeled off or removed, it will not stick on easily again.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Am I Comfortable In My Own Skin?

Today we went to a birthday party - it was my neighbour's kid's birthday and Raghav really likes her. She has a way with him...a fierce persistence to get him to listen and respond to her, and even if he does get irritated sometimes, he generally listens to her and likes being with her, and when he doesn't he just tells her off. She is all of six and a good three years younger than he is. So yes, Raghav really wanted to go.

We haven't been to a birthday party in a long time...more than two years I think. Raghav has a fear of balloons (bursting) and so usually doesn't like to go to birthday parties. But he has often made an effort to go to some, especially if it is his dear friend's. He is then even willing to bear the extreme discomfort and face his fear.

And while he faces his fears, I face mine too - the fear of what people would think if he closes his ears and screams when he sees a balloon, the fear of being different, the fear of being rejected and not being seen for who we are. And so, we have often faced our fears together. There were many times, when I was the only other mom in a birthday party, as most parents would just drop off their kids and go away. But Raghav still needs me in that sense, and always has. And so I would have to be with him, be his voice, encourage him to join in whenever he could in the games and so on. I have felt embarrassed and out of place, much like a fish out of water, and yet stayed with all of that. It has paid us dividends, which I am able to see today.

So, yes we went to the party and had quite a good time too! We knew no one there, except for my neighbour and her kids. But we both felt okay about it. We sat by ourselves for a while, until others started coming in. We were introduced to some of them. One lady, who was the mom of a six year old boy, opened up and chatted with us. She introduced her son to Raghav (who also loved cars and Lego) and they actually sat and chatted for quite a while. For the first time in my life, I felt gratitude towards extroverts like her, who take the first step towards starting a conversation with people like me, who find it challenging to initiate conversations. It was a huge shift for me. All these years, I have felt out of place and extremely uncomfortable with my inability to start up conversations with some people. I have judged myself for being who I was. It has been a painful struggle to be comfortable all the time, with who I was. I have kept away and felt sad about it too. But today was different. I was able to see and love myself for who I was, and able to see the gift that others brought me, by being their bubbly, outgoing selves. When this shift happened inside, it was amazing to see the shift happening outside. I suddenly felt so free and at ease with myself and everyone, even though no one there spoke to me, and I too didn't speak. There was no need. It was perfect as it was.

Raghav was also more at ease with himself. He agreed to go there without his iPad (which happens rarely, but is beginning to happen more now!); he was happy to do nothing and just sit on his chair; he was okay to sit amidst a place full of balloons (even if he closed his ears for most parts of the time); he made friends with a boy he had never met before, and even played with him for a while. These were all huge shifts for us!

Yes, it looks like we are getting more and more comfortable in our own skins (until of course we need to shed them at some point, for some reason! ). But what amazed me the most was what transpired in the conversations between Raghav and his new transient friend. I hardly ever intervened, and am so glad I didn't! (I guess you will figure out why) I share here some parts of the conversation as I remember it....

X: What is your name?
R: Raghav.
X: Which class are you in? Which school do you go to?
R: I don't go to any school. I learn by myself at home.
X: What are you saying? How can you not go to school? Then do you sell flowers??
You must go to school. You are nine years old? You have to now start from baby class!
R: I don't sell flowers. I just don't go to school. I used to go when I was small, but then didn't like it. It was boring.
X: Yes. Actually sometimes when my friends in class trouble me a lot, I also don't feel like going...I tell my mother that I don't want to go to school. But she says that I must.
What is your favourite colour?
R: Red
X: Mine too! What is your favourite food?
R: Pasta and pizza.
X: I like french fries and pizza.
R: How can you have two favourites?
X: What is your favourite fruit?
R: Strawberry.
X: I like custard apple and banana.
And then they went on to talk about favourite vegetables listing them in order of preference.

Then, this little boy wanted to go and play 'catch', and asked Raghav if he would come. Raghav hesitatingly agreed, but wanted me to be around. I went along. Just before they started, he asked Raghav: "So do you have friends if you don't go to school?"
R: Yes, I do have some friends. A (the birthday girl) is also my friend. She is my neighbour.
And then they began to play. When they had finished, he came up to me and said: "He is very slow. See, I am smaller than him, and still I am so fast. I caught him so easily."
R: "Actually, I don't think we can say who is faster or slower. I think (but I may be wrong) we both run at the same speed. But I find it hard to cut corners, while he is good at that. That is why I think I cannot catch him, but he catches me."

Then, everyone was called in to the place where the cake was being cut. Raghav hesitated to go in as some kids had loads of balloons in their hand, and he was scared that they might unwittingly burst them. His friend saw him and asked what had happened.
R: I am scared of balloons.
X: But you are nine years old. You are not a baby. How can you be scared of balloons?
R: I am scared. I am scared that they will burst, and I don't like that....the sound.

After the cake-cutting, Raghav wanted to leave. So we excused ourselves without eating a thing. Raghav didn't want to eat the cake as he felt it would have eggs in it. So we told my neighbour and left. For the first time, I didn't feel bad or guilty or sad about hurting anyone's sentiments.

Later, in the car, we chatted about the party and how he felt there. I had been a silent observer, watching and listening to their conversations. I was able to see the innocence as well as the sarcastic adult-like, adult-influenced remarks of a six year old. I wondered how I might have got hurt with remarks like that from someone.  And so I turned to Raghav and asked him how he felt. He said that he was completely fine with everything and that nothing had upset him. I smiled. I remembered that wooden hand-crafted doll.....which has a rounded bottom, and which when disturbed or pushed, rolls around and eventually comes back to its stable position without toppling over.

"I would like to perhaps play 'catch' with J (his best friend) and see. I have a feeling that he might also not be able to cut corners like me and that we would run at the same speed. That would be more challenging for me, because it would be more fair.....I was also wondering why he said that if someone does not go to school, they must be selling flowers. That is not true. There are so many things we can do if we don't go to school. Not just selling flowers!", he added. He seemed to know exactly what his challenges were, and was willing to explore those. And he was also okay to move out of his comfort zone, like he had done today.

I was quite surprised. Yes - surprised as to how non-intervention (when it is the ask of the moment) can be the best thing to do some times. Surprised as to how one just does not need to 'work on' one's challenges persistently....that there are other 'do nothing' ways of arriving at the same place. There was no need to 'facilitate' children or 'teach' them how to handle the world and themselves...what to say and when and how. They already know.

And there is definitely a moment in time, when one does not feel the need to justify one's actions and choices.....when one's thoughts are not white-washed by redundant conditioning.....when one can smell the sweet aroma of child-like innocence and simply rest in that, enjoy that....when one can simply slip in comfortably into one's own skin. Nothing else matters then. You are centered, grounded and at peace with your own little self....inside your own skin.


“The moment will arrive when you are comfortable with who you are, and what you are– bald or old or fat or poor, successful or struggling- when you don't feel the need to apologize for anything or to deny anything. To be comfortable in your own skin is the beginning of strength.” 

― Charles B. Handy

Inspiration in a Bathtub!

Most of his inspiration comes when he is in a tub of water...

This morning, after a bath, R was sitting in the tub and suddenly popped this question:
"Why does the water level rise when I sit in the tub?"

Me: "Think about it....what is the difference between the tub of water without you and with you?"
A little later, he called out to me....

"Amma, I know....the amount of water in the tub remains the same with me or without the amount of water that rises is equal to the space occupied by my body....obviously....because my body cannot absorb the water and I am not drinking it!"

:) Do I see Archimedes dancing in his grave?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

When in Doubt.....Ask!

I love the way this article has been written...light and easy...just like play...

The Childhood We Wish We Had

Yes, I have been in the space that Pam shares here in the article...I have celebrated and mourned my childhood, and both were needed for me to ease into play and living and learning with my child...

I still do have some inhibitions, but am more accepting and aware of those, and so is he.....and my dear husband makes up for what I cannot give or do for whatever reasons...for things I am still coming to terms with or figuring out.....and that is what I find so beautiful about life....there are just so many ways in which these cracks are filled up effortlessly....

Last night, just before going to bed, Raghav and I were talking a bit...about how he learns and about our journey now...It feels good to do a 'reality check' with him every now and then....air my doubts and questions. To me, he is a little person who is getting to know himself just like I am.....and so we talk a lot about a whole lot of things...including ourselves - how we think, feel and learn.

When I am in doubt, I just ask him. Yes. That's what I do. Simple and straight. If I am worried about his meltdowns, we sit down and talk about it. I share my worries and my fears and my inadequacies of handling situations. If I am concerned about his lack of outdoor play, I share my concerns, why I feel the way I do, emphasize my needs, talk about my fears, ask him why he is not interested and so on. If the fear of his not making friends comes up, I sit down and ask him how he is feeling about being without friends, whether he misses them, why or why not, suggest ways he could make new friends, and ask if we should have some of them over.

When I am in doubt, I just ask. And that has worked wonders for us until now. It often opens up a space where anything and everything can be offered, suggested, listened to, asked, discussed and argued about. A space where we both learn something new about each other and ourselves. A space which helps us get more grounded in the choices we have made, or shaken up beliefs that no longer serve us. And I am so grateful for this space that we share. It has been the place where maximum learning has occured for both of us....and I cherish that.

So last night, I shared with him what was on my mind. I asked him whether he thought we should 'be' with him in a different way....suggest more things, do more things with him and in other ways. I asked him what he wanted us to do while he was on the iPad or doing his own thing. I asked him how he felt about us just 'letting him be'....whether he wanted or expected something that we were not giving or doing for him. And this is what he said: "Amma, you are doing the right thing by just letting me be. I know when I need you and I will ask. I like to learn this way - by myself..... If you suggest something and that sounds interesting to me, I would love to do it. You can be however you want with me. It doesn't matter. If something is a secret and I don't want you to watch it, I will tell you. But I am happy with this way."

Was I asking for validation? Was I unsure of boundaries? Was I reeling in self-doubt? Was I giving him too much power and choice? Maybe. And maybe not. It depends on how we really want to see things isn't it?....through what lens do we want to view some thing? And that is why I feel intent is key. Intent is something that only the person thinking or doing something can really know. All else is speculation and judgement. One has to be honest with one's own self. All else is quite immaterial. So yes, I know why I spoke with my son....why I have these heart-to-heart conversations with him every now and then. It is a way I have found - to be vulnerable with him about my own fears and doubts. It is a space where I can feel and share with him the pain and joys of being simply human. Messy. Imperfect. Beautiful.Ugly. It is a space where I can perfect the art of diving deeper into my utter humanness.

So how do you play with your child? 
Do you play with him the way he would like you to? 
Do you push yourself because of your unfulfilled childhood?
Do you just rest into what comes naturally to you without wanting to become somebody you really are not?
Do you feel comfortable and happy and truly enjoy being the way you are?
Do you ever ask him when you are in doubt?

I would love to listen to your thoughts.....

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Of Ebola, Life and Death

The day started off with conversations that flowed from trains, to places around the globe, how people discovered that the earth is not flat, about day and night, to the sun not really rising and setting, to gravity in all things and attraction, to the movie Interstellar (we haven't watched it yet, but we Googled and watched the trailer), about living in the beginning of another ice age now and into the ebola virus and death. It was quite an odyssey!

We have spoken about death in many ways before, from when Raghav was quite young. It has often been the topic of many a conversation we have had over the years. Some months ago, when I was stalked by the fear of dying yet again, strangely, it came up with him too, even though I didn't share my fear then with him. I was having these sudden aches and pains over a week, and quite a shooting pain on one side of my abdomen on one day. It made me curl up and sit in the womb position. My husband got worried and started imagining all kinds of things and shared his concerns and fears with me. Although I knew that it was a passing thing, for the time that it stayed with me, this pain raked up that old fear of death and disease again.

Raghav then saw my husband googling something about appendicitis, and was in tears. I held him close and asked him what was up and he shared with me how he had watched a video on BrainPop on appendicitis and how it could be fatal if it was not diagnosed early enough. I asked him if he was worried that my pain could have anything to do with appendicitis, and he nodded, tears streaming down his face. We then sat and talked a little more. I asked if he was scared of my dying, and he broke down. We sat for a long time, holding each other in silence, just listening to our hearts beat. Just speaking our hearts was enough. Sharing our fears was enough. It was freeing and refreshing. And brought us back to the present moment quite effortlessly. I am glad that we speak of death with this ease.

Yet, I can also see how some people would probably question watching such videos, out of concern. Why would anyone want to rake all these things up unnecessarily? That is a valid point. But how long can we run away from what is real and alive? How much can we push things up under the carpet, waiting for an opportune moment to face it? I feel we are always ready for everything. We don't have to be readied in anyway. That readiness is all in the mind and in the way we interact with life.

So today, when he started off speaking about the ebola virus, there was a kind of detachment and matter-of-fact-ness in the way he spoke. Atleast that is what I sensed. I didn't know much about the ebola....I haven't been keeping up with the news and knew nothing of it really. So it was interesting for me to hear him lecture to me about the symptoms, causes, prognosis, treatment etc. His learning was solely based on BrainPop, but it was thorough. And with that learning came further questions.

"Why are people kept in isolation when they think someone has Ebola?
Why are they so scared?", he asked.
And then, as if to answer himself, he said:"Well, everyone is scared of dying. That is our biggest fear."
I was quite shocked! But prodded on....
"So are you scared of dying? Why?", I asked quietly.
"Yeah, I am scared...because it is painful...", he added.
"But why should death be painful? Do you think it is always painful?", I asked.
"It is painful because people suffer when they die," he retorted.
"What is suffering? Why do you feel people suffer when they die? What is pain? Do you feel death is painful?", I repeated.
"Suffering is when you want something to happen in a certain way and it doesn't happen that one wants to die and so they suffer...and people usually die from some it must be painful for them no?.....but I am not only talking of that is also painful for people who love when some family member who you love dies, you feel sad and don't want them to die....that is the pain that I mean," he explained.

There was so much thought and heart that had gone into those words he shared. I was deeply moved by his own efforts and ways of understanding and making sense of intangible things. And then we went on to talk about the different ways in which people die, how it need not be painful all the time, and how death was important for life.
We spoke about flowers and leaves withering and dying and becoming dust, which in turn becomes the soil in which seeds sprout....
.... about animals and birds and insects dying and becoming one with the earth.
....about people dying and what happens when we bury them, or burn them or leave them exposed to the elements.
.... about how death restores balance, and how things cannot exist forever in the same way.
....about the peels and rotten vegetables and fruits, or leftover food that I put into my kambha and how that is turned into compost which is used in the garden for plants to grow.
....about the cells in our body dying and rejuvenating everyday.
....about how life moves to death and how death moves to life and how our fear of death is because we want to live forever.

And we came back to talking about how we are currently living in the throes of the early years of another ice age, and how the earth was going to be destroyed slowly, to perhaps give birth to new life. Strange how we had come full circle! Strange how everything that initially seemed disconnected, was actually connected so intricately! I guess that's what happens when you speak of life and death. Both are interwoven in the seamless fabric of our everyday lives, and yet we do not stop to think about them so much....or look deeply into the threads that bind us in a magical interconnectedness.

But conversations have a way of bringing these nuances out....they have a way of making us face our deepest fears time and again, and help us move effortlessly to a place of love and connection for all things. I love our conversations....because that is the way we connect and learn the most.


Here is a lovely poem by David Whyte that speaks about our own ultimate disappearance....and about being present to everything....

No Path

There is no path that goes all the way. Not that it stops as looking for the full continuation. The fixed belief we can hold, facing a stranger that faces the trouble of a real conversation.

But one day, you’re not imagining an empty chair where your loved one sat. You’re not just telling a story where the bridge is down and there’s no where to cross. You’re not just trying to pray to a God you imagined would always keep you safe.

No. you’ve come to the place where nothing you’ve done will impress and nothing you can promise will avert the silent confrontation; the place where your body already seems to know the way, having kept to the last its own secret reconnaissance.

But still, there’s no path that goes all the way. One conversation leads to another. One breath to the next until there’s no breath at all, just the inevitable final release of the burden. And then, wouldn’t your life have to start all over again for you to know even a little of who you had been?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

See Your Dream Came True!

A few days ago, for the first time in all these years, we cooked dinner as a family. We made guacamole and tacos with a rajma and vegetable filling. Raghav was the chief chef, delegating the work and following through with his instructions on how we should cut things, what we should put in etc. It was real fun!

He was the one who coaxed my husband to join in and then when he did and happily, Raghav was the first to exclaim to me: "Amma! See your dream came true today!" I was touched that he remembered the dreams I had shared with him long ago.

Yes I had waited many many years for this moment.....these are the little-big dreams on my list....and knowing how Life made it happen through my son, while all along I had expected it to happen in another way, flooded my being with unspeakable joy. Feeling really grateful for these little things....

Here are some pictures of those moments.....Well I did my bit too, but the other two were too engrossed in what they were doing, to take pictures of me! :)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Explaining Unschooling

Yesterday, we were at my dad's place for lunch as he had a friend and co-activist from the UK, over for lunch. He was a warm old man with lots of endearing stories about his family and grandchildren. Amongst many other things that ranged from government policies to activism to social boycott to corruption, we also discussed unschooling. Because he was fascinated by what we were doing with our son.

We had almost the usual barrage of questions, with the only difference this time being a keen interest on his part (unlike many others we have faced) to understand what it was that we were doing and how. Here are some:

So do you follow a currciulum?

You must have a hard time being at home and taking care of all of your son's learning?
What about pushing him to learn things that he does not like learning? Don't you see a need to do that?

There is just so much out there in the world in terms of knowledge. It is impossible I agree to give him a taste of everything. But what about learning things that he needs to know if he has to get into the real world?

What about physical fitness and sport? Do you do anything to encourage and actively engage him in something like that?

What about getting into university or pursuing higher education? Would he not be required to sit for exams then? Will they accept him without his taking exams or without certificates? What about subjects like calculus? Subjects that you may not be able to teach him?

I loved the questions! Not only for being questions, but because the space that they were offered in, opened up and cleared up so many things. Life has a knack of being efficient - getting so many things done with minimal effort! For one, we have not sat down and answered questions that were perhaps simmering inside my parents' hearts. We have shared our points of view and beliefs in passing as and when some queries came up, but not in this way. Perhaps the need did not arise. Perhaps it was not the right moment for that. I don't know.

Both my husband and I believe that time is a great healer, and so many a time, when we have had arguments or misunderstandings amongst ourselves or with others in the family, we have just laid things to rest. And they have been sorted out on their own, with time, after the in-the-moment outbursts. It has often worked well for us. So even with explaining our decision to homeschool our son, we just informed our parents, briefly explained why and left it at that. We never felt a need to defend our decision or clarify things, unless we were asked to explain something by them. And so this moment today, came after many years into our journey into homeschooling.

We sat down and shared our points of view with him and what we believed in. For once, it felt so so good to have my husband speak up and share about our journey from his heart, while I added my tidbits when I felt drawn to do that. It was freeing to just sit back and listen and watch in silence for most of the time.

Although his questions were addressed and answered like we usually do, I realised that the mojo of unschooling or the living and learning journey is TRUST and SURRENDER - both of which are so hard to get across to someone who speaks from their mind-space. How does one tell and make another understand how to trust their children and life and yet live in this 'real' world? How does one 'show' people how unschooling works - because there is really nothing to 'show', and most of the time we are not 'doing' anything? If someone were to come and spend a day with us, it would surely seem like we actually do nothing! Almost all our learning happens through simple conversations, or in the silent pauses, in meltdowns and heartaches, and the simple nondescript ordinariness of everyday moments, flowing seamlessly into each other. That is where the inspiration is.

And this trust and surrender to each moment is the hardest part of the process and journey to transfer or transmit to another....quite impossible. And yet, I feel that this is the essence.