Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Walking Home

Sometime, perhaps a week ago, I managed to coax Raghav to get out of the house with me.....just a few errands around our's been long since he stepped out of the house just like that with me...

The wind was strong that day, catching us in the gap between the two tall buildings, pushing us and whisking us. We smiled....we laughed....and held hands as we walked through it, with it, together.

"Amma, the wind has woken me up.....I was feeling sleepy before we came down....but now I am awake and so full of energy....I love the way the wind is pushing me," he said, his face lighting up like a bulb.

A few minutes later, we were at the office to hand over the cheque for maintenance. Grim, morose men looked at us. A few minutes later, overhearing a part of the conversation, I realised that they were in the midst of some argument of sorts....someone was being pulled up for something they had done or not done. I waited for the receipt and walked out with my son, thanking them with a smile. There were no smiles repaid.

We decided to take a peek at the clubhouse to see if the swimming pool renovation had been completed. While we were walking there, Raghav suddenly told me this: "Amma, I was feeling very tired at that office. I don't know why. But just before that I was feeling so fresh with the wind."

Words rose up to flow out. But something made me stop. I held them back and simply listened to him, acknowledging what he had shared with a simple nod of my head.

What was I trying to achieve by wanting to share my interpretations and opinions?
Why should I put thoughts into his head?
Why should I get him into this whole mind game of wondering why he felt that way, finding reasons, etc.?
That was all part of my drama. I needn't drag him in.
These were the thoughts that filled me. And I simply stayed with them.

Yes, I do have a sense of what happens with him. I've felt that for many years....that he is very sensitive to the energies of people around him and has kept away from some people because of that, although we have never talked about it. I simply trusted him and his sensing and didn't force him to explore things and places that he didn't want to. But I don't need to tell him all this. These are my feelings. I want him to develop his own sense of listening to his own body.

Funny that this happens at a time when I am myself reviewing spaces that I am in......looking at my motivations and interests, whether I really want to be somewhere, how I feel in my body in those spaces....and sifting and cleaning up the spaces around me and within me. I am learning to listen to my body all over again, and to see how my mind comes in the way of that.

And it looks like we are on the same journey - me and him......our starting points may be different....but we are always walking each other home.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Of Clouds, Storms and Peace

Another conversation (that will carry on) with Raghav while watching one of his games together....

R: I don't know why there is just no peace in Middle Earth! Everywhere you go there is only evil and peace!

Me: What is peace? Where do you think you'll find it?

R: Peace I think is when there is no fighting....also, you know that feeling when someone does or keeps saying something that's annoying, and then when that person goes away, you feel relieved and feel that there is finally peace?

Me: you think peace is something that happens because of something outside of you...

R: Yes.

Me: do you think there is any part or place in a storm that seems or feels peaceful?

R: Yes, clouds feel peaceful.

Me: What about the eye of the storm? How is it?

R: It is where the air is still and everything is calm.

Me: So then, can there be peace even in the middle of a storm?

R: Yes....but the problem is that even that peace does not last...because storms don't last forever!


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Of Sauron, Crows and Twitter Spies!

Raghav was showing me his progress in one of the games he is playing - Lego - The Lord of the Rings. At one point, some giant black birds (crows) suddenly appear out of nowhere, and perch on the rock face of the mountains, watching Aragorn, Frodo, Sam and Gandalf...what they were up to. The conversation that ensued had me in splits and wonder! :)

Raghav: "Oh gosh! Now don't tell me Sauron's using Twitter!"

Me: "What??! What do you mean by that?"

Raghav: "You know, the evil Sauron, I think, has sent these 'twitter spies' to keep an eye on know, birds as messengers, who will carry messages to him about our whereabouts!"

Me: "Twitter spies?! Now where did you hear of that?!"

Raghav: "I made that up! You know what Twitter is don't you?...that popular messaging website that the whole world uses, with the bird logo?...where people keep sending messages to each other?....the whole world seems to be using that! I've seen some messages and the logo while watching some of my videos on Youtube."

!!! :) I was completely flummoxed with his revelations, basking in my old-found glory of being an ignorant fool (I know less about Twitter than he does!), and holding my sides and laughing at the seamless joyful connections that were being made so effortlessly!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A Child is the Father of Man

Hurt and wounded last night, with no other adult around to keep me warm, I looked to the only human being I knew, close to dear son. As I cried my heart out and yearned for the warmth of human skin against mine, I whispered to my son softly:"Pappa...I need a hug....a long hug.....will you give it to me?"
He was busy playing Minecraft, but he dropped everything he was doing, smiled softly, gave me a peck on my cheek and lay down on me, hugging me tightly for as long as I wanted. It was one of the most precious hugs.
And then I looked into his eyes as tears streamed down my face and asked him shamelessly:
"Will you be my appa (father) tonight? Will you go to sleep with me earlier than you usually do today? Will you hold me and sleep today, instead of the holding you? I think I really need that today."
He beamed, nodded his head, put his arm around my neck and shoulder, wiped the tears from my eyes and said:"Yes, I will."
And he did just that. For me. Without a word. Not asking me whys or whats or hows. Thank God for that, because I would not have known what to say.
So we went to sleep in each others arms, holding each other tight.....happy to be home. This one beautiful home that we have....each other.
And I woke up this morning with this thought - what would we do in this world without children?
For a child is the father of man. Naturally. No school or guru or book need teach him that.
Children simply know what we have forgotten and spend a lifetime learning.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Don't pack your worries, pack your trust

We were in the car this morning, on our way to my parents' house for the ceremony to be done at the  end of the first month after my father's passing. Raghav usually wakes up very late in the morning and today I had to wake him up much earlier than usual. He was a bit grumpy about that and took time to get ready.

Since we had no time to talk about the menu for the day and so on, I had already made his lunch, which I thought I would take with us, so he could have it there if he wanted to. But when I asked him, he said that he would come back home earlier than he had the last time and eat lunch at home. So he did not want me to pack anything for him. Well I, anticipating trouble and a possible meltdown as it usually happened when his routine got disrupted and when he couldn't pay attention to his body, decided to pack a few snacks and his lunch anyway. As we were leaving the house, he asked me why I was doing that, as he had already told me his plan. I was in a rush to leave and so brushed it aside saying that it would not do us any harm to just carry a few things along anyway.....'just in case'!

While in the car, he asked me again as to why I had packed food for him. And for the first time, I was able to share with him all the thoughts that were going on inside me honestly and minutely. I realised as I was speaking to him, that I had not packed food for him...I had packed my worries. Here is what I told him:
"I know you told me not to pack anything, but I was worried and anxious as to what might happen later if you suddenly felt hungry....often you have jumped and screamed and asked for things to be made and given in an instant, or been particular about what you wanted to eat, refusing to eat what was available. So I thought that it was better to be prepared for that, as I was scared that I would not be able to handle that if it happened."

R: "But I already told you that I didn't need anything no? I understand that I can't have that even if I want it...."

Me: "Yes, right now you understand. But at that moment when you are so hungry, you might not be in a position to understand no? Or your understanding might change.....or you might change your mind."

R: "But I was prepared for that."

Me: "So are you telling me that I didn't trust you and that I should trust you when you say that and not pack anything for you when you don't want me to?"

R: "Yes."

I realised then that what I had packed was not food but my worries and my fears....and here he was asking me to pack trust! I was filled with the anxiety and fear of how I might not have control over something that could happen, and that fear was stopping me from experiencing what Life was perhaps bringing me, was stopping me from experiencing a lightness, joy and ease.

And like it usually happens with him, the end is never an ideal fairy-tale end to another beautiful story....the kind that most people (like me) would anticipate. It was an end that was the beginning of yet another mystery in some ways....for he did change his mind when we got there, and had the lunch that I had packed! :)

Looking back now, yes, I had made a choice based on a pattern that was already sitting inside me....a choice which brought up a fear....but it was also a choice that brought me back to look at another part of myself....because I chose to look at it as I chose to listen to my son and feel a 'rightness' in what he was sharing or bringing up. Yes, I always have a choice as to what I want to look at in a given moment. But do I want to see that? Would I ever come to know which choice would have been right or wrong? Does that even matter really? Or does it matter only that I am open to seeing more....more of myself?

And maybe that is what trust is about....
It is what emerges when I make a choice-less choice in the moment...when I go out ready to be molded and shaped by life.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Are we 'filled with anger' or 'angry'?

After being witness to a sudden bout of anger from his father, and giving each other the space to breathe and simply be, yesterday I got talking to Raghav again.
I asked him how he felt about it. This is what he had to say...

R: "Appa is a man filled with anger. He should be a member of the Red Lanterns!" :)

Me: "What are the Red Lanterns?"

R: "They are part of the Lego Batman app. They are creatures in the D.C. Universe which stand for the emotion 'rage' ".

Me: "So do you feel that what appa felt was rage?"

R: "No. I think his was more like anger....rage is something more intense I think."

Me: "So how come you said that he 'was a man filled with anger' and not 'an angry man'?"

R: "I don't know. It just came out that way."

And I thought to myself - maybe he will know what he already knows... some day, or maybe not.....who knows?

But it isn't often (at least for me) that one gets to hear someone describe 'a person filled with an emotion' in this way. We often make emotions personal. We get attached to them. I do that pretty often. And then we don't see the person behind it all.....we don't see Love. Perhaps he did.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Of late, we have been having some concerns over Raghav's use of the iPad and had some long conversations with him on that, letting him know how we felt about some things and why we were feeling that way. He listened long and hard, agreed with many points raised and then decided to experiment with some rules, which he decided to make for himself, all on his own. We asked him to make rules that he could remember and follow on his own, without us having to remind him. He made a few and has diligently been following them for some days now.

Today, he was too excited to play something as soon as he woke up this morning, and was all set to get going with his plan for the day. And he forgot to set the timer on his iPad, which was one of the rules he had made. After a few hours into the game, when the charge dropped really low, he suddenly remembered that he had forgotten something and had broken a rule. He was angry and disappointed with himself, came and told me that and decided to punish himself by skipping lunch. He refused to listen to me about punishment and how I felt about it. And so he starved the whole day. We let him follow what he wanted to do.

A little while ago, he came up to me and beamed from ear to ear, telling me this:
"Amma, let's make it this way.....the day I break a rule which I made, let it be that that day none of the rules count.....but that doesn't mean I will break them everyday or often!" :)

This is the whole point of rules isn't it? ....They are meant to be followed and broken at will. :)
What if we had a common understanding about this?

Well I can say from experience how freeing it is to see rules this way! A dear friend and I have lots of 'spiritual' conversations over the state of traffic these days, where we exchange stories and complaints and frustrations. Simple, mundane things that can bring you some great insights into the art of living. :)

At the end of one of those conversations, he shared this idea with me - what if we saw traffic issues in this light?.....that at every traffic light, there will be some who will stop, and some who will not....well, I have been trying to see things this way for a while now, and I can tell you how peaceful and happy I feel inside when I drive on our crazy roads these days! :)
Do try it and see for yourself!

Rules are made to be followed and broken at will :)

Thursday, May 14, 2015


The other day, we were somewhere and my son wanted us to buy him something which he really wanted. And we did not because it was beyond our budget. We explained our stance to him. He was still very upset and angry. For a long time he did not want to see us or talk to us. Then later, on his own, he said that he was ready to talk about it.

I asked him how he was feeling, and he said that he was angry. He was angry that we hadn't got him what he wanted. I listened to him express his frustrations. We explained to him why we could not, and suggested other ways of planning for such things, so that both he and we were prepared. He agreed to make a list of things he wanted and then sit down with us to see what was possible, when etc. And then he told us this: "Why is it that you grown ups have so much freedom and not us children? Why can't we do what we want to? So many times I have seen grown ups not give their children freedom...." Of course, that was said in a moment of anger and frustration, but I felt that there was some truth in it.

Often we don't want to see the truth that is staring at us. We do (seemingly) have more freedom than they do, because we are often able to exercise control not only over our choices, but over their choices too, and we often attribute that to our belief and value systems.....but do we stop and question those and see for ourselves if we are holding on to them too tightly? Do we stop to see another point of view and the larger picture that is emerging, which often has nothing to do with our beliefs and choices really? These are questions I ask myself, and I don't know the answers to any of these, but I am learning to stay with these questions more and more and loosen the grip over my beliefs, a little at a time, being gentle with myself....simply because I do not know....

Two days ago, this whole thing about freedom came up again and we were talking about it on our way home. I shared with him how much freedom I think we gave him. He agreed. I then shared with him why I thought his father usually never said no to him and got him most things that he wanted. I told him how when he was a child, he was hardly ever given things that he wanted, hardly ever allowed to buy things he wanted, because his father could not afford it. I told him how I thought that was the reason why he wanted him to have what he asked for. And how I felt that that was okay, but that the world and Life do not work like that.....that you don't always get everything that you want, whenever you want...and that I felt it was important to understand that and be with that feeling of not having as much freedom. He agreed, and then said this: "Amma, I agree with you. I have to be able to hear a 'no'...I know I cannot get everything I want. I know that appa should not simply buy everything that I want. He must be able to say no. I will be okay finally to hear that, even if it may be tough at that time. I will tell him that when he comes back."

And I smiled and wondered as to who was teaching who about freedom :)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Caterpillar

We found a caterpillar this morning while I was washing the cluster beans I had bought yesterday. Raghav wanted to make him a home and so moved him to a pot in our balcony, which houses the green chilli plants. :)
I am loving the running commentary that he has been giving me ever since :)
"I wonder if he will like the chilli plant....what if he eats the chilli by mistake because it is green, and finds out that it is too spicy?!"
"I love the way he moves in waves.....that is so cool to watch!"
"And he can suddenly be so still! I can't do that!"
"The nice thing about being a caterpillar is that you have so many legs....and when you want to explore around you, you can stand on a few legs, lift off your body from the floor without losing your balance and explore as much as you feel like!"
"I like the way he just burrowed into the soil....maybe he will make friends with the ants. I wonder how he will breathe underground?"

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

I am a Non- non-vegetarian!

Raghav just got back after an evening out with his dad, who went to meet and have dinner with his friends.

R: Do you know what happened there?
Me: Tell me...
R: Some of them ordered fish and chicken!
Me: what happened? How did you feel?
R: Well, I was terrified! I mean I am completely non-non-vegetarian! I just wanted to get up and run away somewhere. But obviously I couldn't. So I hid myself under the table and held my nose.
Me: Ok. Did you tell appa that?
R: No. I couldn't. But actually, we should have just left. That is how I felt.
Me: What is it about fish and chicken that you don't like?
R: The smell.....but actually when it came, it didn't smell....and I got busy on my ipad and so I didn't even know, I guess.
Me: What is it about non-vegetarian food that makes you uncomfortable? That's what some people eat and like to eat no, just like we eat vegetarian food? That's what human beings have eaten since when they were cave men....right? If I tell you to stop eating some things that you like, would you be able to?
R: No, it will be difficult for me. Because I am addicted to that. But we don't need to eat that. We want to. Those days, that's all they could eat....animals and hunting......but now, we have so much many different foods to choose we can eat just vegetarian food.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Don't go by looks!

I knew from the way he asked me a question this morning, that things were juicing up for a rich, sweet conversation :)
"Amma, do you remember the day when I had only 'vadaams' the whole day, and you even called up appa and told him how worried you were because you did not know what to do because I was not wanting to eat anything else?"
(For those who don't know, 'vadaams' are like rice pappads, which I often just roast and give it to Raghav as a snack)
"No, I don't remember that at all", I told him, smiling to myself and thinking about what a long, beautiful journey it has been through these years and the rich landscape we have all traversed through it all.

"Have you written about in in your blog?", he added.
I shook my head.
"Well then I think you should.....and also about how I started eating other fruits which I never used to," he prodded.
I smiled and listened on.

"It is too late to have breakfast today....I think I will skip breakfast", he added, looking at the clock.
Oh yeah, things have changed so much! From a time when he hated looking at the clock for anything, he now has his own ways of following it :)
"Shall I make some fruit salad for you?", I asked.
"Yes, I love that now....I love almost all the fruits....I can even eat papaya plain if you cut it up and give it to me....I am now okay with that," he said.
"But how did you suddenly start liking all these fruits? Do you remember how some years ago, you stopped eating many fruits that you used to eat before? And then suddenly some weeks ago, after never tasting pomegranate before, you suddenly wanted to taste it! How did that happen?," I asked.
"Yes, I remember...I don't know why I stopped eating them.....but I know how I started you remember the day when you made 'noughts and crosses' pizza in a different way by mistake and I refused to eat it because of the way it looked.....and then you asked me to try it out even if it looked different....and see for myself if it tasted the same? In the beginning I was angry that it was not the way I wanted it to be.....but then later I decided on my own not to go by the way it looked....and so I tried it....and then I realised that it tasted the same! Right from that day, I knew that I should not go by looks but by the taste," he said.
And I smiled. I knew I was speaking to a little person who had to live his truth. I remember how many times I had told him the very same thing - to not go by looks. But I didn't know then that it had to emerge from within him. I also know as I share this, that knowing and understanding this in this instance, does not mean that he will apply it to many other things in his life. To feel that he has to, is my opinion. And I am clear that I don't want to force my opinions on him. That too has to emerge in its own time from within. And all I can do is to wait and watch that beautiful unfolding to happen, if it does, and whatever that is, on its own.

Anger, Forgiveness and Compassion

A few days ago, Raghav asked me what compassion meant, and I told him how I didn't know and was still figuring it out for myself. That word has been on my mind ever since, flitting in and out like a butterfly, as I watched it come and go. And I was reminded of a beautiful para that I read a few days ago, on the website of a learning space, that stayed with me just like this little 'butterfly-word' - 'compassion'. :)
"A child sees a butterfly sitting on a leaf for the first time in her life. Her own thinking powers are being exercised at a pace comfortable to her. She is absorbing the shape, the colours, the patterns on the wings and so many more things that we cannot even imagine any more, as conditioned adults. The child is thoroughly fascinated by the butterfly. The next time she sees another butterfly she notices the same things and, perhaps, a few more new things. She might notice that this creature is so much like the one she saw some days ago. She might notice that this, too, has the same pattern on its two wings, yet it is a different pattern to the one on her last butterfly, and so on… Over time she sees more of these creatures. She continues to make her own observations, comparisons, and she begins to draw certain conclusions.

This is a deeply satisfying experience for every learner. We, as adults, need to be careful that we do not deny children these very valuable experiences and, thereby, limit their perspectives as our own have been limited by teachers who taught us too many facts too soon in our lives."
And I was quietly happy that I did not interfere with his own learning process by feeding him ideas of what I thought 'compassion' was, which would have anyways been only second-hand knowledge. I also for the first time realised perhaps that there was probably something happening inside him, which he could also not perhaps express in words, and I saw how I was happy to stay with that experience of not knowing, and enjoy the deepening mystery of my own and his inner world.
Sometime ago, we had one of Raghav's friends over for the day, for a play date. Raghav has a few deep friendships and this was one of them. It has been beautiful for me to watch the unfolding of these relationships, and the understanding that has deepened in both over time. So yes, these two were having great fun playing with each other after a long time, until of course they were having a squabble.

I was busy doing something, when I heard a few screams from the bedroom, where they were playing 'hot' and 'cold'. It is a game where each one takes turns to hide an object, and gives the other the word clues - 'hot' and 'cold' to figure out whether one is near the hidden object or far away from it. I went in to see that Raghav was flat on his stomach on the bed, and his friend was pulling him holding on to his legs, and dragging him across the bed. I thought Raghav was screaming helplessly and asked his friend to stop what he was doing. Raghav then told me that he didn't like what his friend was doing to him, but felt powerless and could not do anything. I asked his friend why he was pulling Raghav like that. He immediately pouted his lips, his eyes welling up, took Raghav by his hands, held them tight and punched him on his hands with his fist. I stopped him by grabbing hold of his hand, and told him sternly that he could not do that. I also told him :"You seem to be very angry and it seems like you really want to show your anger. But you cannot hurt another to show your anger. Please use your words to tell him how angry you are."

He stopped what he was doing and told me how he was feeling."Raghav hid it in a very difficult place. It was too difficult. I could not find it all. That is why I am angry," he said. My heart went out to him. I was torn between my son and his friend. I could see how the anger was making my son feel powerless, and I could see how his friend was so angry, and how I could not find a safe container for that anger, simply because I was not okay with it deep inside and wanted it to go away or change. I waited until Raghav was ready to express to his friend how he was feeling because of this behaviour. And then, we all decided to step aside from each other for a while and cool off a bit.

Later, I was telling both of them how I felt that they seemed to have a lot of energy that was perhaps coming out as anger, and asked if they would like to go down and use up that energy by playing in the park. Raghav did not want to go. "Well, both you seem to be getting irritated and angry very quickly now, and I am worried if I will be able to handle it again. It has been too much for me today to deal with this anger that has been coming up again and again," I shared with the two boys. Immediately, his friend said that if it was a problem for me, then he would do push-ups now and expend his energy. I was amused and touched by his care and concern. "It is my problem, not yours. I am finding it difficult to handle the anger. You don't have to do anything. I have to figure it out for myself," I told him. I really wanted to make space inside to hold this anger, but also felt helpless that I couldn't. They of course got back to playing with each other again quite soon, as if nothing had happened. And I was sure I did not want to give my son a lecture on bullying and violence or compassion and forgiveness. I wanted him to form his own ideas about them. Perhaps then, he would not hold on too tightly to them or use them as a filter through which he could see the world. Perhaps then he would know how to listen to and watch and learn from the 'butterflies'.

The following day, I asked Raghav if he had felt like hitting his friend back when he had punched him. I guess I was wondering if there were other possibilities....other ways of seeing and dealing with what had happened. And this is what my son said: "No....I didn't feel like hitting him. I don't think I will ever hit him, even if I am angry and even if he does it again. I just don't feel like doing that. I don't know why."

And there were those words, flitting around like little butterflies inside my head again....'anger', 'forgiveness', 'compassion'...maybe some day I will be able to notice the intricate patterns and the ethereal beauty of these 'butterflies', when I am still and they come and sit with me on my drooping shoulder and whisper their secrets in my ears.....

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Seeing Reality Through The Eyes of a Child

There were some questions bubbling inside me, which I wanted to ask and share with Raghav today, just to find out his perspective, and open my eyes out to other ways of seeing.

I was talking to him about the earthquake in Nepal and how many people had died and how many things were simply just rubble now. And then, I asked him what he felt about it, and what he had to say. Here is what he said:

"Yes, it is sad that so many people died and so much was destroyed. It is weird that so many earthquakes happen here in India. But earthquakes have to happen. That is what makes the Himalayas grow. That is what helps reshape the land. So if you look at the Himalayas maybe a few hundred years later, it would look very different. It would have changed. Things will probably change a lot near the area where the two plates meet, but maybe not so much far away from it."

The other question I had in mind was this:
"The other day you wanted to go with Armaan out to eat lunch. If I had told you then, that there are so many children and people who are so poor that they don't have even one little meal to eat in one day, what would you have done? Would you still want to go? What or how do you think you would have felt or thought?"

Here is what he said:

"I would have still gone, because I love eating out. Yes there are people like that who are poor and don't have food, but they can get money somehow."

Me: "How can they get money when they are poor?"

R: "Well, they can perhaps find some work to do or beg...."

Me: "Would you want them to beg?"

R: "Yes, that is one way..... like at the traffic signal we see so many people who do that,
and only because there are people who beg, are there people who can be kind and give them money. Some people may not give them money, but some people might. But there might also be people who dress up like beggars, even when they already have a lot of money, because they are greedy and want more. You will never know no? Do you think there might be people like that?"

Me: "Maybe. I don't know. But how did you think of this?"

R: "Well, that's just something I thought of....that's my opinion."

This conversation stirred up something inside and left me exposed and vulnerable. I saw how deeply entrenched I was in ideas and concepts about poverty and begging and kindness and compassion and right and wrong. I sat with those thoughts and feelings until I felt ready inside to share this with the world. It wasn't easy for me as a mother to listen to this from my child. It wasn't easy because I realised what 'fixed' notions I had about these things and so I was seeing my child through that filter. What he said, threw away that filter from before my eyes, and then I was in a space, with more spaciousness and freedom, to share this vulnerably.

Today, I am happy that when he asked me a few days ago, I couldn't answer his question "what is compassion?", and was able to tell him that I simply didn't know yet and that I too was wanting to find that out. And that I didn't feed him with someone else's idea of what that was. 
Today, I am happy that in spite of all the 'wrongs' we did with him, there was something larger than all of that which had a 'rightness' to it. 
Today, I am happy to have set him free, as I set myself free yet again from this tethered world.

So how would you see my son and his words right now?
Would you see this as an expression of 'insensitivity', 'compassion', 'ignorance', 'arrogance', 'immaturity', 'maturity', 'humility' or 'loving what is'?
Would you be able to watch yourself and your feelings and thoughts, as those words came and 'pierced' or 'rested' in your being?
And would you open yourself up to sharing those with me?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

I Have to Show My Anger

Two days ago, Raghav and A were playing together, after their first experience of a sleepover. Raghav had built one of the characters from the movie 'Planes' with Lego and A had taken off a few pieces from it for something, unknowingly. Raghav was very upset about that. It was a special plane and he did not want it broken.

He somehow could not say what he felt to A and so wanted me to tell A that, which I did.
"But I didn't know," said A
And I went back and shared that with Raghav. But it didn't help.

He said that he was still angry and that if A had broken his special plane, he was going to break the ship that A had built. I told him how I could understand that he was filled with anger about what had happened, but was wondering what he would achieve by breaking that ship. He agreed that he would not achieve anything, but that he wanted to do it. Just then, I had to leave him and the conversation midway, as I had to attend to someone who had just come home.

While I was away, I did not know what happened. When I got back, Raghav was sitting in the bedroom, and was sitting on the bed covering himself with his sheet, not wanting to see or talk to anybody. Meanwhile, A decided he would look for those pieces for him, found them and gave them to him. But Raghav was not in a space to even acknowledge that or even receive that. They parted ways for the day, without saying their byes happily to each other. And I too crashed early that night, too tired to listen to or talk to him about anything.

The next morning, I started up a conversation with Raghav about what had happened. He shared with me how he had in fact broken a part of the ship, and that he had not told A before, that the plane was special to him and that he should not touch it or break it. I pointed to him as to how A would not have known because he was not informed of all this. He agreed and came up with the idea of telling him what he could touch or not, from the next time.

"But did you break his ship like you wanted to?", I asked.

"Yes. I did," he said. And I fell apart a little. I did not expect that from him. I had thought that my conversation with him would have had some effect. I felt responsible for his 'meanness'. "Did you feel any better after you did that?", I asked. He said that he didn't. And like a 'good mother', I told him how I felt about what he did and how I did not like him taking 'revenge' like that. I shared with him how I too used to get so angry earlier with him. And how it always made me feel terrible inside later.

"Why did you get angry with me? Tell me more about it," he asked me. And so I told him how helpless I felt when none of the ways I had thought of had worked with him. How my anger simply reflected my fear of losing control. How I was scared of the future - how he would turn out. How I was scared that if I didn't control him then, I would never be able to control him.

"And how did you deal with your fears?", he said hugging me and kissing me.
"All that I know that I did was to face them...see them in the eye.....and know and understand which fear was ruling my mind.....after running away from them for years", I said. "Most often when we get angry, I think we are ruled by our fears," I added. "Maybe you could think about what you were scared about when you got angry," I said.
"I think I was scared because I could not remember how to build it again, and I wanted to because I did not like it broken," he said.
And we discussed ways he could try and recall how to build it, before the conversation drifted off elsewhere.

After a conversation with a friend, I realised even more clearly as to how I had responded to his anger from a space of not being okay with it and judging him and myself for that. I also wanted to find out from Raghav what he felt he had got when he broke his friend's ship and why he wanted to break it. And so I went back to him and asked him. This is what he said:
"I wanted to break his ship because I wanted to show him how angry I was and I could not think of a better way to show it."
Me: "So does that mean that if you found a better way of showing him how angry you were, you would not have done that?"
R: "Maybe.....but I also think that I could not have shown my anger in any other way....sometimes, you can't help can't control your anger."
Me: "What did you think you would get when you broke it? And did you finally get what you wanted?"
R: "I only wanted to show my anger. I didn't want anything else. I didn't get anything by breaking it."
Me: "So what do you think you would do the next time? Would you do the same thing or try something different?"
R: "Try something else maybe......but maybe not. Because sometimes you just can't help it....I have to show my anger."

This incident and the conversation left me with many questions...
  • Why is anger such a mistreated emotion, which is almost treated like an be done away with?
  • Can I make space to hold anger in myself and the other? By making space I mean getting comfortable with it......just like being with noise instead of running away and seeking out silence?
  • As a mother and a fellow human being, can I see and stay with another's 'meanness' instead of putting it down as something that needs to be changed or fixed according to my idea of what is not 'mean'?
  • When we are sad we cry and even wail sometimes, when we are happy or excited we laugh out loud and even scream sometimes, but when we are angry, we are not allowed to show it in a way we want to (without physically harming another person).....why? 
  • Why do we have this idea in our heads that anger harms? Is there another way of seeing anger?
  • Why do we look for moderation in everything, including emotions, and yet use the metaphor of emotions being like the waves in the ocean? Well waves can be wild and tempestuous too, not only gentle and cavorting isn't it?
  • Why do we want to control everything? Is it because we are too scared of losing control?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Physical Self Assessment

Some conversations from this morning....

R: Why is it that when I play darts, I rarely get to hit the target, how much ever I try? But when I am just casually throwing something, I most often hit my target?

Me: Why do you think it is so?

R: Maybe because when I am playing darts, I think too much about the target and wanting to win or score points. But when I am just casually throwing something, like my clothes into the washing machine, I most often don't miss the target because I am not thinking about it so much.


R: Why is it that usually young people are more agile than old people?

Me: I guess due to a lot of reasons like age, lack of exercise, etc...But what do you think agility is?

R: Agility is when you can do some good tricks with your body....when it is the acrobats and Ussain Bolt and the circus people.

Me: So do you think you are agile?

R: Yes. In some ways.....I can run fast, I can gallop, I can do my own cartwheel.....but I cannot also run fast through bends.....I don't know why. But I can gallop. I don't know why, but I think galloping is a more efficient way of moving than running. When I gallop, I can go fast and use less energy, I can stop and start easily and I can do it for a longer time than I can run. I don't run out of breath so fast.

Me: Ok. But what is efficiency?

R: Efficiency is when something is a car or a machine...when it keeps resources for a longer time, like the lava bucket in Minecraft doesn't run out so easily when you put it into furnaces.........and it is also about when you lose less energy when you are running, then it is more efficient.....also if you can stop as easily as you can start.

And for me it was simply this.....

“I met a boy whose eyes showed me that the past, present and future were all the same thing.”
Jennifer Elisabeth

Wednesday, April 15, 2015 look!

Yesterday we were at the 'Shell Museum' and small aquarium at Mahabalipuram, with our friend and his son. While they were still engrossed in the shells, Raghav, who was more interested in the aquarium and feeding the fish, pulled me away there.

He was amazed at the 'collection', and was going 'wow' every few minutes, as he moved from one tank to another, admiring each fish's colours, shape and mannerisms, and talking to them like to his friends, while stretching out his palms and fingers against the glass. He was beaming from ear to ear, imagining them trying to suck his fingers and nibbling at them :)

While I enjoyed watching him and his interactions, I was filled with sadness as I thought of what limited freedom they must be enjoying, stuck up in a little rectangular space to call home, when they ought to be 'free' in the oceans and rivers where they really belonged. And I shared my sadness with him, and how that was a reason why I disliked zoos and aquariums.

These were some of the thoughts that flowed through....
  • Zoos and aquariums confine animals/creatures to small spaces, where their freedom is limited.
  • But through the sacrifice of this one creature for each species, if the majority of humans are able to understand them and want to take care of them and protect them, then is it okay to have them?
  • Maybe we need animal communicators to go back and talk to them and tell us what to do and how to do it
  • Everything rests in our seeing....what we can see and how much we can see, now. So there are no right and wrong ways of seeing, but just different kinds of seeing.
"Yes, I know how they must feel or how they would want a bigger space. I too feel that way. But now look...look at them beautiful they are!", he said with his whole body lighting up. And I wondered to myself, how simple and beautiful the 'now' is, if only we learn to be open to it fully. Yes, I do need to see all points of view, look through all the windows that I possibly can, and then, when I have explored that fully and honestly (to myself), the present unfolds in all its glory and it did for me through the words of my son.

' look..." is all that I need to do in any given moment. For that is all I have.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Mistakes - that's how we learn what we already know

Yesterday, I was continuing the conversation I had had with Raghav the other day, about how babies learn. He had mentioned how he thought that babies learned from their mistakes, and not so much from their successes. Here was the conversation that ensued....

Me: So what do you think 'mistakes' are? When and why would you call or think of something as a mistake?

R: I think a mistake is when you do something which you think is not right.

Me: Ok. So when you think that something is not right, that means that you know or have an idea of what IS right no?

R: Yeah. You know what is right. So when you make a mistake you know that it is not right.

Me: Ok. So what is this 'right' that you are talking about? What makes you feel that something is right? Can you give me an example? Like say get very angry, frustrated or irritated when you try and write something....and you start screaming saying that that's not the way you wanted it to look, or that that is not right.

R: Yes. It is how I feel about something, or what I think about something. That it should be or look a certain way.

Me: So that is an 'opinion' right? Your opinion of how something should be or not be? Or is it that someone else told you that this is how it should look?

R: Yeah.

Me: Ok (writing the alphabet L cursive) See, what alphabet does this look like?

R: I don't know.

Me: It is an 'L' to me.

R: That does not look like an 'L' to me. (and then writes an 'L' for me like the turned handle of an umbrella) This is what 'L' is.

Me: But that looks like a half written 'U' or a 'C' to me. So see, the same thing looks different to both of us. What would happen if a person who did not know English at all came and saw this?

R: Yes. When I think of 'L', I think of it like this. He would probably not even know that it is an 'L'!

Me: So when you get irritated or upset when you are writing 'L', is it because you know what it should look like to you, but it does not come out that way when you write? And so you call it a mistake?

R: Yes. A mistake is when you do something that you didn't mean to do.

Me: Does that mean that you make a mistake when you are not thinking, or that it was something like an accident?

R: Yes.

Me: So how would you explain how babies learn by making mistakes?

R: Because they learn by trial and error. They explore things around them, make mistakes and learn.

Me: So when you said that babies learn through making mistakes, are you saying that they know what is a mistake? And if they know what is wrong, then that would mean that they already know what is right, isn't it? How do you think they would know that?

R:  I think they learn through trial and error. Like they learn to walk by first crawling around and then sitting up and then trying to stand up and then they fall down and they stand up and fall many times, before they get it right....I think they already know what walking is, and when they see their appa and amma walking around, then maybe they try to do the same thing until they get it right.

Me: Ok. So how would they learn how to speak in the same way through mistakes?

R: I think as soon as they are born, they hear all the sounds around them.....they hear people talking and all....and all those sounds go in through their ears. But in the beginning, they can't make those sounds, even though they know what they are. Then they keep trying and trying until they finally get it right.

Me: So you are saying that they keep trying till they match the sound that they make with what they have already heard or know?

R: Yes. Something like that. That is what I think.

Me: Ok. So what you call a 'mistake' is an attempt to get this 'matching' right?

R: Yes.

Me: So you are saying that they learn by 'seeing' or 'hearing'. But then what would happen to babies who are blind or deaf? How would they learn?

R: They are not born deaf and blind no? It happens later sometime to them?

Me: No, blindness and deafness can occur at birth. They can be born with that.

R: Oh! Then that would make it more complicated. But they can still learn. But I don't know how.

And then today, my sister called on skype in the afternoon. To me, it seemed like Life's way of completing this part of the conversation, and validating his thoughts in a way. Because my sister told him similar things!

I was telling him how his little brother was now making so many sounds and babbling. "Oh my! A can now make sounds to get her attention? And to ask for things that he wants?", he had said to me just a little before she called.

Raghav was all excited to see his little brother making sounds and babbling away. "He is talking so much!", he said, absolutely fascinated with what he was seeing and hearing.

"Yes, I heard what you had said about how babies learn. I think you are right you know... A learns by trial and error, by making mistakes all the time. Like now, he is crawling all over the place....yesterday he tried to go under the table, and bumped himself, and then kept trying and trying," my sister said to him.

So yes, my son gave me a few insights into what he thought was learning, and how we learn. Things that in a way flipped what I had learned about child development on its head, where the emphasis seemed to be more on success or a 'positive response' to what a baby did that facilitated learning, rather than a baby's 'failed' attempts to match or ratify what he already knew.

This conversation left me with so many questions and thoughts....and a heart that was opened a little more to love....a love for Life and its beautiful ways of bringing precious messages to us, time and again.

Perhaps 'mistakes' are how we learn what we already know.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

On Opinions

I was getting the water ready for Raghav's bath this morning. And like he usually does, he relieved himself, washed his hands and went off to dry them out with a towel. And like I usually do, I asked him why he would want to do that, when he was anyway going to wet his whole body, including his hands, just a few seconds later, when he was going to have a bath! Usually, he would just smile to me and not even consider answering my question. Well, today he obliged!

Here is yet another priceless conversation we had, and of course while he was sitting in his tub of water....where he usually gives his morning durbar! :)

"I just like to do it that way!", he replied with a smile.

"Does that mean you can do whatever you like just because you like doing it that way?", I joked.

He of course smiled and answered me very seriously.

" is not bothering yes, I can do it because I like doing it this way," he said.

Me: "So as long as it doesn't bother you, you can do whatever you that what you are saying? But what if that bothers me?"

R: "Well, if it bothers you, then it is your problem!"

Me: "Does that mean I can do anything I want to, as long as it does not bother me? Like say killing someone or hurting someone..."

R: "No....not things like killing, punching someone, and all that kind of stuff....but getting angry, long as it does not bother me."

Me: "So what makes you think that killing or hitting someone or hurting them physically is not what you can do?"

R: "I don't know. That's just my opinion."

Me (surprised that he used that word): "What is an opinion?"

R: "It is what you think or feel about something."

Me: "So you think or feel that hurting someone physically is something that should not be done?"

R: "Yes...that is my opinion. We all have opinions on things no?"

Me: " how do you think having an opinion helps, or doesn't help?"

R (after some thought) : "I don't know. I don't know how they help us. But when we have different opinions, and we want to change the other person's opinion, it usually leads to an argument."

Me: "How? Can you give an example?"

R: "Like for example if I think that the earth is round, and you think the earth is flat, we each have an opinion about how the earth is....and when I feel that what you are thinking is wrong and want to change that, it leads to an argument....because our opinions are different."

His words left me quite stunned and defenseless. Later however, I went up to him and asked him where he had heard this word, how he had discovered its meaning, and how he had figured out all this about opinions, and this is what he shared with me:
"Well, I have heard Blitzwinger use it in so many of his videos in MineCraft. I figured out the meaning on my own. He keeps saying 'if you have an opinion, please leave it in the comments section', which I never do! The rest, I just figured out on my own. I just know.....and I don't know how."

When and how does learning happen?

More than a year ago (may even be more), Raghav came up with this desire of wanting to share what he had gleaned and learned about the planets, the solar system, and the earth, with his friends and other interested adults (age no bar!), in the form of a talk. We discussed many ideas and he finally decided that he wanted to do a PowerPoint presentation with pictures, videos etc. included in it, besides some other things like a model etc.

I was very excited with the idea, and realised quite soon that the reason for my excitement was also because my mind finally had something to do! Yes, it loved organising and planning and would have so much to do while helping him build and create his talk! :) Unfortunately, the excitement was short-lived. :(

Well, I remember how I was telling him how it was important to decide on a time and place for the talk and get down to working on the presentation, maybe doing a little bit everyday. While he agreed to all that, I also remember what he said to me that day.....something which I had never thought of in this way, despite having made and having listened to so many presentations before!

He asked me how he could or would be able to include all the things that he would have learned in the 'in-between' time.....i.e. between the time he had finished creating the presentation and the time when he was actually standing there and sharing it all with his friends. What would happen to the learning in between and even as he was sharing with the others? How would he be able to share all of that, if he just went by his presentation and that predetermined content? That was his question, asked of course in his own simple words.

And I realised then how and when learning happens, and how so many of the tools that we use with the pretext of aiding learning or evaluating it, actually aim to 'freeze' learning in space and time....when in reality, learning is dynamic and is flowing all the time....and is uncontrollable, often intangible, unquantifiable and unstoppable...

And by the way, just to share this with all of you, he is still planning and still hasn't 'given' that talk:)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

How Do Babies Learn?

Ever since my sister and her family left a few months ago, after a few weeks of being here with us, Raghav has had this fascination for babies and how they learn. For the first time, he showed a keen interest in babies, read up a little before they arrived, and absolutely enjoyed playing with his three month old little brother while he was here. And after that, off and on, he has been talking about baby-related stuff and expressing a desire to visit them soon.

Yesterday, while driving back home, he once again told me how he was waiting to see A and how excited he was to know that he was now crawling around. What followed was yet another interesting conversation about babies.....

R: " I can't wait to see A.....he must have grown so much already.....he must be now moving around on his own....what fun! I can't wait for him to start speaking! When do babies speak? When they are about one year old no?....I can't wait to hear his voice! I wonder what it will sound like!"

I must say that I have also had a fascination for babies and how they learn, but I have never thought about hearing what their 'voice would sound like'! What he said reflected pure, child-like wonder that is so beautiful in its simplicity.

And then out popped this question from him:
"How do babies learn? Does it all come from their genes? How do they babble and then speak? How do they learn that?"

Me: "I think it is partly to do with genes, and partly to do with the environment. They start with exploring their bodies, their tongue, mouth etc. and then the people around them respond to that, give meaning to that, which affects what the baby does the next time, and the next and so on. How do you think they learn?"

R: "I think they learn by making mistakes. They explore their environment and while exploring, they make mistakes, and that tells them what to do or not to do the next time. Like for example, if a baby crawls around and bumps into a chair or a wall, then by bumping his head and getting hurt, he comes to know that if he crawls like that, he will get hurt, or that it will make him feel that way the next time he will be careful, or change the way he moves...or he learns that he should not do something."

Me: "So you feel that mistakes are important, because they help us learn?"

R: "Yes."

Me (smiling): "Then why is it that you get so upset when you make a mistake? Like when you try and write something and it does not come out the way you want it to.....why do you get upset? Isn't that how you will also learn?"

R (smiling): "Yes....I don't know....maybe it's because with babies it is different...and when you become big like I am, it's different...."

And he went on to talk about a video he had recently watched, which spoke about the speed with which our brains react to something from outside.... :)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Day Lisa Came Home.....With a Little Doggy Love....

For his birthday, many years ago, my parents thought Raghav would love to have a puppy and got him a little dachshund. But he didn't want her. He was too scared then of dogs, and would run away or climb onto a chair or bed and not get off at all. And so we had to decline that beautiful gift. Tanya is now growing up and being cared for in my parents' house. Whenever Raghav goes there, he wants her to be kept away, as she barks a lot, and Raghav doesn't like dogs that bark a lot and loudly.

But over the years, without much interaction with dogs, his fear has reduced in intensity. There are some dogs he loves more than others (the quiet ones) and can tolerate the others. A visit to my friend and fellow unschooler's house in Pune two years ago, was instrumental in helping him understand and start liking dogs. She had a mongrel, who was mostly quiet and Raghav loved spending time watching and playing with her a bit. She was the 'ice-breaker'. :)

Many a time after that, he has asked us if we could have a dog at home. We were not too comfortable with the idea as we travel quite often and also living in a flat where not everyone is open to allowing and having dogs, was another reason for us to veto the idea in its seed. We spoke a lot about it. We shared our experiences with our mongrel - Trampy - who adopted us soon after we got married. We loved him like our own baby. But both of us used to work and had to leave him either inside the house, locked up, or outside within a protected/fenced area, until we came back home in the evening. Both were unpleasant experiences for us and for our little dog, with him getting upset and angry due to a lack of freedom, and also being hit with stones by some unruly, callous neighbours, who disliked his barking during the day.

That forced us to take him and leave him every day at my parents' place, which we treated like a day care :). He used to happily plonk himself on the petrol tank of our bike every morning, when we lugged him with his bag of food, bowl, etc. to my mom's place, where we dropped him off on our way to work and then picked up in the evening. Initially he was fine, but later, we felt that he did not like this arrangement. Perhaps it was too stressful for him - the travel back and forth. So we spoke to him and to my parents, and left him with them, to be taken care of there. And we used to keep going and visiting him every few days.

I don't know if he ever understood why we did that. Perhaps he didn't. Because he never smiled after that. He lost his bubbly spirit. There was a sadness in his eyes. He was never the same after that. And we didn't know what to do. I have never felt so much guilt for bringing up and taking care of an animal, as much as I did then for dear Trampy. I never could forgive myself for what I did with him....that I couldn't take care of him like I so wanted to. And I decided then that I would never again have a dog. Not because I didn't love them. But because I loved them too much. Too much to leave them under anyone else's care. Because I would never know for sure how they were feeling.

And Raghav understood when we shared our feelings with him. He never again asked us about having a dog. I don't know if we did the right thing by denying him what he wanted. But I know that we did the right thing by sharing our feelings of guilt, helplessness and sadness with him honestly and vulnerably. I know that we said 'no' to him with a heavy heart, because we told him that. And I know that he understood.

So yesterday, when we were coming back home after cycling, we saw our neighbour in the lift, with his little pug. Raghav absolutely adored her and crouched down to pet her and look into her eyes. I started chatting with him, asking him what he did with her while he went away to work everyday. He smiled and shared how she had a little community of young people - his friends - who took care of her in turns, while he was away or busy. It was such a lovely arrangement!

When we got back home, Raghav who had probably overheard the conversation I had had with my neighbour, asked if he could also take care of her in turns like the others. I smiled, and instantly realised how Life was showing us a way of fulfilling his needs :) I told him how I thought that was a great idea, and asked if he wanted to go and talk to our neighbour. He wanted to do it right away. And so he went and rang the doorbell of the flat opposite ours, where this person stayed along with his friends, bombarding him with questions! What to feed her and when, how and when she goes to the loo, how she likes to play, whether she barks and so on. He patiently answered all his questions, and agreed to having him babysit her once a week to start with, for a few hours. He also warned him that she was teething as she was just 3 months old, and that we had to be careful with things around the house! We decided to start today :)

Raghav woke up this morning asking me if I had put things away. When he found out that I hadn't he went around the house, checking and telling me all the things that were at her height, which had to be put away! And then we looked through some of his old stuff and thought of things/toys to give her to chew on and play old tennis ball, a wooden spoon, a rope and a belt for tug of war and a cardboard roll to chew on or play with. It was great fun organizing the space with him for the little visitor!

So this evening, Lisa came home....with a little doggy love!!!:) Yeah, and we had so much fun! And I guess she did too! Her favourite place was the beanbag, which happens to be Raghav's favourite place too!! And she usurped it with full rights! :) What a beautiful evening filled with doggy smells, smiles, laughter, non-stop fun, bubbling energy and so much grateful to Life for showing us a beautiful way to fulfill our needs...

When I run after what I think I want, my days are a furnace of stress and anxiety.... 
If I sit in my own place of patience, what I need flows to me, and without any pain. 
 - Rumi

Friday, March 27, 2015

What's Minecraft got to do with Writing and History?

What's Minecraft got to do with writing and history??
Well, what's Minecraft not got to do with something, would be a better question to ask I think!

Yesterday, Raghav called me to show all his new updates in his world in Minecraft - a regular feature that happens every day, or every other day. And I was surprised to see what he had created and his new interest in 'writing'. For a child whose dislike for school started with being forced to write any more than he wanted to, and more so when it started eating into his play time, to have come this far today, is an achievement that fills me with joy and gratitude for Life, who showed me the path that I needed to take with him.

Here is what he shared with me, as part of the many other things that he had created yesterday.....
It is a conversation that he has recorded by typing it all out in his 'KEEP IN TOUCH BOOK' in his Minecraft world, between him (denoted by 'r') and the 'Red Village Leader' (denoted by 'rvl'), about some events that transpired yesterday in the world! It's truly amazing the things one can do and create with Minecraft, which I have myself been watching and learning only of late, from and with him. I can see now how for him, it is like an artist's palette and canvas, where so many worlds are created inside worlds....

The 'Keep in Touch' book is his own idea for a name

the conversation between him and the village leader

A little note I found by his computer, which I think are his 'notes' of coordinates to the village in his Mesa World :)

What amazed me was his new interest in writing, which was one of the sore points many years ago, for his wanting to quit school. He stopped writing then, except for special occasions like people's birthdays when he would make a card or something for them, or when he would help me occasionally with my shopping list, or when he wanted to make labels for things he had built with Lego. We never forced him to write at all, nor did we even ask about or mention writing with him after he quit school. We simply let it go. And this is the first time he has written so much in all these years!

Here is the conversation between me and him when I saw what he had written....

R: This is a conversation between me and the Red Village Leader about things that happened in my Mesa World today.
Me: Ok. How long did you take to type all this?
R: About five minutes I think.
M: How did you get this idea to put it down like a conversation? I love it! Did you happen to read my blog sometime or happen to watch me type out our conversations on the blog? Because I have used the same idea!
R: I knew you would love this! No, I haven't seen that....I didn't get the idea from you...I thought of it on my own.....but it is funny that we thought of the same thing!
Me: So why did you want to do this?
R: I wanted to record what happened somewhere....the catastrophe which happened! So I decided to write it down in my 'Keep in Touch' Book. And this is not only about writing it all down. It is about history too....about things which happened in a particular order in a place.
Me (smiling): Ok....So, are you also your own best friend?
R (smiling back) :Yes.....kind of!

I smiled and hugged him. I told him how much I loved this idea and the execution. And I quietly wondered how he had  figured out on his own, what 'history' actually meant to him! Watching my son learn gives me a real high :)

I remembered how frustrated he used to get with writing even on those few occasions, when the letters would not turn out the way he wanted them to look.....he wanted them to be perfect.....he hated making a mistake and rubbing it off or striking it out. He would just scream, get up and walk away from it and never come back to it. I also remembered how he had told me once about how the teachers at school expected them to know spellings of words without having taught them, or without them having enough opportunity to have seen those words. "How can they expect us to know the spellings that they haven't taught us? How can they expect every letter, every time, to be perfect?", he would ask. And I would listen in silence.

Today I am happy that he is enjoying writing in his own way. I am happy that he has figured it out on his own - the spellings, punctuation, spacing, formatting and expressing his creativity in his own way. I am most happy that I don't know how he learned all this. I am most happy that Life did not let me into this secret! Oh, what joy it is to experience this today! :) I am filled with gratitude for Life, who has shown me yet again in her own way, that we are on the path that was meant for us to take.....

So yes, this is not 'writing' if one is looking at the traditional idea of writing as what one does with a pen and paper. But this is perhaps what 'writing' is a world where technology reigns.....
For some of us who perhaps don't want to change with the times, it perhaps rules the mind, bringing up many fears about our future - the fear of loss of years of culture and civilization and beauty......but for some who seem to be 'in tune' with the changing world, I wonder if it perhaps becomes the palette of a spirit that knows not only how to survive, but also how to dream and thrive and look for beauty in new ways.

Monday, March 16, 2015

On Friendship

Many questions that we were asked early on in our unschooling journey have now either stopped surfacing so much or have taken on a different form. But there is one which seems to fall into the permanent category, because it never seems to go away nor want to take another form :)

Yes, it is the question about social skills and friendship. One that I am kind of tired of answering, but still want to, because it has been one of the areas (the other one being food) that has completely changed my thinking and where my learning curve has been the steepest. And as is the case with everything else, my dear son has been my Guru. And I see this question as an opportunity for me to share what I have learned from him with others.

So here are some of the questions I have been asked countless times! -

Does he have friends?
Does he like to play with other children?
Does he miss being around other children? 
Do you have a community or a group that meets often?
You must be creating opportunities for him to meet other people and other children that would stimulate him...
and so many more that seem to have the same shade as these questions!

In the beginning, I did struggle with these questions, because I did not know what I was doing myself. But over the years, and with frequent, deep conversations with my son, where I simply shared all my fears and doubts without any holding back, my understanding and way of seeing this whole aspect of life has transformed. 

In some ways i think unschooling has worked for us beautifully because of the way the three of us are as people. My husband, my son and myself - all like our own company. Not that we don't like being with people. My husband loves meeting new people, while my son and me would much rather be home and invest our time and energy into nurturing few but deep friendships. But we have just stopped going out of our way to seek company.....simply because we love being by ourselves, with ourselves and we have come to trust Life to give us what we need at any given point in time.

So the need for being with other children was hardly ever there for my son, and when it came up, it was not a need that he wanted desperately to be fulfilled. The early years of our journey was all about 'nesting' - it was a time to de-stress ourselves from all the stress of having to conform to systems that we just could not be a part of; it was a time to simply be home and learn more about ourselves and each other without any other distractions; it was a time when we learned how beautiful and empowering it was to truly be alone with ourselves.

Of course, the fear of not having children to play with everyday or even once in a while was there, and it still keeps coming up, especially when I think of our age and what would happen when we are not around. But it doesn't worry me so much anymore. There is this deep trust that the Universe will take care somehow and that he will get what he needs. This is not a helpless resignation of sorts to destiny or a giving up of one's power to create. It is rather about owning our power by believing in what we are doing and the path we have chosen to take.

So whenever this fear came up, and even now, if it comes up, I just tell my son that I need to talk to him and share whatever I am going through in a way that I think he will understand. 'When in doubt, simply ask' - has been my motto of sorts. And it has helped immensely. A week ago, this fear came up again and I asked him how he was feeling about not being able to meet his old friends, about not having any friends and kids to play with where we stay now, whether he missed his friends or children, and what he would like me to do about it, or what he would like to do about it.

"Why do you keep asking me this question amma?" was the first thing he asked me. And so I told him why.

"I do miss my friends, but I don't want to go back to where we were staying, or even close by. I am happy where we are now. i love the place, the nature around; it is quiet, peaceful and there is so much more space's ok if I cannot meet them.....I am happy by myself. I don't need to play with children everyday. It is fine now the way it is," he added.

I was much relieved and said this to him:"So will you let me know when you want to do something about this? Maybe then we will find a way together....So I won't ask you this anymore? And you will tell me when you want to be with other children?"

"Yes. I will. Don't worry," he said nonchalantly.

A few days later, he expressed a desire to play Minecraft with someone. He wanted to play it 'live', and not online. So I did the best I could. I put out a request on the FB group for our gated community, asking if anyone would like to play or learn Minecraft or Lego. I got a response from the mother of a 3 year old girl. When I shared that with Raghav, he said:" Ya, that's fine! I can teach her. Age does not matter for friendship!" :)

How true! Don't we all have friends or people we relate to, of different ages in our circles? Then why do we want to make kids get into chicken coops when it comes to friends?

Why do we also have this manic need to 'make friends' and 'keep friends' at any cost?

Yes, we are social beings. But 'social' encompasses a whole range, a whole spectrum of needs doesn't it? We are not all social or sociable all the time. We go through phases and cycles in everything, including our friendships.

Then why do we see kids differently?
Do we think that is the only way we can allay our fears - of being different, of being alone?
Do we think friendships will make them feel good about themselves?
Do we think that will help them cope with boredom?
Do we think that will keep them occupied and less depressed or aloof?
Do we look at that as a way of us getting time for ourselves?
Is it our need or their need?
Why do we really want them to make friends?

I often feel that the answers to all our challenges and our fears lie in the questions themselves, if only we hold and stay with those questions long enough, instead of rushing in to 'sort' them out. All we need is that precious pause......

My tryst with working with kids and adults with special needs, especially autism, and knowing someone with autism, quite closely, including wondering initially if my son had any 'difficulties', has stirred up many questions. Hard questions that I asked myself repeatedly over the years. is funny that when we know that a kid has a 'special need' or a 'disability', we are immediately able to discount their behaviour towards us. We are immediately more accepting of them, more compassionate towards them. We at least pause for a moment and wonder why he/she might be doing or saying something. But we don't react the same way to kids who we think are 'normal'. What IS 'normal' anyway?

But we also have this idea of 'being sociable and social' so deeply ingrained in us I feel, that we want to 'fix' that in kids who aren't; we want to make them learn how to cope and adjust to the world, and so we 'expect' and 'teach' them social skills. Of course there may be some who want to interact but don't know how to, but there may also be some who simply don't want to, because they don't feel a need to. Are we really 'listening' to them? Each one of them? Are we giving them the space that they want and need, to be themselves? Sometimes I wonder if we do.

So yes, my son still screams when he is frustrated or has reached his threshold of tolerance for noise or something else, he will scream irrespective of who is or isn't around - at home, outside, anywhere;  he can look through people as if they did not exist at all, he can be so completely lost in his world that he wouldn't even remember to greet someone; and at the same time he can be most understanding and 'friendly' and be chatty with people - even complete strangers. When he needs some time by himself, or is tired, he shares that openly with his friends, and asks if they could play on their own for a while. Those who know him, understand him and give him that space. Those who don't, simply don't, and he is okay with that. And so are we.

Of course, we have had numerous conversations about how others would feel. He has himself asked me to remind him to greet or say 'thank you' to others only because they expect that. With some people, I explain to them the beauty of waiting for that to emerge on its own. With some others, we have mutually agreed to just 'please' them, as long as he feels okay about doing that in that moment.

We have stayed for extended periods of time alone with ourselves at home, hardly meeting anyone for months and years. In that period we have come to understand and love ourselves a little more. Now, when we get an opportunity to go out and be with or do things with people, we are more ready and willing to explore new ground, and feel more ease in doing that without any fears. This I think has been the fruit of our long, often challenging and arduous journey of being with our own selves.

Here are some things that I have learned from my son and our journey so far:
  • I need to first be my own best friend. I need to love all parts of me. Then, it is easier for me to be friends with others and for others to be friends with me. Then, you are not dependent in an unhealthy way on people outside of yourself.
  • If I am bored, I am bored. I don't need friends or 'stimulation' to fill up that boredom. I need to figure out for myself what I can do or not in that boredom.
  • Be Yourself. Don't change yourself just because you want people to like you. When you are yourself, the right people will love the real you. Just be prepared to wait for them,however long it takes! 
  • One needs to love oneself pretty well to be able to take 'unsociable' comments from others. And most often, the children who we think of as 'unsociable' are the ones who are mirroring what we need to look at more deeply in our own selves. I have gone through some extremely embarrassing moments when my son was 'rude', 'misbehaving' and most 'unsociable' - both in my own eyes and in the eyes of people around me. But those moments were the ones which told me how much more I needed to look within myself really, and ask myself some tough questions.
  • We each need to be given space to be able to interact on our own terms. That is the basis of true friendship and understanding.
  • Everything rests in the 'seeing' - how we choose to see what is playing out before our eyes. We can choose to see something as 'rude' and also see the same thing as an expression of someone's sensitivity to something. The way we see it moulds our response.
Yesterday, I was at the 30th anniversary function of Vidya Sagar, an organisation which works with children and adults with multiple disabilities and their families. While a few of us were chatting about old times, 30year old A, who was on the wheelchair, suddenly grabbed hold of another parent's saree and it tore. She adjusted it while this man's mother apologised for her son's behaviour. The parent however smiled, asked if he wanted her to come closer and talk to him, offered him something to eat which he refused, and then bent over and chatted with him. He was then fine. It was a beautiful, poignant moment of connection.

I feel deeply now that the way we choose to see a behaviour like this depends on the space we are in in that moment, and how we choose to see it. Can we share how we feel honestly and vulnerably, while also listening to ourselves in the other? What is that voice inside us saying? Why are we getting triggered or hurt? Perhaps if we stop and look more deeply into that space, we will know why and respond accordingly. Perhaps then we will be more inclusive, more accepting of our own selves and therefore the other. Perhaps then we will know the meaning of real friendship.

And I believe that our children are here showing us the way.....little lanterns lighting up the road less travelled....into a new world with countless, unimaginable possibilities that could be a far-cry from what we know today as 'friendship' or anything else for that matter.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Things We Do For Love, With Love....

This morning, Raghav posed me a new challenge - he wanted to have Minecraft 'mobs' dosas for breakfast!! Yes, dosas in the shape of mobs from Minecraft.

At first, I told him how I thought that would be impossible for me to do, but he egged me on, saying he would help find pictures for me to copy. I asked if he could draw them out for me.
"But amma, why do you want me to draw? Can't you take a picture of those in your head and just go make them?", he asked.
"Yeah, I could. But I think it would help if you drew them out, as I could keep that paper with me in the kitchen while I make them, instead of going back and forth from the kitchen to the computer," I added.

So he acceded to my request and drew them out for me.....
One was a 'wither' with three heads, and the other was the 'side-view of an Enderman holding a block'!! :) Phew! Now that was going to be one helluva challenge for me! Well, I took it...

His instructions for me....

And I got down to work! Here was my canvas and  my was fun! :)

And here was how they turned son was thrilled, despite arms and faces falling off!
"Not bad amma!", he said as he gobbled them up one by one.

The Wither

The Enderman - side-view, holding a block
The Enderman - turned and ready!


And then, I made one more for him, on my own, as a surprise!

Creeper face!

He had already washed his hands, when I told him that I had a surprise for him. And when he saw it, he beamed like a thousand light bulbs and said:"There is no way I am not going to eat that one!"

Sigh! The things we do for love, with love.....that's what makes this life worthwhile! :)