happy anniversary from your miracle baby.

my parents

Today is my parents 34th wedding anniversary and yet, our whole family is spread across the world. A time ago, we would have been piled on my parents bed, laughing at an American phrase my mom picked up from my brother, but of course butchered in her Indian accent. My sister would have been massaging my father’s head, (she is the world’s best at scalp massages), my mom would have her Bhagavad Gita in her hand, since most likely we all jumped onto their bed interrupting her nightly spiritual reads, (she always happily accepted and anticipated those moments of course), and I would put my head right on her chest to listen to her heart beat, my favorite. It feels good remembering that on this day, where I celebrate their love.

I tried to FaceTime with my father yesterday to tell him all this, but the connection was bad so will try again. Yesterday was one of those awareness days, too. There are so many it’s hard to keep up with them all, but when I saw all the hashtags on Facebook for this one, it caught my eye.

It was world premature birth awareness day. And I thought, wow, so much has changed.

33 years ago, on a cold NYC mid-December day, my mother gave birth to me. 2 months early.

Then the less than 2 lbs. of my early existence was rushed to special hospital for special treatment. And my new to this country mother, and my young father both prayed.

I imagine what it was like back then, before the fancy NICU rooms of parent interaction and promising technology and before people made a big deal about bringing awareness to babies who had to fight for their life.

I imagine what my mother felt, giving birth to me without her mother or sister by her side.

I can imagine all this now because for me, it was quite different. I had my sister in the room with me when I gave birth, I played spiritual music and had my yoga mat. My sister massaged my back as I bathed through contractions, my husband held my hand when I started crying, my daughter was healthy.

I am a mother, a parent now, and so I can viscerally feel the truth behind their words of nightly prayer with their best friends, as they all stared into the plexiglass window at my little body, chanting for the vibration that they created to try to heal me, lift me, strengthen me.

So when my parents called my grandfather in India on the phone, my mother’s guiding light, he said to name me Puja.

That is what I became then, their little prayer, the one that beat the odds, whose lungs grew strong without any issues, the girl who ended up being tallest in her class and who could run the fastest on field day.

And when I would hide my baby pictures from embarrassment, the ones of me in an incubator, my father would kiss the picture and say, “you were meant to fit in my palm perfectly, my beta,” my mother would hold my hand and say “you are my miracle.”

Their words of joint love that I celebrate today, they lifted me, strengthened me. Their little miracle baby.

I remember this one moment so clearly, as a child, overhearing a story of a baby being born earlier than his due date. Like me…but not making it. He was born too early, they said. And right then and there, I closed my eyes, held my little palms together and whispered, thank you for this chance. 

festival of inner light.

SRF

Photo taken with my iPhone: October 23rd 2014: Self Realization Fellowship, Encinitas, CA

Our mornings on Laila’s school days consist of a general routine: getting ready, picking out what to wear, (my 2 year old has recently become very opinionated on her daily outfits…oh teenage years, that will be even more fun- sorry about the days I fought for ripped bell bottom Levi’s mom!), lighting a diya, breakfast, getting her lunch and school bag ready to go. And we are off.

Then it’s working, prepping lunch for my husband, teaching, picking her up and cooking dinner. If I can, I will squeeze in my yoga/meditation practice in there, or at least some pranayama. But mostly, I find myself working and taking care of and nurturing my family, something I carry with high esteem as a momma.

So today, after I dropped her off, picked up my husband’s dry cleaning and headed home to my computer for work, I took a different turn. I had just had a phone conversation with my best friend about self-care.

I drove down the 101 and found myself at a place I took time to go every day during my pregnancy.

At the Self Realization Fellowship Meditation Garden, I sat on my favorite bench and I closed my eyes and took a deep breath in and out. I let it come back to me, slowly, as the noise of my long list of things to do silenced, faded to a background. As the current background noises I heard, started to somehow blend with my breath. Ocean, leaves, birds. I let compassion in. For the nature I heard at first, then my sweet baby girl’s face filled my sun-kissed mind, and it kept going…for my love, my husband, for my whole family. I thought of my sister who was visiting us this evening, my brother who had just texted me, my mother and father who I miss dearly. My friend who I had just spoken to, my in laws who would be visiting next week. How amazing to have so many loved ones, I thought. And as the silence took over, as my breath felt fluid, as the thoughts dissipated, I felt my heart full of love for myself, the inner guide who always shines in my most difficult moments and helps me, this inner voice…she is my light.

When I opened my eyes, it was as time had stood still. My list was still there, my work was still ready for me. But you know, it felt like forever that I had spoken to her, my inner goddess, full of shakti, it had been some time since I had found her and embraced her. And in that moment, I realized how important self-care for myself truly is, especially to be able to tend to the needs of my loved ones and shine with my work.

May your inner light glow with compassion and truth today, happy diwali.

perfection of the heart.

fall leaves

Photo taken with my Nikon SLR

 

I just did a meditation, and clarity arose this feeling I have been carrying with some of my life events that just feel…like I wish things were different.

I once read in a mindfulness book that the Buddha considered patience to be perfection of the heart, a basic spiritual quality that can exhibit our deepest nature.

My meditation guru Tara Brach says it so beautifully. “Patience is the capacity to feel at home, to be accepting in the face of the tension and anxiety of stress.”

To feel at home.

Sometimes, I find, it’s at home, this place of safety, that the truths of our world are ones we wish were different, are ones that harbor fear.

Because at home, we are most vulnerable.

I am learning that most of these wishes, these fears, come from my attachments.

And like the philosophies tell us, we must detach.

But how?

How can I detach as a mother, a daughter, a wife, a loving friend, a soul sister, a teacher in this world?

I am finding though that releasing attachment does not mean not loving. It does not mean releasing the sweetness of true intertwined beautiful relationship, of roots and deep creviced memories that feel good to stir up with smiles and laughter.

Releasing attachment does not meant disconnecting. I am finding it is quite the opposite.

By releasing attachment of wanting this life we live to be a certain way, awareness steps in.

Hearts open more and the clouds of future doubt and stress dissolve.

It’s knowing that life is here, in this moment of patience. We can remember what really matters, rather than “what is wrong”, what hurts, how it can be “different”… but just being with life in the capacity that it is.

Today, on this slightly chilly fall Sunday, I am choosing to be with life, in my home, in my sacred temple of inner reflection, thought, love and being, with an embracing of warmth of all my inner vulnerabilities, of my partner’s smiles and even his anxieties, of my daughter’s sweet deep belly laugh and 2 year old tears, and of the bounty of nature I am blessed to live in. This feels perfect to my heart.

 

 

to the universe, for my father.

grandfather
Photo taken with my Canon SLR. Encinitas, CA: May 2014
Dear Universe,
You may remember it as clear as I do. I’m in my room again, circa 1996. I have my headphones on and my new Walkman blasts In Bloom by Nirvana. It’s a Saturday morning that I don’t have to go help my parents in the office. I can feel the music in my veins and I don’t know it then, but I’m an empath like daddy so music enters my body with conviction. My window’s slightly open and I see the magazine collage on my wall and hear the gardeners mowing the lawn. I can smell spring. Life feels still in that moment.
It was a happy year. Things were good for my parents, we had moved to a new home, mom went back to work and had her own office. Daddy sang old movie songs in our kitchen and made homemade sauces, he had life in his eyes.

The first time I asked daddy where his sparkle went was when I was a sophomore in college. We were in line at the grocery store and I looked straight at him and asked him. He told me everything was fine. But I knew something was up.

2001. Sh*^ really hit the fan that year. My parents seemed stressed at work, (even though daddy never showed it to us), my younger sister was in high school and rebeling. Nothing serious, she was never a party girl, but things like blue hair and a Jewish boy who liked her were amongst the mix for my shocked Indian parents. But that was all stuff we could have handled.

It was the Ahmedabad earthquake that really got us. That swallowed mommy’s smiles and daddy’s faith.

My grandparents went to India with my mom to visit their motherland after a decade of being in the States with us. Before they left, I had secretly talked to my dada about helping mom and dad with office management and numbers since he was a math genius. He told me I should concentrate on studying, don’t worry about it and things were fine. I will promise to help when we are back, ok beta?

For many years of my grieving after that, I had always thought you may have taken dada away from us, because I had asked that.

I was young, but felt that there was a something greater working and if dada had helped, something would have shifted fate. And so you roared as the force of a city’s rumbles killed my strong, brilliant dada.

I’ll never in my life forget what it felt like watching my mommy and nani walk from baggage claim to our car without him. I’ll never forget how much my own father cried. Dada was like a father to him too, you know.

I’m not sure from then to now, how things got to where they are now.

Sometimes it seems like a blur. Like I can still hear daddy, his brown stylish dress shoes walking on the granite floors strongly, his humming making me smile and in turn, his eyes dancing as his 3 kids hug him home.

But daddy got sick. And we blamed all the things we thought, diet, lack of exercise, stress, but even amongst that stuff, we learned that it was his condition that was truly attacking him.

I came home from final exams in grad school and we all prayed in that ICU. You heard us, over and over.

And daddy, you know him, he’s a fighter. He woke up and he was with us. Things were ok for awhile. I moved to California, got married.

Daddy was so happy at my wedding.

But it happened again, he was in the hospital during a visit to see us and then during my yoga teacher training. I gave him news of a granddaughter, (now the love of his life). It gave him life all over again, his little Laila. He woke up, ready to love her.

 Nowadays, it’s been many times where we’ve been scared. I’m grateful you hear us and sometimes think, mommy and nani’s faith has given our family these chances at his life again. At our family’s life to be whole. It’s the prayers of all the people daddy helped and loved with his true to the bone kindness.

[Read more…]

blood in my newsfeed.

child in india

Photo take with my Nikon SLR: Ahmedabad, India. November 2009

Lately, I have been seeing a lot of painful stories in my Facebook newsfeed where children are abducted, raped, killed. I decided to share my thoughts here, as my truest expression… a spoken word poem. Please share away, because we need to spread awareness. These are our children… the blood must stop.

-Puja Shah

 

her father’s thumb.

fathers day

Growing up, my father meant the world to me and vice versa. He still does. So, it makes my heart smile when I see my husband with my daughter, his pure love shining bright. Happy father’s day to my amazing husband. You know, she may have my eyes…but you are right, she totally has your thumb.
thumb poem

 

Same thumbs

Vibrate

Love

Your hand on

Her and my heartbeats

From the womb days

Found an opening

In you

My soulmate

Your eyes have purity

Only truth can radiate

From within

As you

Hold her

As thumb meets thumb

And you smile

My dancing soul

And singing heart

Soar high

And when I hold your hand

Run my tic tac fingers to your wide thumb

I am reminded

Of our days

Strength

This sacred place we have made

For her

From our own teenage thumb wars

To a genetic code that goes beyond

Just thumbs

This is it, baby

This is love.

 Written By: Puja Shah

letter to nigerian mother of abducted girl.

kidnapped nigerian girls

Photo taken in Luwero, Uganda with my Canon SLR: Sept. 2009

Dear Nigerian mother of abducted girl,

She is still your baby girl, even with her teenage long, lanky legs in her school uniform. I imagine you smiling that morning, grazing her cheek with your lips as you prepare breakfast for your family. Your husband makes you laugh, a private joke, and in the corner if your eye you see your baby girl say bye.

You finish your work fast that morning. The air is still without your daughter’s singing in your home. Your sons are already long gone to work. You go to bathe yourself, letting the water cleanse your body, the areas of roundness your children have brought to it.

As you get dressed, you hear your mother arrive. You know she is bringing the jackfruit your husband and daughter love from the main market.

Then, it’s all a blur.

You do not even remember where you were, what you were doing when you were informed.

I can feel your numbness. You could not breathe.

When you woke up, your husband was crying. Have you died? It feels as if you have left your body.

Your baby girl’s face floods your mind.

And I am flooded with your pain. I am a mother. I have a daughter. It is all I need to feel connected to you, to ache for you.

Is this a sick joke?

My stomach churns.

You want to tell me your thoughts though. There are moments of anger. There are moments of grief…of hope. The emotions are fleeting, but… the pain. The pain, you say, is just there. And it just kills your words.

Yesterday, it was Mother’s Day in the U.S. and although I should have felt like pampering myself and “taking the day off”, all I wanted to do fly on a plane and find you. Hold you and the other 275 mothers who have lost their daughters to the sickness of this toxic fundamentalism. Fight with you. Stand by you as we eradicate this poison. They say it was done in the name of Islam. Whatever they say, it’s just poison, and its the men in power, ones with greed driven egos who have created this poison in our world. It is not the deep rooted spiritual philosophy I have heard Islam can be. Or any religion.

But it doesn’t matter.  They said they will sell these girls. They say the girls should not be educated.

[Read more…]

footprints of our future.

It was the look in his eyes when he said he was thinking of going, but was concerned about leaving me alone so pregnant…. I could see his calling, how deeply he wanted to just…explore.

And so as I held my round belly with our child in it, I told my husband Amish to take off. And in true Indian Jones fashion, he did.

I remember when he got the book way before that moment, the thick old looking one by SR Rao…The Lost City of Dvaraka.

He was intrigued, fascinated, and consumed the knowledge. As I studied Patanjali for my yoga teacher training those evenings, I would hear him tell me facts on Dwarka in bed, on the evidence and history.

We were creating these vibrations and sanskara for Laila without knowing it.

Then in the midst of completing the paperwork for our nonprofit organization, The Shah Education and Exploration Foundation: SEEF, (which was my dream I had envisioned for our footprints on this earth together), this vision came to him. It felt stronger even more so, with the tiny feet that kicked my belly at the time. He said his calling to Dwarka would all connect to SEEF, it was going to come full circle.

And here we are now…and it did.

When he got back from India, he was thinking of a name. He needed something to do with this amazing idea he had about exploring and preserving areas like Dwarka, other lost cities and historical places. “Ancient explorers?” I said. “That’s gotta be taken online,” he said. But it wasn’t. It was just waiting…for this.

His passion and drive to discover might have been what created this documentary, even when he never had the intention of creating it…it just happened with events and people that came into his life for it. So…it feels like it’s more than just that. Like a message, or larger idea the universe is conveying…telling us to explore. To find. To discover the truth. To create these footprints of our future.

The documentary goes live next week on Thursday May 1st, 2014… so sign up for the free screening at Ancient Explorers…and walk this path with us to re-create history.

Check it out: [Read more…]

lotus of love.

IMG_2888

Photo taken in Singapore: August 2011

As my little on turns 22 months next week, I found myself wondering where the time went. The cliche, they grow up in a blink of an eye, truly resonates with me. This morning, I hugged her wet body after her bath and was reminded of her as a newborn love sac, knees curled to chin. Her words stream out of her like lotus petals unfolding with the sweetness of her voice, so pure and full of wonder. In so may ways, she is is my little lotus flower… and here, I offer this haiku poem to my lotus of love.

lotus of love. 

By: Puja Shah

purity of awakened soul

brings clarity to mind

strong roots in heart

mother goddess.

strong womanphoto taken in Langkawi, Malaysia, Sept. 2011

 

This poem is dedicated to all my fellow women, mothers, wives, girlfriends, sisters, aunts and daughters that bring light and strength to our families, our communities, to the world.

 

Mother Goddess

by: Puja Shah

strong woman

inner divine

true feminine…

[Read more…]