Yesterday was a gorgeous, warm, fall day: the kind that we’re keenly aware are numbered at this time of year.
That’s what I love about October: Its vibrance seizes the senses and teaches us to be here now and really experience and savor it rather than just autopilot through it. And if we’re really aware, we realize that presence kindles inner peace and satisfaction and that it isn’t limited to beautiful, fall days when the foliage is at peak. Or beautiful days in general.
On my drive home from work, only a few minutes from home, the light of the sunset sky bathed the already colorful, autumn leaves in beautiful, golden light that illuminated the trees magnificently. There was one piece of land in particular that commanded my attention. It was a spectacular landscape with a house and a red barn surrounded by the blazing trees.
I pulled over at a spot that required a brief walk for the best view. Although my intention was to photograph the farmhouse, the angle of sunlight was changing quickly, and I realized I might not make it in time.
Then I noticed where I was, right next to a cornfield. When I got out of my car, I was drawn to the sunset colors over the cornfield and decided to skip the farmhouse landscape and photograph the cornfield, instead.
After composing some shots and savoring the moment, I continued on, filled with the radiance of the sunset and the satisfaction of witnessing its golden-pink glow. Listening to magical handpan music as I drove, it hit me: Happiness. I am happy. Satisfied. Peaceful. Content.
It occurred to me that for the first time in my life, I’m not chasing anything. Not a relationship, a career, spiritual growth, anyone’s attention, financial prosperity, a slimmer body, home ownership, or anything else. It’s not that I received everything I wanted or threw in the towel. Rather, I learned somewhere along the way that I didn’t need what I thought I needed and had been pursuing in order to be happy.
In other words, I realized I’m already good enough. My self-esteem doesn’t hinge on any conditions or outcomes. I can just be without needing to impress anyone else to feel good about myself. I don’t need others to act differently for me to be happy. I can carry contentment and boundless compassion within me like an inner sun and not be so needy in relation to the rest of the world. I can experience inner peace even when the outer world feels like it’s spinning out of control – without disconnecting from it.
It’s the best feeling ever, and I’m writing about it not to brag but to communicate that it’s possible. Happiness is possible. By that, I mean deep joy and satisfaction, not the fleeting, conditioned, circumstantial variety.
When I pulled into the driveway, I sat in my car for a while watching the sunset sky with tears of joy and gratitude dripping down my face. I realized that every single step was part of the journey that got me here. The photography that helps me to find beauty and experience gratitude every day and uplifted me during some very difficult times. The trauma of losing close loved ones and supporting others through mental health crises. Feeling invisible on social media. Challenging relationships. The list could go on and on. Yet, every step mattered and carried blessings. Every step brought me to this moment of feeling so full and whole and complete.
I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but I was born privileged, nonetheless. I’ve experienced so much that I never imagined “someone like me” would experience in life. Tough and humbling stuff but also tremendous beauty. Because of it all, my heart is so full of compassion, gratitude, and joy. It wasn’t always that way. I’ve worked hard to rewire my neural programming.
For the past few years, I’ve felt an unconditionally loving presence growing stronger in me. I don’t know where that presence comes from – whether it’s Divinity, loved ones who have crossed over, my teachers, or my own Self. (Is there a difference?) However, I no longer berate myself with judgments and expectations of accomplishing more than I already have in this life.
Experiencing this kind of inner peace doesn’t mean life will be smooth sailing from now on. There will be challenges and suffering. Life will still send inevitable curveballs. But there are peak moments when the light shines through so brightly and seems to swell up from the truest depths and fill us with luminosity and grace. We might realize we have grown through all the trauma and heartache and unconditional love and resources we’re blessed with and say thank you. For all of it. Even when the story is still unfolding, and we don’t know how it will all turn out.
Thank you. I trust that this, too, serves awakening.
Even after these peak moments have faded like sublime sunset colors, memories of them can cut through the gravity of our earthly dramas and remind us that we are so much more than the myopic desires and aversions of our ego consciousness. We can perceive challenges and curveballs as opportunities to develop inner resources we didn’t even know we were capable of. We can still have aspirations, but they are unclenched. More spacious. For example, I aspire to be a healing, loving, uplifting presence in this world. At the same time, I don’t need to accomplish anything in particular or help or change anyone else to feel I have worth. I have worth because I exist.
Being less dependent on this shifting world and all its personalities, I wonder (with curiosity rather than a sense of obligation): What’s possible now that wasn’t before? What is possible when we set ourselves free from the prison of our own making?
© 2019 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, Reiki practitioner, and mindfulness meditation teacher whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.