Author: susantara

Say Yes to Your Strong Self

Say Yes to Your Strong Self

It took a few days of catching up on sleep, unpacking, and tending to what needed immediate attention, but I finally landed back home after my first trip to the Outer Banks, North Carolina. 

Every morning while walking on the beach, I nearly leapt out of my skin because I was so delighted to be there. And yet, I came very close to cancelling the trip—which, in hindsight, seems ludicrous.

In the days preceding the trip, I went kayaking, hoping “river therapy” would help me to discern and follow what really felt like yes instead of the loudest voices clamoring for attention. Lots of fear and heavy, emotional stuff was being dredged up, and it felt like I was inside a pressure cooker. I attributed much of it to eclipse energy and had to use nearly every tool in my toolbox to deal with it. To borrow a term from Eckhart Tolle, my emotional pain body had become activated and was having a feast!

I took mindful breathing breaks every 20 minutes throughout the day and practiced mindfulness meditation both on and off the cushion. Listened to sleep stories on the Calm app and did guided yoga nidra meditations to get to sleep and return to sleep every night. I did RAIN meditation, self-Reiki, and listened to lots of sound baths. Got outside and exercised. 

Part of the problem was the energy at home. I wasn’t sure everyone would be okay if I went. If a volcano erupted while I was away, getting back home wouldn’t be easy. The nearest airport was two hours away, and there were no non-stop flights. And what if I got Covid during my travels? Then what? I didn’t want to be on a plane exposing others.

If you put everything together, the predominant emotional flavors were fear and powerlessness: energies I did not want in the driver’s seat. I longed to vacation with Kim and Jodi, two of my very dearest friends. We live in different states, and it would be the first time the three of us would be together since Jodi’s wedding at least 30 years ago. I wanted to say yes to that.

A Sign on the River

Less than 24 hours before my flight was scheduled to take off, I went on the river and asked for some kind of sign. I hoped the more-than-human world would reveal something relevant and insightful.

I watched two ducks fly away from a spot up ahead where a group of ducks were gathered. Keeping a respectful distance, I paddled by. Once I had passed the ducks, I felt compelled to turn around and take a picture. There was something peculiar about those ducks.

Again, I kept a respectful distance and snapped a picture. After I got past them, I looked at the image on my phone screen. The sun was very bright, and the image was small, but I enlarged it enough to notice one of the ducks was caught in netting. The others were gathered around, silent.

I felt tremendous empathy and started crying. Wondering if I or anyone else could do something to help, I posted the picture in a community group on social media. Someone expressed caring. Another person gave me a phone number for wildlife conservation.

Then someone pointed out that the ducks were plastic. Decoys. Which I couldn’t tell from the distance I kept from them or from the tiny picture on my phone screen. They must have floated down the river still partially in their original packaging and gotten caught on the branches of a fallen tree.

I was so caught up in the intense, raw emotions moving through me regarding family dynamics and my upcoming trip that I couldn’t see clearly. I was crying over something that wasn’t even real. A decoy.

Then I realized that was the answer I sought. The picture I took of the decoy ducks was my image of the day, which was like pulling an oracle card from the deck of the universe. A duck decoy is used to lure ducks into danger, to trick or confuse. So perhaps the guidance was not to put so much faith in my emotions for now. Don’t let them guide me.

I got sucked in emotionally by a lure! My suffering came from not being able to see clearly and believing in an illusion that wasn’t real. Being so emotionally raw made me more vulnerable and impressionable.

Change of Heart

Ten hours before my 6 AM flight would depart, I still was almost certain I wouldn’t go. I had talked with both of my friends, and they said they hoped to see me but would support whatever I decided. Kim already had stopped at the grocery store to stock up on frozen vegetarian meals for me.

When my son found me in the living room not getting ready for my trip, he gave me an eleventh hour pep talk. He assured me everything would be fine at home and painted a picture of me enjoying the company of dear friends. Watching the moon rise on the beach. Walking on the beach. And on and on. As he spoke, I imagined myself there and resumed the packing effort I had abandoned the previous day. I had to wake up at 2:30 AM to leave for the airport by 3:00, and he would drive me.

Before going to bed (a few hours before I had to get up), I felt confident everyone would be okay at home. I longed to be with my friends, at the ocean, when the moon was full. To say yes to the beautiful, generous invitation from Kim and her husband. Mary Oliver’s poem “The Journey” had come to mind more than once that day.

I dreaded the whole airport scene, the disruption of my sleep schedule, and all of the driving involved. I hoped people wouldn’t be rude to one another based on whether or not they were wearing a mask. The brain’s negativity bias kept my expectations for civility low.

However, everyone was really chill. And kind and friendly. There were zero issues at the airports or on any of my flights. Nobody displayed an attitude. Some people wore masks, and some didn’t. And it was okay. On one of my flights, someone noticed a tiny earbud on the floor next to the aisle, and people were determined to find the person who had dropped it. Once that person was found, she was so grateful and said she’d been looking everywhere for it. There were smiles and sighs of relief when the earbud was returned to its owner. My airport and flight experiences raised my faith in humanity a notch. I sat across the aisle from people who wanted to help and set in motion a wave of caring. 

Neuropsychologist, Rick Hanson, explains our brain’s negativity bias is like velcro for the “bad” and threatening and like teflon for the “good”. It’s a brain mechanism that helped to keep our ancient ancestors safe from the very real threat of being eaten by predators. However, it doesn’t serve so well now. World news can leave us feeling the world is a very dangerous place, and we must always be on-guard. Sometimes dangerous situations and people do make their way into our orbit. However, it’s useful to remember and experience that there are many kind and helpful people in the world, despite the newsworthy anomalies. The vast majority of flights won’t be marred by argumentative people and outbursts, although the outbursts draw media attention.

Worth It

Experiencing positive energy en route corrected some of my exaggerated narratives about “people these days”. But of course there was much, much more that made the trip worthwhile.

Waking up at 2:30 AM was worth it. (You just do it.) Spending time with Kim and her family and Jodi and her husband was worth it a hundred times over. Being at the ocean is always worth it. So was getting a change of scenery and a little distance from the drama back home. Great weather every day was the icing on the cake.

When Kim and her husband met me at the airport, she told me she knew all along I’d end up coming.

I stood on the beach that first evening and photographed the eclipse moon rising over the ocean at high tide. Then I walked about 30 steps back to the beach house and sat on the top floor with Kim, looking out at the moon rising and shining a path of light on the water. It was exactly as my son had described, and I felt so grateful to be there.

Every morning, my alarm was set for 5:40 so I could witness and photograph the sunrise. Then I took a long walk on the endless beach. (One morning, I walked more than 18,000 steps to a wild horse beach!) My favorite time to be on any beach is at sunrise. I’m much more of an early morning air beach-walker than a hot sun, mid-day beach-sitter. However, I did walk and sit on the beach with Kim and Jodi in the afternoon with a very happy heart.

The timing was perfect. A week prior, a huge storm blew through the Outer Banks and wreaked havoc (similar to the storm that kicked up at home, it now occurs to me). The storm passed, and it was safe to travel. We were there just before the official beginning of summer tourist season, when it was still relatively quiet and uncrowded.

My daily gratitudes included:

  • Listening to the rhythm of the waves
  • Breathing in the ocean air
  • Spending time with Jodi and Kim
  • Being able to work remotely
  • Ocean sunrises and the cooler, morning air
  • Being fascinated by the various forms of sea life that washed up on the beach
  • Only having to walk about 20 steps from the door of my bedroom suite to the beach
  • Ideal weather.

It was a deeply nourishing experience, on many levels. Stretching out of my comfort zone and traveling for the first time since Covid began felt liberating. Vacationing with girlfriends was a wonderful experience I hope to repeat. Beach therapy was greatly appreciated and restorative.

On Calm, there is a sleep story, The Beauty of the Outer Banks, written by Candace Rardon. I’ve listened to it—or rather, tried to listen to it—at least a few dozen times but always fall asleep at some point. Out of curiosity one morning after returning home, I skipped ahead to see how it ends.

“In such a place as this, where the natural world quietly undergoes such perpetual change, you can find the peace to weather the seasons of your own life. To surrender to the winds, to be shaped by the tides, and to let every invisible current carry you to new and undiscovered lands.” 

This (plus being with friends) sums up what I experienced at the Outer Banks. I returned home feeling different than before I left. More adventurous and liberated from fear. Refreshed. Renewed. The decision to go on the trip fed my strong self. I’m grateful for the friends I spent time with there and for the friends who encouraged me to go and experience a place they knew I would love once the storms subsided.

Simply Return

I’m so glad I said yes to my heart’s expansive, innermost desire instead of the constricting, convincing fears that would keep me small. The travel was fine. People were pleasant. Our house is still standing, and the energy has improved. Once again, I learned not to put blind faith in worry, anxiety, and fear or to expect the worst from people. In this moment, all is well. I am fine.

And in this moment, too.

It’s okay if you lose the present moment—if you get caught up in the real or perceived fear and drama of the human world. Simply find it again. When you find it, you’ll be able to see more clearly and respond with greater wisdom to whatever storms arise.

If I ever try to convince myself that the process of traveling is too much of a hassle to justify going somewhere spectacular to be with people who mean a lot to my heart, please remind me not to believe those self-limiting thoughts. Sure, take some time to acknowledge and process whatever emotions are coming up. But don’t be derailed by the pain-body and its flying-monkey thoughts! Spending time with people and in places that resource our lives helps us to put better energy into the world. Anything we can do to channel more light and goodness into the world is absolutely worthwhile.

To see some of the nature videos I made while vacationing in the Outer Banks, check out my Vimeo channel.

Here are some of my photos from the trip:

All of these images are available for purchase, and some will be included in my Saratoga Arts photography exhibition, Seaside, running from June 28-July 28, 2022 at the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library upstairs gallery.


© 2022 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this post or excerpts of it as long as you give proper credit to Susan Meyer and SusanTaraMeyer.com. Susan Meyer is a photographer, writer, and spiritual teacher who lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

Mama Ducks

Mama Ducks

Last week, I spent a morning at the park with my six-year-old granddaughter who loves to explore nature. When we make a list of what we’ll do when we’re together, her first choice is always to take a walk at a park and go exploring. 

This time, she was especially interested in sampling the mineral springs and interacting with the ducks. But I also drew her attention to the stump of an old willow tree that had new life growing from it. I’ve been observing the “baby willow” for the past year. (Or maybe two years? Seems I always have to add an extra year due to the Covid time warp.)

When we got up close to the tree stump, we were surprised to find a female duck waddling inside of it. Then we realized she was there because she had a nest tucked away inside a nook!

I photographed the nest quickly and respectfully then moved along, to give her privacy. My granddaughter already was off and running in the direction of more ducks to quack with.

It didn’t seem like the willow stump treasures made much of an impression on her. But it wasn’t long before she made a new friend, who was sitting with his mom at the edge of the pond also observing the ducks. When they went off exploring together, the first thing she wanted to show him was the willow stump secrets.

The mama duck wasn’t there when they returned, so they went inside the trunk for a closer look as the boy’s mom and I tried to catch up to them. From my vantage point, they seemed to be steeped in a moment of awe and wonder.

Return Trip

It’s funny: I won’t run to the grocery store to fetch a missing ingredient, and I tend not to head into town to run just a single errand. This is one of the ways in which my life has changed since the pandemic began. I keep a running list of errands, groceries, etc. and try to check them off in as few trips as possible.

It’s an opportunity to practice patience, improvisation, and creativity. It’s a little game I play, and I play it because I find it worthwhile. Plus, it’s good for the planet to limit the amount of driving I do.

However, if I wake up inspired with a photography idea, it’s a whole different story. Off I go, whether or not any errands can be tacked on.

That’s exactly what happened after looking through the images I took at the park when I was with my granddaughter. The composition of one in particular felt a little off. It would have had greater depth, context, and meaning had I shifted my lens a little higher.

Before I knew it, I was back at the park with camera and three lenses in tow. After recomposing the image I went there for, I lingered for a while, experimenting with “seeing and being”. Zooming in and out. Being still and planted like a tree, taking in the landscape visually, emotionally, and artistically.

I returned to the willow stump and discovered a second nest of eggs inside another nook—with a mama duck sitting on them!

It was a beautiful, Sunday (May Day) morning, and the park was fairly busy. That meant I had to wait for people to move out of my camera frame when I couldn’t hide them behind trees. Such moments are great opportunities to practice mindfulness and patience. (When you have a mindfulness practice, moments of waiting take on new possibilities.) 

I watched many people stop to take a closer look at the huge willow stump and the baby willow growing from it, without ever noticing the camouflaged secrets nestled inside.

Observing & Reflecting

I also waited to make some wider landscape images and ended up waiting for quite some time for the wider space to clear. While waiting, I observed families with young children enjoying the park together and remembered when I was raising my children. Back then, I was almost never alone. I often had one in the backpack and the other in the stroller. My children and I were together 24/7. It felt like that’s how life would always be. I had a poem on the refrigerator reminding me that there would be time later for what I wasn’t able to do while immersed in the important work of mothering young children.

That time arrived eventually. I pursued interests and career paths, always learning and growing…and with a lot more time to myself. And so there I was a couple decades later, standing alone with my camera in the park on a picture-perfect May Day morning.

I couldn’t help but wonder how the young children running around chasing the ducks would grow up. What would their lives be like? What challenges would these families encounter?

There was one little girl and her dad who stayed within my frame for a long time because the little girl was so fascinated by the ducks. She chased them, and after they moved away from her, she ran around a tree instead. Then she explored every square foot of earth, or so it seemed from where I stood. The little girl had a lot of energy. Her dad allowed her to explore while hanging back yet remaining present. I enjoyed watching their body language and considered composing a picture in which his caring posture was part of the landscape, but it felt voyeuristic. The mom was ahead of them pushing an empty stroller with a slightly older, less energetic child at her side. It seemed the dad was on daughter duty, giving the mom a bit of a break.

I imagined that two days prior, my granddaughter and I had looked much like this father and daughter, only older. But the same basic idea.

As I observed the dad and daughter from across the stream, a male duck waddled into the willow stump, as if to check on the mama duck and make sure everything was okay. A few minutes later, he waddled back out and into the adjacent stream where a few colorful, male ducks cleverly drew people’s attention away from the willow stump. I presumed he was the daddy duck. 

Interestingly, when I looked at my images later, I zoomed way in and noticed the word “mate” right there in the nest. I hadn’t noticed it at the time, for I was too far away. It appeared to be part of a longer word that was folded, with “mate” being the only part visible. I became fascinated and intrigued by this image—which I thought of as Mother Nature’s oracle card for the day.

Caring Abounds

All week, I was drawn like a magnet to my images of these duck mamas-to-be. A number of situations arose that were out of my control, in my personal life and in the world, and I felt vulnerable. For example, I received a massive car repair bill and wondered if I was being taken advantage of. I listed some items for sale on Marketplace and encountered stealthy scammers whom fortunately I was a step ahead of. My bank had to send me a new debit card because my card somehow had been compromised. Stuff like that. Family stuff.

One of the messages I receive from the mama duck images is that caring is a quiet and often unnoticed, but ever-present and natural force in the world. It’s not loud and showy like those who seek personal gain through taking advantage of, controlling, manipulating, putting down, and objectifying others for whatever reason.

Be wise and discerning. And don’t give up hope, for caring abounds in this world, even now. It just doesn’t tend to draw attention to itself or make headlines, for that’s not what it seeks. Caring always finds a way.

I also saw the duck mamas-to-be doing their best to create a nest of safety and caring in a bustling, unpredictable environment.

Despite our deepest intentions, we can’t always keep our children safe. We can’t transfer our experience and wisdom to them. We can’t direct the course of their life or prevent them from suffering. That’s not our responsibility, it’s not the point, and we only suffer more when we try. But we always can care and be there for them. We can listen deeply without sharing our unsolicited advice, opinions, or concerns—or at least that’s what I’m practicing right now.

My experience of motherhood has not been anything like I imagined and envisioned it would be when I was pregnant with my first child. At times, it’s been pretty brutal, and I swear I signed up for the accelerated learning plan here on Schoolroom Earth! It’s certainly been a path of deep compassion, humility, and surrender. My children have been and continue to be my greatest teachers.

The space between our expectations/desires and reality is a breeding ground for suffering. Thank goodness for my meditation practice and time spent in nature, is all I can say! They help me to let go of the stories of what life is/isn’t or should/shouldn’t be and find balance and inner spaciousness, many times a day when challenges arise.

Generating Lovingkindness

So there I was alone at the park with my camera, waiting for the scene to be people-free, watching children chasing ducks and interacting with their families. Feeling my feet on the ground, feeling into my body, aware of my breathing, receiving impressions of the environment through my senses, and feeling connected with the life around me. Wondering what these young families will go through as the children grow up and what challenges they face now.

Realizing many other families have had or will have similar experiences—that my experience isn’t unique—has grown my compassion tremendously. There is so much I would have passed judgment on prior to experiencing what I have in this messy, human life.

I don’t normally spend time in nature with my camera in busy places. However, that Sunday morning visit to the park presented a whole new invitation beyond practicing mindfulness and patience in those moments of waiting. It was an opportunity to practice lovingkindness, as well.

Lovingkindness, or metta, is a practice of wishing others well and cultivating caring. All of the people and families who passed through my camera frame were opportunities to send more lovingkindness into the world. Humankind is struggling now, and I silently wished the passersby:

May you be well.

May you be kind to each other.

May you enjoy this beautiful day.

May you live with ease.

May you be free from suffering.

May you know that you are loved.

Generating lovingkindness made the waiting times much more enjoyable. By the time I left the park, I felt more connected to all the life around me. Not just the ducks. 


© 2022 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this post or excerpts of it as long as you give proper credit to Susan Meyer and SusanTaraMeyer.com. Susan Meyer is a photographer, writer, and spiritual teacher who lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

Enchanting Birdsong Synchronicity

Enchanting Birdsong Synchronicity

Yesterday I took a walk in the woods. A question had been lingering in my mind all day regarding someone dear to my heart who is going through a challenging time: If I could converse with their higher self, what would it have to say about my role in their life and our relationship? What’s most important for me to know?

This is something I’ve contemplated in the past with regard to other close relationships. It’s like when you’re not getting anywhere talking with a frontline worker, so you go over their head and speak with the manager. When you’re able to tap into something greater than the personality, higher wisdom can come through.

I can’t say for sure where it comes from. Maybe we connect with our own higher nature or the other person’s, or perhaps at that level we’re not separate anyway. Nonphysical guides? Who’s to say? Seems to me it’s not necessary to have that part figured out to receive useful guidance. 

I decided to take a trail I was less familiar with and after a while wondered if it would take me where I wanted to go. At one point, I considered turning around and taking the road back to where my car was parked. However, intuition kept me on the path.

Eventually, I encountered a tree that was absolutely bursting with birdsong—the liveliest bird-music I’d heard so far this year. It was so intoxicating that I stopped walking to marvel at and record the songbirds.

A couple minutes into recording, a car came within earshot. A young man in the car was belting out a song. He had a decent voice, but after a few lines, he began shrieking out the lyrics, and I stopped recording. Until the shrieking began, I didn’t pay much attention. I was more interested in the birdsong. However, the shrieking drew my attention and curiosity. I realized it was a song I knew well.

I continued walking—a little faster now, aware of and grateful for others on the path because this guy seemed a little unhinged!

When I got home that evening, I listened to the recording and pulled up the lyrics for the song (“You Say” by Lauren Daigle). The part of the song I recorded (before the voice became completely distorted) seemed like clear guidance concerning the question I carried in my heart:

“I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough
Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low
Remind me once again just who I am because I need to know

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
And you say I am held when I am falling short”…

I’m actually blown away by this because I had prayed for guidance. And there it came, drifting through the air in a moment of stillness and deep listening in the woods. Although I hadn’t intended to end up where I was when this happened and felt a little lost, I was exactly where I needed to be to experience this.

How perfect that the birdsong was enchanting enough to stop me in my tracks and keep me in that spot long enough for me to be in the right place at the right time so the words could reach me!

My husband and I had planned to walk together, but I felt drawn to this particular trail rather than ones closer to home. He had a lot to do and decided not to go with me. Which felt right. Had we been walking together, I probably wouldn’t have stopped to listen to the birds. The pieces wouldn’t have come together.

I’m amused by the idea of the young man who had given in to a crazy outburst in the company of his two friends. He was completely unaware that he was serving as a messenger for a woman he didn’t even notice walking on a nearby trail. It makes me think of how we might be entirely unaware of the roles we inadvertently play in someone’s life—even strangers, as we pass through their field of awareness, however briefly. How many times have we been an unwitting messenger or catalyst?

By the way, the song is amazing. The first time I heard it, I found myself annoyed by yet another “codependent love song” during the second verse (not part of the above excerpt). But as I kept listening, I realized it carried a powerful message if I imagined it being sung to the higher self, not to another person. Later, I learned that was actually the songwriter’s intention. Lauren Daigle is a Christian artist, and she wasn’t singing about a codependent relationship. 

 

If you’re interested, here’s the birdsong recording (with singing at the very end):
 


© 2022 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this post or excerpts of it as long as you give proper credit to Susan Meyer and SusanTaraMeyer.com. Susan Meyer is a photographer, writer, and spiritual teacher who lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

Poem: Being with Nature

Poem: Being with Nature

I woke up this morning to a fairly ambitious agenda and after settling into the day, got to work.

Eventually, I looked up from the computer screen and noticed the movement and the vivid blues of the river landscape outside the windows. The flowing river is the first thing I see when I wake up in the morning. Windows and mirrors throughout the house offer glimpses of the river as I move between rooms during the day. My desk in the corner of the sunroom provides a front-row view.

I never know what will come flowing down the river from one moment to the next. Sometimes it’s a poem, and all of a sudden writing it down takes precedence over everything else.

Being With Nature

This morning, sky and river are so blue:
Clouds and waves flowing as if
Carried by conveyor belts.
The sun shines in the sky,
Sprinkles down handfuls of sparkles
To dance on the water
With contagious laughter.

Right now, it makes no sense
To be indoors staring at a screen.
It is time for a break.

Look out a window. Give attention,
Receive something in return
Without trying. Let the mind rest.
Allow the heart and inner senses
To take over for a little while.

Follow the impulse to go outside
And caress the earth, one footstep
At a time, free from any destination
Other than true presence and relationship.

Become aware of the messengers—
Hawk, robin, loon—whoever appears.
Listen to the invitation.
How are you being asked to show up?
And can you say yes?

Just as we are restored and inspired
By the embrace of the natural world,
So, too, does Nature delight in the kiss
Of human eyes, ears, feet, tender touch.

The interplay of sunlight or water
On bare skin, wind in hair,
Footsteps on the earth,
Is reciprocal.

Have you sensed the merriment
Of wind playing with your hair
And how the notes change across
Moments and conditions and differ
From the songs of wind chimes
And willow trees?

Have you experienced the rhythm
Of flowers swaying in the breeze
And how the very same rhythm
Moves through you, beneath the surface?

Go outside. It is time to celebrate,
To whisper or dance or sing:
I am here, Love.


© 2022 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this post or excerpts of it as long as you give proper credit to Susan Meyer and SusanTaraMeyer.com. Susan Meyer is a photographer, writer, and spiritual teacher who lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

The Missing License Plate

The Missing License Plate

Last month, my twentysomething son was out driving at night on a country road close to home and hit a patch of black ice. He experienced the out-of-control donut movement before taking a wild ride through the ditch. After what he described, I assumed he was stuck in the ditch and was surprised when he told me he was continuing his errands. Especially because he said part of the front of the car was missing.

So this happened at night. He eventually came home, and since it was dark, we decided to take a look in the morning and deal with it then. Of course, I went to bed that night grateful there were no other cars on the road when he spun out, and to still have a son to say goodnight to.

In the morning, my husband came into the house from outside and asked if my son realized his rear license plate was missing. That was news to me and also to my son. My husband couldn’t believe he didn’t get pulled over for a missing license plate – especially when my son said there was a police car right behind him at one point during his travels.

We all went outside and took inventory of the car. Sure enough, a piece was missing from the front driver’s side, and the rear license plate was missing, too.

What to do first? Look for the license plate.

The two of us took a drive in my car to where he went off the road and looked for missing parts. We found the front piece but not the license plate. We also found another set of tracks through the ditch that looked like it had been an even wilder ride. A friend of mine also had an accident in roughly that spot a few years ago involving black ice. 

My son’s tracks came within a yard or two of a telephone pole. While we were taking in the tracks and looking for parts, several cars went by. I was grateful all over again for the outcome being much better than it might have been. I think he was, too.

We drove up and down the road a couple of times in case the license plate didn’t fall off in the ditch. Maybe it was dangling and fell off after he was back on the road. But we didn’t see it anywhere. Did someone take it? Maybe the police?

Back home, we kept looking at the car and the empty spot where the license plate used to be, wondering what had happened to it. Maybe someone brought it to the Department of Motor Vehicles?

There were two things that needed to be done. We needed to have a mechanic survey the damage, and we needed to turn in the one (somewhat mangled) license plate and re-register the car with new plates. After some consideration, we decided to visit the mechanic first.

My son drove the car to the mechanic and stayed as the car was put on the lift and slowly raised above his head. As the car was lifting up, my son was surprised to discover the license plate was still there! It had been there all along! It wasn’t covered by snow or mud. It was there in clear view! 

He texted me a picture of the car with rear license plate intact, and I was astonished. How could it be? All three of us didn’t see that license plate. My husband was the first to notice, and after he shared the news with us, we weren’t able to see the license plate that was right there in front of us. The license plate only became visible to my son when he saw the car literally from a different perspective, and the license plate was at eye level.

The power of suggestion! It blew my mind. 

My husband explained that he was looking for the license plate lower than where it was, and that’s why he didn’t see it. It reminded me of something I experienced with my dad many years ago.

When my parents were alive, they had a ring-toss board from my dad’s childhood on the wall in the family room. They kept their keys on the hooks on that board. One time I was visiting, and my dad was frustrated because he couldn’t find his car key. He was looking all over the house for it. He told me what the key looked like, and I started looking for it, too. I looked at the ring-toss board and found a key that fit the description. The problem was that it was on a different hook than he normally kept it on – I think the next hook over. Because he expected it to be on a specific hook, he didn’t see it on another one. Focused narrowly on that one hook, he couldn’t see the rest of the board.

That brings to mind a Sufi story of the holy jester, Mulla Nasrudin. Someone was walking home one night and found Nasrudin on all fours searching frantically for something under a streetlamp. The passerby asked what he was looking for. He said was looking for his key. The passerby helped him search for it. Eventually, he asked Nasrudin if he had a sense of where he might have dropped the key, and he answered that he lost it inside his house. The passerby wanted to know why, then, he was looking outside for something he lost inside his house. “Because there’s more light out here under the streetlamp,” he replied matter-of-factly.

Kind of a tangent, kind of not. How often do we look outside of ourselves for the answers we’re trying to find and believe what others tell us because it’s easier than searching within ourselves?

After the license plate incident, I wondered what else I’m not able to see due to the power of suggestion. What else have I or am I regarding as truth because someone else declared it to be so, and then I couldn’t see otherwise? We get these ideas in our heads, and then they bias our perception. We see the world through the lens of what we believe to be true. And the three of us couldn’t see a license plate that was right there the whole time. Then came the moment when our eyes were more fully open, and we marveled at how we couldn’t see it before.

Happens to me all the time in nature. All of a sudden, something that’s been there all along will catch my attention, and I’ll see it for the first time.

So I’ve been chewing on this ever since, holding my “truths” a little more lightly and bringing an attitude of curiosity. Is there any other way to see this (whatever it is)? It is possible that I’m not seeing the whole picture? That I’m fixating attention in the wrong place?

I do still have my opinions and beliefs. But I’m also willing to be wrong or not completely right. To not judge others who hold conflicting opinions. To be curious about their views. To have as my compass what feels right and peaceful when I dive below the layers of ego to a deeper, more encompassing state of being. Which is why I meditate. Sometimes turning attention inward and sitting quietly with yourself helps you to  find that lost key – or license plate, as the case may be.


© 2022 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this post or excerpts of it as long as you give proper credit to Susan Meyer and SusanTaraMeyer.com. Susan Meyer is a photographer, writer, and spiritual teacher who lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

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