Author: susantara

Seeing Daffodils in a New Way

Seeing Daffodils in a New Way

I love to walk the labyrinth at the park when the daffodils are in bloom all around it. I’ve been photographing them for so many years, and I especially enjoy photographing them backlit, like stained glass. However, it wasn’t the right time of day for that yesterday morning, and rain was in the forecast for the rest of the day.

I brought my camera to the labyrinth, wondering how I might see the daffodils a little differently than I have in the past. Was it possible?

It always is.

I was impressed by how the yellow tips transform into fully bloomed flowers. The tips grow and swell and become a slender, papery package containing all the parts. Eventually the petals open like fingers releasing from a fist (except there are six instead of five), exposing the ruffled corona and stigma at the center. All parts are yellow – though I am especially fond of the visual contrast of white-petaled variety.

Looking deeply at this daffodil two days after experiencing the solar eclipse, the corona draws my attention. The sun in a daffodil, with the petals as rays extending outward!

I also marvel at how life packages the flower so compactly before it blooms. You look at the papery package and wouldn’t imagine such a large, ruffled flower emerging from it. Astounding!

Tax time this year seemed to deliver some undesired news that had me wondering how I’d be able to make things work. But it was more of a fleeting thought, and then I reminded myself of the experiment I’m doing this year: Treat everything as good news.

How am I going to make it work? That’s not the question – it’s just a distraction. The real question is: How can I allow myself to harmonize with the flow of life and trust it? Resist nothing. Trust that just as this daffodil grows and transforms so intelligently into full bloom, so am I. (And so are you.)

It turned out that the undesired outcome did not come to fruition. But it was good practice. 

Too much thinking and worrying only gets in the way. Notice thinking is happening, and let the thought-clouds go. The energetic awareness beneath thought holds every answer we seek, everything we want to know. Just as the moon blocked the light of the sun during this week’s eclipse, too much thinking gets in the way of us accessing our deeper knowing.

It’s all there within us, like the parts of flowers before they bloom. And then one day, there’s this perfect flower…attracting pollinators and being part of this wondrous, interconnected dance of life.

That’s the consciousness I want to live in alignment with. Surrender the fear, the self-doubt, the busy mind – for there is an intelligence far greater than thought available to us.


© 2024 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. 

The Solar Eclipse: Experiencing Totally vs. Totality

The Solar Eclipse: Experiencing Totally vs. Totality

If nature is a mirror or teacher, what is tomorrow’s solar eclipse showing or teaching us?

That is the question I built a recent Solar Eclipse Meditation program around. 

Perhaps you already have a sense. Perhaps you haven’t given it a thought. Perhaps you’ll understand when it’s happening. Or perhaps sometime afterwards.

Maybe the eclipse will help you to tap into a sense of awe and wonder.

Or connection with everyone else experiencing the celestial phenomenon at the same time and throughout human history.  

Or the contrast between darkness and light, and the value of both.

Or hope and resilience because the light always returns, even in times of darkness and uncertainty.

Perhaps you’ll gain awareness of what blocks the light – what gets in the way of you receiving the light that is available to you or blocks your access. It might be fear, habits, energy patterns, beliefs, routines/schedule, relationships, codependent patterns, substances, some kind of self-abandonment, etc. 

What blocks you from manifesting what you deeply yearn for? What do you deeply yearn for? How do you want to feel? What does the sun represent, and what blocks its expression or manifestation in your life? 

During a solar eclipse, we wear special glasses that allow us to see what we’re not normally able to see. Perhaps you’ll get some kind of clarity about a situation, person, or topic you’re not seeing clearly, that will propel you to let go or relate to it/them differently. 

There’s also the idea of being in alignment – with your source, what matters most, your deepest wisdom, highest self, etc. You might notice how it feels when where you are standing on planet Earth is in alignment with the moon and sun. Really take in how it feels in those fleeting moments so you can access it again and practice the feeling of alignment. You could even visualize it happening if you aren’t able to experience the actual eclipse visually like that, and feel the sensation of inner alignment.

Eclipse energy can be very intense and chaotic. You may feel extra sensitive to the emotions arising in and/or around you. Perhaps you will resonate with certain practices and/or meditations that ground and calm your own energy despite whatever kind of energy is activated in the environment. 

These were some of the themes I offered. However, another theme arose during the course of the program that wasn’t in my notes: the fear of missing out (FOMO).

I live just outside of the path of totality. So close, and yet so far, given the warnings we’ve heard about traffic gridlocks and such. I’ve heard there’s a big difference between 99% and 100% totality and that many who’ve experienced 100% totality describe it as life-changing. Part of me yearns to experience that “once in a lifetime” event and has been brainstorming ways to get into that narrow path.

However, through mindful awareness, we can recognize that we are caught up in hype and FOMO. And then we can tune in and sense energetically, in our body and being, what feels right regardless of what others are doing or encouraging us to do. We can allow the hype to be just another cloud drifting through the mind that we can let go of.

What if we simply stay where we are? Perhaps we will be more fully present and relaxed, rather than stressed out from dealing with traffic congestion and anxiety about crazy drivers or where to park or pull over, or not arriving at our intended destination in time. Perhaps we can attune more to the energy and subtle changes and experience all of that totally instead of experiencing totality.

What if that is enough?

One participant in the program described experiencing the partial eclipse of 2017 at Cape Cod on a family vacation. The eclipse happened to take place during their vacation. It wasn’t the main event of the day. They didn’t schedule their vacation around it. It was simply part of a wonderful day at the beach. And whatever portion of the sun was blocked that day by the moon was enough. It was exciting – something memorable that you don’t see often. After it was done, her family continued to enjoy their beach day.

I recall working at the Saratoga Springs Public Library that summer day in 2017. We all took turns going up to the roof of the building and looking at the changing shadows on a piece of paper and taking turns looking through the one pair of glasses we passed around. It was really cool to be up on the roof and to experience the changing light and shadows, but what I remember most is the eerie light and the connection I felt with my fellow employees. 

After the solar eclipse program the other day, I stopped brainstorming and decided once and for all that 98-99% totality is good enough. We have a spot close to home in mind in case of clear sky, and an even closer spot if there are clouds, or if we encounter heavy traffic.

An alternative to FOMO – whether related to viewing a rare eclipse or anything else – is JOMO – joy of missing out. If we surrender to conditions being as they are, and to being where we are and as we are, we can discover there is much to notice and appreciate without complicating our lives. We can open ourselves to the path of least resistance instead of the path of totality.

We might take in how the unusual, changing light touches our familiar landscape, or the behavior of animals around us. Or do a guided or unguided meditation to connect with the energy, or enjoy the company of those with whom we’re experiencing the eclipse.

So another eclipse-inspired reflection is: How am I making things more complicated than they need to be? How can I ease into a sense of enoughness and find the path of least resistance? This can be an inquiry you carry with you long after the actual eclipse is over – as any of the inquiries I’ve offered can be.

As a photographer, there’s also the lure to photograph the event, instead of experiencing it fully. This, too, can be a conscious choice. Instead of being on photographer autopilot, we can sense into what feels most right in the moment regarding where and how to put our attention. I’ll be prepared with my gear and research but will sense into what feels most right in the moment and be open to the possibility of not taking any pictures at all. This is another opportunity for FOMO to be a mindfulness bell! Also, the sun isn’t the only subject to focus on. We might take in the unusual light falling on the landscape or the faces of those around us – with or without a camera.

Even the best eclipse plans can be foiled by cloud cover. For the past few days, it was looking like clear, blue sky for Monday afternoon. However, now my weather apps show clouds in the forecast. The weather is out of our control. But however it pans out, we can tune into the potent energy of the celestial alignment and the strange darkness during the day, and reflect on what the eclipse signifies for us. 

Surely, experiencing a total solar eclipse would be magnificent if weather conditions and geography permit. However, there are so many other powerful ways to view it, outside of the path of totality and visual impressions.


© 2024 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. 

Apricity

Apricity

One of the benefits of mindfulness practice is that we can become aware of how we relate to whatever experiences or emotions arise and interact with them in a way that offers greater freedom and clear-seeing. This applies to the full spectrum of what we experience and feel as human beings.

When I teach mindfulness meditation, it seems like I emphasize applying the skills and tools to the more challenging stuff – unpleasant emotions – in the interest of easing suffering. In last week’s sessions, for example, I focused on mindfulness of shame and humility and how mindfulness offers immunity against what Eckhart Tolle calls the “mental viruses” of our times. Awareness is the first step of freedom.  

However, the unpleasant end of the spectrum is only part of the picture. We can strengthen our capacity to be with what is pleasant, too. To slow down and become still enough to really take in a pleasurable moment. Doing this helps our brain build new neural pathways and balance its hardwired, inherited negativity bias that scans for and overfocuses on danger – whether actual or perceived.

I recently learned of an obsolete, Old English word, apricity, defined as: the warmth of the sun in winter. It instantly became my new favorite word, right up there with neuroplasticity and inspiration.

I’m a great fan of apricity. In fact, I’m enjoying it even as I write this. My standing desk on wheels is positioned right in front of a sunny window, and the sunlight coming through the window is bathing me in warmth. It feels amazing!

Whenever there is sunlight (which hasn’t been often lately), I roll my desk to a sunny window and follow the sun from window to window throughout the day. This is one of my favorite winter delights, and how lovely to finally have a word for it! Why that wonderful word became obsolete is beyond me.

I have a health condition for which I’ve been instructed to apply a warm compress to my eyelids daily. When I let that treatment regimen lapse, I inevitably become aware of its value – when my eyelid becomes inflamed again. It’s just like when your meditation, yoga, exercise, etc. practice lapses, and the absence and contrast make you aware of its benefits. You realize that you feel better when it’s part of your life than when it’s not.

The warm compress treatment is simple enough but feels tedious. The most challenging part is making time for it. The other day, I heated the water and prepared the compress. When I was all set, I saw that my son was on the couch, where I had intended to lie down and do the treatment. So I went on the sunporch and noticed how wonderfully warm the sun felt coming in through the windows. Seemed like a perfect spot to plop down.

I had intended to make time to meditate before doing a live Zoom mindfulness session that day, but the warm compress therapy would cut into that time. And then it occurred to me that I could fit in meditation by incorporating it into the eye treatment and focusing on apricity and warmth in general. Warmth of the compress on my face and apricity on my skin as I lay on my meditation cushion – just like a cat, as my son pointed out.

The practice was simple: When the mind wanders off to thoughts of past or future, or even to thoughts about present conditions, acknowledge the wandering, and guide awareness back to the sensations of warmth. In other words, warmth was my meditation anchor, my home base.

It transformed a somewhat tedious health routine into a meditation practice that was a true joy.

Although the sun is shining brightly today, this rarely has been the case in recent weeks. As my recently completed yearlong river sunrise photography project confirmed, January and February are the months when we in the Northeast tend to see the least sunlight. But eventually the overcast days pass, and the sun comes back out – like today. After a long string of dreary weather days, we appreciate the sunshine and blue sky even more. 

And when the sun isn’t out? We can practice generating our own sunshine. Perhaps go on a treasure hunt, indoors or outdoors, for what gladdens the heart. Kindle gratefulness.

For example, earlier this week when the sky was overcast, I was delighted to rest my eyes on the orchids on my meditation altar and the 11 tiny buds (yes, I counted them) that will blossom in the spring. And my beloved jade plant and the numerous smaller jades I’ve been propagating. The sound of the water fountain in the corner of the room. The plants on the window shelves I created last year that always gladden my heart.

In the absence of apricity, I made a cup of fragrant, herbal tea. I held my mandala mug (my current favorite) in my hands and felt the warmth of the tea – even held the mug to my body to warm more of me. Again, the sensations of warmth were my meditation anchor. When I drank the sun-ripened tea, I consumed sunlight and joy.

So if you need one, consider this your permission slip to switch up your meditation practice and experiment and play with an anchor that generates warmth and joy!


© 2024 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.

This Matters

This Matters

Last week, someone commented at the end of one of my Zoom mindfulness programs that whereas having a meditation practice seemed optional in the past, it has become essential. I agreed wholeheartedly and added that we need all hands on deck at this time, being our best, most resourced selves.

After the session ended, I had a little cry. 

There were multiple feelings present at the same time, but the dominant one was gratitude. I silently thanked all of the people and circumstances that helped me to become who I am on this endless journey of awakening. And I felt deep gratitude for being able to serve humanity as a meditation and spiritual teacher/practitioner in these chaotic times and feeling that I’m truly living my purpose. Since the first day of the Covid shutdown, I’ve felt that all my years of spiritual practice and self-development were preparation for these current times we’re living in. There were so many years of preparing and waiting – and doing now feels amazing and empowering, except that I have to acknowledge that the reason behind all of this doing is the magnitude of suffering in the world.

I listened recently to a podcast episode in which the suggestion was made to not be so grandiose in your idea of what your life‘s purpose is. It might be doing one thing, or something that helps even just one person. Hearing this made an impression on me because I’m often so focused on my Big Purpose that I find myself rushing through the mundane tasks of daily life and feeling tense. Especially when life gets busier, which it has been lately. Often, I’m so eager to jump into my work after getting out of bed that things like brushing my teeth and taking a shower – and yes, sometimes even meditating – just seem to be in the way. Because I’ve generated an overly ambitious to-do list, and there are only so many hours in the day.

However, even an activity like preparing a meal and chopping vegetables can be an expression of your life‘s purpose that benefits other human beings.

One afternoon while chopping some greens, I noticed myself wanting the task to be over so I could move on to the next thing I was eager to move on to. Then an idea popped into my head, and I gave it a try. It was a very simple experiment. I simply said to myself: This matters.

With those two words, my body relaxed, my mind came back to the present moment, and my whole being let out a sigh of relief. It felt so much better than rushing!

So I adopted it as an ongoing practice. Every time I catch myself rushing through a task, I remind myself: This matters. It changes everything.

Making food for myself and my family matters.

This footstep on the way to and from the mailbox matters.

Scrubbing this potato matters.

Washing this pot matters.

Emptying the dishwasher and putting dishes away matters.

(There are a lot of kitchen examples here!)

This breath matters.

With this practice, every task that feels mundane becomes a path back home, a mindfulness practice, a crack through which the light of gratefulness enters in. 

Self-nourishing activities matter, too:

Appreciating the fragrance of your body wash, shampoo, lotion, etc. 

Feeling the sensations of lathering or applying them on your skin.

Feeling the pleasant warmth of the shower water.

Being grateful for having warm, flowing water.

Next time you find yourself rushing, give it a try. Notice the difference between mind full and mindful. Acknowledging that whatever we’re doing right now matters is a portal out of the busy, future-focused mind and back into the here and now, where our true power resides. It’s like applying the brakes. We slow down and can enjoy the experience, the sensations, and the gift of this moment in this precious human life. And then we’re more centered and present in our next activity or interaction, which enhances everything we do and benefits everyone we come in contact with.

This matters:

This step

This scoop

This snip

This chop

This stroke

This breath.

It matters because it’s what is happening right now. Allowing it to matter is a game-changer! It is empowering.

So many feel grief-stricken, fearful, and angry in response to the situations of tremendous suffering in other parts of the world. Our hearts want to answer the call to do something to help ease suffering that can feel like too much to bear when we witness it on our screens. Whereas we may feel powerless, truly there is so much we can do, especially when we’re not so grandiose or specific about what matters.

For example, we can become aware of the seeds of war within us and not water them. We can give ourselves the care needed to be properly rested, more centered, and less grouchy and volatile so we can shine our light more fully in this world. We can make peace with someone with whom we have disharmony, even if it’s only in our own mind and heart and the way we see them. We can open our hearts to the suffering on all sides of heated conflicts.

All of this matters.

These are just a few examples, and it’s very deep work. It might feel so small and as if it doesn’t help to ease suffering in areas of the world embroiled in war and conflict. But that’s no excuse for throwing in the towel and getting stuck in a trance of powerlessness, futility, and despair. There are many situations closer to home that would benefit from our caring hearts and deepening wisdom. Perhaps even in our own home. There are also actions you can take politically if you’re inclined, but hopefully from a more centered state of being that draws upon greater wisdom and compassion, which meditation helps us to access. 

Sometimes it’s the little things we do or say – the presence we give – that remain with someone for years and water seeds of goodness, kindness, hope, and resilience within them. Every small action that brings more love, light, and consciousness into this world matters. So let’s be here where we are, doing what we can, trusting that it matters and is part of our life purpose…and that our small actions ripple farther than we can see. Please don’t discount them.


© 2023 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.

Welcoming Imperfection

Welcoming Imperfection

I’m fond of saying that October is my favorite color. Usually it is. But this year? Not so much. This year, the colors have been muted for the most part. And not a lot of sunshine, either. Or visible sunrises. I’m glad I embarked on my yearlong sunrise photography project last year instead of this year!

This morning, looking out the window at the same overcast landscape, it occurred to me that this season’s foliage fits the general theme I’ve experienced this year: things not turning out as planned. Surely, there are plenty of exceptions and wonderful surprises – but the things I most looked forward to this year followed this theme.

Being really sick the only time I’ve visited Arizona

Summer vacation plans that fell through – all of them!

My grandson spending the first days of his life in NICU and not knowing yet how much of an impact it will have on his functioning

Not finishing the book I’m writing – over the winter…or the summer

You get the idea.

The reason I’m noticing this theme is because instead of driving around leaf-peeping, I’ve been going through my journal, daily planner, and photography libraries to review each month and harvest its gifts and lessons. This is something I normally do at the end of each month, but this year it didn’t happen because each month seemed to move at warp speed, and there was a lot going on. 

Playing catch-up like this, one thing I’ve noticed is that when I reflect back several months, I have tremendous compassion for the slightly younger version of myself and what she was going through. When events are still fresh or even in-process, reflecting on them can lack the distance that offers this wider perspective. 

Recently, I presented a Gratefulness Gathering on the topic of “Welcoming Imperfection”. I mentioned that sometimes I’ll fast-forward to the end of this life to get perspective on what really matters – and so much that doesn’t. What would future me want most from present-day me as she looks back on her life, knowing how it all turned out? How would she look at the challenges I currently face and where I put my energy? How do I look at Susan from years past, during the duller, more muted times?

When my husband and I were hiking back up from the bottom of Kaaterskill Falls a few weeks ago, we encountered two men we’d talked with earlier. One was struggling and going at a much slower pace than the other, who was up ahead and at one point called back to his companion, “Regretting your life choices?” We found that line pretty funny and agreed we needed to remember it.

Because it rang true. I certainly have regretted some of my life choices! But something that has become very clear to me this year is that getting down on ourselves for choices we made that we wouldn’t make if we had the chance to do it all over again with the benefit of hindsight – is counterproductive. It drains our energy in this present moment, which is where our true power lies.

Our self-punishment doesn’t serve anyone. What if this, too, is “God’s will” – or “part of the path” (however you want to phrase it)? What if our human journey is like a labyrinth rather than a maze, with no wrong turn, and every step we take brings us closer to the center?

Looking back through my planner and journals helps me to remember what was going on that got in the way – of not finishing the book, for example. Things I might forget – the same way you forget how intense childbirth was (at least the way I chose to do it!).

One of the most empowering ways to reflect on our lives is to acknowledge that the choices we made were affected by so many factors, both within and beyond ourselves. And to have compassion for our younger selves, who were doing their best, given what they knew and what was going on at the time. If we can’t remember what was going on, perhaps we can give ourselves the benefit of the doubt that there were reasons why we didn’t do what, in retrospect, we think we should have done – or we didn’t live up to our potential.

What if we needed all of our experiences to learn and grow and awaken in ways that will make our future self at the end of this life grateful for the journey? 

Can we accept and find something to appreciate or even love about the years when the fall foliage isn’t so vibrant and brilliant – when the colors are muted? And the seasons of our own life when we didn’t shine so brightly? When what we looked forward to just didn’t pan out, for whatever reason (including factors beyond our control)?

Can we find something beautiful or worthwhile in what is/was, exactly as it is/was? Instead of feeling we need to Photoshop reality, so to speak. 

If we can bring compassion to ourselves, we’re more able to give real compassion, kindness, and caring to others. And isn’t that what this world needs right now?


© 2023 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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