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Author: susantara

14 Hours Between the Trees

14 Hours Between the Trees

Two weeks ago, I did something I’d never done before: I went on a vision quest. It was the culminating activity for the second year of the three-year Hidden Treasure program at Light on the Hill retreat center.

Aside from logistics, I didn’t really have any expectations for it (which is often beneficial in such situations). And the logistics went something like this:

We needed to be settled in at the retreat center in time for the purification ceremony the evening before the quest. Once the sacred ceremony began, we’d remain in silence for the rest of the evening, the entire next day, and through breakfast the following morning until we completed our opening meditation.

In addition, we’d fast for at least 24 hours, from before the purification ceremony until the vision quest ended the next evening.

I’d chosen and marked my vision quest spot months ago. It was nestled between four trees, at what I believe is the highest elevation point on the property, only a few yards from where we buried my son’s placenta 21 ½ years ago. This spot offered a view of the surrounding hills. I’d also considered a streamside location. However, I felt drawn to a more open, expansive setting with a view and some personal history.

I had to be all set up in my vision quest spot before sunrise (6 AM) and would remain there until sunset (a little before 8 PM). Fourteen whole hours.

My spot consisted of an 8-foot circle, and I was not permitted to bring anything with me except: protection from the elements, something to sit on, water, toilet paper, and a small shovel or trowel. No devices of any sort. Not even a watch to tell the time or a notebook to record insights. Actually, not having access to writing materials is what concerned me most. However, it would be a one-day experiment and an opportunity to try something new. I had to trust that if something really important surfaced, it would come back again.

I also was concerned about the weather forecast, which called for lots of rain and even a thunderstorm. But since I couldn’t do anything about the weather, I’d just have to be prepared and make the best of it.

Although I’d be alone in my circle, I wouldn’t really be alone. Fifteen of my classmates would be vision-questing simultaneously in their own circles scattered throughout the retreat center’s 236 acres. And many years of Hidden Treasure classes before ours had gone through it, too, and were praying for us. I had complete trust in Alice, my spiritual director of more than 30 years who leads the program. I just had to trust the process.

The Quest

The weather ended up being exactly as forecasted. I barely had time to get set up before the rain began. It was still fairly dark when I secured an overhead tarp to four trees to keep me dry. I also put a tarp on the ground and brought my meditation cushion, yoga mat, and a sleeping bag for warmth.

And so began a long day of relating to my mind and the elements. There were periods of rain – downpours alternating with cloudy or even partly sunny sky at one point. But the rain is what I will remember most about the day.

I mostly practiced various forms of mindfulness meditation (sitting, standing, walking, and lying) and was surprised that very few thoughts and feelings took hold during the 14-hour vision quest.

The experience reminded me of childbirth – knowing it’s going to go on for a long time and having to stay in the moment so as not to become overwhelmed by it. There was plenty of opportunity to go into impatience, dissatisfaction, and frustration over conditions I could not control (i.e. weather and time). However, I kept catching myself and bringing myself back to present moment awareness:

  • my ant’s-eye view of the ground and the diversity of plant life emerging from it
  • the dewdrop at the top of every blade of grass – and its eventual disappearance
  • thousands of maple buds expanding into baby leaves
  • the sound of birds – quieter during storms, more active in between
  • the reflection of maple branches and buds in a small puddle on my tarp
  • my water jug magnifying whatever was behind it
  • the sound of my roof tarp blowing in the breeze
  • the mist dancing around the hills after a storm
  • sensations in my body
  • thunder and lightning.

It was interesting to see where my mind went to and what resources supported me when circumstances were beyond my control. The resources that carried me through the quest included: gratitude, mindfulness, knowing that this shall pass, and feeling interconnected with nature and my classmates.

Oh yeah, and the mantra: I am a badass. I mean, seriously: I was spending 14 hours in an 8-foot circle alone with my mind and whatever nature served up. Somehow those four words seemed to reframe the whole experience and empower me to keep on keeping on even when the rain was coming in slanted, and only a small spot of tarp remained dry.

Then I thought of the homeless individuals I know and how they do this all the time, but not necessarily in a safe place or with the promise of a nourishing meal and a hot shower at sundown or an emotionally and spiritually supportive community to return to. 

One moment in particular stood out to me. During the brief interlude of mid-day sunshine, I removed my jacket and noticed a tick crawling on the inside of it. That pulled me out of presence and into fear. A few moments later, I saw another tick, roughly the size of a pinhead with legs, crawl across the tarp I was sitting on. All of a sudden, I felt unsafe and questioned the prudence of making myself vulnerable to ticks for 14 hours in the pouring rain.

I wondered if continuing the vision quest experience could become another example of self-betrayal. What if I were to get Lyme disease from the vision quest, which I was doing because I was expected to do it? I latched on to that thought for a while, until I checked in with myself and realized that continuing the quest felt more right than spending the remainder of it in my car.

Killing ticks isn’t easy. However, I managed to liberate both of them from their present incarnations by bashing them repeatedly with my bottle of homemade tick spray. After all, I had plenty of time. And I was a badass. 😉 And ticks fell outside my circle of equanimity and compassion. (More about that later.)

After the tick incident, I spent most of the remainder of the vision quest huddled inside my mummy-style sleeping bag with only my eyes peeking out, feeling like I was in a cocoon.

Not eating or writing wasn’t a problem. It was a one-day experiment, and those were the rules. I was deeply grateful for my mindfulness meditation practice and for an unexpected interlude of sunshine.

It was hard to keep track of where the sun was in the sky because of the thick cloud cover in the afternoon, but I tried nonetheless. In the evening, it was hard to discern whether the sky was getting darker because another storm was approaching or because dusk and the end of the vision quest were drawing near. When I estimated that I had another hour and a half to go, I was delighted to see one of my classmates drive by. Even if they were early, the end was near!

And then it was over. My intuition gave me the green light, and I broke down my setup gleefully and headed back to the retreat lodge, where a comforting meal of carrot-ginger soup, tossed salad, and lemon bars awaited. And a hot shower. After all that (and a thorough tick check), I began to write about my experience.

Processing the Quest

The vision quest itself wasn’t nearly as juicy as processing it was. At first, I didn’t think I had much to write about. I even felt like I didn’t do well with vision-questing and assumed others went deeper and experienced higher states of consciousness. However, when I started writing, lots of stuff came up, including associations with my everyday life. And the comparison and failure scripts in my head were patterns to acknowledge.

Our class, guided by Alice and two other leaders, spent the next two days processing everyone’s vision quest, one at a time. All 16 of us! This was a lot like group dream interpretation. It was rather fascinating and powerful to witness each person processing and integrating their experience. The guides honed in on statements that seemed especially weighty or meaningful and inquired about how the statement applies to the individual’s life. Some deep, emotional processing took place.

I won’t go into great detail about the inner significance of my quest other than to say that the tick incident was probably the most noteworthy part of all and carried the greatest emotional weight. One key statement I made went something like this: “I looked at the tick on my tarp and thought, ‘You could ruin my life!’” I felt fearful of the tick, afraid that more of them would invade my sacred circle, and angry because ticks take me away from connecting more with [my true] nature.

There were some books in the center of our group circle to help us recognize and interpret the signs and omens of nature we came in contact with during our vision quest. I couldn’t find anything about ticks and considered what they represent to me.

Basically, they speak to me of boundary breaches that could result in a chronic condition that can seriously compromise quality-of-life. They get in the way of me doing what makes me feel most in my element, and I felt sad and irritated about that. Disempowered.

I recalled the moments during the quest when I questioned whether I was betraying myself by putting myself out there as tick bait because someone else expected me to do it. Putting other people’s expectations and approval above my own welfare.

There was the issue of ticks during the vision quest, but the larger question was about feelings of fear and self-betrayal, in general. How do they apply to my life? I’ve been close to Alice for more than 30 years, and she’s never led me astray or betrayed my trust, so it wasn’t about her. What did my response to the ticks remind me of? What was it showing me?

The basic theme was about not doing what feels most right, out of fear. Feeling it’s not safe to be my true self. There was lots of processing around that – childhood stuff, current stuff. I even dreamed the night before (after the vision quest) of speaking up and telling my dad how his critical comments in the dream made me feel. It was an “I have a right to be me!” dream that fit perfectly with my vision quest themes.

Don’t let anyone get under your skin and prevent you from living your life! Thus spoke the tick on my tarp.

My marching orders had to do with recovering my self-worth by standing up for myself in certain ways, to certain people. Not giving away my power. Alice suggested some practices that might help.

When I got back home, I googled “tick symbolism”, and what I found resonated strongly and enriched my understanding of what the ticks were showing me.

“This species of arachnid is letting you know that you have too many people in your life that are draining your energy. It’s time for you to step away and learn to set boundaries. These people just have too many expectations of you. It’s not up to you to fix their stuff… Engaging will only instigate ‘drama trauma’ and distract you from your own journey.”

(Source: https://www.spirit-animals.com/tick/)

Ding, ding, ding!

Boundaries. So many opportunities for having healthy boundaries in my life, as scary and intimidating as it may feel. The lesson keeps returning until you finally learn it. If not now, when?

The Big Takeaway

I had my own vision quest that I’m still processing. But what provided the greatest lesson of all was hearing about everyone else’s experiences and listening to them being processed.

We were 16 people who had 16 entirely different vision quest experiences. Rain, hunger, and time were our common challenges. But everyone had a different relationship with them. Seeing my own experience within that context was illuminating.

Some of my classmates appeared to be under-prepared but had a pleasant experience. Others had really good gear, but that didn’t guarantee a pleasant vision quest. Some felt bad because they judged their experience in comparison to others. Others just had a lovely time, and some felt shame because others might envy their experience and wish they had an experience more like theirs. Some didn’t have a tarp and made do. Others took time the evening before to create a comfortable, welcoming space. Some did a lot of planning in advance. Others did virtually no planning.

Nobody else seemed as bothered by ticks as me, though a few discovered embedded ticks after returning home from the weekend. Some dealt with the tick problem by using heavy-duty repellant. Others didn’t really think about it at all until I brought it up. Even though Lyme disease is a serious health concern, and it is wise to protect yourself from ticks when you’re in the great outdoors, nobody else talked about ticks on their vision quest. This helped me to see that my reaction to ticks on the vision quest was my issue and pointed to something deeper in me that called for attention.

The vision quest also highlighted some of my strengths and resources and showed how different we are in terms of resourcing our lives and the gifts we contribute to the world. 

I learned that nobody’s experience is any better or worse than anyone else’s. This applies not only to vision quests, but to life in general. They’re all different due to the unique combination of nature and nurture that are at play in our lives. We all have different challenges and resources, and passing judgment on anyone else ultimately says more about how we relate to ourselves than how we feel about them. Other people are reflections of us that reveal our blind spots, shortcomings, fears, values, resources, aspirations, etc.

Sixteen different people, the same weather conditions, and 16 completely different experiences that provided me with a new perspective of my own journey as well as how I can be with others on theirs. Our differences can be our greatest teachers. Learning about our differences can help us to heal and grow, by making us aware of our issues, in the first place. Understanding that everyone has challenges and struggles (though they might look a little different from ours) assures us that we are not alone. All beings want to be happy, and all beings have challenges that get in the way of that.

So yeah, I have my work cut out for me. But I’m grateful to have greater clarity about how I get in my own way and what I can do about it. And I know I’m not alone. We’re all questing simultaneously in our little circles scattered throughout the planet every day of our lives.

Walking each other home.


© 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, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness 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.

One Tiny Turtle

One Tiny Turtle

Today was a great day for a field trip to our local park. It’s been rainy lately, but we lucked out.

We had a guided tour led by one of the park educators, followed by time for free play and exploration of a couple of learning stations set up in the pavilion. One of the learning stations was simply a plastic bin filled with soil and lots of worms. Want to know how to keep preschoolers focused and engaged for long stretches of time? Give them a bin of dirt and worms! It works wonders.

During the free play time, one of my preschoolers came up to me to give me a tiny treasure that at first glance appeared to be a gray stone. Then I realized it was a painted turtle hatchling about the size of a dandelion flower! It was early in the year for hatchlings, but there it was.

Baby turtle the same size as a dandelion flower

The little boy, with binoculars dangling from his neck, told me he found it in a spot where it was in danger of being trampled by our active group. Then he went back to exploring the park’s play garden. I was amazed he was able to notice the turtle in the first place because it was so small. All its appendages were tucked inside its shell, and it was an excellent camouflager.

At first glance, the turtle seemed rather lifeless. But as I held it in my hand and studied its eyes, I reconsidered that assessment. Poor little thing was probably terrified of the giant beholding it with awe.

Eventually, I felt some movement tickle my palm, and the tiny turtle pushed out a leg. Seeing it was alive, I decided to move it to a safer location closer to the pocket wetland. A group of children followed me, and I released the turtle on the ground. We watched it make its way to the pond, climbing over every obstacle in its path with fixed determination.

I captured the image below a split second before it plunged in.

Baby turtle about to plunge into pond

I’m fascinated by how baby turtles find their way to water. It seems they just KNOW. I think we all have an inner guidance system that calls us in the direction of our true nature. An internal GPS that’s hardwired into us. Do we feel it and follow it? That’s the question.

Or do our thoughts and conditioning get in the way and prevent us from moving toward what feels most deeply right and diving into new territory?

The guidance is there, whether we tap into it or not.

Then with a silent plop!, the baby turtle was in the water – I’m guessing for the first time. And it was a natural swimmer. This little turtle was made for the water and was in its element. Yay! Every move it made sent ripples into its watery environment. 

The image below makes my heart happy. It speaks to me of a goal attained and the sweet satisfaction of following your inner knowing and being in your element.

My son, who’s finishing his junior year of college, has been downhearted this week. He’s been questioning some of the choices he’s made and the path he’s on. We had a conversation in which I explained how life works, based on my own experience. I told him that new possibilities unfold with every step you take – possibilities you can’t see when you start out or encounter challenges. Or end-of-the-semester stress. You hold a vision and work to make it a reality, and some days you might wonder or even doubt whether you can pull it off.

Then all of a sudden, it dawns on you that you hold a key that will open a door that won’t open for anyone else. Because they don’t have the key; you do. You just have to find the door. And then your son comes home from elementary school that day, and when you greet him at the door, he announces, “Look what I found today on the playground!” Then he produces a rusty, old-fashioned KEY from his pocket. True story.

Or maybe one of your preschool students walks up to you and hands you a baby turtle that offers a metaphor that awakens you from the trance of self-doubt and affirms your inner GPS is working just fine.

And you keep going in the direction of your soul. Maybe you’ll even encounter a friendly giant who will have your back. 

Needless to say, the dandelion-sized turtle provided my daily dose of inspiration.

Then the observant little boy who found it took my hand and asked me to look for more animals with him. After a little more exploring, guess where we ended up?

The worm bin, of course.


© 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, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness 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.

Heirloom Seeds and Hearts Abloom

Heirloom Seeds and Hearts Abloom

It’s quiet in the house now except for the sound of the last load of laundry tossing around in the dryer. I still find it a little hard to believe that I’m the one with the washer and dryer and the adult children who bring their laundry home when they visit. Was it really that long ago when I brought my laundry basket to my parents’ house with young children in tow?

My three-year-old granddaughter and I had a really fun afternoon and evening together. I introduced her to watercolor painting and my old ViewMasters. She had her usual bubble bath with rubber ducks and measuring cups. She built with magnet blocks, counted “1…2…3!” and jumped with gusto from one futon mattress to another at least 30 times in a row, giggling in between. We made popcorn and ice cream with sprinkles and snuggled on the couch to watch a Harold and the Purple Crayon video before bedtime. We did lots of other activities together, too. It was an active day.

Young children don’t need fancy things to hold their attention. Ava noticed a tray of sand and small stones from the beach and became immersed in burying the stones in the sand until they couldn’t be seen. Then she imagined the stones were little people and acted out a whole new scenario. The sand and stones intrigued her long enough for her mom to run a solo shopping errand.

It’s interesting where the course of a day will take you.

This morning, I dreamed I was in my parents’ house and came downstairs and saw my dad sitting in his chair in the living room. He had just returned from a trip to England. And then my mom was there, too. In the dream, I realized something wonderful: They hadn’t really died! They’d just been away on a trip and were back now. All that time I spent grieving, and they didn’t die after all!

I spent most of the dream crying really hard because I was overjoyed to see my parents again. Then I woke up from the dream, still elated for a split second…until I realized it was only a dream.

My nose was already all stuffed up from crying in the dream. Then I cried for another half hour because it was one of those dreams that unleashed a wave of intense emotion.

It felt so good sitting in my parents’ living room next to them with good news to share. They were still alive and living in their home. In addition to feeling overjoyed because they were back, I felt like I mattered again and was supported in a way that was unique to my relationship with my parents. 

It was like jumping back in time. For a little while in my dream, nothing had changed. I could still pull into my parents’ driveway, walk through the front door, and find them in their living room. They hadn’t died, and the house hadn’t been sold.

The ordinary things you don’t appreciate fully until they’re gone.

And now, here I am hearing a sweet, little voice call out, “Grandma?” before going to bed. She’s looking for me. How is it possible that my mom never even got to meet her?

She’s fascinated with all the moms and grandmas and how her grandma is her mommy’s mom – and enjoys trying to explain it when we’re all together. She likes to see pictures of the other grandmas, too – my mom and grandmother – and hear stories about them. How they would have adored her!

As we snuggled on the couch, she exclaimed, “I like this house!” And it hit me again how times have changed, and now I am the one with the house in which loving memories are made for a little girl. A house where she feels safe and supported and loved, like I did in my grandparents’ house.

My parents and grandmother spent 40-something years sowing seeds in the garden of my heart. Since they died, the seeds of their love have taken on a life of their own. When we tend to these heirloom seeds with faithful care and compassion, the blooms are more beautiful than we ever could have imagined we were capable of growing.

Now I know what a grandmother’s love feels like, from the inside out. How strong and unconditional it is. A mother’s love, too, though I think you worry less about outcomes as a grandma.

Experiencing a grandmother’s love as the grandmother is magical. It’s like having a superpower. When you can love someone like that, you also can love yourself, including everything you haven’t loved about yourself in the past. Because now you can see through Grandmother’s eyes and heart, which changes everything. It plugs you into a bigger, more universal kind of love that transcends personal losses and heartache.

The secret gift of all these years of living, loving, and losing dear ones is: Eventually, you become love. Through our personal journeys, we connect with the Universal. If I could offer my children and grandchildren any words of advice for when I’m gone, it would be: Practice daily loving yourself as I have always loved you. Because it makes a huge, positive difference in your quality of life and also helps you to love others better.

I started today grieving the loss of my parents and ended it snuggling with my granddaughter on the couch, my heart abloom, marveling at the realization that it’s my turn to sow heirloom seeds in tender, young hearts. 

And the importance of that.


© 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, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness 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.

The Stories Inside Us

The Stories Inside Us

The holistic fair had been on my calendar for months. I made sure not to schedule anything else for the day and looked forward to attending the event.

Then the day came, and I just couldn’t motivate myself to go.

I wished I had some girlfriends to go with who shared my interest in all things mind-body-spirit. No doubt I do. But nobody came to mind. If I lived in Ithaca, I could send an email to my Hidden Treasure group and go as a group. It would be fun. That kind of companionship and sense of belonging to a community is what I long for.

I thought: Maybe I should push myself to go anyway. But when I checked in with myself, I kept hearing no – and argued with it. There was a gigantic should hanging in the air.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in recent years, it’s that in moments like this, the sooner I can get out of my head, the better. The dilemma would not be solved by thinking about it. Because there was emotional energy involved. Frustration, confusion, sadness. I was in an energy funk.

Feelings are signals that are part of our inner guidance system. The energy in my body had information to offer me. If I just thought about it, I’d cut myself off from a powerful source of wisdom and guidance. The emotional imbalance in my body was a signal to tune in and be present to what was happening right now in the moment without getting caught up in mental activities like stories I have about who or how I am or theories about why.

So I sat on my meditation cushion, made some inquiries, and paid attention.

An Alchemy of Presence

First I asked: What feelings am I experiencing now? (Sadness.)

Then I did a body scan to notice where I felt it the most. (In my heart area.) I placed my hands there and let them rest gently over my heart while I tuned in to the energy of that area.

What does the feeling look like? (I saw a hunk of clay.)

What color is it? (Pink.)

Then I saw golden hands kneading the clay that had the consistency of Silly Putty. The hands kept kneading and kneading and kneading. Whereas I was eager to find out what would become of the clay, the hands seemed very patient. They just kept kneading, and as they did, I allowed impatience and sadness to be with me. I didn’t push them away.

Then a female voice (that seemed to be attached to the hands) told me that I am putting too much pressure on myself. It’s okay not to feel like striving today. It’s okay not to have a clear vision yet of what I am in the process of creating. She asked me if I trust the hands that are kneading the clay. (Yes, I do.) Then I just stayed with the pleasant sensation of kneading. I was being asked to be patient and just allow it to be what it is right now.

The voice told me THERE IS NO RUSH. Don’t worry about what it is to become. It’s all in good hands.

At one point, a worried thought arose, and it was worked into the clay. It got absorbed and became part of the substance that was being kneaded. Anything could be added to the mix, and it would help to create this substance that eventually would be formed into something.

Everything belonged.

I remained present to the kneading, and eventually the hands stretched the clay until it was very thin and transparent, allowing the light to shine through. It became so thin that it turned into a bubble. Then there were lots of bubbles. The voice explained that there are so many possibilities.

One bubble caught my attention. It tumbled along the green grass, and when it came to rest, I sat inside it. There were lots of translucent colors on the surface of the bubble. I became curious: What color did I gravitate toward? (Blue.) I allowed the blue light to shine on me as I sat inside the bubble. The blue light charged me with a different kind of energy.

Then the blue light mixed with the pink of the clay and turned purple. The purple became butterflies. So many butterflies! The purple butterfly energy filled me. It fluttered inside my body and filled me with a sense of certainty. I would just know. It was a completely different energy.

Then I saw the face that was attached to the golden hands and the voice. The face was like the sun and blew purple butterfly kisses to me. The butterflies filled me, and then there was a golden bridge that connected me with this higher being. The butterflies inside me pulled me in the direction of the golden hands and face. It was my Higher Self beckoning me.

After about 20 minutes of witnessing the story that unfolded in my heart chakra, it felt complete. The energy of sadness and confusion had shifted into peace, acceptance, and contentment. I felt calm and whole. When I returned to meditating, I experienced the sensation of a waterfall of light flowing down into my head and through my body. My energy pathways felt clear.

The confused, conflicted energy in my body was a signal that wisdom or guidance was trying to come through. It was a message of patience and not feeling like I have to strive today. Instead of going to a crowded convention center, I walked in the sunshine and fresh air, and that felt like exactly what I needed.

Dear Anxiety

I’ve been no stranger to anxiety. It’s taken the form of worry, white coat hypertension in medical settings (traced back to early experiences), performance anxiety, and social anxiety. For a long time, my approach was to try to make the anxiety go away. I couldn’t accept it. It felt like a weakness or defect. If I was “spiritual” enough, I wouldn’t feel anxious. At least that’s what I told myself. 

But trying to make it go away didn’t work. I tried taking deep breaths to get rid of the anxiety. That tended not to work, either. I was still stuck in my head.

This power struggle with my body and my attempts to force it into submission cut me off from its tremendous wisdom. Recommitting to mindfulness meditation practice has helped me to cultivate a different relationship with my body characterized by greater acceptance and less rejection. Hallelujah!

Recently, I discovered “The Felt Sense Poem” (author unknown) written in the voice of the symptoms and conditions that arise from having a body (meaning that I would read it as Anxiety speaking to me). It describes eloquently a different kind of relationship we can have with our bodies, by listening, allowing, and being present rather than indulging in our storylines and beliefs. Here are some excerpts:

I am your friend, not your enemy. I have no desire to bring pain and suffering into your life.
I am simply tugging at your sleeve, too long immune to gentle nudges.
I desire for you to allow me to speak to you in a way that enlivens your higher instincts for self-care.
My charge is to energize you to listen to me with the sensitive ear and heart
of a mother attending to her precious baby.

Let me be one of the harbingers that lead you to the mysterious core of your being
where insight and wisdom are naturally available when called upon with a sincere heart.

Not your typical way of relating to physical or mental afflictions, huh? That’s what I’m talking about.

All the Incredible Stories

There are stories living in our body. Illuminating, healing stories. When I notice emotional energy in my body, I can’t wait to tune in to see what story will unfold. What it wants to tell me.

There was the time when a wild boar leaped out of my solar plexus chakra and ran into the woods. It was an energy that had been living in me for quite some time, and I felt so light and free when it left!

Another time, a mermaid swam around underwater and knew that the structures that seemed separate above the surface were connected underwater like the root systems of trees. When she came above the water embodying this understanding, her tears created healing rainbows.

There was the time when I felt anxious about a doctor’s appointment and saw water in the ocean pushing against a wall that kept me safe from all the water pressure. This story played out in my heart chakra. When I decided to allow the wall to dissolve, I discovered there was a magic umbrella I could hold onto that allowed me to hover over the water until it became calm. Then I enjoyed the sensation of floating on my back on the immense sea, feeling connected with it, part of it. I remembered how enjoyable it was for me to float on my back when I was young, before I became so self-conscious about my body. This was very different from the pressure of keeping that wall in place! I felt the difference and called on that imagery to relax my body when it tensed up before my appointment. The image carried the energy of safety. It was like a portal into calm.

There was the seriously EPIC story that played out in my sacral chakra. The story of the gleaming white Temple of Ascension in which trauma was transformed into transcendence through the presence of unconditional love and light from many angelic beings gathered around me. I can tap into the powerful, healing images and feelings of that story whenever I need to. It is immensely healing, especially when shame arises.

When I felt upset and experienced a desire to control and possess, there was the story in my heart chakra of a large monkey inside a cage. The monkey didn’t want to be in the cage and stomped his feet. Eventually, the monkey shrunk until it was small enough to slip between the bars and out of the cage. Then it regained its normal size and started to spin the cage like a top. It was a golden top spinning gold light. It spun faster, and it was all golden light. Eventually the monkey dissolved, and only the spinning, golden light remained. And my energy had shifted into peace and equanimity.

When I felt very introverted before a Hidden Treasure group retreat weekend began, there was a story in my throat chakra of a bird-like creature almost like a bat with its wings folded around itself, but the wings were blankets. When I rested my hands on my throat area, the shining sun warmed the little creature, and its blanket wings unfolded and became prayer flags. Then the little creature dissolved and became the wind. My energy had shifted from introversion to being ready to connect with my classmates.

And there was the time I felt negativity toward someone whose picture came up in my social media feed. This was another heart story, of a gigantic, black, iron teardrop. As I felt great sadness, the teardrop sweated. I kept my hands on my heart chakra and felt the warmth and noticed the image change. It started to become more greenish-blue and transparent. I noticed hands inside the teardrop, reaching outward. Then the greenish-blue became the ocean. The iron teardrop had dissolved and become the ocean. Then the hands put the sun into the sky. The sun was the head, and the hands were part of a gigantic, luminous body that contained the ocean and everything in it. There was nothing this luminous energy would exclude. This luminous, inclusive being was so much bigger than anything in this world and could embrace it all.

When this story ended, I felt Universal Love toward the person and no more negativity. If I find myself going back into that reaction, I can recall that luminous image at the end of the story and experience it again. It’s more effective than working with my thoughts and self-talk because that image carries healing energy that I can take refuge in.

Out of Our Head and Into the Present

Some of our thoughts are like balloons or bubbles that just float away or dissolve on their own or when they are observed. They’re not emotionally charged. Others carry an emotional charge that’s anchored in the body.

That’s where our energy stories reside. We can dissolve the energy blocks and get the energy flowing by tapping into those stories and images and bringing the energy of unconditional love to those areas. Like a mother attending to her precious baby. If you can become aware of where you feel the energy in your body, your witnessing presence can transmute uncomfortable sensations into healing wisdom.

This is different from going into our heads to try to dominate and fix the problem. Being present to energy sensations in the body is a more receptive response of connection, empathy, and care. For balance, we need both, along with an awareness of when to use them. 

When we go straight to the action step and employ our thinking minds to manage an emotional uprising, the suppressed feelings might get lodged in our bodies, leaving the wisdom untapped and undermining true resolution. This approach only addresses part of the issue. In my opening example, my thoughts revealed a longing for girlfriends I can do things with. But that was only part of the solution. The energy work offered another kind of wisdom. 

Instead of going straight to problem-solving, we can notice where the energy is in our body and be present to it. That might mean resting your hands on that spot with loving presence, simply being aware of the energy (and the act of noticing helps it to shift), or seeing if there are more visuals to work with, or even a story unfolding.

In the beginning, and especially when there is trauma involved, it’s good to have a guide for this kind of work. My spiritual director, Alice, has guided me through the process a number of times, and I’ve witnessed her guiding others during our Hidden Treasure meetings. I had a psychotherapist who used this approach, too. Eventually, I started remembering to take myself through the process when emotional stuff came up.

Experimenting with this approach has been really helpful. It gets me unstuck. It was always available, but I didn’t realize it because I was trapped in my head, convinced thinking was the answer. I’ve learned there are limitations to taking an intellectualized, rational approach and remaining in our stories, explanations, and theories about how we are and why. Especially when feelings are involved.

There is another way to work with emotions that arise, by paying attention to what is going on right now and the fresh content that is emerging. At such times, the sooner we can get out of our heads and into the present moment, the better!


© 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, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness 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.

The Exquisite Angle

The Exquisite Angle

Tuesday morning was one of those rare and ethereal, frosty mornings on the river. I jumped out of bed and into my car, and by the time I returned home, I barely had time to wash my face (let alone shower) before leaving for work.

I would have liked to spend more time outdoors with my camera that morning. However, when I’m on a schedule, I tend to use my time better. I don’t waste time and procrastinate as I might be inclined to do when the whole day is open and available. When there’s only a brief window of opportunity, things get done. I do what matters most. That’s why the hour I drove around photographing the frosty river landscape was the most important hour of my day. 

The sunlight, frost, and steam fog combined to create dazzling images. But only from certain angles. I drove along the river in search of the angles that illuminated the frosty trees in the most fantastic way. The effect was surprisingly elusive. Sometimes I’d see it from a distance, but as I got closer to the trees that appeared so stunning, the angle shifted, and the frosty grandeur faded.

In both photography and life, sometimes we need to step back a bit to find the most inspired view/perspective.

A certain property on the river appeared to have the best view of all. I yearned to drive down the long driveway and was bummed because it was private property. “They’ve got the whole view in their yard!” I griped to myself.

And then I giggled because it reminded me of an old church song. You know the tune.

I started singing and making up verses, like:

  • They’ve got the frosty winter trees / In their yard
  • They’ve got the fog from the river / In their yard

My heart was full of song and joy, and I wondered: Were the people inside the house appreciating the heck out of the view they had that morning? Were they even aware of it? Was their view as stunning as mine was from the road, as I stood and crouched in awe of their frost-covered wonderland? Perhaps not. Who knows: Perhaps the best view was right where I was.

I kept driving and singing and stopping every now and then when I found just the right angle. The angle of YES!

Some of the best views were from the bridge near my house. The “scary” green steel deck bridge that some locals refuse to drive on, that vibrates whenever a car crosses it. (We can feel the vibration inside our house. It’s something you get used to, but visitors always notice.)

Before approaching the bridge on foot, I had to be set with the right lens because there was no way I’d take the time to switch lenses on that narrow bridge with two-way traffic. The right aperture was another variable to consider: How much to draw attention to certain areas or details? And which ones? How much to blur out? What would be best in this case?

The lens of awareness extends far beyond the camera. My intention, both behind the camera lens and in general, is to find the right angle from which to view something so it becomes a precious opportunity to awaken: to experience, become, and express Love. It’s all about being in alignment.

That’s what I ultimately seek when I take off in my car on beautiful, frosty mornings: images that remind me of how life appears when I hold it at the right angle so the light shines through, and it becomes heaven on earth. Loving awareness makes everything valuable and worthwhile. It helps you to transform your relationship to everything that gets in the way of loving so you can set yourself free. Even your own beliefs about how things should be.

At one point during my drive, I turned on the radio just in time to hear these lyrics from an Eagles song:

So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we have the key.

They were the most perfect words I could hear in that moment. Then I turned off the radio because…confirmation received.

In this broader sense, finding the right angle is about letting everything serve our awakening so we become a fuller expression of love. There are so many examples: Dissolving grudges and resentment into equanimity and even appreciation. Loving myself even when I’ve let myself down. Loving others even when they let me down or hurt me. Loving those who don’t value or agree with me. Loving myself enough not to allow someone’s negative energy into my life but to love them from a safe distance for the role they play(ed) in my awakening and because they, too, experience suffering and are worthy of compassion. Trusting that the situation is exactly what I need to awaken. Being grateful for having the opportunity to awaken.

I’m talking about the little epiphanies that set things right in your heart. Grace.

It’s all about awakening and evolving and love. Cultivating the most loving response possible towards myself, the other, the situation, everything. Holding my relationship to certain emotions, experiences, relationships, etc. differently until it’s bathed in love. This includes reframing thoughts and establishing “right relationship” to them. For example, instead of tuning in to the disempowering channel of regret (“If only I hadn’t…”), reach for gratitude:

  • I’m grateful for whatever it took to wake me up.
  • I’m grateful that this situation helped me to discover my worth.
  • I’m grateful that this experience helped me to cultivate compassion and understanding.

Negative thoughts, irritations, and problems can be transformed into opportunities, possibilities, and blessings. Even something undesired can be reframed to: This, too, serves my awakening. And then all of a sudden, the sunbeams kiss the frosted trees in just the right way, and the steam fog rises around it all, and you’re filled with awe, hope, love, appreciation. You’ve found the exquisite angle.

The angle that sets you free and sends you forth with a song of gratitude in your heart that allows you to make peace with whatever arises, even when you wish things were different. Gratitude for the opportunity to work with your heart and mind in ways you’ve not explored yet and discover what’s possible and what matters more than any particular outcome.

All of this is why that frosty morning drive was the most important hour of my day. It wasn’t just about the pictures. Never is.


© 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, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness 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.

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