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Author: susantara

Gone

Gone

Yesterday, one of my daughter’s dearest friends died suddenly and tragically. She was 25. My heart goes out to my daughter, who feels devastated, and to the young woman’s family and especially her young daughter, for their profound loss. 

This is someone who was my daughter’s best friend during the most anguishing chapter of our relationship. As soon as this person came into my daughter’s life, my relationship with my daughter declined to the point that she ended up moving out of my house and living with her dad when she was in ninth grade. I didn’t have much contact with my daughter for a few years, and it hurt so much. There’s no pain like the pain of feeling disconnected from your own child and not being able to actively parent them when you know they are having trouble. To make matters worse, the adults closest to my daughter encouraged her to believe that I abandoned her. 

That is an experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

During those years, I lived behind a wall of shame. Being a mother was my identity, and I just couldn’t face anyone. I didn’t know how to answer any well-intended questions about my daughter that inevitably came up in casual conversation. How could anyone understand everything that happened that resulted in her not living with me or having much to do with me? It was so complicated – too complicated to explain to anyone. Every step of the way, I did what I felt was best. I never stopped loving her. But she left anyway and was out of my reach for a few very painful years, which is something I believed no one would understand.

Afraid of what others would think of me and afraid of being judged, I kept to myself. I continued to raise my son, went to work but didn’t disclose much to my coworkers, and talked mostly with my husband, my mother, my spiritual director, and my therapist. At the time, I was a kindergarten teacher and always had about twenty children in my life every day that I gave my heart to even though I had virtually no contact with my own daughter who was living in the neighboring school district.

But that’s not where the story ends. After my daughter graduated from high school, things shifted. Eventually, we became (and still are) best friends. A couple mothers of older daughters who had experienced similar situations assured me it would get better. They gave me hope. And now I do the same for others. Sometimes we just have to be patient and give loved ones time.

When my children were little, every night at bedtime we did a white light visualization so they could fall asleep surrounded by protective energy. When my daughter was estranged from me, I continued to surround her in white light, which was about all I could do. 

I see in hindsight that the wall of shame didn’t serve me. It cut me off from so much friendship and connection that could have raised my spirits and self-worth during that time. I didn’t need to suffer as much as I did behind that wall. But I didn’t want to burden anyone with my drama. And I didn’t want to be judged and possibly abandoned. I felt so vulnerable and deficient.

And I didn’t like my daughter’s best friend during those years. I felt she was a destructive force in my daughter’s life. She was one of the people I blamed for the estrangement. Eventually, they drifted apart and would come and go into and out of each others’ lives. This person was like a bad penny that kept turning up, and I wished she’d go away. It seemed like every time she showed up, there was some kind of drama. 

So now this young woman is dead, and in my heart I’m holding both relief that she will not be in my daughter’s life anymore and compassion for how hard this life was for her and for the loss everyone who loved her is experiencing. The loss is profound for my daughter who, after not speaking with her for quite some time, was on the phone with her only a few hours before she died. Their last words to each other were: I love you. Regardless of all the negative feelings attached to my memories of her, my daughter’s loss is real, and that’s what’s most important now.

It’s so hard to witness loved ones in relationship with people we see as toxic to them. I know there was so much more to this woman than what I saw in her. My daughter could see her finer attributes, and so could her dad (my ex-husband), who sounded like he was crying when he called me to break the news. She showed up at the hospital within hours after my granddaughter was born and was the first person outside of the family to hold her. She was a mother, and clearly motherhood was important to her.

Sometimes motherhood or fatherhood isn’t enough to keep someone healthy. It’s not because they don’t love their children (partners, etc.) enough but because they are struggling with issues we couldn’t possibly understand unless we walked in their shoes. If only we could understand their hidden pain, our hearts would be full of compassion for their suffering and how awful it must feel to fall short again and again despite the best of intentions. Sometimes even when we can see someone’s finer attributes (that may be invisible to others) and find them lovable, we need to maintain healthy, self-protective boundaries. Because some people are destructive forces for us, even though they are so much more than that, as well. Even though they are beings worthy of love and compassion. 

Have you ever witnessed a loved one in relationship with someone you felt wasn’t good for them? My spiritual director expressed recently how hard it was for her to see me suffer that kind of disharmony. She wished she could pull me out, just like I wanted to pull my daughter out of certain relationships. But we can’t do that. We don’t have a magic wand that powerful. And even if we did, perhaps we all have soul agreements with others who are predestined to come into our lives to help us learn certain lessons, even difficult ones. It can be so hard to love the ones your loved ones love, especially if they seem blind to or spellbound by their harmful qualities. Sometimes all you can do is to be there for someone even when they aren’t showing up for themselves, and send them love and light.

I’ve learned it’s usually in our best interest to defer to those who love us especially when they all concur that a certain person is a destructive influence in our life. But we might choose instead to take the wild ride. We’ll learn our soul lessons one way or another. It can be so challenging to stand back and watch someone choose the wild ride and to have compassion for those who probably need it most.

Perhaps that is something we are here to learn, even especially when we believe we know what’s best for someone else.


© 2019 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, Reiki practitioner, and mindfulness meditation teacher whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

At Peak

At Peak

Yesterday was a gorgeous, warm, fall day: the kind that we’re keenly aware are numbered at this time of year.

That’s what I love about October: Its vibrance seizes the senses and teaches us to be here now and really experience and savor it rather than just autopilot through it. And if we’re really aware, we realize that presence kindles inner peace and satisfaction and that it isn’t limited to beautiful, fall days when the foliage is at peak. Or beautiful days in general.

On my drive home from work, only a few minutes from home, the light of the sunset sky bathed the already colorful, autumn leaves in beautiful, golden light that illuminated the trees magnificently. There was one piece of land in particular that commanded my attention. It was a spectacular landscape with a house and a red barn surrounded by the blazing trees.

I pulled over at a spot that required a brief walk for the best view. Although my intention was to photograph the farmhouse, the angle of sunlight was changing quickly, and I realized I might not make it in time.

Then I noticed where I was, right next to a cornfield. When I got out of my car, I was drawn to the sunset colors over the cornfield and decided to skip the farmhouse landscape and photograph the cornfield, instead.

Cornfield sunset reflected on car hood

After composing some shots and savoring the moment, I continued on, filled with the radiance of the sunset and the satisfaction of witnessing its golden-pink glow. Listening to magical handpan music as I drove, it hit me: Happiness. I am happy. Satisfied. Peaceful. Content.

It occurred to me that for the first time in my life, I’m not chasing anything. Not a relationship, a career, spiritual growth, anyone’s attention, financial prosperity, a slimmer body, home ownership, or anything else. It’s not that I received everything I wanted or threw in the towel. Rather, I learned somewhere along the way that I didn’t need what I thought I needed and had been pursuing in order to be happy.

In other words, I realized I’m already good enough. My self-esteem doesn’t hinge on any conditions or outcomes. I can just be without needing to impress anyone else to feel good about myself. I don’t need others to act differently for me to be happy. I can carry contentment and boundless compassion within me like an inner sun and not be so needy in relation to the rest of the world. I can experience inner peace even when the outer world feels like it’s spinning out of control – without disconnecting from it.

It’s the best feeling ever, and I’m writing about it not to brag but to communicate that it’s possible. Happiness is possible. By that, I mean deep joy and satisfaction, not the fleeting, conditioned, circumstantial variety. 

When I pulled into the driveway, I sat in my car for a while watching the sunset sky with tears of joy and gratitude dripping down my face. I realized that every single step was part of the journey that got me here. The photography that helps me to find beauty and experience gratitude every day and uplifted me during some very difficult times. The trauma of losing close loved ones and supporting others through mental health crises. Feeling invisible on social media. Challenging relationships. The list could go on and on. Yet, every step mattered and carried blessings. Every step brought me to this moment of feeling so full and whole and complete. 

I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but I was born privileged, nonetheless. I’ve experienced so much that I never imagined “someone like me” would experience in life. Tough and humbling stuff but also tremendous beauty. Because of it all, my heart is so full of compassion, gratitude, and joy. It wasn’t always that way. I’ve worked hard to rewire my neural programming.

For the past few years, I’ve felt an unconditionally loving presence growing stronger in me. I don’t know where that presence comes from – whether it’s Divinity, loved ones who have crossed over, my teachers, or my own Self. (Is there a difference?) However, I no longer berate myself with judgments and expectations of accomplishing more than I already have in this life.

Experiencing this kind of inner peace doesn’t mean life will be smooth sailing from now on. There will be challenges and suffering. Life will still send inevitable curveballs. But there are peak moments when the light shines through so brightly and seems to swell up from the truest depths and fill us with luminosity and grace. We might realize we have grown through all the trauma and heartache and unconditional love and resources we’re blessed with and say thank you. For all of it. Even when the story is still unfolding, and we don’t know how it will all turn out.

Thank you. I trust that this, too, serves awakening.

Even after these peak moments have faded like sublime sunset colors, memories of them can cut through the gravity of our earthly dramas and remind us that we are so much more than the myopic desires and aversions of our ego consciousness. We can perceive challenges and curveballs as opportunities to develop inner resources we didn’t even know we were capable of. We can still have aspirations, but they are unclenched. More spacious. For example, I aspire to be a healing, loving, uplifting presence in this world. At the same time, I don’t need to accomplish anything in particular or help or change anyone else to feel I have worth. I have worth because I exist. 

Being less dependent on this shifting world and all its personalities, I wonder (with curiosity rather than a sense of obligation): What’s possible now that wasn’t before? What is possible when we set ourselves free from the prison of our own making?


© 2019 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, Reiki practitioner, and mindfulness meditation teacher whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

The Scary Basement

The Scary Basement

My daughter and three-year-old granddaughter, Ava, slept over last night. This morning before I left for work, Ava asked to see my jewelry box. She wanted to line up all my earrings and look at them, which is one of the rituals she does every time she comes over. As she does that, we sit together on the floor and talk. We have some of our best conversations while she explores my jewelry.

Today’s conversation was about the small statue I have on my dresser of Tara, the female buddha of compassion in Tibetan Buddhism. Ava thought it was a doll and wanted me to take it down so she could play with it. I told her it’s not a toy and explained in broad, three-year-old terms, the significance of Tara. I told her that when you are scared, sad, or lonely, you can call on Tara, and she will help you because she doesn’t want you to suffer. She’s like a mother who loves you and wants to help you. But you won’t see her because she is invisible.

“Is she like a fairy?”

“Yes, she is kind of like a fairy,” I agreed.

She liked that idea and exclaimed, “Tara! Help!”

After she put all my earrings back in their spaces, she noticed something that I explained had to do with the basement. She became curious about the basement and wanted to see it. I told her I don’t like to go in the basement, and she asked why. I replied matter-of-factly, “Because it’s kind of creepy down there. I just don’t like it.”

Ava’s favorite holiday is Halloween, and she likes spooky things. She beseeched me to carry her to the door so she could see the basement.

I love this child. Her sweet, little face can get me to do almost anything. So when I realized she wasn’t letting this go, I carried her to the basement door, which was partially obscured by several jackets hanging on hooks. Behind the jackets were two vacuum cleaners I had to move out of the way before unlatching the lock, turning on the light, and opening the creaky, old door.

In other words, there were some barriers in place to conceal the door and make it hard to open (kind of like at the end of the movie, Sixth Sense). As if the basement didn’t even exist. Even though it’s there below almost the entire house. 

The light only illuminated a portion of the stairs. There was another light switch toward the bottom, but I didn’t want to walk down the steep, narrow stairs with Ava in my arms to turn it on. 

She pointed to a large cobweb just inside the door and asked why it’s there.

“Because we almost never go in the basement.”

“Are there spiders in the basement?” she asked cautiously. Apparently, she’s not a fan of spiders, so I mentioned a couple of their finer attributes.

Then she wanted to know why I don’t want to go in the basement. What’s down there? Well, not much more than a water heater and a heating oil tank and sometimes some mice and mousetraps. I didn’t mention the mousetraps.

I grabbed my phone, turned on the flashlight, and shined the light down the stairs, revealing the 200-year-old stone wall and cement floor. Silently, we regarded the emptiness. Safe in my arms, she again asked why I’m afraid to go in the basement.

Good question.

“Actually…I don’t know,” I said while still shining the flashlight around. “It’s dark. But when we turn on the light, there’s nothing down there that’s scary. It’s just a big, empty space. It’s not so bad.”

Welcome to my metaphor of the day.

It makes me think of all the avoiding we do because we convince ourselves something is scary and off-limits. But when we open that door and shine a light, it’s not so bad. It’s just a lot of darkness and stories we tell ourselves about it. Familiar stories that keep us afraid of the dark, like scary stories children are told to keep them away from danger. The original intent was to keep us safe, but the story doesn’t serve a useful purpose now that we’re all grown up. If only we have the courage or determination to open the door and turn on the light, we can see the scary places differently, from a more empowered and enlightened perspective.

The basement is the part of the house you don’t see. It’s the foundation that was laid before the rest of the house was built and remains underneath it all. In clutter coaching, feng shui, and dream work, the basement represents the subconscious: stuff that is hidden or repressed, issues you’ve been carrying around for a long time, often from childhood. Your deepest, darkest thoughts, feelings, and memories. It’s where you store things from the past and things you don’t want to deal with. Sometimes the idea of having to clean out the basement because of all the stuff stored there prevents people from moving to a new home and keeps them stuck where they are even when they’d like to move on.

For me, it was perfect timing. Yesterday afternoon, I had a conversation with my spiritual director about boundaries and how essential it is to communicate cleanly and clearly. Why is it so hard to have healthy, self-preserving boundaries and to be up front with people? To say no and not feel obligated to provide acceptable explanations. Why do I decide it’s easier just to keep quiet, appease, and maintain a safe distance … walking on eggshells? What’s this lifelong, people-pleasing pattern about? 

Fear. Fear of people’s emotional volatility and fragility. Fear of rejection. Lots of fear. Where did the fear come from? What’s the worst that could happen? And so what? 

Although I couldn’t put my finger on it during our conversation, I woke up from a dream this morning with crystal clarity about where it came from. It was childhood stuff. Something that felt scary and powerless when I was a child and set me up with a limiting pattern of relating to others. Like the blueprint beneath it all.

At last, I understood the core wound behind my boundary issues. It was like opening the door to the scary basement and facing it…and realizing it’s not so bad. Because I’m not a child anymore. I’m an adult with greater resources and options. As an adult, I can give my inner child what she didn’t get all those years ago and set myself free from the limiting beliefs and behavioral patterns put in place to make the best of a situation I had no control of. I can send love and light to everyone involved and fill those dark places with light. This is how we heal and grow into our wholeness.

And less than an hour later, there I was standing at the top of the stairs peering into the basement with a young girl in my arms, literally shining a light on it all. Feeling I reclaimed some of my power.

Thank you, Tara. 


© 2019 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, Reiki practitioner, and mindfulness meditation teacher whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

Clean Windows

Clean Windows

The deep cleaning continues…

I’m cleaning the house in preparation for an at-home writing retreat next week. I was going to go elsewhere for it, but there’s really no place I’d rather be than right here overlooking the river and able to go kayaking for inspiration. This is a particularly amazing time of year for river sunrises and just being here. 

I plan to spend the bulk of my writing retreat on the enclosed front porch, which is where I do most of my work. It’s the room with the river view, kind of like being on a boat. And it needed some attention. The windows, in particular. 

In feng shui, your home is a mirror full of metaphors. What is your home telling you and reflecting to you?

Cleaning the windows is essential for “good feng shui”. In her book, Feng Shui Your Life, my feng shui mentor, Tisha Morris, explains, “Windows are our eyes to the outside world.” Windows that are clouded or dirty will prevent you from seeing opportunities that may be coming your way. If you want a new perspective or to gain clarity on a situation, clean your windows!

And so I did. It’s been years since these windows were cleaned on both the inside and outside. WHAT AN AMAZING DIFFERENCE clear windows make! Jack and I were both awe-struck. We can see clearly again, without having to look past the various smudges and debris that had accumulated! Instant clarity. Instant energy lift. I feel it in my nervous system when I’m in the room.

Now that I can see clearly, it’s bewildering that it took me this long to do the work that changes the way I see the world. (I’m a feng shui consultant, for Pete’s sake! I understand the importance of clean, clear windows!) How could I tolerate living like that, letting the cobwebs outside, the smudges, dirt, and whatever else compromise my vision? How did I allow myself to become accustomed to such impaired views?

A little thing like cleaning the windows!

I have a few magical feng shui stories, and here’s a new one from last night:

After cleaning all the porch windows, I did some computer work before winding down for bed. As I deleted emails, I noticed one from our local arts organization that mentioned an upcoming grant seminar. I’ve been considering applying for an artist grant but have been dragging my heels because I lacked a clear vision. So I read the email and learned there’s a seminar tonight. Hmm, where? At the library, where I’m working – in the room where I’m working! Not only that, but it begins right at the end of my shift!

Could it be more convenient for me to attend an artist grant seminar? I clean my porch windows, and an opportunity lands right on my lap. (An opportunity, I might add, that corresponds to the area of life the porch placement represents in the feng shui bagua map.) An email I didn’t notice before catches my eye and points to an opportunity that I literally can’t miss because I’ll already be there!

This morning, I was excited to get up and experience the porch river view in broad daylight. It was so beautiful, vivid, and clear! Naturally, I wanted to photograph it. But it’s really hard to take a picture that shows how lovely the view is without overexposing the sky or underexposing the interior details.

And so today was the day I began experimenting with HDR photography, which allows you to create an image that brings out both the highlights and the shadows of a scene. Again, I stood there scratching my head and asking why it took me so long to do it. Like growing my own sprouts and cleaning the porch windows. I just didn’t see it as an opportunity until today.

Cleaning the windows pointed me in that new direction, too, which I’m super excited about! It’s my favorite feng shui tip at the moment. 


© 2019 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, Reiki practitioner, and mindfulness meditation teacher whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

On The Crystal Path

On The Crystal Path

It’s the beginning of a new school year. What courses are you taking?

Do you know? Can you sense it?

Me? I’m enrolled in a Healthy Boundaries practicum and a course on More Than Enough. Through Schoolroom Earth, of course. 

I finally passed the What Do You Really Want? course over the summer. I had to retake it many times because I kept getting distracted by what everyone else wanted. It was a prerequisite for my current courses. The final exam was buying a used car on my own, for the first time since my early twenties.

Thirty years ago, I sold a health club membership to a used car salesman, and we talked every time he came to the gym. When I needed a car, he had one for me, and I bought it even though it was a stick-shift, and I didn’t know how to drive it. (I sat in the passenger seat during the test-drive. How’s that for a metaphor?) My future husband gave me a couple of lessons before I picked up the car, and I’ll always remember that first ride home in my Nissan Sentra and how nervous I was at every red light. There was one light I stopped at on an incline, and I couldn’t get moving when the light turned green, so a carload of good-natured Cornell students behind me talked me through it. 

That’s how I used to make decisions. 

This summer, I took the 2.0 version. It was a lot of work and very frustrating at times. But finally I settled on a 2008 Honda CRV that was within my budget and felt right. It’s a burgundy, well-maintained, single-owner vehicle with no accidents and 100,000 miles. This time, I test-drove several cars and brought them to my mechanic who graciously took each car for a drive and a look-over.

At the beginning of my car search, I thought I wanted another Accord, like the 2003 I got from my mom a few years before she passed away – only a newer model. I printed out Dave Ramsey’s “how to buy a used car” checklist and went from there. As I got deeper into the search, I realized I wanted more space to haul my photography gear, exhibition pieces, and my granddaughter. And AWD to get in and out of my driveway during wintry weather. Shifting from what others offered me (including their opinions) to what really served my needs was the big jump that helped me finally pass the course. 

However, I really wanted a newer (2011 or later) CRV or RAV4 with lower mileage (70,000s) in a certain price range. “Mountain Air Metallic” blue exterior would be icing on the cake. Nothing came up in that price range, and I was under a deadline because my son was starting a summer job, which would make sharing the Accord virtually impossible. So I had to choose between expanding my price range and compromising on specs. That’s how I ended up with the 2008 CRV, which I’m very pleased with. But would I be even more pleased in the long run if I’d paid $3,000-$4,000 more for a newer model or held out until I found exactly what I was looking for?

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Naturally, the More Than Enough course begins with noticing how I’ve compromised in various areas of life. Deep-cleaning my bathroom yesterday really brought this home. One voice in my head insisted that I was not raised to live in a house like this (which we’ve been renting for 11 years now). Another reminded me that many people on this planet don’t have a bathroom with running water or even a roof over their heads, and what I have is enough. Fortunately, I’ve been practicing mindfulness meditation long enough not to ruminate on all the questionable choices I made that resulted in me being down on my hands and knees scrubbing this particular bathroom. (This particular bathroom on the freaking river, the other voice would add.)

At any rate, I have my work cut out because it still feels like reaching for more when I already have enough is selfish and superficial. Even though I realize I can do more good in the world by making more of this precious life. I imagine that would be hard for people without this particular hangup to understand.

But then again, others have hangups don’t understand. For example, this week in my mindfulness meditation teacher program (the actual one I’m taking with Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach), we’re focusing on self-compassion, and expert-researcher, Kristin Neff, wanted us to understand the misconceptions people have about self-compassion that prevent them from embracing it. I don’t have issues with cultivating self-compassion…just as others might not have issues around manifesting more of what they want or enforcing self-preserving boundaries.

While studying transpersonal psychology in the mid-1990s, an image came to me of the spiritual path as a multifaceted crystal. Each facet represents an essential aspect of development necessary for attaining enlightenment. The facets are of different shades, colors, and luminosity. Different degrees of dinginess. As a person develops and refines each facet, it becomes clearer and cleaner until it’s transparent enough for the light to shine through. When all facets are clear and clean, you are a truly radiant, clear, enlightened being. 

That image still resonates with me. Each of us has different facets that need to be cleaned and cleared so the light can shine through more completely. It’s not a path like a walking path where someone is ahead of another. It’s a multifaceted, 3D path, and we’re all working on different facets that block the light from shining through us more completely. We could spend an entire lifetime working on just one facet!

There’s something rather wonderful about the non-linear, crystal path on which nobody is better-than or less-than. If you accept that everyone is working on cleaning and clearing different facets, you won’t equate your true worth with your nasty bathroom, old car, or any other condition or quality that makes you seem less than anyone else. We’re all just working on different lessons, and each facet is a course in the Universal curriculum we magnificent beings are working through here on Schoolroom Earth.

Inspirational quote image


© 2019 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, Reiki practitioner, and mindfulness meditation teacher whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

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