Author: susantara

The Stream of Lovingkindness

The Stream of Lovingkindness

Today I woke up feeling inspired to write about something that’s been on my mind big-time. It was the topic of my most recent meditation class. It’s the point I wanted to get across to my granddaughter when we talked on the Telephone of the Wind. It’s a heartfelt message I sent to a friend this week. It’s what I’ve contemplated a lot since the beginning of the shutdown when people were sick and dying without loved ones at their side. And it’s something many may benefit from hearing in this time of deep division – and today on the 20th anniversary of 9-11, as personal and collective grief gets stirred up.

It’s a message of lovingkindness, empathy, compassion, and common humanity: how to send it, receive it, and realize it.

Two Wings

There are two wings of mindfulness training. One is awareness, and the other is compassion. Both are essential, and they go hand-in-hand. They strengthen and enhance each other.

The compassion wing encompasses lovingkindness (metta in Pali), which was taught by the Buddha and is practiced to cultivate altruistic, unconditional love towards yourself and others. I could go on and on about the value of it, but not here. Although I will describe a simple practice later in this article, first I want you to understand there is a stream of lovingkindness that flows constantly and offers itself to you continuously. You can help yourself to it at any time, and it is my wish that you will…because it’s helped me during difficult times.

Here is a story I’ve told in my mindfulness meditation classes that illustrates the basic idea.

Motherhood Metta

I remember the days and weeks following the birth of my first child. It was like the doors of my heart were burst open. I saw people walking on the street or running errands in a whole new way: as someone’s precious, innocent, radiant child. Just like my daughter. My heart was so open and tender, and I realized we all started our lives in the same way: so radiant and pure.

I realized that things happened to these people who looked so hardened and angry. And my daughter would be in this far from perfect world with all these hurting people and would be hurt. She’d suffer. I couldn’t prevent it. As a new mom, I felt connected with all the mothers around the world who wanted to protect their children from suffering.

As my children grew and went through challenging times, and when parenting was really hard, I would feel this same connection with other moms – down the road and around the world – dealing with similar situations and maybe struggling with shame, as I was. And I wished I could ease their pain and loneliness. So I’d imagine sending love to them. And I’d imagine some of these other moms were doing the same and were sending love and compassion to me. And I allowed myself to receive it.

The really beautiful and amazing thing is that all the love I felt for my own children was practice for eventually being able to extend deep lovingkindness to myself. When I’ve felt less-than. When it’s been hard to overcome unhealthy habits and deep conditioning. When I failed again.

Lovingkindness also has been a great resource when I’ve been grieving and missing loved ones and feeling lonely. All of a sudden, we can remember we’re not alone, and so many others on the planet are experiencing the same kind of suffering. And somehow, that helps. It creates a small crack in the suffering that allows greater awareness to come through.

I love teaching about lovingkindness. People who come to my meditation classes tend to have lots of practice caring for others but forget to include themselves in their circle of kindness. The capacity is there. You just have to remember, or give yourself permission, to be an unconditionally loving presence to yourself, as well. To beam the light of your love inward.

Unconditional Love Bank

I invite you to bring to mind someone who has loved you unconditionally. Maybe a grandparent, mentor, or furry friend. Take a moment to feel what it is or was like to be in their kind, loving presence. See the look in their eyes, the way they express(ed) love.

Whether or not this being is still in physical form, they would want you to know that you are loved and worthy of love. If they could, they would wrap their heart around you whenever you are suffering or struggling and let you know you are never alone. They would have your back.

When I took my granddaughter to the Telephone of the Wind and modeled out loud how to stay connected with a loved one whose physical form has dissolved, I wanted her to know that I always always always will be there for her like that. My love for her is an eternal stream she can step into, even when I’m not physically present. And I would want so very very much for her to step into it and receive my love and be resourced by it.

It’s like money deposited into the bank of your heart that is there for you to draw on.

I remember after my dad died, when I went to the actual bank and opened my parents’ safe-deposit box in a private room and saw the contents of it for the first time. I felt like Harry Potter stepping into his vault at Gringotts Bank for the first time and seeing what his parents left for him. Sometimes I’d go to the bank and take the safe box into a private room just to feel that feeling of being so cared for. 

It’s like that. There is a love bank in which everyone who has loved you has made a deposit. You can tap into it at any time. It is there for you. And when you do that, the love generates interest. It never runs out.

This is what they (would) want for you:

And this, too:

It’s how you can allow their loving for you to continue on. How you can be and grow their legacy of love. 

The Stream of Lovingkindness

So there’s the bank of unconditional love where our loved ones have deposited love for us to access at any time. And there’s also a stream of lovingkindness being generated in this very moment – every moment – by thousands upon thousands of people around the world who are practicing lovingkindness meditation right now, sending heartfelt caring and compassion to anyone who needs it. Even though most of them are complete strangers to you, they nonetheless want you – yes, you – to receive their caring. They wish for your suffering to be eased. 

You are loved. Someone is radiating caring to you. You are not alone.

Perhaps some of them are suffering in the same way you are, and are intentionally sending lovingkindness to all who share this particular kind of suffering. It might be the suffering that comes from having a parent or child with severe mental illness, being in an abusive relationship, going through divorce, feeling fearful about finances, seeing a loved one suffer in some way, receiving an unwelcome diagnosis, or grieving the death or suicide of a loved one. 

Early in the Covid shutdown last year when people were being admitted to the hospital alone, without anyone being able to visit, I thought of and participated in this stream of lovingkindness a lot. I wished those who were suffering in isolation could know of this stream of love and caring and draw strength from it. And the exhausted frontline, essential workers, as well. 

No matter what you are experiencing, there are others at this very moment suffering in the same way. In your next breath, you can send caring wishes (to them, yourself, or others) and receive caring wishes generated by those who are practicing lovingkindness meditation at this moment.

As grim as things may seem in the world, on the news and social media, in your community, or in your home, there is so much love in this world. So very many caring hearts. The stream of lovingkindness never stops flowing, even when we’re not aware of it. It’s just like the ocean waves keep flowing to the shore even when we’re not at the beach to see it or to feel it on our toes.

Compassionate Breathing

At the end of many of my guided meditation sessions, we practice compassionate breathing, which is receiving and sending lovingkindness on the inhale and exhale. It’s inspired by teachers such as Pema Chodron and Kristin Neff. 

What is it you are most in need of at this moment? What would be most nourishing, nurturing, or resourcing for you? Breathe in that. Imagine or sense this energy entering with your next inhalation and circulating through your body, filling you. You might even direct it to a certain area – for example, your heart – or visualize it as white or golden light or sense it as warmth. Take a number of breaths like this, breathing in what you most need. Practice receiving it, allowing it to fill you. Exhale what doesn’t serve.

After a few cycles of this kind of breathing, bring to mind someone you wish to send lovingkindness to. Someone who is struggling or suffering in some way, or whomever your lovingkindness wants to flow to. It might be a certain person, a group of people, or even the whole planet.

Generate a caring wish for them. Here are some ideas:

  • May you be well.
  • May you be safe and protected.
  • May you be free from suffering.
  • May you live with ease.
  • May you be balanced and peaceful.
  • May you be kind to yourself and others.
  • May you be free from suffering and the causes of suffering that lead you to generate suffering for others.

Whatever feels right to you: Go with that.

Then release this caring wish into the world on your next exhalation. Imagine the person/group/planet being filled with and surrounded by this caring wish you have for them. Again, if it’s helpful, it might be represented visually as light. You could visualize them being filled with and surrounded by white or golden light that embodies this caring.

So the practice is breathing in caring for yourself and breathing out a caring wish for others. Your very breath becomes the vehicle for receiving and generating lovingkindness.

Perhaps end the practice with:

[Breathing in] May we all have love and caring.

[Breathing out] May we all be free from suffering. 

Sharing and Connecting

There have been so many times when I’ve been floating on the river in my kayak feeling incredibly peaceful and wishing I could bottle the feeling so everyone could experience this great peace. This is another opportunity for practice.

In any moment, if you see or experience something beautiful, are filled with a deep sense of peace, etc., you can share it with all beings by exhaling: May all beings experience this [deep peace].

Similarly, when you feel weighed down by the suffering of the world – perhaps the deep division we continue to experience – you can send a caring wish to all: 

May this suffering serve awakening
– or –
May we be free from this suffering.

This may help us to feel less alone and overwhelmed and generate a sense of common humanity and compassion. It can be done on the meditation cushion or in the midst of daily life, as we breathe.

Please help yourself to this beautiful energy of love that is always flowing to you. This beautiful energy that is who we are at the core of our being.


© 2021 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this post or excerpts of it as long as you give proper credit to Susan Meyer and SusanTaraMeyer.com. Susan Meyer is a photographer, writer, and spiritual teacher who lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

The Telephone of the Wind

The Telephone of the Wind

Over the summer, my son’s pet rabbit died. My five-year-old granddaughter loved to visit Toulouse every time she came over, and as far as I’m aware, it was her first brush with death.

We’ve had many talks about death. She loves seeing pictures of my parents and grandmother and has asked many questions about them. My daughter and I have shared stories about them with her and have told her many times that we wish they could have met her because they would have loved her. My dad was the only one who lived long enough to meet her. Their lives overlapped by about nine months.

I’ve explained to her that my parents and grandmother got old, and their bodies stopped working. But they were/are more than just their bodies. Although we can’t see their bodies anymore, we still can connect with their essence and continue to have a relationship with them, through the “telephone of the heart”.

And then there’s the telephone of the wind, which is an actual, physical phone that a Girl Scout troop installed in a local park over the summer. It’s based on an old-fashioned telephone booth placed in Otsuchi, Japan after the tsunami hit ten years ago, to stay connected with loved ones who passed away. The telephone isn’t connected to anything, but it provides a quiet space for private, heartfelt conversation and an opportunity to say the goodbyes and words that were left unsaid when the person was alive. Or to have ongoing conversations.

Ever since hearing about the telephone of the wind, my granddaughter has wanted to go there to talk to Toulouse. But rain kept getting in the way of our plans. This week, she asked again, and we finally made it happen. It was supposed to be an opportunity for her to talk to the bunny, but it ended up being much more.

The phone is an old-fashioned rotary model like I remember from my childhood. I showed my granddaughter how to find the numbers and turn the dial. Then she picked up the phone and started talking to the bunny.

When she was done talking, I taught her how to be quiet and still and to listen for any words or notice any pictures or feelings that might arise in her heart. It was easy and natural for her to do. Then she gave the phone to me so I could talk to the bunny and share memories.

After ending that call, she asked if I wanted to call my parents. Normally, I use the telephone of my heart for that purpose, and it works really well. But I decided to take her cue and try something different.

The phone looked just like the one in the corner of my grandmother’s kitchen, from which I made phone calls when I was growing up. I put my index finger into the circles that called my home phone number when I was a child – the number my parents had for the rest of their lives. I felt an unexpected sense of anticipation and a wave of emotion that brought tears to my eyes. Visceral memory. I explained to my granddaughter they were tears of gratitude because I was thankful for having such loving parents.

After dialing all the numbers, it was as if I was waiting for them to answer.

I started talking. Through thankful tears, I told them I missed them, even though I loved being able to talk with them through my heart.

Earlier that day, I discovered a baby mouse in my car. After removing the mouse, I realized I hadn’t vacuumed my car over the summer as intended. So that was something I needed to do. I remembered how my dad used to vacuum my car. If I visited my parents and went for a walk or ran an errand with my mom in her car, he would seize the opportunity to vacuum my car and fill up my gas tank. It was his language of love.

It’s been more than five years since the last time he did that, and I realized how much I miss and appreciate his car-related acts of caring. Nobody else has ever done that for me. 

So that’s what I said into the telephone of the wind. I told him how much I appreciate that he did that.

I also told my parents I had my granddaughter with me, and they would love her so much. I asked her if she wanted to talk with them, and she said yes. So she got on the phone and introduced herself and told them the things she thought they would love about her.

When she handed the phone back to me, I told them I’d say bye for now, but I always love talking with them through my heart and in dreams.

Before making another call, I told my granddaughter about the time I was really missing my mom, and then a flurry of heart-shaped cottonwood leaves rained down from the sky. That, too, was a response, I explained.

Then I picked up the phone to call my grandmother. I told her how much I miss her and how I appreciate her coming to me in a dream one time and giving me a present – all wrapped up and tied with a bow. I didn’t open the present in the dream, but when I woke up, I knew it was a camera. My parents had just given me a little money from the sale of her house, and I used it to buy my first entry-level DSLR camera.

It was arguably the best purchase I ever made.

I went on to describe how much photography means to me and to express my gratitude for the camera, which changed my life.

I also thanked my grandmother for being such a wonderful grandmother and said that by being so kind and loving to me, she taught me how to be a wonderful grandmother for my granddaughter.

I told her about my granddaughter and what she would love about her, and then my granddaughter got on the phone to introduce herself.

She ended with a question, and I actually heard the answer in my heart: my grandmother’s friendly voice, loud and clear. She loved children.

After we ended that call, we moved on to the next thing: the swings in another part of the park.

“Race ya!” my granddaughter exclaimed before taking off like a rocket. Naturally, she won. She always does.

Making those calls with her on the telephone of the wind was really gratifying. It was an opportunity to model out-loud a process you can go through when someone you love has passed away, to stay connected with them. With their essence, which is pure, unconditional love.

It felt like a very important thing to do. Someday when I have outgrown my body, I hope my granddaughter will talk to me like that and know how to listen with her heart and through synchronicity, to receive all the love that seeks her. I hope that will be many years from now so we can make many more beautiful memories together that will become part of her, and a way I will live on through her.

It’s such a beautiful thing to connect with your loved one’s essence, which is love. The love that always was there at the core, beneath the personality patterns that offer us the conflict and contrast we need to awaken and evolve and to expand the universe.

That’s how I’ve come to see it, anyway.

The telephone of the heart allows us to give and receive love. When we focus loving awareness on something or someone, we are attuned to the vibration of love and receptive to it. In this sense, anyone who has loved us or whom we have loved really and truly is part of us. With love, there is no distance or separation whatsoever. 

I had no idea about this until after I lost my parents. It is one of the great blessings our deepest losses can reveal to us. 

Postscript

I dictated this whole story into my phone while taking a walk outdoors. When I got back in the car to drive home, I turned on the radio. The song playing was Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time”:

If you’re lost you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall, I will catch you, I will be waiting
Time after time

I kid you not.

It was another response that resulted in another round of grateful tears.

Isn’t it amazing? Each and every one of us is part of a great, mysterious legacy of love. A web of love. I don’t know how it works, only that it exists.


© 2021 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.

Beginner’s Mind

Beginner’s Mind

This poem and these images emerged from where my two great refuges, nature photography and mindfulness meditation, intersect.

 

Beginner’s Mind

 

I do not know your name,

Have not come face-to-face with you before

Or perhaps have not seen you quite like this.

And to be clear, you cannot stay

Because you are harming my dear jade.

But before taking action, let me take

A close look and marvel

At the details of your form.

Before moving you gently outdoors,

May I shift out of self-interest long enough

To see the world from your perspective

And dwell in both the mystery of your being

And this wondrous, connected moment

In which your reputation does not precede you

And I know you, too, as dear.

 


© 2021 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.

Water Lily Wisdom

Water Lily Wisdom

It was just a regular paddle up the river to my usual turnaround spot and back. Occasionally, I’d pause to be still on the calm water and take in the symphony of the birds without the steady rhythm of paddling in the foreground. Before paddling back across the river to return home, I stopped to appreciate and make pictures with the water lilies.

I’d recently acquired a new lens that offered a fresh sense of both perspective and exploration. Before I knew it, I’d disembarked from my kayak in shallow water and was contorting my body into a sequence of “water lily photography yoga” asanas, to achieve the most pleasing angles.

Time doesn’t seem to exist when I’m with the water lilies. I fall into a water lily time warp. That’s what happens when we’re fully present and connected to what we love, or when love reveals itself through something or someone we’re fully present to and connected with.

When the nose of my kayak slid into the shore in front of my house, my sense of time returned immediately. I saw “10:30” flash in my mind. Could it really be that late? I had to teach a class at noon and had envisioned returning with three hours to spare. But when I looked at the time, it was 10:24. Somehow, I had lingered on the river for 3 1/2 hours!

However, when I’m with the water lilies, it is time well spent. They draw me close and whisper deep into my heart. If I were to choose a symbol for my life, it would be a water lily. No doubt about it.  

Out of the Mud

I’ve contemplated water lilies from many different angles over the 13 years I’ve lived on this quiet stretch of the Hudson River. This week, I became fixated on how a beautiful, white flower grows from the dirty mud beneath the water – and how we, too, grow from the mud of this human life we’re living.

There’s a tendency to perceive our challenges and suffering as interfering with our lives. However, the challenges and messiness are as essential to a human life as the mud is to a water lily. They are part of life and provide us with essential nutrients for growth.

The mud of suffering belongs. It’s the foundation from which we awaken and bloom.

But sometimes we stay stuck in the mud. Instead of surrendering to the awakening process and growing towards the light, we remain in the comfort of the stories we tell about other people, ourselves, and life. When I think about the times I’ve felt stuck, it’s incredible how much suffering was generated by dysfunctional use of my mind. My own mind was holding me back!

And it’s even more incredible to realize that all along, it was within my power to step out of the muddy narratives and into the present moment. To set myself free from the addictive stories, as if awakening from a dream of tremendous limitation.

Towards the Light

Awareness is the first step of liberation. We can’t transform what we don’t even notice in the first place. When we make a practice of noticing with kindness and compassion the stories we tell about life, real transformation is possible. From the inside out. 

I’m writing about this because it’s something I’ve experienced. I’m fascinated with how bored I’ve become with stories all of a sudden. Narratives that go something like: This is/isn’t how [my] life is supposed to be. Or how other people are supposed to be. Or my body. Stories that illustrate and explain why this person is a monster. Complaining stories.

These stories often carry some kind of judgment that generates a sense of superiority, inferiority, or separation…which reveals the author’s true identity:

Hello, Ego. I see you. I see what you’re doing. Thanks for trying to help. I’ve got this.

It feels like the stories have simply outlived their usefulness. Living in stories about others/myself/life pales in comparison to engaging freely with life. The stories and narratives are like a filter or veil that gets in the way of real presence and connection. 

And I’ve learned that I greatly prefer presence and connection. They are breaths of fresh air.

The more I practice presence, the greater the momentum becomes to choose presence instead of the trance of stories. Awakening from dream/trance becomes more natural. I catch myself when I’m beginning to tell a story about a person, a situation, or myself. An alarm goes off in my head: “Story!” Then I can put my attention on what’s here and now: perhaps birdsong, flowing river, clouds drifting through the sky, or the breeze in the trees.

The idea of inhabiting a story brings to mind an image of a water lily bud living in a river, before reaching above the surface. A river of thought. But when we become aware of the water all around us, we don’t become so identified with how we perceive things. We can see there’s a layer or filter that distorts our perception to some degree, that we’re caught up in. We become aware that there’s more above the surface of the water and continue growing towards the light, where intuition and deeper insights can reach us. Where blooming happens naturally.

Truth is, our mind doesn’t have to work so hard. There’s an easier way to navigate this life. We need not inhabit such density. There is light available.

With practice, we can develop the capacity to notice what is happening – what we’re immersed in – and, like a water lily bud in the river, choose to keep growing upwards towards the light. We can choose the kind of relationship we have with our mind so it can be used for growth instead of holding us down. It is possible to overcome the addiction to thinking and being at the mercy of compelling thoughts that keep us stuck in unhealthy situations and disempowering beliefs.

Like water lilies, we are invited to transcend the mud, grow through the water towards the light, and bloom in the fresh air above the water. To experience the sunlight directly instead of through the filter of stories, narratives, beliefs that distract us from presence.

We can choose to accept the exquisite invitation and become more than a closed bud in a dense environment. We can bloom and be part of the pollinating world: inspiration to other buds, evidence that blooming is possible. That flowering is our nature, and there is a blueprint embedded within us. 

We Are Not Alone

And like a water lily, we are not alone. Above the surface of the water, it might look like a water lily is a separate entity. But it’s connected with all the lily pads and other water lilies around it, part of the same plant, connected by stems and deep rhizomes. When I move my paddle gingerly through lily pads, it becomes very clear that everything is connected. The lily pads floating on the water gather sunlight and help the water lilies to grow and bloom.

Last year, I looked closely at the veiny design embossed on lily pads and was astonished to discover that it looked just like a water lily. That’s how interconnected they are.

We need only get a glimpse beneath the surface to realize we are not alone. We are connected with all the life around us, part of the same cycle or ecosystem. We have help and are in this life together. Our situation is not unique. Our suffering is simply the mud from which we rise and bloom, and it serves a purpose. It’s not something to be ashamed of or to regret. It’s essential to our being, and transcending it is essential to our becoming.

Time to Rest

The first time I visited my “water lily friends” this summer was one afternoon right after the solstice. I stayed up too late the previous night and got a late start in the morning, which meant missing the sunrise. I waited until I was done teaching to go on the river.

But there were only a few water lilies still visible above water at that time, and they’d already begun to close up for the day. That afternoon, I was tired after not getting enough sleep, and the water lilies reminded me of the importance of rest. 

My water lily friends begin to wake up a couple hours after sunrise then close up and retreat underwater by mid-afternoon. The next morning, they rise back above the water and open up again. Each flower does this for about four days straight. It keeps retreating and coming back again, until returning to the mud to decompose. I appreciate and am inspired by their dance of rising and opening, closing and retreating, and how resting and retreating resources their blooming.

Needless to say, I’m grateful for water lily time of year and what these beautiful flowers reflect to me about this human life. If I’m ever running late, you know where to find me: amongst the water lilies, where time does not exist.


© 2021 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.

Photographing Flowers

Photographing Flowers

Yesterday was my mom’s seventh angelversary: the seventh anniversary of her passing from this world into the great unknown. 

And all is well.

Better than well, actually. Because the aliveness and vitality of this time of year now overshadow the 2014-2015 memories of dying and grieving. 

The month of May, once again, is more about life than death, partly because of my flower friends: the whole parade that begins with daffodils and in the past couple weeks has included lilacs, lilies of the valley, and irises. Every spring, they show up and reliably and unknowingly support me and gladden my heart. 

At the end of my mom’s life, flowers, friends, and family are what mattered most. That year, I made it my mission to surround her with flowers and news of what was happening in the flower world. When she was strong enough, we walked around the house looking at her flower beds, and I hoped she’d be able to see some of her flowers bloom. The flower parade was how I measured time that year. 

When she wasn’t strong enough to go outdoors, and her universe narrowed down to the sofa and coffee table in the living room, I showed her my photographs of flowers. I also kept vases of freshly cut lilacs around her.

The rest of my flower memories of my mom were much happier ones. All my life, she had flower gardens. She wasn’t much of a nature girl in other respects, but she loved tending to her flowers. Memories of my mom and an abiding connection with her come strongly through flowers. 

Lilies of the valley: Tiny fairy bells with an intoxicating fragrance that transports me instantly to my childhood. My swing set was right next to a flower garden that featured lilies of the valley. The memories are so strong that they could convince me the delicate blooms lasted all summer. But that’s just how big an impression the fragrance made and how closely I must have studied them after my mom pointed them out to me.

I also remember the joy of picking some for my mom, who loved the fragrance. What joy to be a young child noticing a flower and seeing it as an opportunity to make someone happy. Picking it. Feeling the anticipation of gifting it. Seeing happiness brighten the recipient’s eyes and spread into a smile. Do you remember?

Yesterday morning, my mom’s actual angelversary, I woke up knowing exactly what I wanted to photograph.

The morning she died, after leaving the hospice house, I drove straight to the labyrinth – my sacred refuge – and was greeted by irises. They were there for me that morning, uplifting me, and they are here for me every May 27th.

I didn’t pay much attention to flowers while my mom was alive (until the last few years of her life). That was her thing. For my dad, it was birds. Those are the languages in which they speak to me even now. The first messenger was irises. From day one, irises were there to connect me to the goodness and beauty in the world when I needed it most.

And so I immersed myself in photographing irises on my mom’s angelversary and reflected on how her love of flowers had become integrated in me and how it has awakened me in many ways and deepened our connection. 

In Beauty: The Invisible Embrace (2005), John O’Donohue wrote:

The dead are not distant or absent. They are alongside us. When we lose someone to death, we lose their physical image and presence, they slip out of visible form into invisible presence…Though they cannot reappear, they continue to be near us and part of the healing of grief is the refinement of our hearts whereby we come to sense their loving nearness. 

It feels to me that when we engage or connect with something our dearly departed one loved, we draw them near. 

After photographing the irises, I walked the labyrinth and declared inwardly something my heart had known all along: All of my flower pictures are dedicated to my mom (except for water lilies, which are my thing.) When I photograph flowers, there is no separation between myself and my mother’s essence – which has become part of me. It’s almost as if I can see through her eyes.

Which is why all is well seven years later. And I make lots of photos with flowers.


© 2021 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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