Author: susantara

My Favorite Morning Rituals

My Favorite Morning Rituals

It’s the first new moon of the new year as I sit down to write. What better time to kick off a series of mindful self-compassion blog posts! I’ve been wanting to do this for a while and waiting until the time felt right, and that time is NOW. It seems so many people are so anxious lately, and in times of stress, we need more than ever to give ourselves the gift of our own kindness and compassion!

I’ll admit right out of the gate that I’m a recovering perfectionist who has struggled with self-worth all my life. I made Self-Love my theme for 2017, not knowing exactly what to call it because the term carries selfish, narcissistic connotations, and that wasn’t at all what it meant to me. I realized I’ve spent the past 23 years caring for others in my roles of mother, partner/spouse, daughter, and early childhood educator. I’ve also struggled with personal boundaries, compared myself to those who seemed to have what I felt I was lacking, and (along with that) tended to put people on pedestals. Not exactly self-esteem boosters.

Finally, I realized something had to change! I’d become so good at caring for and seeing the good in others and not so good at doing the same for myself. Putting my own needs and desires on the back burner was holding me back in a big way. I needed to achieve a better balance between caring for myself and others. So that’s what I did for the past year, and it was truly transformational! I’m excited to share what I’ve learned.

I thought I’d begin with three simple rituals I do every morning that have made a big difference. Rather than rushing into the day and what needs to be done, taking a few mindful minutes to honor myself reminds me of my inherent worth and helps me to start the day in alignment with my true self.

Making the Bed

For years, I didn’t make my bed. Didn’t give it a second thought. 

I’ve been going to Light on the Hill retreat center for individual retreats my entire adult life. At the end of the retreat, you’re expected to remove your bed sheets and make the bed with fresh sheets for the next retreatant. The instructions are to make the bed as if you’re preparing it for your beloved – with intention and a warm heart.

I so love that! 

Last spring, after decluttering the entire house, I splurged and bought a nice, king-sized bed. Getting rid of lots of clutter created space for what I really want in my living environment. The process generated lots of clarity around who I was, who I am, who I am becoming, and what/who supports the vision I have for my life. Waking up every day feeling rested was the foundation upon which everything else…um, rested.

I had been sleeping on hand-me-down beds for a long time, and it was high time to get a better bed. It was a reward I gave to myself after the epic decluttering journey during which I acknowledged how important a comfortable bed is to good sleep and overall well-being. I used some money I had inherited from my parents and felt it would please them to know I did something nice for myself. It made my back happy, too!

Now that I finally had a nice bed, I wanted to take care of it. I recently had gone on retreat and recalled the practice of making the bed for the next person and decided it would be a beautiful, loving gesture to do for myself. So now I make my bed with love and intention every morning, fluffing the pillows, arranging them just so, and brushing off any debris, to prepare it for another inviting and restful night’s sleep. Whenever I walk into the bedroom and see my bed, I appreciate the gesture and feel loved. It really makes me feel happy, uplifted, and grateful. 

Making my bed is not an obligation or chore. It’s a joy. As I do it, I think of how great it feels to walk into the room when the bed looks tidy and beautiful. It’s a little thing that makes a big difference.

Mirror Work

This next morning ritual might sound a little weird. There is a mirror outside my bedroom, and after making my bed, I greet myself in the mirror with a big smile and loving words.

Last year, I worked my way through Cheryl Richardson’s book, The Art of Extreme Self-CareEach chapter in the book offers a strategy to practice for an entire month, and one month, it was mirror work. At first, it felt a little awkward and reminded me of the Stuart Smalley skits on Saturday Night Live. But I was committed to practicing the exercises in the book and gave it a try.

It ended up being the most powerful practice I experimented with from the book, especially because I’ve had body image issues all my life. When I looked in the mirror, I did so critically, noticing what I perceived as flaws. Flaws seen through a magnifying glass! Looking in the mirror was not a feel-good activity.

After greeting myself with loving words, I look in my eyes and state positive affirmations that I have posted around the mirror. It might sound corny, but these affirmations are deeply meaningful reminders I want to attune to every morning…and it works. I really look forward to this ritual! It’s like tuning an instrument, and the instrument is my mind.

Now, quite unbelievably, looking in the mirror is an opportunity for loving kindness and to affirm who I really am and what is most important to me. More often than not, when I look in the mirror throughout the day (not just when I do the “mirror work”), the loving voice intercepts the critical voice, which is rather miraculous! It’s as if I have trained myself to see who I really am rather than compare what I look like to how I think I should look.

I just don’t do the mirror work when anyone else is around…or if they are, I do it quietly

Lemon Water Cleanse

Next, I go into the kitchen and drink a cup of warm water with the juice of half a lemon and a dash of cayenne. This is little reminder to be mindful of what I put in my body. Apparently, warm lemon water has health benefits, and it’s a simple gesture that only takes a couple minutes from start to finish. It feels like a healthy, cleansing way to start the day. It reminds me that my body is a temple, and I begin the day treating it as such. That is the intention behind this ritual.

Doing these three rituals affirms every morning that I matter and have positive worth. It makes me feel good about myself. All these activities are done with a sense of joy, not out of obligation. It feels good to walk into the bedroom when the bed is made up beautifully. It feels good to smile and say kind and loving words to myself while looking in the mirror. And it feels good to begin the day conscious of what I put in my body. Altogether, these three rituals only take about 10 minutes!

Bonus Time!

Vision Board Massage

If time permits – especially on mornings when I don’t have to get ready for work right away – another morning ritual is sitting on the side of my bed and looking at my vision board, which hangs on the wall next to my bed. Looking at my vision board reminds me of my Big Whys, what is most important to me, what I want to manifest in my life, and who I am when I am at my best. Every item on my vision board sparks joy and boosts my energy.

For an extra special bonus, I give my hands and feet a massage while spending time with my vision board. First, I roll my feet on a foot massager, which feels really great. I might even massage my feet with my hands, too. Then I massage my hands either with Chinese health balls, my own hands, or by rolling homemade lavender putty in my palms. The latter is currently my favorite. Think playdough for grownups! It feels so relaxing to roll the putty around in my hands, making balls and snakes, just like when I was a child (and a kindergarten teacher)! It seems to massage the pressure points in the hands, in a fun way. 

Yoga Practice

Another bonus morning ritual is a half-hour of home yoga practice. My favorite resource is Yoga with Adriene on YouTube. Every year, she kicks off the new year with 30 days of yoga. This year, the series is called True. Last year, it was Revolution, and the year before that was Yoga Camp. When I finish one series, I go to one of the others, and there are plenty of videos to last the whole year – and they are free! Adriene’s message is all about self-love and finding what feels good.

I’ve been doing yoga long enough to really feel the difference it makes in my body and mind. It makes me more aware of the energy in my body and where I’m holding tension. I’ll often become aware of my feet when I’m standing in line somewhere, and it’s a pleasant experience that takes me out of the thinking mind, reconnects me to my body, and deepens my breathing and relaxation response. Once, I was waiting in line at the bank, and the customers in front of me had business that took a long time. I became aware of my feet, then aware of the energy in my body, and it was like doing a body scan meditation! When it was my turn, the teller said he couldn’t believe how patient I was.

There are lots of benefits of yoga, and that’s just one of them. It seems to get the energy flowing more smoothly through my body. I tend to live in my head, and yoga really helps me to more fully embody the experience of having a body. It takes my attention away from my thoughts and emotions and is a portal to deeper presence and relaxation.

So those are my morning rituals! I love creating rituals. The possibilities are endless. It’s all about the mindfulness and positive energy they generate – which is why I do them every day. Occasionally, something will come up, and I won’t have time to do all of them, but I resist the temptation to use that as an opportunity to feel bad. I tell myself it’s not the end of the world. Mornings like that happen, and tomorrow is a new day! It’s more fun to wake up and get out of bed when I have something to look forward to, and these morning rituals are a positive, uplifting way to start the day.

© 2018 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, 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 Grace of the Journey

The Grace of the Journey

Maybe it’s a little strange, but I can’t resist heading outdoors with my camera on frigid, winter mornings to photograph a frosty landscape. It’s so thrilling that I almost don’t even feel the cold!

I captured the above image at the beginning of a recent period of brutally cold weather. The weather forecast for upcoming days looked much the same as the conditions that morning, but I was surprised to wake up the next few mornings to no frost whatsoever. Apparently, it was too cold! In fact, it got so cold in the past week that I didn’t take my camera outside at all. Morning temperatures were around -20° F, without windchill!

However, one morning at the end of the deep freeze, Jack showed me an incredibly beautiful video of soap bubbles freezing. (He should have known better.) The frost forming on the bubbles was enchanting, and I remembered that ever since my children were little, I’d wanted to try blowing bubbles when it was well below 0° outdoors. Finally (now that my youngest is 20), the conditions were right. 

So I mixed up a DIY soap bubble solution and headed outdoors with my reluctant assistant who no doubt regretted showing me the video. He blew the bubbles, and I attempted to photograph them. It wasn’t easy! Even though they didn’t pop when they hit the ground, they were like weightless, speedy tumbleweeds! There was a slight breeze, and whenever I tried to scoot a little closer to them to get a better shot, they rolled around too fast for me to catch up with them.

It was brutally cold that morning, close to -30°. Too cold for people and cameras to be outdoors for more than a few minutes, so I didn’t have much time to work with. In the narrow window of opportunity, I managed to get a few shots – but definitely felt the cold!

When Mother Nature doesn’t deliver, sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands and make the best of it. Whatever gets you through the winter!

This morning, for the first time in a while, I noticed some frosted trees in a certain area along the river. I had a plan: I’d snowshoe to the dam, which was next to the frosted trees, for a good view. I hadn’t photographed frosted trees from that spot yet.

So I started on the path but was delayed because I noticed glistening, frosty branches low to the ground along the river and couldn’t resist stopping for a closer look. I spent the next half hour or so photographing the delicate, feathered frost on low branches and noticed that, viewed through my macro lens, the frost resembled ferns and trees.

By the time I made it to the dam, there was no more frost left on the trees. However, I sat on a rock and appreciated the warmth of the sun on my face. After a string of such brutally cold days when the air hurt my face, it was a pleasure not to take for granted.

As I sat on the rock, I realized my morning walk was a metaphor for how I want to journey through life. You can have a destination in mind, but be sure to enjoy the journey! After all, we spend more hours working toward goals than we do attaining them, right? And when we achieve a goal, there’s always a new one to work toward. So we’re constantly working toward something.

But what do we miss along the way when we’re focused on a particular outcome? I thought of all the times I was on the river stalking herons or bald eagles, determined to paddle back home with a decent photograph but missing so many other opportunities along the way – like turtles, dragonflies, or the reflection of sunlight on the surface of the water projected onto the trees so it appears like cells of light flowing down the branches to the center of the tree. 

The other day, I got triggered by a situation and felt my life was falling short, in a big way. That kind of thinking is my kryptonite, and I spent the next day trying not to cross over to the dark side of poverty consciousness and general unworthiness.

Focusing on gratitude helped a lot. While showshoeing late in the afternoon, I felt grateful because there was enough snow for snowshoeing and because it stayed light late enough for me to go snowshoeing when I finally got home. Also, it was so wonderful to be outdoors breathing fresh air that didn’t hurt my face!

These gratitudes led to more, and before I knew it, my snowshoe walk had turned into a gratitude walk, which raised my energy and improved my mood. I realized how much I have compared to so many other people in the world. I have food on the table, a roof over my head, a warm coat, snowshoes on my feet, and everything I need. Furthermore, to borrow a line from Hafiz, “Any king would trade his throne for the splendor my eye can see.”

When we work toward a particular goal, the danger is that we will feel we’re not enough as we are right now and need to achieve the goal in order to measure up. But don’t you dare believe such toxic thoughts! When I tried not to cross over to the dark side where feelings of lack would convince me I was in need of something that would make me feel more whole and complete, these words came to me:

As I snowshoed and drove around, I repeated the words over and over because it was really important to reprogram my thoughts and let the message sink in. Create new neural pathways.

Our journey through life is so much more enjoyable when we appreciate what we already have and believe we are already whole and complete and don’t need to achieve a particular goal to have value and worth and to feel good. If we can have a lighter attitude of curiosity and joy and not be so heavy and serious, we can experiment with growing and expanding toward our goals without making our worth dependent on a successful outcome. We can notice more, follow our intuition, and feel good as we travel along, not only when we finally arrive. We can even give ourselves freedom to fail, which I believe is good practice.

This morning, falling in love with the frosted branches along the way made the whole journey worth it. The destination wasn’t dazzling, and therefore I didn’t get pictures of frosted trees. However, the journey – of curiosity and delight – made up for it. So this is a little reminder not to be so focused on the end result (whatever it is for you) that you deprive yourself of tiny pleasures, positive thoughts, and intuitive nudges that make the journey more delicious.

Enjoy the journey, knowing you are already enough exactly as you are right now!

© 2018 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, 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.

Deep-Freeze Vision Board Inspiration

Deep-Freeze Vision Board Inspiration

I just completed my first personal growth creative project of the year and am excited to tell you about it! It’s a project that’s ideal for this time of year, not just because of the New Year but because the bitter cold, shorter days present a wonderful opportunity for going inward when it’s too cold to spend much time outdoors. 

I overhauled my vision board so it sparkles with fresh, new energy!

I created my first vision board two years ago. It was a simple one on which I glued pictures and words that inspired me and supported my goals. That year, I focused on abundance and freeing myself from abundance blocks and therefore included several positive affirmations related to prosperity. It was a memorable experience because I completed it before going to bed one night, and I hadn’t even fallen asleep before I received a phone call from my daughter who told me she was in labor! It was perfect timing. 

Later in the year, I created another vision board – a supercharged feng shui version – after returning from a life-transforming trip to visit relatives on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia. Spending nearly two weeks with them was a profound experience that helped me to better understand myself and where I come from. In the company of relatives who share my love of nature and my affinity for artistic creativity and writing, I experienced a sense of true belonging and being appreciated for who I was, rather than feeling like the family oddball. Finding my tribe right in my family tree changed everything, and a new vision board was in order.

I loved my feng shui vision board! I learned how to make it under the guidance of a mentor who is a feng shui expert, and it’s different from a “typical” vision board because it has separate spaces for each of the nine areas of the bagua:

  • Wealth, Prosperity, and Abundance
  • Fame, Reputation, and Recognition
  • Love and Marriage
  • Family and Community
  • Health and Unity
  • Children, Creativity, and New Beginnings
  • Knowledge and Wisdom
  • Career and Life’s Journey
  • Helpful People and Travel

I put my vision board on the wall next to my bed, and every morning it was the first thing I saw when I woke up. Then I’d bring it downstairs so I’d see it during the day. It was with me day and night, and I even photographed it and printed out a mini version to carry around with me. The energy coming off it was that powerful, and I found it to be a highly motivating tool for creating a more authentic and empowered life. 

As I achieved various goals, I’d remove those pictures/words from the vision board, to make room for new ones and keep it current.

However, I noticed that for the past month or two, my vision board remained on my bedroom wall. The spaces on it made the placement of the remaining pictures and words seem not quite right (visual person that I am), and it just didn’t have the oomph it used to have. I didn’t feel drawn to it because it felt cluttered. There were some pictures and words on it that didn’t resonate anymore, especially in the Career section. Too many different possibilities which made me feel pulled in too many directions. 

Also, I’d recently undergone another big, inner transformation as a result of decluttering my entire home and focusing on mindful self-compassion for the past year. Now it was time to declutter my vision board and infuse it with fresh energy that fit with the new me! 

I used the existing structure to revamp each section, and now it sparkles with inspiring energy again, and it doesn’t stay on my bedroom wall! I enjoy creating simple, daily rituals to keep me focused on what’s most important and recently came up with a new one that features my vision board and feels really good, too!

I love to give myself hand and foot massages and remembered that I have a foot massage roller that I haven’t used in a while and Chinese medicine balls, as well. So I put them under my bed and start the day sitting on the edge of my bed and using the hand and foot massagers while looking at my vision board for a few minutes and reminding myself of what’s most important. Sweeeet!

It’s a great way to get focused first thing in the morning.

Another ritual I enjoy is to look at my vision board while doing my “tea meditation”. (I wrote an article about it.) Essentially, it involves practicing feeling the feelings of attaining my vision board goals as I hold the cup of tea in my hands, and imagining those feelings going into the tea before consuming it. It’s one of my favorite cold weather meditations!

If you’ve never made a vision board, it’s pretty simple to do! It used to be that you’d need a stack of magazines to look through for inspiring words and images, but Google searches make it so much easier to find inspiring images now! Magazines are still good sources of words, but you also can print out words yourself using different fonts and colors. I hold onto the Omega and Kripalu retreat center catalogs that come in the mail, for words and ideas. Hay House and Sounds True have some really great book and audiobook titles that are great for vision boards! And my Inspirational Photo Gallery and Instagram account is filled with “quote pictures” (my latest creative passion!) – some of which I included on my own vision board. There are so many sources of vision board inspiration available!

There are apps to create virtual vision boards, and another option is to create a Pinterest board for a vision board. However, there is value in creating a physical vision board because you only have a limited amount of space to fit what’s most important to you. That cuts out a lot of clutter and can help you stay focused.

Making a vision board is a great cold weather project. I really appreciate this time of year because it’s a time to go inward, get in touch with yourself, and decide what you want to cultivate in your inner garden this year – how you want to expand. If you’re interested, Google “vision boards” for some inspiration, and give it a go! 

© 2018 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, 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.

Supercharging the New Year

Supercharging the New Year

I’m so excited because it’s that time of year again! Time to reflect on 2017 and set intentions for 2018. I’m not talking about resolutions but supercharged goals and intentions and tools that keep me focused on my vision of who I want to be and what I want to do and manifest in the next year. Magical, life enhancing stuff!

For the past two years, I’ve been using the My Shining Year Life Workbook to set goals and intentions, and it’s made such a positive difference! I’ve also been using a (recently discontinued) companion daily planner with pages for setting intentions at the beginning of each month and reflecting at the end of each month, which are monthly rituals I really look forward to. Since it’s the end of the year, this week I’ve been going through all the monthly reflection pages and am compiling a big list of all the dreams and goals that came true, the difficulties and challenges, the lessons I’ve learned, and what I’m immensely grateful for. It’s a deep and meaningful process that helps me to put the year in perspective, acknowledge the big and little things I have accomplished, see patterns, and LET IT GO with gratitude, to prepare for more wonderful things to come in the New Year. 

It’s an opportunity for celebration and an invitation to cultivate self-compassion and equanimity and to reaffirm my inherent worthiness despite anything and everything that happened or didn’t happen during the year. It’s a time to realize I’m no better or worse than anyone else and to feel connected with everyone who struggles with human shortcomings and wants to feel good. Which is everyone.

In 2017, I checked off lots of goals, experienced huge personal challenges, and bombed abysmally in some ways. However, it’s been a big year for learning HUGE, pivotal lessons, and that list alone is massive and makes me grateful for all the challenges that contributed to so much deep learning and inner transformation.

It’s all grist for the mill, every bit of it. It all serves a purpose in our spiritual evolution, even the stuff that didn’t feel good at the time.

I have to admit that I’ve felt some sorrow acknowledging some of what I’ve experienced in the past year. Lots of whys: Why did I put up with some of the things I did? But it only hurts because hindsight is 20/20 and because I am wiser now as a result of what I have experienced. You always can look back and wish you had done things differently. But we have to give ourselves some credit and trust we did the best we could at the time with the understanding, experience, and resources we had. It’s useful to take an honest look at the patterns of the past year to understand ourselves better, especially if we can have compassion for ourselves rather than judgment. 

Even though I have shed some tears this week, these realizations don’t sting as much as they would have if I hadn’t learned to be kind to myself, which is what I focused my attention on this year. And THAT is a HUGE personal victory for which I am profoundly grateful! Even if it doesn’t show on the outside, today I am very different than I was a year ago.

The New Year is a great opportunity to reflect on the past year, look for patterns, push the reset button, and envision a new path ahead. It doesn’t mean we have to put pressure on ourselves to be perfect going forward. Not at all. This time of reflection should be a time of joy and hope, connecting with our true essence, and re-envisioning how we can express it more authentically. It’s not about perfection. It’s about being authentic and true to ourselves! 

Although the planner I’ve been using for the past two years has been discontinued, it’s okay because even though the process of using it has been so rich and fulfilling, I found the format too thick, bulky, and hard to open and flip through. Even before I learned it would be discontinued, I planned to create my own version because I found myself skipping certain sections every month that didn’t resonate.

So ta-da! I made my own customized planner! And if you’d like, you can make your own, too. In fact, I’ll share with you my monthly system of intention- and goal-setting because it is so fun and gratifying and has made such a difference in my life that I’d love for you to experience, too!

Customize an Ordinary Planner to Make It Awesome

Originally, I’d considered making a planner from scratch, including designing weekly and monthly page templates. But then I thought: Why reinvent the wheel? Why not work with something that’s already available and just needs a little tweaking to customize it to my needs?

So I shopped around for the most perfect planner I could find. I had to love the weekly and monthly layouts and overall design. It had to feel good in my hands and look nice. I decided on an At-A-Glance planner from Staples.

It didn’t knock my socks off straight off the shelf, but I saw possibilities in it. It had potential. 

I didn’t love the cover. Red isn’t the color I would have chosen for a planner, but it is an energetic color that wakes you up and inspires action. I came up with a way to de-emphasize the redness by attaching inspiring quote pictures to the front cover and end pages. BAM! Instant, customized upgrade. I chose quote pictures that I created and that resonate strongly with my vision of how I want to grow in the new year. Quote pictures that could serve as a compass and keep me on track. I covered the front side of the pictures with clear packing tape so they’d better withstand daily use and then glued the cover photo on with tacky glue and affixed additional pictures to the inside cover and end pages.

Now it absolutely sparkled with the energy of what’s most important to me!

Then I went page-by-page through each week and wrote uplifting, alliterative adjectives before each day of the week. For example:

  • MONDAYS: Miraculous, Manifesting, Magic
  • TUESDAYS: Terrific
  • WEDNESDAYS: Wonderful, Wealthy
  • THURSDAYS: Thriving, Thankful
  • FRIDAYS: Fun, Fearless, Fabulous
  • SATURDAYS: Super, Spirited, Spectacular, Sensational
  • SUNDAYS: Soulful, Shining

I also indicated all new and full moons, astronomical events (meteor showers, eclipses), holidays, birthdays, school vacations, and miscellaneous reminders. 

Once I settle on a sacred word/theme for 2018 (which I think will be EMPOWER), I will write inspirational quotes related to that theme at the top of each weekly spread. Or perhaps that will be part of my weekly ritual. It’s all about staying focused!

My planner has a fabric cover that probably won’t wear well if it rubs up against other objects on a daily basis. Therefore, I store it in a plastic ziplock bag for an extra layer of protection.

Monthly Intentions & Reflections Journal

Now, the only thing missing from my planner was the intentions and reflection pages for each month, which is what made it beyond awesome. So I created a little workbook to serve that purpose. It features a photo for each month with an original, inspirational quote based on themes relevant to that time of year. Although I’ve been setting intentions and recording reflections faithfully on a monthly basis for the past two years with the planners I’ve been using, I like the idea of following a lunar cycle for the upcoming year. Therefore, I included the dates of the lunar cycle for each month to allow for that option. Then I made space for monthly:

  • intentions
  • goals
  • pleasures to experience
  • mantra/affirmation/quote/word to focus on
  • desired feelings
  • goal-supporting resources
  • inspirational question related to what’s happening in nature.

At the end of each month or lunar cycle, there’s space to reflect on accomplishments and successes, difficulties, gratitude, and lessons learned.

You could do this in a notebook (perhaps a three-ring binder with sections for each month) or purchase my 2018 Monthly Intentions & Reflections Journal, which is the resource I created for my own personal use.

Inspirational Bucket List

The secret sauce that provides a lot of material for my monthly intentions is a bucket list of things to do in the new year. Simply make a list of everything you can think of (up to 100 items) that you’d like to do and experience during the year. It can include anything, in any area of your life, no matter how large or small. (I included my 2016 list in this post, which might provide you with some ideas.) You might have a certain goal or project in mind that can be broken down into a number of smaller steps, which you can pencil into the relevant months of the intentions/reflections journal. Do the same with goals you want to focus on at certain times of year, such as travel goals, for example.

Although it’s certainly not necessary, I’ve grouped my bucket list into categories mostly borrowed from feng shui, including:

  • Abundance & Prosperity
  • Fame & Reputation
  • Home
  • Love & Marriage
  • Family & Community
  • Health & Body
  • Creativity & Children (including a sub-category of nature photography goals)
  • Spiritual Growth
  • Skills & Knowledge
  • Career & Life Journey
  • Helpful People
  • Travel
  • Nature
  • Organization (this is where I listed my decluttering goals).

At the beginning of every month when I’m filling out the Setting Intentions page, I refer to my bucket list to see if there’s anything from it to include in that month’s goals. That way, I don’t miss anything!

Daily Gratitude

I’ve been keeping a daily gratitude journal for more than ten years now and wrote a blog post a few years ago about how that practice enriches and has transformed my life greatly. Since my monthly reflection page includes a section on gratitude, my gratitude journal goes hand in hand with the other resources to help me live intentionally and mindfully throughout the year. It’s lovely to review what I’ve been grateful for each month and to select the most wonderful “gratitudes” to record on the reflection page. Writing five things in my gratitude journal at the end of each day helps to raise my energy/vibration and promote positive feelings, and when you focus on gratitude every day, you find more to be grateful for!

Putting It All Together: The Magical Manifesting Bag

I carry my “Magical Manifesting Bag” with me everywhere I go! It includes:

  • My Shining Life Workbook
  • Customized daily planner
  • Monthly Intentions & Reflections Journal
  • Gratitude journal
  • A folder of supporting/relevant materials 
  • Pens and pencils
  • A pad of sticky notes
  • An eraser
  • Shiny star stickers (it’s the kindergarten teacher in me)
  • Correction tape
  • A glue stick.

I carry it everywhere because I’m constantly coming up with new ideas for what I want to do and how I want to express myself in the world! My Magical Manifesting Bag is like an extension of myself. Keeping my written goals and intentions close keeps me focused on them and encourages me to take action toward my goals every day. It makes them more real!

Find a tote bag that raises your spirits when you look at it, or designate a special container or box to hold your “manifesting resources”. And be sure to refer to it as your Magical Manifesting Bag or something equally magical!

So there you have it: My tried and true system for supercharging my vision for the upcoming year! There are a few other tips I’m eager to share, but I think this is enough for now!

I wish you a very happy, healthy, and hopeful New Year filled with all kinds of sweet surprises and revelations about how magnificent you are and what you are capable of!

© 2017 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, 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.

Redefining Christmas

Redefining Christmas

I’m sitting in my living room this evening feeling grateful for the little things. All day, I’ve been trying to be okay with Christmas being different now, and not really knowing what that even means or what Christmas will look like from now on. This is the first year of celebrating Christmas without my parents and without their house as the center of our family get-togethers. Last year doesn’t count because we were too busy getting ready to sell their house, which involved so much work that it still makes my head spin when I think about it. On top of all that, I was sick with a really bad cold, so my adult children spent Christmas with their dad.

This year is different.

Our circa 1840 house is really small and cannot even begin to accommodate a small family gathering that includes a toddler who spends every waking hour exploring. My daughter, who lives with little Ava in a small apartment an hour away, doesn’t have a car. So the solution we came up with is to have our family celebration at the home of my ex-husband and his girlfriend (who live close to my daughter) so we all can be together in a space that can host a holiday celebration that includes a very active toddler. 

For the most part, those in my small family circle aren’t buying gifts this year, and that’s okay. It’s not too different from any other year, and it’s not just about financial circumstances because values are also a factor. I’ve never been into the consumer aspect of Christmas and would always make most of the gifts for my children or give them art materials. Christmas wasn’t so much about the presents as it was about being together. My favorite Christmases were when I had the kids for Christmas Eve, and we’d have a dinner movie theater in the living room. I’d make our favorite holiday foods from a menu we created together, and we’d watch a few Christmas movies and (in the earlier years) track Santa’s whereabouts.

This year, I mostly want to give the gifts of food, art, and creativity materials, but I’m feeling like there’s still so much to do with only one more day until Christmas because the snow and ice we’ve had for the past two days put a damper on shopping for missing ingredients and supplies. But the down time has given me a chance to pause, reflect, and simplify my expectations for what I can accomplish in the next 24 hours. 

My mom was the one who made Christmas feel like a really festive occasion, a big deal. She loved buying presents, decorating their house and two Christmas trees (one real, one artificial). My mom was the spirit of Christmas in our family! For the most part, the store-bought gifts and larger ticket items (such as American Girl dolls) were under the tree at my parents’ house. 

But that’s not the case anymore, and my lack of consumerism really shows now because my mom isn’t around to cover for me! I feel some pressure (coming from nobody but me, of couse) to carry on my mom’s spirit of Christmases past. But without a home that can accommodate a family gathering, no space for a Christmas tree, and a very modest budget this year, it’s not realistic – and it’s also not me. A portion of my parents’ Christmas decorations are in boxes in my storage unit, but I don’t even have space to display them. 

I’m trying to be okay with this – with Christmas looking very different than it used to.

Earlier today, I spoke with my daughter to firm up holiday plans and told her I’m more interested in presence than presents but feel I should do more to make Christmas even a little more like it was when my parents were alive. She told me she was feeling guilty about not being able to buy presents for anyone except Ava. Seems we were both falling into the trap of thinking what we could do wasn’t enough.

We reminisced about Christmases when my parents were alive, and then she told me she can’t remember the presents she received at my parents’ house but remembers the feeling of everyone being together. We agreed that is what Christmas is really about. And we agreed to be gentle with ourselves and not put pressure on ourselves to do any more than we can do. 

In past years, I recall seeing lots of posts and pictures on social media of friends having big holiday celebrations complete with beautifully decorated trees and lots of presents. This year I’m on a 30-day Facebook fast and probably will avoid Instagram for a few days around Christmas, as well. It’s nice to see smiling faces and families celebrating together, but it’s still a sensitive time of year for me as I adjust to not having my parents or their house in the picture.

But let’s not allow our expectations for Christmas (or life in general) to be influenced by social media images. There is another reality.

Every day I work at the library, I’m in contact with many people who are homeless, and they keep my ideas about what Christmas “should” be like in check. They remind me of how much I have, even if it doesn’t look like much compared to the Facebook pictures and my assumptions of how other families live and celebrate. I realize that just showing up and being together is enough. It’s not the presents. It’s the presence that matters most. And we should be really grateful for everyone who can come together and celebrate with us. Thank God my daughter survived the car accident she was in over the summer and is alive and able to celebrate with us. 

There is a library patron who reminds me of my dad. He’s 88 years old, and we have developed a special bond. It makes me so happy to see his face light up when we interact.  Last week, he gave me advice about running cold water at the end of a shower, to close my pores. The only other person who ever told me that was my dad. I know little bits and pieces of this man’s story and am eager to learn more. Yesterday, he told me that a female relative (a cousin, I believe) invited him for Christmas, and he was happy she did because otherwise he would have spent Christmas alone. I had no idea! A week ago, I gave him one of my calendars along with a card referring to him as my favorite library patron, and now I’m thinking that might be one of the only gifts he will receive – which makes me so glad I gave it to him!

I’ve been thinking of him a lot today and am appreciating that I have family to be with on Christmas. Many people don’t. It can be difficult for divorced parents who alternate holidays to not celebrate with their children on the actual holiday. The years when we can spend the holidays together are special and not to be taken for granted. It doesn’t matter if you have a tree or any gifts under it. It’s the togetherness that counts. 

So please enjoy the company of your loved ones, and don’t put stress on yourself to have your holiday celebrations be anything more than what they are. Being together with whoever is able to show up is the greatest gift of the season. Anything beyond that is icing on the cake. 

May your holidays be filled with gratitude and love. And may you focus more on the love than any absences, and more on what you have than what you don’t. May you find a sweet perfection in what is.

© 2017 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, 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.

Let's Stay Together!

Join my mailing list to receive the latest articles, updates, and offerings. Don't worry: I won't spam you or share your info with anyone!

You have Successfully Subscribed!