Oops! It appears that you have disabled your Javascript. In order for you to see this page as it is meant to appear, we ask that you please re-enable your Javascript!

Author: susantara

A New Day

A New Day

Today is a new day, and thank goodness for that! Yesterday was the first day of school, and I did not expect it to hit me so hard. Summer vacation is over, the tourists have gone home, and the locals have returned from their beach getaways. School buses are back on the road, and my Facebook feed is filled with first day of school photos. It is time to return to business-as-usual. And that’s the issue! There was a rhythm to my life as a teacher that has been broken, and not returning to it made me feel as if there was no ground beneath me, nothing to support me. A sleep deficit didn’t help.

I felt like a train wreck! Days like that come and go. And we can learn so much from them if we face them head on rather than flee from the discomfort.

Waves of emotion kept coming at me yesterday, and they were huge – and hurt when they hit! They knocked me off balance and dragged me under, and it felt as if I wouldn’t be able to come back up for air. But eventually the wave subsided, and I floated back up to the surface and could breathe again.

waves

And then another wave would come along sooner or later. So working with the waves became my practice. More specifically, I practiced remaining in the present moment with bare attention, without attaching any labels, storylines, interpretations, wishful fantasies, or romantic longings to whatever arose. It’s not reality that is a problem; it’s what we add to it! If we’re not mindful, we can wander into a very destructive place – a downward spiral that leads to a place we don’t want to go. I can think of a thousand better ways to channel my energy, imagination, and creativity! Why go there?

It reminded me so much of being in labor and working with the contractions, which were more intense than anything I’d ever experienced. The biggest lesson I took away from my childbirth experiences was to breathe into each contraction as it comes along and stay focused on just that. Don’t think about how many more contractions I would have to deal with or evaluate whether I was doing a good job or how much progress I was or wasn’t making. Don’t wish to be anyone else in the room. Instead, remain in the present moment, the wellspring of strength and power.

How wonderful to realize that we can set it all aside, push the reset button, and return to bare presence. It’s basic meditation instruction.

Buddha

Granted, it’s much harder to do that when your energy is low. Some days you just have to set all expectations aside and be gentle with yourself. Don’t board those fancy trains of thought and imagination that take you to dramatic places. Stay in the present, where you can hear the rich and rhythmic sounds of a late summer day, be enraptured by the geometry of morning glories and the brilliant design of airborne seeds, and engage opportunities that present themselves (or at least realize that opportunities do exist). Focus on the basics, like getting enough rest. And remember that this, too, shall pass. You’re just having a bad day, and your thinking is a bit delusional as a result.

MGcollage

So that was my practice yesterday. And I learned a lot.

I was reminded of the importance of self-compassion and self-love and that the very first step is to get enough sleep.

I learned that you have to be that quality you most desire from others. Mine it from within. If you want to be nurtured, start by nurturing – yourself and others!

I learned to turn inward for salvation and not lean so much on this world that shifts constantly, like a kaleidoscope. It’s great to have people to reach out to. But they aren’t always available. So why not realize that the answers and the compass we need for this human journey are all inside of us – and lean into our own heart center and source of strength, which is more enduring and always available? Ultimately, everything we need is there.  And the natural world and its larger rhythms and cycles can be a great source of healing, as well.

Sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom emotionally to realize status quo is not working, and to jolt you into awakening and discovering a new way to proceed. The road less traveled. But there’s a tollbooth on it, and the toll required is to leave behind whatever weighs you down and doesn’t serve you. This includes the stories we cling to.

I learned that the feelings that seem so threatening and overwhelming – like tidal waves that threaten to pull us under – are invitations to grow. All the information we need is within those feelings, if we can lean into them and not run away from them. Every single wave that comes along is an opportunity to become stronger and more skilled – at feeling the waves crash over us, letting go of our baggage, keeping or regaining our balance, and then seeing the gifts the waves leave behind in the sand.

When you’re learning and practicing this right there in the water, such insights can make all the difference in the world and save you from drowning. It’s interesting how, as I get older, insights that seem so simplistic on the surface take on new meaning and depth.

Yesterday, I felt expendable and forlorn. Today I feel free and open to possibility. And that makes me smile. Thank goodness for a restorative night of good sleep and the gift of a new day. A day when I once again can notice and appreciate tiny wonders, such as the sunrise and its reflection on the river, captured in beads of dew on a spider web.

IMG_7226f

The reality is that, although the rhythm of my life as a teacher has been disrupted, who I am at my core has not been touched. And I am still part of a larger rhythm of the natural world and the cycle of humankind. So I am neither lost nor broken, even on difficult days. And neither are you.

© 2015 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness mentor 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.

Feathers All Around

Feathers All Around

I’ve been noticing feathers everywhere lately. They seem to appear around me constantly. Yesterday morning, I went on the river, and right where I put in the kayak, there was a feather floating on the water. Once again, I took note.

As I got in my kayak, I recalled reading an article about the most common signs from deceased loved ones. Feathers were on the list. I wondered if there’s something especially significant about white feathers – even though the feather floating next to my kayak was not white. Come to think of it, I couldn’t recall seeing any white ones since I started noticing feathers.

So I paddled out to the middle of the river to photograph the water lilies as they opened for the day. (It has been an extraordinary week for water lily photography!) I was totally in my element. Pure bliss.

WWLOpening

When I returned to the dock, what do you think I saw floating in the water right where I got out of my kayak?

That’s right: a white feather. It certainly raised my eyebrows and even brought a few tears to my eyes. Could it be my mom saying hello?

Who’s to say whether the feathers – and the white feather, in particular – are actually a sign from a loved one who has passed on? I’m not committed to that possibility, although I am open to it and would like to believe that’s the case.

Maybe it’s more about perception and becoming more aware of the environment. You think about feathers, and all of a sudden, you see them everywhere. Perhaps they were always there, and you never noticed until now.

Maybe it’s about the power of our thoughts to manifest in the physical world. You think about feathers, and you draw them to you like a magnet.

Maybe it’s entirely random.

But there’s more to the story.

This morning, I returned to the river to photograph water lilies. They were even more ravishing than yesterday.

IMG_7062f

After nearly an hour, I paddled to the other side of the river to view and delete some photos in the shade. As I focused on my camera, I felt a tremendous sense of peace fill every single cell in my body. It was the most wonderful feeling. I spent about 20 minutes reviewing and deleting photos and appreciating this profound sense of peace. Then I decided to paddle back across the river to get sunscreen and a bite to eat.

When I put away my camera and looked up, I noticed that I was surrounded by white feathers floating on the water! The feathers definitely weren’t there before because I absolutely would have noticed them.

IMG_7168f

With wide eyes and a huge smile on my face, I paddled back home. It felt like a sign, especially because of the incredibly peaceful sensation that accompanied it.

But who’s to say for sure? From my perspective, the most likely explanation is that we have no idea how powerful our minds are and what we are a part of. All I know for certain is that it filled me with joy and raised my energy for the rest of the day!

© 2015 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 mentor 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.

When She Comes Calling

When She Comes Calling

My heart is beating a mile a minute, and I’m nearly breathless. I just woke up from one of those dreams! My dad handed me the phone, and when I answered, my mom’s voice was at the other end – so familiar, sweet, and pleasant – and she said, “So, you’re not setting up your classroom like you usually are at this time of year.” I was going to respond, “I told you I wasn’t going to stay in that job!” But I was stunned virtually speechless and could barely even stammer, “MOM????!!!! Is that YOU????!!!!” It was as if my mouth was mostly paralyzed and required every bit of effort and concentration I could muster to utter those words.

It was one of those “real contact” dreams, which are very different from regular dreams I have of her. Every time I have one of those dreams, the conversation only lasts for a few seconds because I’m so stunned that she’s really there talking to me – that it’s really her! I wish I could hear what she had to say rather than allow my stunned reaction to completely interrupt the conversation! Perhaps she just wanted to acknowledge that she is aware I left my job.

I love it when she comes to me in dreams. It tends to happen every two months or so. And when it does, it’s amazing – and so real! In the dream, I feel  overcome with excitement and joy. There’s always some kind of border or transition I’m aware of, such as a staircase or doorway (that seems to be off-limits to me), a phone receiver, or I walk out of the living room and then come back in, and she’s sitting there.

She passed on 15 months ago. But it seems only her physical form is really gone.

IMG_4330f

When I was on vacation with my son and daughter earlier this month, I was consumed with sadness one morning as we walked around Mystic, Connecticut on a beautiful, blue sky day. I wore a hat and sunglasses to try to conceal the tears I couldn’t hold back. I can’t remember what the trigger was, but I felt empty and wished with all my heart that my mom were still around because she would be able to make things better. I longed to walk into a space brimming with love, like my grandmother’s house or my mom’s radiant, welcoming smile when she came to the door, and the house smelled of freshly baked raspberry muffins, macaroni and cheese, flowers, or scented candles. I missed her so much as I walked around Mystic.

My son was in search of an elusive record store and led us off the beaten path. And when I was consumed by thoughts of missing my mom, something amazing happened: A car drove by with windows down blasting “Annie’s Song” by John Denver. John Denver’s songs are like my mom’s calling card. I literally stopped in my tracks.

HELLO, MOM!

Fortunately, there was a public restroom right in front of us, and I dashed inside and became a waterfall in a bathroom stall for several minutes while my son and daughter waited outside for me to pull myself together. They understood. When I emerged, we drove to a beach in Rhode Island and had a wonderful afternoon.

After setting up our spot on the beach, I read a book as they rested on either side of me, and I filled with gratitude for what I do have rather than grieve what I don’t have at this time.

IMG_4937f

I took a long walk alone on the beach beyond the crowded spots to much quieter areas and felt as if my mom were walking with me.

IMG_5013f

Although many people, including some family members, refuse to believe in the credibility of so-called psychics, I keep an open mind. Back in the spring, I went to a psychic medium who said my mom was with me in a particular place I had just visited. A couple months later, a relative had an appointment with a different psychic medium in another state who said the exact same thing. In fact, many of the same messages came through – including that my mom is aware that someone (presumably me) is writing about her publicly, and she thinks it is good because it can help people. So I am willing to believe that my mom was with me both at the place I visited in the spring and at the ocean this summer. I could feel her presence. It’s always such a blessing to feel her presence rather than grieve her absence. And every time she comes, it seems that the greatest fallacy of all is to believe that our loved ones have ever left us.

19711485313_a918e309b2_o

© 2015 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness mentor 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.

Reflection on Still Water

Reflection on Still Water

More days than not, I end up capturing upwards of 200 images that inspire, delight, or speak to me in some way. Every now and then, however, I find myself transfixed by an image. It’s rarely the most aesthetically pleasing shot. Usually, there’s just something about it that has some pull on me and sparks an inner recognition of some sort. So I sit with the image and contemplate what it has to say and what feelings or thoughts it evokes, and then consider how the insights that arise might be relevant to my life.

Yesterday, on the spur of the moment, I spent the afternoon at the New England Peace Pagoda in Western Massachusetts. I hadn’t heard of it prior to yesterday morning but felt immediately compelled to visit. Apparently, it is one of only four peace pagodas in the United States.

One detail I was thrilled to find on the grounds was a pond with both white and pink water lilies. I have been longing to see pink water lilies! I took many pictures of the pond, with countless prayer flags flapping overhead.

Here is the image I have been sitting with today:

IMG_5384frev1

The way the water lily is illuminated with sunlight seems so ethereal, and the colorful reflection of the prayer flags adds to the overall impact.

The flower is enchanting.

But it’s not real. It is an illusion. A reflection.

I rotated the image so it’s upside down.

I think of how skewed the reflections are when the water is rippled or turbulent. If we can allow our mind to settle until it becomes like still water, we can perceive with greater clarity.

But another way to read the water lily image is to consider how we project stuff (thoughts, beliefs, desires, fears, etc.) onto reality and then mistake the projections for reality. We add our own inner content and conditioning to the bare “is-ness” of the moment and fall under the spell of our own projections.

In other words, the thoughts we think, the sights we see, the conclusions we draw, and the beliefs and opinions we hold are products of our perception of reality, not reality itself.

Oh, how we complicate reality! The image reminds me to return to bare presence and keep the mental commentary in check. Become aware of it. Allow it to settle and become still, quiet. Don’t believe all the thoughts you think!

When I showed my teenage son this image and asked him if he thought it looked real, he said yes – at first. But he had seen the original (non-rotated) image last night and explained that there are certain clues you can key in on and realize it doesn’t quite make sense when it’s turned upside-down. For instance, the flower appears to be floating.

And that adds another layer of meaning – a reminder to pay close attention to details that suggest that what you are perceiving to be real isn’t so. Avoid the temptation to pull the wool over your eyes and believe in the illusion simply because it’s so alluring, and you want to believe it’s real.

Anyhow, those are some thoughts that came to mind when I sat with and “read” the water lily photo. It’s an interesting exercise to try with a photo or painting that reaches out and invites you to lean in and go deeper.

© 2015 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness mentor 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.

As the Waves Roll In

As the Waves Roll In

There is a distinct rhythm to a teacher’s life. When the glorious insect symphony reaches a crescendo with the chirping of crickets as the most prominent voice, and the corn is tall, and evenings become cooler, it’s time to turn attention to beginning a new school year. But not this year, since I resigned from my job. And that disruption of my normal rhythm has been throwing me off! It feels unnatural.

Driven to connect with a more universal and abiding rhythm, I heard the ocean call my name. There is nothing that restores rhythm and perspective like standing at the edge of the vast ocean watching the waves roll in. I longed to breathe the salty air, synchronize my breath with the rhythm of the waves, and inhale the sheer power and majesty of the ocean. I yearned for the ocean to raise my vibration and thus tune my instrument so I may move forward in greater harmony with Life.

And so my daughter, son, and I headed to the beaches of Rhode Island for our first-ever, mini beach vacation with just the three of us. We planned to go to Ithaca, New York – our old stomping ground and waterfall paradise –  but agreed unanimously at the last minute to go to Rhode Island instead.

As I watched my 20-year-old daughter stand at the edge of the ocean as the tide came in and the waves grew in size and intensity, I captured an image that is worth a thousand words. It is the story of a mother standing behind her daughter and hoping she is prepared for the journey ahead and its unforeseen waves.

IMG_5126f3

I’ve been meditating on waves – all the waves life thrusts our way. The inevitable, intense, and spectacular waves. A day at the beach would not be nearly so alluring without them.

I feel like I have been a student of waves lately. I have been trying to learn how to keep my balance, especially when the ocean pulls so much away, with such force.

IMG_4609f

But it also brings us gifts from its invisible depths. We delight in finding exiquisite shells, smooth stones, Mother Nature’s artwork, and other surprises in the sand. The ocean moves in a rhythm of turbulence and grace.

sandart

My prayer for my children is that they will develop the capacity to maintain their balance when the waves hit.

IMG_5231f

Meditation is one way to facilitate balance. As a kindergarten teacher, I taught a calming breath practice by placing a rubber duck on each child’s abdomen as they lay on their backs on the carpet.  I instructed the children to do deep, belly breathing by making the ducks rise and fall, gently and slowly as if they were riding waves at the beach. A duck-free version of this basic practice helps me to calm down, find my center, and push the reset button when the stress response gets activated. But even better to practice in calm waters so it becomes a more automatic response when the waves roll in.

I believe that teaching children how to regain calm and balance and build resilience and courage are among the most important gifts we can offer them.

I wish for my children to have a happy life, but even more than that, I wish for them to have the fortitude to withstand and thrive in this imperfect, challenging life on planet Earth. To breathe through the waves and by doing so, access their calm center and discern with a clear and spacious mind how to respond most effectively to whatever situations and circumstances life sends their way. To trust the rhythm of life – the messiness and awkwardness of it – and not feel they are failing when they lose either their footing or something or someone important to them. To know it’s all an integral part of the process.

I wish for my children to dance with the waves and live a fulfilling life, according to their own definition of the term.

Once I heard someone explain that when you meditate and notice your mind has wandered (as minds do), each time you bring it back is like doing one rep. You are strengthening the mental muscles (or neural pathways) that help you return your attention to what you’re trying to focus on. Similarly, each time you lose your footing when a wave comes along and you catch yourself or get up again, you are building strength and resilience. Such are the gifts the waves bring us.

I would not wish for my children first and foremost a life of smooth sailing because it is unrealistic, and I believe they are made for something greater than that. What joy to discover our latent power when we are put to the test and learn that we are far more magnificent than we ever imagined ourselves to be. May they experience the joy and surprise that comes from recognizing their true strength and power. And may this joyful recognition enhance their capacity to imagine and create their future – for manifestation is born of imagination, and the great challenge is to use our imagination wisely. It is a latent superpower, and fear is a gross misuse of it.

We can do so much better than that!

We can cultivate a habit of returning to our private garden of imagination to envision new possibilities and plant new seeds. We can return our attention to that rich and vibrant place when we wander into self-doubt – whether it is generated by external forces or from within. We can resist labeling our experiences as “good” or “bad” and instead adopt an attitude of “It is what it is – not as forlorn resignation and apathy but as unflappable resilience and determination. And let us not forget the marvelous buoyancy of gratitude.

That is what I wish to inspire in my children and cultivate in myself.

IMG_5180fcr

© 2015 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness mentor 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.

There's so much I want to share with you! Join my mailing list to receive the latest news and updates. And don't worry: I won't spam you or share your info with anyone!

You have Successfully Subscribed!