Author: susantara

It’s Okay to Let Go

It’s Okay to Let Go

Today I’m inspired to write about the most obvious thing going on in my little corner of the world: the falling leaves. We’re not often taught how to let go, though it’s such an important and unavoidable part of being human. Trees can be great teachers in this regard.

As my feet crunch along a leaf-covered trail, I find myself asking: What do I need to let go of to prepare for a new cycle of growth? What no longer brings light and nourishment into my life? These are questions worth contemplating every now and then.

Here’s what I’ve learned from my journey of letting go: First, you don’t have to settle on a new aspiration before releasing what already is. Just let go of what no longer serves you, to make room for new possibilities as they arise in their own rhythm. Trust the cycle of letting go, envisioning, planting new seeds, and tending them so they flower and bear fruit. Then letting go again…

I repeat: You don’t need to know what you desire to let go of what feels complete. If you put it down, you might catch inspiration about what’s next drifting through your less cluttered mind. You might integrate what you’ve already done into whatever you do next.

But whatever you focus on next will look different. It will be fresh, like a new generation of leaves emerging from a springtime tree. If you let go of clinging to something outworn, you can grow and experience and be even more. And if you’re not able to give it up yet, at least let go of the beliefs and attitudes that don’t serve you. That way, you can have a different, more spacious relationship with the situation. This alone might reveal new possibilities.

Like breathtaking autumn landscapes, letting go can be accomplished with gratitude and celebration of how something or someone has enriched your life. Perhaps a soul contract has been fulfilled with another person or you’ve learned the lesson you needed from a situation. You don’t need to make anything or anyone bad to release what has served its purpose in your life.

In her popular Ted Talk, multipotentialite coach Emilie Wapnick said, “It is rarely a waste of time to pursue something you’re drawn to even if you end up quitting. You might apply that knowledge in a different field entirely in a way you couldn’t have anticipated.”

And yet, endings can be challenging. We might get in our own way. After receiving a master’s degree in education, I only taught full-time for seven years before leaving that career a few years ago. When I resigned, I didn’t know what was next. All I knew was that my soul had moved on from classroom teaching and was being called elsewhere. Despite all the hoops I jumped through to prepare myself for that career in the first place.

It had taken me a few years to muster up the courage to leave that career because of all the time and money I invested in a master’s degree, my student loan balance, employer-provider health insurance and benefits, and my vision of it being THE career for me, for the long haul. I had such passion for early childhood education in the beginning and wondered if I could get it back if only I held it the right way again. So I examined it from every angle and even requested a sabbatical year (request denied) before I finally acknowledged beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was time to let go. 

By that time, it was long overdue. After spending so much time wondering what was wrong with me because I couldn’t make it work, I was burned out to the point of no return. Putting energy into work that was so hard to show up for took up a lot of space in my mind that could have focused on new possibilities. It was like a huge boulder sitting in the middle of my mind that obstructed my view of the path ahead. 

Letting go doesn’t have to take so long. We don’t have to suffer in something that feels like clothes that have become too small or outdated because how we felt about it in the past is so different from how we feel now. Because the season has changed, as seasons do.

Relationships can take new forms. Talents, experience, skills, and knowledge you’ve developed can be integrated into something new. This is something that tends to be undervalued in our society. As a result, deciding to end a pursuit often feels like a failure when it’s not. 

Would you discourage a flower from blooming if it’s bound to wither?

How do you know when it’s time to let go, or what to let go of? If you tune in to yourself, you will know. Sometimes it’s hard to separate your deeper wisdom from other people’s fears and desires and your own conditioned patterns. I’ve found that a meditation practice and going on a spiritual retreat can be really helpful. Taking walks in nature.

Do you feel drawn to the leaves falling from the trees? If so, go outside and ask the trees for a message. Then keep your senses open, and listen deeply. Anytime you find yourself drawn to something in nature, you can ask what message it has for you.

It’s not a failure to acknowledge that something is no longer a fit for you. That’s an old, conditioned belief that keeps you living small and static when you were made to be so much more than who you used to be. Letting go is part of a tree’s growth cycle. The tree doesn’t stop growing because it lets go of its leaves that for a season or two gathered light to be photosynthesized into food. Like deciduous trees, letting go helps us to expand further. And like deciduous trees that look barren in the winter, we might need to be patient.

All you have loved remains part of you and helps to synthesize new possibilities into fuel and nourishment. It’s like the discarded seeds we toss into the compost bin that surprise us the following summer when they sprout and grow without any effort on our part.

Letting go isn’t something we’ve been taught to do – let alone letting go with grace and elegance. It doesn’t have to be something big like a job or marriage. It can be regrets, perfectionism, certain thoughts and beliefs, situations around which you’ve not had healthy boundaries, trying to do too much, resisting what is, physical or mental clutter, and so much more.

When a new generation of leaves comes out in the spring, it’s vibrant and exciting. Nonetheless, the trees will let go of them in autumn. Not because they didn’t love or need them. Not because they’re bad now. Simply because they’ve outlived their purpose, and in order to grow more, the tree needs to release them.

What leaves are autumn winds calling you to release? Can you let go of what no longer serves you and make room for something new even if you don’t yet know what it is?


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

Gone

Gone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

At Peak

At Peak

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

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

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

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

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

Cornfield sunset reflected on car hood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The Scary Basement

The Scary Basement

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

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

“Is she like a fairy?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Because we almost never go in the basement.”

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

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

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

Good question.

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

Welcome to my metaphor of the day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you, Tara. 


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

Clean Windows

Clean Windows

The deep cleaning continues…

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

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

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

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

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

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

A little thing like cleaning the windows!

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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