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

The Morning Thought Game

The Morning Thought Game

I’ve been playing a little game with myself every morning. It’s a thought game, and the object is to select a thought to begin the day as you would select an outfit from your closet. A thought that is empowering, hopeful, positive – perhaps one of appreciation or gratitude. A thought that makes you feel good and starts the day with positive momentum.

If the thought you wake up thinking about isn’t like that – if it is disempowering, anxiety-provoking, or doesn’t make you feel good – you can play the game, too. Notice how the thought feels, and put the disempowering thought away, as you would put clothes back into your closet when they don’t feel quite right. Then select a different one.

Is the sun shining this morning? Do you hear birds singing? Does it feel like spring is in the air? Is your bed nice and comfortable? You could start right there.

You could even have a positive affirmation or inspirational quote near your bed that you see when you wake up in case you need a go-to good thought, like a favorite, comfortable outfit you can rely on to feel good in. I have a few affirmations surrounding my bed. There are two on the door, and on each side of the bed there is a candle with a positive affirmation wrapped around it. The messages placed around my bed are very intentional.

What kind of thought doesn’t work in this game? Any thought that is somehow constricting or binding or restricts your breathing, preventing you from getting a nice, deep, full breath. Any thought that doesn’t feel right, doesn’t make you feel like who you want to be, or makes you feel self-conscious. Any thought that doesn’t support your sense of who you are at your best and who you are becoming. Thoughts that are unflattering and don’t make you feel beautiful and worthy. Thoughts that might work for others but don’t feel right for you perhaps because they are not compatible with your energy or vibration (kind of like how different colors work better for different people).

Choosing your thoughts in the morning really is so much like deciding what you want to wear. You could even set a thought out the night before so you don’t have to think about it in the morning. It’s just there. You can plant a thought in your mind before you fall asleep – something you feel grateful for, perhaps. That’s why writing in my gratitude journal is the last thing I do before getting into bed at night. You could even leave a note to yourself next to your bed to remind you of a positive, empowering thought to think when you wake up.

Consider how you might arrange your bedroom so it’s a pleasurable experience to wake up in it. This includes the artwork on the walls, the color of the walls, having a totally clutter-free bedroom, nice pillows, and a comfortable mattress. The first thing you see when you wake up can set the tone for the day, so consider: If it were a metaphor, what might it represent? If it’s something with a negative association, can you move the object or change the way you see it so it has a more positive meaning?

If you keep your phone near your bed, perhaps because you use it as an alarm, you could put it in airplane mode so you’re not inundated by emails or social media notifications when you first wake up. Give yourself some time to check in with yourself first and generate friendly thoughts so your first thoughts of the day are on your terms!

I love my bed so much that my go-to thought is how grateful I am to have such a comfortable bed. If I find myself thinking a negative or otherwise disempowering thought when I wake up, I can start thinking about how comfortable I am in my bed and how appreciative I am to have it. It’s like taking an outfit out of the closet and realizing it’s not the one you really want, then putting it back and taking out one that feels like yessss!

Playing this game can become a morning habit. When you tune in to the gratitude or feel-good channel, it sets in motion a flow of gratitude and good feelings. And when you can get a wave of positive thoughts and feelings going in the morning, it’s a wonderful way to start the day that can give you some immunity against negativity. See how long you can ride that wave!

© 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.

Advanced Decluttering: Tackling Inherited Clutter

Advanced Decluttering: Tackling Inherited Clutter

Is it just me, or do you find yourself feeling acutely aware of what was going on a year ago at this time? As we orbit the sun, it’s like we travel through the same place in space where the ghosts of yesteryear linger. It makes me think of tree rings. Another orbit around the sun, and last year’s ring is still within reach and pulsing with energy that pulls you in.

Last year at this time, I was really deep into my epic clutter-clearing journey. I decluttered the entire house, leaving no spoon, paper, or screwdriver untouched. Today, I am immensely grateful to last year’s Susan for embarking on that transformational journey. My living space feels entirely different now. There’s no more clutter! I don’t even have a junk drawer anymore! Everything – absolutely everything – my eyes rest upon in my home is there because is serves a purpose or brings me joy. If I didn’t love it or use it, I got rid of it. I walk around the house all the time now marveling about how incredible the energy feels. My living space supports my vision of who I want to be and is no longer bogging me down and holding me back.

After finishing the house, I decluttered my car, my computer, and so much else. Around May, I turned my attention to the storage unit I rented for my parents’ possessions after selling their house. I thought I’d start with family photos and brought home three plastic tubs of them. Although I had the best of intentions, when the warm weather set in, my attention was drawn away from the photo tubs, and they remained in the corner ever since. 

A couple weeks ago, I was overtaken by the urge to clutter-clear once again. Only there wasn’t much to declutter because I’d already done that thoroughly and haven’t reverted at all because I got to the heart of my relationship to the clutter and addressed it at the core. The way it felt after decluttering motivated me to prevent the creation of new clutter.

However, the three boxes in the corner called to me, so I rolled up my sleeves and got started.

My Grandfather’s Pictures

I began with photographs of my paternal grandfather and his family of origin and pulled out the family tree he drew up for me in his impeccably neat handwriting. As I cross-referenced old photos and relationships with the family tree, it occurred to me that it was February 19th: my grandfather’s birthday! He would have been 111. I celebrate my mom’s and grandmother’s birthdays by making their signature recipes, and going through old family photos with the family tree close by seemed like the perfect way to spontaneously celebrate my grandfather’s birthday. What a great way to kick off this new round of decluttering!

I spent the morning going through lots of pictures from his life and wrote names on the back of any pictures that didn’t have them already. My grandfather was the eldest of 12 children. He and one of his brothers emigrated from England to Schenectady, NY in 1921, when my grandfather was 14, to live with their grandfather, who came over several years prior. My grandfather only has one living sibling: his youngest brother, Ralph, in British Columbia. I adore my great-uncle Ralph and his wife and children (who are around my age) and put the mystery photos in a pile to scan and email to Ralph. He has helped me to identify many of them, with background information about where the pictures were taken and on what occasion. 

That afternoon when I drove to work, I turned on the radio to the local NPR station when the historian for the city of Schenectady was being interviewed. The synchronicity made me feel even more connected with my grandfather on his birthday. I love it when things like that happen! As I would find out later, there was an abundance of historical pictures, articles, and artifacts about Schenectady amongst my grandfather’s and father’s belongings.

Gaining Momentum

That was 13 days ago, and since then, I’ve gone through all three boxes of photos and 15 more containing photos, papers, cards and letters, and mementos! I’m on a roll, and it feels amazing! I sort the pictures into plastic tubs assigned to my son, my daughter, my siblings, and myself. There’s also a tub that contains ziplock bags for other relatives, mostly cousins. If a photo shows more than one of my siblings, I put it in a general box of photos to scan and digitize so everyone can have a copy of the digital library I’m compiling. It feels great to create boxes of photos for each family member, which I intend to give as Christmas gifts this year. I have no idea how many more boxes of photos I’ll find in the storage unit, but it will get done one box at a time. 

The biggest takeaway so far is to be sure to write names on the backs of photos! I’m taking time to do that now. Thank goodness my great-uncle is around to help me identify people on my dad’s side of the family. Some photos mailed from England say things like, “There I am in the middle!” But who is “I”???

A couple days ago, I went through the biggest plastic tub of photos yet. Inside it was a really old photo album that seemed like it must have been stored for decades in the deepest, darkest, dampest depths of my parents’ basement. It was my mom’s photo album from her early twenties, before she met my dad. There were photos of old boyfriends (including one I believe she was engaged to), cards, postcards, etc. These were the “missing years” of my mom’s life about which I knew very little. What a treasure!

One of her best friends from those years synchronistically searched for my mom online and found her via a Facebook page I created for her when she was languishing four years ago. That friend, who hadn’t seen her in 25 years, showed up a day or two before my mom died, and we sat around her hospice bed listening to her share stories from when they were young women. Although my mom wasn’t able to participate in the conversation or even open her eyes, it was a great blessing to have her bestie from way back when show up when she did. And now, I have pictures from that time period!

Feeling the Pain

The difference between decluttering my stuff and decluttering my parents’ stuff is that they held on to things related to me that I wouldn’t choose to keep. And so I found myself face-to-face with images of (and letters from) former selves I felt rather ashamed of. There were many pictures in which I clearly had an attitude. Why did I have to be such a sulky, stick-in-the-mud kid when my parents were so sweet? I even found a printed email my sister wrote to my dad 20 years ago telling him what a wonderful dad he was. She wrote that I probably think so, too, but have been so critical towards everyone lately, not just him. Yikes!

I wish I hadn’t been like that – so serious, critical, perfectionistic, easily offended, and emotionally distant – and got a little stuck in regret. I had to take a deep breath and remind myself that’s not who I am now, and there was a reason for everything. Eventually, I’d work my way through it and find peace. When another wave came along, I’d do it again. Nothing like getting a glimpse of yourself from the perspective of your family members!

Sometimes a “healing crisis” can arise if you do a lot of decluttering at once. When that happens, you need to slow down and take some time to ground yourself and process what’s coming up. Take a break. Take a walk. Get together with friends. Remember who you are now and who you are in the process of becoming. Allow yourself to let go of former identities that no longer serve you, and acknowledge how much you have grown and transformed since then. Find a way to send love and acceptance to your former self – or to your current self if you feel you’re not measuring up to the great potential you had earlier in life. It’s all an invitation for greater love and self-acceptance.

The most difficult photo album was the one from my parents’ last trip to Hawaii in the fall of 2012. They looked so happy and had no idea they would return home to news that would devastate them. A few months later, my dad had a heart attack, and a year after that, my mom was undergoing chemo and had begun her decline. That Hawaii trip was probably the last time they were truly happy before the series of unfortunate events. However, I don’t know what their souls came here to learn, so perhaps the events were just part of their path and their curriculum here on earth and not so unfortunate after all. And perhaps having me for a daughter was part of that, too.

Fascinating Findings

The most fascinating box so far was a huge, heavy one I opened last night from which a strong, musty odor arose. I covered my nose and mouth with a mask to sort through that one. My great-great grandfather’s postcard collection (received mostly from his daughter and granddaughter – my grandmother) were among the artifacts, along with numerous, old photo albums from my dad’s childhood. I also came across a mysterious object that looked like the lid to an old, ornate box. As I worked my way through the box, I found a matching, bejeweled piece that was the front cover of a huge Bible, followed by an enormous text block that had become detached from its covers. That Bible must have weighed at least 15 pounds! It was the sixth family Bible I have come across, and along the way, I’ve learned how to dispose respectfully of Bibles in various conditions.

The simple Bible that belonged to my great-grandfather on my mom’s side was the one I discarded most ceremonially. It seemed to have the most energy and contained numerous notes, newspaper clippings, photos, cards, obituaries, etc. There were several pages missing, so I couldn’t donate it. I removed all the artifacts and cut out the pages in the back where important family events were recorded. Then I lit a rose-scented candle and sat down to meditate on how best to dispose of the Bible. Options included burning, burying, and recycling. I ended up recycling it. I gently and lovingly removed the text block from the (non-recyclable) covers and put it inside a brown envelope on which I wrote some words that expressed my intention to release it honorably and with gratitude for how it has served my family through the generations. Doing that felt right and complete. I honored my ancestors and their faith and felt connected with them. It was quite beautiful.

There were other artifacts besides Bibles that I’d choose to discard. I put some of the more interesting ones aside to photograph prior to getting rid of them. The stuff I’m sorting through brings up insights about my parents and ancestors, and I’m taking pictures and journaling about those insights rather than holding on to all the stuff.

Sorting Pictures

I’ve sorted through thousands of photos now and disassembled at least 25 photo albums and upwards of 50 framed photos. I’ve also thrown out lots of photos and have developed a system for sorting and discarding. Pictures of unfamiliar people and vacation photos ended up in the garbage because they don’t have meaning to anyone now. As I looked through my parents’ vacation photos of scenic landscapes, I paused to feel the joy they must have experienced under a spectacular Hawaiian sunset sky, for example. It felt like joy was being transmitted directly through the photos. I kept some of them, but there’s no need to hold on to most of them because the stories and context are lost. Attuned to intuition, I feel very clear about which photos to keep from a batch of vacation photos and which ones to let go of. I also am recognizing the sentimental value of portraits taken by professional photographers (like myself).

I’m convinced my parents have held onto every photo, note, and piece of paper that ever made its way into their home! But I still haven’t come across any of my journals from when I was in junior and senior high school. My younger sister told me she’d found them after I went off to college, and she and her friends read them for entertainment…which was terribly embarrassing! I wonder what happened to the journals and shudder at the thought of my parents finding and reading them – exposing my innermost thoughts and experiences during the time I put up such an emotional shield between myself and my family. My sister seems to think they are long gone, and I’m actually okay with that!

After going through about 20 boxes from the storage unit, it’s almost to the point where I feel I’m starting to make a dent and create some space. Making it through a box feels kind of like decluttering a cabinet or drawer in my house. A small but significant victory! It feels overwhelming at the time but is very gratifying when you’re done and feel so much lighter. I came up with a method of sorting pictures and papers into the following categories:

  • trash
  • recycling
  • keep
  • plastic tub to give to a certain family member
  • photograph then discard
  • scan then sort
  • giveaway/donate
  • yard sale.

Anything designated for a yard sale goes back in the storage unit with a price sticker on it.

So one box at a time, I shall proceed with this decluttering pilgrimage. Eventually, I’ll get to the end of the pictures, papers, and mementoes, which I imagine will feel like successfully clutter-clearing a room in my house. Then I’ll move on to another category, like household, kitchen, books, etc. 

It’s going to take a while…but one box at a time.

© 2018 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (River-Bliss.com) is a contemplative photographer, writer, educator, and artist who lives on the Hudson River. Her work combines her passion for photography and writing with her deep interest in the nature of mind and perception and her love of the natural world. 

Tea Time Tune-up

Tea Time Tune-up

Do you have a favorite self-care ritual that uplifts your energy and improves the quality of your day? For me, that would be my tea meditation. I’ve written about it before, but it has such a positive effect and has evolved over time, so I’m writing about it again. I don’t do it every day. There are even times when I skip an entire week. But when I do it, everything about it feels great. 

I find that doing tea meditation works best in the morning because it sets a tone for the day and sets a stream of positive momentum in motion. If I wake up feeling down or off, doing tea meditation soon after getting out of bed uplifts my energy and gets it flowing in a more positive direction. It helps me get back in alignment with my true self, which is a mighty awesome feeling.

So, how to do tea meditation? The first step involves tuning in to intuition. Which teacup do you feel most drawn to? What shape or color? What flavor tea do you want to taste? And then the question that sets tea meditation apart from just enjoying a cup of tea: What energy or essence do you want to infuse the tea with? What do you really thirst for today?

Sometimes you might not be able to answer that question right away, and that’s okay. Just start making the tea. Boil the water, pour it into the teacup or mug that feels best, drop in a teabag, and sweeten it a bit if it feels right. The answer might come while you do these steps. But no worries if it doesn’t. There’s still time.

It’s easy to fall into habit and grab your usual teacup and tea blend without thinking about it, but this is an invitation to be more present and aware. Take a deep breath, tune in to yourself, and ask: What do I really want? What feels right? Those are great questions to practice, in general, and tea meditation is a small but worthwhile opportunity to exercise the muscles of intuition and presence. 

I have a special spot on my meditation altar for my tea meditation mug, as well as a teeny-tiny (only two inches in diameter) plate for placing the teabag when it’s done steeping. You don’t need a special altar for it. The intention is what matters, and you can bring that anywhere.

As the teabag steeps in the steaming water, take a few moments to get centered. I do this on my meditation cushion, but again, you can do it anywhere. You might begin by focusing on your breath or doing a brief meditation practice (brief because you don’t want the tea to get cold!). Then tune into your energy, and consider what quality you’d like to activate or expand. That is the kind of tea you will prepare! For example, you might choose: 

  • Gratitude Tea
  • Love Tea
  • Empowerment Tea
  • Prosperity Tea
  • Joy Tea
  • Willpower Tea
  • Peace Tea
  • Alignment Tea

The possibilities are endless. If you want, you could even write the name of the tea on the teabag label to strengthen the intention. Cinnamon Rose tea is lovely, but Cinnamon Rose Love Tea totally rocks! 🙂 

If you have a vision board, consider placing it in front of you. You can focus on some of your vision board images during your tea meditation, if it resonates.

Now, get comfortable, hold your teacup or mug in your hands, and feel the warmth. Then focus on the kind of energy you want to infuse your tea with. You could start with just the word: loveprosperity, etc. Imagine the word going into your tea. Better yet, conjure images and feelings that activate that quality, and put them in your tea. Feel the feelings as best you can. If you’re steeping Prosperity Tea, for example, what would prosperity look and feel like? Does it look like standing on a tropical beach? Does it feel like the excitement of getting on an airplane to go someplace you’ve always wanted to go? Have you experienced that feeling before? Bring up the memory, and feel the feeling again. Let it infuse every cell of your being! 

Spend at least five minutes focusing on the quality of energy you want to awaken and expand, and imagine it going into the tea. Give it your all – the sky’s the limit – and make it awesome! Then start sipping the tea. Imagine yourself drinking in deeply that energy/quality/essence. Feel it becoming part of you.

This morning, I couldn’t decide on a particular energy or quality for my tea, and then a little voice in my head exclaimed, “Then make Feel-Good Tea!” So I focused on the best feelings I could remember experiencing. Some examples are: 

  • Completing a work of art that turned out better than I ever imagined
  • Balancing a particularly challenging, crescent-moon shaped rock (that seemed impossible to balance, but I believed I could do it)
  • Being offered a full-time teaching job
  • Discovering what my parents left behind for us because they loved us so much
  • Watching the full moon rise over the sea
  • Feeling the energy of the sunrise on the seashore
  • Meeting my children for the first time and feeling empowered by the birth experiences
  • Being on retreat at Light on the Hill retreat center
  • Getting married
  • Decluttering a room in my house and feeling the amazing energy flow
  • Experiencing and photographing a glorious moment in nature
  • Feeling deeply connected while breastfeeding my babies and gazing into their peaceful/blissful face as they relax into sleep nourished by love
  • Gliding on the river in my kayak.

You also could project forward (which is where a vision board is useful), and imagine how great it will feel when you achieve or become what the images and words on your vision board represent. Imagine yourself there now, and focus on the feelings! Send them into your tea.

Tea meditation is such a lovely ritual, full of warmth and good feelings. When the weather is hot, you could do this meditation with a beverage that feels refreshing and nourishing, such as infused water.

If you try it, I would love to hear how it went for you and what kind of tea you made. Send me an email, comment below, or comment on my Facebook page!

© 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 Magic Mixer

The Magic Mixer

One evening, I was making oatmeal raisin cookies and took my grandmother’s electric hand mixer out of the cabinet. I often use other methods for whipping up a nice, fluffy batter, but sometimes I’m drawn to the mixer. As I used it to beat the cookie batter, my energy shifted. I began to feel what I assumed my grandmother felt when she made cookies for loved ones or whipped mashed potatoes for a holiday meal. The pleasant feeling grew stronger and felt like love and joyful anticipation of being with family. Her energy and love came through the hand mixer so strongly!

Then I felt her presence even stronger behind me, like a hug from behind. It filled me with happiness, and I cried happy tears! She’s been gone for seven years, and I miss her.

Some inherited objects are like conduits of energy, portals into a departed loved one’s heart. That’s why my grandmother’s electric hand mixer survived my epic decluttering event last year. When I held it in my hands to determine what to do with it, I felt her spirit and decided to keep it. I call it the “magic mixer” because, in a way, it brings her back.

There’s something special about a grandmother’s love. I’m sure I’ve written about it before. It tends to feel more purely unconditional than a parent’s love because grandparents tend not to worry so much about things parents lose sleep over. There’s a kind of wisdom and perspective that comes from launching your own children, from which you can view the inevitable challenges and understand that much of what parents worry about is small stuff. Much smaller than parents in the thick of parenting tend to believe. Grandparents can see the bigger picture and assure subsequent generations, “It’s going to be alright. You’ll see.”

What I’m trying to articulate is that, generally speaking, parents can get so caught up in the day-to-day business of raising children that it’s harder to see the forest for the trees. They have lots of balls up in the air and get tired, stressed out, and snappy. The parent-child dynamic tends to be stickier and more controlling than the grandparent one, and to be fair, I didn’t give my grandparents the “attitude” I reserved for my parents! The parental ego can get so tangled up in children’s successes and failures, and even without meaning to, parents can make you feel like you’re not good enough as you are. 

Not so with grandparents, or at least not in my experience. I attended an Elisabeth Kübler-Ross talk in Tampa back in the early ’90s, and she asked us to think of one person who gave us absolutely unconditional love. I was in my early 20s, and my grandmother came to mind. Kübler-Ross followed this question by suggesting it’s often a grandparent who’s present to us in such a steady, unwavering way.

That’s how my grandmother was. She was my rock. When I looked in her sparkling, blue eyes, I didn’t see the worry I saw on my parents’ faces. I saw my goodness reflected back to me. I’m sure I gave her plenty to worry about, especially with the divorce when my children were young. But she still came out with reassuring words when my parents weren’t able to, and she made light of their reactions. We had a special bond.

I’m reading a book called Walking To Listen by a young man named Andrew Forsthoefel, who walked 4,000 miles across the United States after graduating from college because he wanted to hear people’s stories and wisdom and understand what it means to be an adult. He was on a quest for guidance and found it, sometimes in the most unlikely people and places. The book falls within my favorite genre: people walking on a quest for personal transformation.

One sentence I read the other night really spoke to me. During his travels through Alabama, he was taken in by a pair of grandparents, and the woman told him about when her mom died. When she remarked to her priest that she felt like an orphan, he replied, “You are not an orphan. You are a matriarch.”

Truly, in any moment, we can choose to focus on what is missing or what we’ve got.

I dreamed of my two-year-old granddaughter the other night. In the dream, she came up to me and exclaimed, “Mama!” (which is what she calls me because she can’t pronounce “grandma” yet) and collapsed in my arms, as if I was her safe place, just as my grandmother’s heart and home were mine. Little Ava needs the purely unconditional, grandmotherly love I can give her. I want to be her rock, like my grandmother was mine. She will need a rock. Don’t we all? Someone to be there for us unconditionally, who reflects our light and believes in us always.

That’s the energy I felt when I used my grandmother’s electric hand mixer. Grandmotherly love, as both a granddaughter and a grandmother. I am new to this grandmother thing, but the love I experienced when using the mixer felt like a form of both guidance and connection. It was like holding a compass in my hand. A compass that points to love.

There is a choice in moments like that to lean into grief or gratitude. I could cry because I miss her and feel bad about the way her life ended in a nursing home. Or I could embrace how her spirit connected with me, grandmother to grandmother, and seems to be guiding me in my new role, which she inhabited gracefully for 45 years.

Little Ava. She’s the one who most needs me to reflect her beauty, light, strength, and goodness. I am motivated to be the best I can be not only for myself but also for her. May she see her own reflection through me and how I love her. By loving her unconditionally, may I plant seeds for her to cultivate self-love. Hopefully it won’t take her until she’s 50 to do so (like yours truly), but that’s her path and her business. My part, my responsibility, is to love her…without any strings or conditions. Just love, like my grandmother did for me.

© 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.

All the Beautiful Qualities

All the Beautiful Qualities

It’s not for everyone. But what a powerful weekend it was! Inner Critic weekend up on the hill.

I’m one of 20 enrolled in the first year of the three-year Hidden Treasure program at Light on the Hill retreat center in Van Etten, NY, near Ithaca. There’s not a certain “type” of person who participates in Hidden Treasure. We have a retired trooper, a kindergarten teacher, computer programmers, college professors, a minister – just to name a few. And there’s a very wide age range, as well, including parents, spouses, and adult children of former Hidden Treasure graduates. We’re all there to discover the “hidden treasure” of our True Self and to transform what gets in the way of that.

The Inner Critic, for instance.

On Saturday afternoon, we made a list of hurtful words our Inner Critic says to us and then starred the one that stings the most. I chose “Nobody is interested in anything you have to offer.” Ouch. There was a whole lot of ouch in the room. Then we did a dyad activity in which we sat facing a partner who read our selected Inner Critic comment to us in as harsh a voice as possible, repeatedly, to notice how it felt and where we felt it in our body. In my mind, I realized the unkind statement wasn’t true, but I became aware of a stabbing sensation below my ribs when the words were spoken and felt like a little child shrinking into a corner, not wanting to be seen. 

As I worked with my partner, I heard the other pairs around the room and all the harsh words of my classmates’ Inner Critics expressed out loud. 

You’re stupid.

Nobody likes you.

You’re an imposter.

You’re a hypocrite.

You’re ugly.

You’re incompetent.

Nobody would like you if they knew what you’re really like.

On one hand, it sounded ridiculous because the people in the group are such lovely human beings, and I wanted to tell them not to listen to their Inner Critic because it lies! However, it also was powerful to hear all these silent voices in other people’s heads, unsilenced.

Actually, I hear the Inner Critic’s voice spoken out loud quite often in my part-time work at the library helping patrons with computer issues. There’s a lot of self-deprecating “I’m so stupid!” declarations, and I always assure people that no, they’re not stupid, and so many other people run into the same issues and feel the same way…because it’s true. Hearing my five-year-old kindergarten students exclaim, “I’m stupid!” broke my heart when I was still teaching. Such frustrated exclamations tended to be followed by tears, hiding behind their coat in their cubby, or pounding the table. The Inner Critic is formed early.

It’s something we all have going on to some extent, and my voice isn’t any more truthful than anyone else’s. We say things to ourselves that we’d never think of saying to a friend or anyone we care about. I can’t even imagine speaking such unkind words to anyone! It felt awful to have to say those words out loud to my partner. And at the end, she told me I was too nice. Too nice to others, perhaps, and yet, I still say those words to myself, especially when I’m tired or stressed.

Next, we repeated the activity, but this time, we replied by saying something like “…and I am a being of light” or “…and I am a seeker on the path”. It felt empowering and expansive, like I was so much bigger than that critical voice in my head and could rise above it. The words couldn’t penetrate like sharp arrows as they did in the first exercise.

We did a number of guided meditations and activities over the weekend aimed at transforming the Inner Critic. I recalled a recent conversation in which I wanted my daughter to realize how strong she is. I told her I know who she is. I was there when she was born and when she was a baby and experienced her radiance, which is still there beneath all the layers of conditioning that have accumulated around it during her lifetime. That’s who she really is – the hidden treasure – and that’s who we really are. Witnessing the birth of my two children and one grandchild showed me that this innocence and radiance is our true nature. We never lost it. We just lost our way to it because other stuff got in the way. Therefore, we don’t have to become more in order to “improve” ourselves. We just have to find our way back to our true nature and release or transform what is false. What a marvelous journey that is.

Our closing activity Sunday afternoon was incredible. We stood in two lines and faced the person opposite us. We held hands with that person, took a moment to get centered, and then looked into their eyes and said the words that sprung up from our hearts that described their essence. Then we switched roles. After each person in the pair had a turn expressing and receiving, one line shifted so we had a new partner in front of us. This continued until we had been with ten different partners. It was the polar opposite of the previous day’s exercise, and it was exquisite. By the end, everyone was shining, having been reminded of our beautiful qualities, our deeper essence that shines through the layers of personality and conditioning.

During the four-hour drive home, I voice-recorded the whole experience, to remember.

Then my thoughts turned to my parents. Realizing that so many people have histories of abuse and trust issues, I felt grateful for having parents who were so loving and kind. They were also my parents, and there were conflicts, misunderstandings, projections, roles to play, and things got messy. Although they could be rigid in their thinking and passive-aggressive in their actions, they were truly loving people. They both were sweet souls who never offended or argued with anyone! However, when they were alive, I didn’t notice their beautiful qualities much. I was fixated on their personalities and the roles we played together. In my mind, I criticized my mom for being too sweet and nice and wanted to be different from her.

Since I was their daughter, I experienced other sides of my parents – their fears, the ways in which they wanted to control me or change me. At the time, it felt like judgment and disrespect, but in hindsight I realize they just cared about my welfare so much and wanted me to be happy and successful and had different ideas about how I should go about it. I’d always wanted my parents to be different. More spiritually open-minded and inquisitive, more encouraging of my creativity, less fearful. That’s the personality stuff that got it in way, which was very different and so much smaller than their essence.

When my mom was dying, there was a softening of her personality and the roles we played, and I felt her essence come through more strongly and clearly than ever. It was really beautiful, and I was in awe of it. When we stopped playing our roles, it felt like we could really be present to each other. That was perhaps the greatest gift of that difficult and anguishing chapter: interacting as two rays of light rather than as mother and daughter.

Now that she’s gone, I can let my light shine even brighter because I’m not trying to suppress the qualities I associated with my mom that are also very strong in me.

So I did that amazing exercise with ten people I’ve only known for a few months and realized I’d never really allowed myself to see or express to my parents their spiritual essence – the rays of light they emanated in the world. Reflecting on their lovely qualities brought me to tears. Gratitude tears. I appreciated them so very much and felt so connected with their essence – their hidden treasure. The “…and I am a being of light” part of the human experience. Now that my both my parents have passed on, that’s all that remains. How wonderful is that?

Being aware of my parents’ essence helps me to realize that anything they did that hurt me was not done with an intention to do so. That realization helps me to liberate myself from my Inner Critic, which they unknowingly and unintentionally helped to create. One of the gifts of not having them on this earth anymore is how easy it is to acknowledge their divine qualities – the greater energy and pattern of their lives. I have so much gratitude for my parents, even though we were so different in terms of our interests and how we viewed the world.

What about the people who are still in my life?

The Islamic religion recognizes 99 Names of God (Allah), taken from the Koran and the hadith. In Sufi circles, I’ve heard them commonly referred to as the “99 beautiful names”, and I really love this idea. So many different divine qualities to celebrate! When aspirants are initiated to the Sufi path, they are given a spiritual name. Many Sufis have names derived from the 99 beautiful names. However, some are given names from other religious traditions – in my case, Tibetan Buddhism (Tara, associated with the quality of compassion). So the list of 99 names is not exhaustive (in my opinion) but is a wonderful starting point to appreciate the different qualities of light each human being brings to the world.

As I reviewed the list of the 99 names, I considered my loved ones and myself and which rays of light we emanate through the prism of personality.

Each of us is a unique ray of light in this world. Nobody can express light and truth the same way. Our ideas and wisdom might not be anything new that nobody else hasn’t said or offered before. However, the words, energy, and personality we use to convey them is uniquely our own. Nobody can speak in exactly the same voice or communicate it in quite the same way.

So back to the words of my Inner Critic that stabbed the deepest: Nobody is interested in anything you have to offer. First of all, it’s not true. It comes with a hook that I can get caught on if I’m not mindful. However, it’s not true. I can think of plenty of examples that indicate otherwise – and this is part of the work of transforming the Inner Critic. I know better than to allow my Inner Critic to silence me and send me into hiding. It can’t be an excuse not to share my voice, talents, and wisdom. The light we shine in the world has the power to heal and transform others. You can hear the same idea over and over from different sources, but it doesn’t really speak to you until you hear it a certain way – perhaps from a certain personality, using certain examples, or expressed in a language you resonate with.

Let’s not let our Inner Critic silence us or convince us to keep our light to ourselves. (I did that for far too long!) The world needs us to honor and express our essence, truth, and wisdom. It is worthwhile to transform the layers of accumulated “stuff” to find the hidden treasure. And to share that treasure – our True Self – with the world.

Post Script: Alice McDowell, my beloved spiritual director of 30+ years who leads the Hidden Treasure program, recently published a wonderful book based on the work we do in the program. It’s called Hidden Treasure: How to Break Free of Five Patterns that Hide Your True Self and has received all five-star reviews on Amazon. 


© 2018 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (River-Bliss.com) is a contemplative photographer, writer, and educator who lives on the Hudson River. Her work combines her passion for photography and writing with her deep interest in the nature of mind and perception and her love of the natural world. 

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!