Category: Kindness & Compassion

Different Views

Different Views

A few evenings ago, there was a spectacular sunset on the river. From our east-facing side of the river, we tend to experience glorious sunrises and occasionally stunning sunsets, as well.

That evening was one such occasion. Puffy, white clouds reflected clearly by the calm water lured me into my kayak.

I almost didn’t bring my camera. Leaving the house, I assured myself the phone camera would suffice. I wanted to travel lightly and focus on paddling, not photography.

But in a moment of stopping and waiting for traffic to pass before crossing the road, I experienced an intuitive nudge to go back inside and get my camera. And it’s a good thing I followed that voice because 45 minutes later, I floated on a river of awe.

Once again, I realized what a difference a “sacred pause” can make in receiving intuition, inspiration, and wisdom that goes unnoticed when we’re immersed in a cloud of thought. 

When I paddled to the other side of the river, the puffy clouds that lured me onto the river were not visible. Unless they left their houses, people living on the east side of the river wouldn’t have known they were there! From that side of the river, I could see a large cloud over our house. (Actually, it was over the hill behind our house.) The clouds to the west were illuminated differently than the clouds to the east. This particular cloud was backlit and outlined with the most beautiful light. The idiom, “Every cloud has a silver lining” came to mind.

From inside our house in the river valley at the bottom of a hill, we wouldn’t have any awareness of it. Similarly, we usually only get a very faint indication of breathtaking sunsets happening at the top of the hill that are visible from the west-facing side of the river.

While floating in my kayak, I thought about how our view of the world is largely determined by where we “live” – literally and figuratively. Which way we face and what portion of the sky we’re exposed to. Residents of one side of the river might have a very different perception of the landscape than those on the other side or up on a hill in either direction. Some might look forward to sunsets instead of sunrises or experience longer periods of sunlight than we do in the valley. We might be totally unaware of what is clearly visible on the other side of the river, and vice versa. The only way to have a wider perspective is to travel to someone else’s yard – perhaps on the other side of the river or up on a hill – and see from their point of view. Then you might understand what it looks like from where they are and how their ideas developed.

I loved living on one side of the river and seeing the sunrise and working up the hill on the other side of the river and catching the sunset…although that usually meant I was working later than I should have been!

River Neighbors

Seeing the clouds on the river that evening also brought to mind an experience I had last year when a person of interest enrolled in one of my photography courses. Realizing people in general were more sensitive and angry in the wake of all we’ve been through, I was concerned this person’s presence could be distracting or even triggering for some. The situation the universe pitched my way was an invitation to grow and ended up being deeply transformative for me. 

Whereas I had time to prepare, the other participants didn’t. I wanted to be able to manage skillfully whatever dynamics might arise and relate to all participants as human beings, not roles.

During our first session, after talking about some technical stuff, I turned to more inner aspects of photography, which is where the juice is for me. I talked about how nature photography can serve to connect us both with nature and with other people. I explained that I know most of our river neighbors on both sides of the river between the two locks. We river neighbors don’t necessarily share the same views of the world. However, our shared love of the river unites us. We talk affectionately about bald eagles, herons, egrets, loons, swans – and commiserate about the bridge noise. Sometimes a neighbor will even notify me when they see something interesting on the river that could be a photo op.

I feel a deep sense of connection with all of our river neighbors because of this shared experience of living on the river. And the connection even goes beyond the Hudson River. When I talk about living on the Hudson, there’s an instant connection with anyone who’s ever lived on a river.

I love that my river neighbors help me to become aware of what I didn’t see because I was focused on something else. I love seeing what the sky or fog (for example) look like from their perspective when they share pictures. And sensing their appreciation for the river helps me to see their goodness – their inner light – even if we hold different views. Our views are just a small part of who we are as human beings, and it’s important to remember that. Our views and opinions, no matter how strongly held, are not our essence.

The point I was making in the photography course is that the participants were drawn to learning about nature photography because of some kind of caring, longing, or appreciation. We had something in common beneath the surface that brought us together. And months after the course was done, I learned what drew the person of interest to my course and that we had something else in common, on a heart level. No matter how differently my river neighbors or participants in my classes might relate to current events, I’ve learned to look deeper, for our common humanity. Usually, there’s some kind of caring or wounding if you dive down deeper.  

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow asserted: 

If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each [person’s] life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.

It doesn’t mean you do anything different on the outside. You don’t need to move to the other side of the river, so to speak. It’s an inner shift that allows you to perceive someone as a whole person, not an ideology, viewpoint, or role. You won’t lose yourself by adopting a greater perspective unless the ideology or viewpoint forms your identity. If you identify with it, it might feel threatening to see the goodness and integrity of someone on “the other side” of an issue. But we are so much more than our beliefs and conditioning. Who we are at our core has nothing at all to do with that.

The problem isn’t that we hold different views. It’s when an ideology of any sort becomes our identity. Because at that point, we stop perceiving ourselves and others as the complex human beings that we are. Instead, we relate as one ideology to another, which is diminishing and potentially dangerous.

Opening your heart to the goodness of someone who seems different from you also doesn’t mean turning a blind eye to the effects of the personality. As I’m sure we’ve all learned from experience, some personalities can be very destructive and damaging. They’ll drain your energy if you let them.

Focusing on the goodness and losing sight of the harsh realities of certain personalities can make us vulnerable to being mistreated by them…unless we also see and value and want to protect our own goodness and integrity. My recovery from an abusive situation focused not on demonizing the other person but on acknowledging my own worth, looking deeply into why I became so invested in caring about them, and practicing better self-care. Whenever they come to mind now, I wish them well and carry on. Or as the Jimmy Buffet song goes: Breathe in, breathe out, move on.

Listening to the Voice

An experience I had yesterday morning seems somehow related to all of this.

There’s a deck of inspirational cards displayed in our kitchen. There are hundreds of cards in the collection, and every month, I count out enough for each day of that month. So every day, there’s a different card displayed.

Before going to bed the other night, I looked at that day’s card. A Rumi quote was printed on it:

There is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen.

When I woke up in the morning, I opened up the Insight Timer app to do a guided meditation. Every day, a new quote appears when you open up that app, and what quote do you think came up that morning? That same Rumi quote! So I paid attention and took it to heart.

A little later that morning while editing photos, I found myself singing Olivia Newton-John’s song, Have You Never Been Mellow. I hadn’t heard that song in – well, I can’t even remember the last time! My association with the song was from my childhood, when it was released on vinyl. My dad was a fan and had the album. I loved listening to my parents’ records when I was in elementary school. That album was one I played and danced around to. 

So there I was editing photos and singing the refrain, over and over. And then I felt a presence behind me, wrapping around me. It felt like my dad.

The Rumi quote came to mind, and I stopped editing photos and became present to the energy. Then I heard my dad’s voice inside me, offering loving advice. He wanted me to set myself free from the way I was thinking about money – his way. And he gave me permission to do so. Then he said: You’ve been walking around with my voice in your head for too long. Let it go. I couldn’t see the whole picture when I had a body that got in the way. You focus on what really matters. Let go of the rest. It’s your life, not anybody else’s. 

I was in tears because it was very powerful to hear this message coming from my father’s energy. I’m in the process of decluttering my parents’ belongings from my storage unit. But I was torn between having a yard sale and donating the stuff. I imagined my dad would have tried to sell it first rather than give it away. Obviously, my parents had no use for it anymore. However, I felt I should honor the value they placed on their possessions. And that was holding me back. So the message was deeply meaningful and liberating.

What really stood out was the part about having a body that gets in the way of seeing the whole picture. It’s like not being able to see the whole sky from where we are in the river valley. We can only see a portion of it, and it might look very different from what our neighbors across the river or anywhere else in the world can see. We might have hills or mountains obstructing our view. Or the limitations of our physical senses. Or the beliefs we’ve had conditioned into us or otherwise adopted as truth.

Partly Right

The late Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh, offers six mantras of true love. The sixth one is: “Darling, you are only partly right.” This could be uttered in response to praise, criticism, or viewpoints from your inner voice or from someone else. It also can be applied when we are glorifying or devaluing someone else or otherwise creating an idea of them based on where they stand in relation to what we hold dear. 

Instead of relating to someone as an idea we have about them, is it possible to allow ourselves to relate to them as actual human beings inhabiting this river of life and experiencing emotions, delusions, pressures, and suffering, just as we do? Maybe a different flavor, but the same basic experience. The experience of clouds passing through the sky of awareness and obscuring the light of our true nature.

Another Rumi quote comes to mind:

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.

That is the challenge and the invitation I’m weaving from all of these experiences. Can we wish for all beings to be well, happy, and free from suffering – even those on the “other side”? It doesn’t mean enabling or turning a blind eye to injustice and suffering. It means first tending to and developing our own hearts. Then bringing a wise and loving heart into our relationships with others. 

With actual people, not ideas of them. 

I never would have imagined pictures of clouds would have led to all of these words, but there you go.


© 2022 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this post or excerpts of it as long as you give proper credit to Susan Meyer and SusanTaraMeyer.com. Susan Meyer is a photographer, writer, and spiritual teacher who lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

True Freedom

True Freedom

More evenings than not, I have lengthy video calls with my granddaughter, who will turn six later this month. The other night, she told me she wishes everyone could “just be good to each other.” My daughter told me that was her “Santa wish”, and she also expressed it again last night at bedtime.

Out of the mouths of babes.

Sometimes I tell her there are adults who maybe should go back to kindergarten and learn how to get along with others and manage their feelings better. She thinks that’s funny…but also true.

Her wish reminded me of some words I penned in the middle of the night recently, before falling back to sleep. I wrote them and then put them aside. Hearing my granddaughter’s wish prompted me to revisit and share them.

True Freedom

Whoever you are, you are
First and foremost to me
A soul being expressed
As a human being
Who loves and hurts
And hopes and grieves
Just like me.

I, too, have held some beliefs
So tightly that a position 
Became my identity 
And lifestyle choices
Became a checklist
By which I judged
And set myself apart
From others.

From that, I learned 
It doesn’t feel good to be so rigid
In my beliefs, to push away
So many “unenlightened” others.
It causes suffering.

I, too, was for a time
On more than one occasion 
Seduced by charisma and appearance.
I, too, clung to an idealized image
Of someone because it helped me
To feel better about myself.

I have both looked down on 
And elevated others
To boost my self-esteem:
Pushed them away to affirm
I was unlike them
Or pulled them close and sought
Their approval and affection 
To affirm my worthiness.

But eventually I realized
It felt better to set myself free
From all that nonsense
Than to perceive someone
As either a minor god or a monster
And sometimes both.

There have been times
When I held onto illusion 
For far too long,
And therefore I cannot condemn
Anyone else for doing so.
My experience, though humbling,
Has grown my compassion.

May I not be content to make
Anyone into a concept such as
Narcissist, corrupt politician,
Or simply other
And fail to see them
As a multifaceted being,
Just like me.

May I not hold any label
As a destination
But rather as evidence
That there is more
To learn and understand.

And at the same time, may I 
Implement healthy boundaries:
See their light and take no shit.
May I feed the Good Wolf 
In myself and others.

Hurt people hurt people.
And I, too, have hurt people.

I have betrayed myself
By using someone else
As a self-worthiness project
And know how bad it feels 
To make self-betrayal into a habit
And a prison

To which we ourselves hold the key.

What great relief it has been
To stop projecting
My stuff onto others
And to set myself free.

It wasn’t easy, but it was
Worth it every time
To step out of the story,
Let the spell wear off
And relate to actual people
Rather than ideas or ideals

Even when someone
Really hurt me.

Choosing to see more clearly 
Even when it makes our ideas wrong
Or somehow less right
Doesn’t make us weak,
Is not failure.
To stop regarding
Our beliefs as Truth
Sets us free.

True freedom is unmasking 
In a much deeper way:
Being seen and valued
Exactly as we are
And accepting ourselves
As such.

True freedom is refusing
To allow our heart
To be held hostage by ego
And not taking our differences
So damn seriously
That we depend on
A bad or unenlightened Other
To validate by contrast
Our own goodness.


© 2022 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this post or excerpts of it as long as you give proper credit to Susan Meyer and SusanTaraMeyer.com. Susan Meyer is a photographer, writer, and spiritual teacher who lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

The Stream of Lovingkindness

The Stream of Lovingkindness

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

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

Two Wings

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

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

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

Motherhood Metta

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unconditional Love Bank

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what they (would) want for you:

And this, too:

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

The Stream of Lovingkindness

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

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

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

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

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

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

Compassionate Breathing

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

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

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

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

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

Whatever feels right to you: Go with that.

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

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

Perhaps end the practice with:

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

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

Sharing and Connecting

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

What Do You See?

What Do You See?

This summer, the river that runs by my front door has been my refuge.

On the river, everything is so normal and predictable. It could be any summer. The sun and moon rise and set on schedule and travel the path they always do, undistracted by human drama. Birds sing. The water lilies open and close at the same time each day.

I speak insights and words of gratitude into my online journal through my phone (set to airplane kayak mode), and herons and eagles have an uncanny knack of appearing suddenly out of nowhere and flying overhead as if to underscore certain especially resonant and relevant inspirations. The other night, I was on the river doing this under the moonlight, and instead of a heron or eagle, it was a shooting star that appeared like an exclamation point at the end of a sentence that had brought me to tears of homecoming.

It’s downright magical and sacred on the river.

This stretch of the Hudson River is the church I attend almost daily. It’s been keeping me balanced and centered as 2020 continues to carve its unpredictable and uncharted course through human and personal history. It’s taught me how to stay and to deepen my connection with the life around me. When I teach meditation classes, I use the phrase “on and off the [meditation] cushion.” But out here, “on and off the river” carries the same meaning.

Riverside Litter

There is a small spot on the riverside nearby just large enough for a family or small group of friends to enjoy the river and launch kayaks. It’s been getting a lot of use this summer, which is great. However, people often leave behind their garbage. It’s been happening more noticeably this year than in the past.

One day, I paddled by this spot and was disgusted and saddened by the sight of trash piling up. It fit a basic theme of selfishness that was pissing me off. So of course that’s what I saw. A narrative arose in my head about people who feel entitled to leave behind their garbage in the name of personal freedom. I saw selfishness, irresponsibility, a lack of caring and concern for others and the earth.

I paddled away feeling irked. And separate from and somehow better than the people who left behind their trash. But it didn’t feel right. As I paddled on, I asked myself how far down the river I was going to carry these feelings and assumptions.

The great thing about having a regular meditation practice is that I can catch myself sooner when my mind goes over to the dark side. And once you realize what’s happening inside your head, it opens up a field of spaciousness in which the heart can speak.

I realized that just as people can do better with cleaning up after themselves, I can do better than judging them.

So I paddled along with a prayer in my heart:

May I and all beings be free from the suffering and ignorance that causes us to do harm. May I and all beings be free from the suffering and ignorance that leads us to exclude others from our heart.

That felt better because I was back in connection with my fellow humans.

Our human struggles and the demons we wrestle with are universal, even though they may look different on the surface. We get triggered, addicted, distracted, stuck. We fall short, miss the mark, make mistakes. It is the human condition.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that when we stop blaming others and making them wrong and instead take an honest look at ourselves and our reactions, we become empowered. Because the one and only person we can change is you-know-who. When we shift the way we look at something, new possibilities can come to light. We can find a better way to hold a situation so we can see expanded possibilities and take some kind of positive action. 

Opportunities for Caring

If we explore a little deeper, we’ll likely find that underneath our anger, indignation, and judgment is some kind of caring. The light of love, kindness, and compassion wants to shine forth, but the ego tends to obstruct it when things aren’t the way it thinks they should be.

The caring in me resonated with ideas such as putting a small sign at the spot on the river inviting people to enjoy it and to remember to carry out their trash. Maybe leaving a box of bags in case they didn’t think to bring their own. Or putting on some gloves and cleaning up the spot myself. We can see an opportunity to be of service and shine our light instead of another opportunity to disconnect our hearts. Instead of just photographing and griping, I can bring a bag and be part of a solution. I can share my images and ideas and be part of a productive dialogue.

The great news is that before I had a chance to do that, someone else had come along and cleaned it up! Another caring heart.

I’ve paddled by the littered spot on the river many times since and started reflecting on how it is connected with the other things we find unacceptable in our world, in our lives, and in ourselves. Might they, too, be opportunities to shine more light and love?

I’m thinking of issues participants (mostly female) in my mindfulness meditation courses bring up – that often resonate with me, too. I find it so beautiful when one person voices something they’re struggling with and others reassure them that they understand and that they’re not alone. Which is the truth. So often, we feel alone in our struggles, as if nobody would understand. Or maybe (God forbid!) they’d judge us. But we’re never alone. Our struggles really aren’t that special!

For example, instead of seeing weight gain as moving in the wrong direction or being unacceptable, could it be an opportunity to love your body more, not only when it meets your expectations but also when it doesn’t? With practice and intention, might feelings of disappointment or disgust cue you to take a breath and beam love to the parts – of your body, your life, your world, your past – you deem unacceptable?

I often do this during self-Reiki and chakra work. It’s a beautiful practice, and it really is a practice that you do again and again. As your capacity for mindful awareness increases, those familiar feelings of shame can cue love, compassion, acceptance, and even appreciation! And the kind of love that inspires you to give your body/life/world what it most deeply thirsts for instead of what is merely habitual. Without beating yourself up – because you realize punishment is neither a necessary nor effective path to well-being.

Might anxiety or white coat syndrome be an opportunity to bring more love and kindness to yourself, and to be less judgmental? To listen to what your body is saying when it gets your attention through a sympathetic fight-or-flight response, instead of trying to whip it into submission? Instead of creating more tension and dissatisfaction through resistance?

Litter.
Shame.
Blame and disconnection.
“I’m right, and you’re wrong.
Regrets and mistakes of all kinds.
Even fear.

What do you see in a heap of garbage on the side of the road? When you look in the mirror? When you take in community and world news? When you communicate with someone who doesn’t see the world as you do?

Can we learn to hold what we repel in a different, more spacious way so new, more empowering and caring possibilities can arise? Can we include them in our circle of lovingkindness so they can awaken our natural wisdom and compassion instead of keeping us rigid and stuck?

Yes, we can. Held the right way, the demons we wrestle become allies that help us to evolve. To love better.


© 2020 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this post or excerpts of it as long as you give proper credit to Susan Meyer and SusanTaraMeyer.com. Susan Meyer is a photographer, writer, and spiritual teacher who lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

What Would Love Say?

What Would Love Say?

I only take in current events in small sips. It’s all my sensitivities can handle. Touching in briefly a few times a week is plenty for me. I don’t watch the news at home, but when I go to the gym, headlines flash on multiple television screens, from different sources. But it’s pretty much the same: angry-looking heads and talking heads talking about why everyone’s so angry, sandwiched between commercials designed to make you feel not-good-enough without whatever product or service they’re selling.

From where I stand, it looks like a lot of unmet needs creating lots of fear and suffering. We are the walking wounded, walking around wounding, whether we realize and intend it or not. We’ve all been hurt in some way and often don’t even know how we are wounded and what deeper longing lies beneath the veneer of our various cravings, addictions, and aversions.

My mother was an appearance-conscious stewardess during the golden age of flying, and I experienced a wound in childhood that set me up for a life of self-consciousness and suffering. She couldn’t possibly have foreseen how deeply her words – intended for my benefit – would hurt me. She, too, had been wounded, in a different way, and I have tremendous compassion for her. The person who wounded her did so out of their own woundedness. And so it goes. It’s the human condition, what we’re given to work with and evolve from.

How would our view of others and our interactions with them – the quality of our hearts – change if we could see people as walking wounds crying out: Love me! Assure me that I’m good and worthy! Even the ones who seem so full of themselves.

How would our relationship with our self change if we could see our own wounds as being rooted in innocence? And if we could see the wounds we’ve inflicted on others as being rooted in ignorance rather than inherent badness?

Have you ever held a baby in your arms and soaked up their radiant innocence?

Have you ever been held in the arms of someone who sees that in you and loves you unconditionally – perhaps a grandparent? If this person were around, what would they say to you now? What do you most need to hear? What would set your heart free?

If Love could speak, what would s/he say to you? And what difference would hearing it make in your life/heart/mind/relationships? 

Well, I did a little exercise (inspired by author Elizabeth Gilbert) that you can do, too. I reached out to Love and then wrote down what Love said to me. It went something like this:

I’m right here, sweetheart.
I will be here for you
No matter what you look like
Or how much you weigh.
You don’t have to try to be
More special, successful,
Popular, or prosperous.
There’s nothing you need
To be or do
To be worthy and beautiful
And forgiven for everything
You’ve not forgiven yourself for.

I will never abandon you.
There’s nothing I need from you,
And there’s nothing you could do
To lose me. I’m with you
When you get stuck
In the painful trap
Of conditioning and fear
And fall short of who
You want to be
And find it so hard
To accept yourself.

When you lose sight
Of who you really are,
I remember and hold up a mirror
So you can catch a glimpse
Of yourself as I see you
And love yourself enough
To draw healthy boundaries
And shine.
But I also hold you dearly
When you feel too tired to shine.
I’m here when you stand tall
And when you fall.

When you are in need,
Call upon me and hear
The words I whisper constantly
Into your heart:
You are not alone.
I see you, and you matter.
You don’t have to prove your worth;
You already are enough.
I am always here.
You can draw strength
From me.

I’ve reread these words several times since channeling them and realized two things. First, what I’ve tried to do and be for others (the mirror) is exactly what I most needed, myself. Second, this is exactly how I feel about my four-year-old granddaughter and what I’d want to say to her every day for the rest of her life – though the third and fourth lines would be different and address her own inevitable wounds.

I’d be willing to bet that these are the words my own grandmothers would say to me if they could. And that makes the words very real. Not just some wish-fulfilling fantasy but a message that grandmothers and others who are capable of loving in the purest, most unconditional sense would want to imprint on dented hearts.

The good news is that we can fill ourselves up from within so we don’t walk around so needy. So we can love ourselves and others better. It’s a form of activism that feels important to me.

How would the world and each person in it be different if we reached out to Love every day and heard what we most needed to hear before even leaving the house or interacting with anyone else?

What would Love say to you?

P.S. – The night after doing this exercise, my mother came to me in a dream for the first time in quite a while. In the dream, we hugged for a good, long time. I felt her love and warmth, and surely she felt mine. It was the first time I’ve experienced a dream-hug with my mother (who passed away nearly six years ago). And it was wonderful. Totally filled me up. I went through the day shining brightly and radiating love.

We can do this.

And if you’d like to hear the words Love spoke to me, then listen here. I recorded this for you.

 


© 2020 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, mindfulness meditation teacher, clutter coach, and Reiki practitioner who 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.

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