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Category: Self-Care Practices

Supercharging the New Year

Supercharging the New Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Customize an Ordinary Planner to Make It Awesome

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monthly Intentions & Reflections Journal

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

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

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

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

Inspirational Bucket List

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

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

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

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

Daily Gratitude

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

Putting It All Together: The Magical Manifesting Bag

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2017 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness teacher whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

Getting Unstuck: The Magical Morning Power Hour

Getting Unstuck: The Magical Morning Power Hour

This year, I’m using a unique and engaging day planner. It’s colorful and spirited, and what I love most about it is that there’s room at the beginning of each month to set intentions and goals and to list the kinds of practical resources and support you’ll need to make them happen. At the end of the month, there are pages to reflect on:

  • What dreams and goals came true?
  • What sucked? What do you need to rant about to feel better?
  • What lessons did you learn?
  • Who/what are you grateful for?

I look forward to filling out the reflection pages at the end of each month because I know that, no matter what transpired over the course of the month, it’s an opportunity to: get a better understanding of where my energy went, forgive myself, and start fresh with setting intentions for the upcoming month.

At the beginning of the year, I used a companion workbook to brainstorm goals and create a list of “100 Things to Do in 2016“, which I use to set monthly goals in my planner. As the year progressed, new goals replaced some of the goals that were originally on my list, so I’ve been keeping it fresh and staying fairly focused and on track.

Until – BOOM! – August hit.

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August and September left me feeling derailed. Off track. Distracted. Frazzled. My dad needed sudden, major surgery and hospitalization followed by a second surgery, hospitalization, and rehab, which required me to significantly alter my schedule and redirect where I put my energy. In the middle of all that, I got my son off to film school (which made me an official empty nester) and prepared for having my first vendor booth at a festival in September, which was a heck of a lot of work the first time around! It’s also senior portrait season, so I’ve been focusing on drumming up some portrait work. And I began the process of applying for an artist grant to publish my first book and both started a part-time job and returned to subbing at a private school to stay afloat while building my photography business…after feeling I haven’t made much progress in that department over the past two months despite my best intentions.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not someone who glorifies being busy. It’s just that, for whatever reasons, I’ve had a little extra on my plate lately. The bottom line is that sleep, exercise, meal prep, meditation, and writing – the activities that keep me sane and balanced – fell largely by the wayside, and I got thrown out of whack from trying to fit in so much. I became overtired and felt I had gotten quite off course and wasn’t making satisfactory progress toward my goals.

Then I realized that I am not alone. (Are we ever?) In September, “getting unstuck” (stopping a downward cycle, getting out of a funk, etc.) was a common theme amongst virtually every blogger and spiritual teacher I follow. Some of their advice included:

  • Acknowledge where you are
  • Don’t blame yourself
  • Cultivate gratitude for what you DO have and for being motivated to have/do more
  • Declutter your house, schedule, and mind to make space for what you want to attract
  • Take a step out of your comfort zone, and do something you’ve wanted to do, however small
  • Make a small commitment to refocus every day
  • Cut yourself off from negativity by replacing negative thoughts and stories with more positive, productive ones

With the exception of decluttering (which is a work in progress), I’ve done all of the above, and to gear up for a strong final quarter of 2016, I also gave my workbook and planner a fabulous makeover by covering them with my own painted papers.

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In addition, I’ve been experimenting with a practice that works wonders for me: Starting the day with what I call a MAGICAL MORNING POWER HOUR!

Actually, it was my new moon intention last month, but throughout the course of the month, I became sidetracked by events both within and beyond my control, so I’m recommitting to my Magical Morning Power Hour once again during this new lunar cycle because it makes such a positive difference in the quality of my day – so much that I realize the importance of putting a NO TRESPASSING sign around that time, so to speak. It is sacred time not to be intruded upon by anyone or anything else. It’s my way of staying focused, true to myself, and on track.

My Magical Morning Power Hour is something I look forward to each morning, and it inspires me to get to sleep early enough so I won’t end up sleeping through it. It is time for me. And despite what we have been socialized to believe by a culture that glorifies being busy, taking time for yourself is neither selfish nor lazy because when your energy is in a good place, you’re able to be more fully and effectively present to others. As an introvert, I consider it an absolute necessity for healthy functioning. But introvert or not, when you take time to tune in and nourish yourself, you set a positive ripple of energy into motion.

Some people discipline themselves to do a certain practice every day, but you don’t have to. Having a consistent, daily practice is like photographing the sunrise from the same location every morning. You get to know a place intimately and experience it differently than if you keep moving around. You notice the nuances that can only be perceived when you know a place (which could be a physical location or your own, inner space) so well. But there’s also value in letting intuition guide you toward what you need on a particular day. You can check in with your energy, and consider whether you feel drawn to movement or stillness. Or perhaps you could commit to a regular practice (one small thing) and supplement it with what feels right on a given day.

Although I like the sound of Magical Morning Power HOUR, you need not set aside a full hour! Some mornings, looking at my vision board before getting out of bed and drinking warm lemon water from a very special teacup is all I have time for and is enough to reinforce my intention to nourish and honor my deeper self, set a positive and mindful tone for the day, and refocus my energy. Other mornings, I am able to stretch it out to more than an hour. Many mornings, I’m motivated to do more activities than I realistically can fit in, and I have to reign myself back in and remember it’s not necessary to do so much. It’s like being tempted to fill your plate too many times at a buffet of delicious, nutritious food. More is not necessarily better! Better to savor and taste fully what you are eating rather than rush to consume more. Quality over quantity. What I can fit into the allotted time is enough. It’s really about mindfulness and intention and not just jumping into the day on autopilot.

To give you some ideas, here are some of the activities I include during my Magical Morning Power Hour:

  • Body scan meditation while still lying in bed
  • Sip warm lemon water with cayenne
  • Tea meditation
  • Chakra tune-up (I use Jonathan Goldman’s Chakra Tuner app)
  • Mindfulness meditation (Insight Timer app is a great resource)
  • White light visualization
  • Yoga (I love Yoga with Adriene on YouTube)  
  • Walk in nature with mindfulness of beauty and possibly a camera
  • Watch the sun rise
  • Look at my vision board 
  • Read out loud the affirmations I wrote to accompany my vision board
  • Walk a labyrinth
  • Pull an oracle card (I use Universal Cards and Angel Tarot Cards)
  • Breath practice
  • “Filling the holes” practice (given to me by my spiritual director)
  • Tapping/EFT (Brad Yates on YouTube)
  • Take my kayak on the river
  • Hand and/or foot massage
  • Listen to inspired, meditative music or spiritual content while preparing food
  • Watch an inspiring video
  • Read a poem (I love Mary Oliver) or few pages from an inspirational book
  • Spend a few moments with the current month’s edition of Sister Joan Chittister’s The Monastic Way pamphlet
  • Balance rocks

If you feel you’ve gotten off track or have fallen into a downward spiral, no worries: You CAN push the reset button! It’s never too late! It might be worthwhile to reflect on how you got sidetracked, but don’t indulge in negative self-talk or blame yourself for not doing better. That, my friend, is counterproductive – a waste of time and energy better spent putting your best foot forward in the direction you want to go. The beginning of a new month, season, or lunar cycle is a wonderful time to clear the slate and set fresh intentions. But really, ANY day is a day you can return home to yourself and accept the invitation to follow the pull from your core and live the life that feels like yours to live – beginning with how you set the tone for your day.

For me, life still feels a little too full for comfort, but as I work on decluttering, my Magical Morning Power Hour is not up for reconsideration. It is a keeper! It helps me to have greater clarity about everything else – what is truly important and what I can let go of. And on mornings when I wake up feeling anxious about (well, name a category!), it is where I source my strength, serenity, and sense of security. Like starting the day with a nourishing breakfast, it is how I power my body, mind, and spirit with high quality fuel at the beginning of each day.

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© 2016 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness 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. 

Water Lily Medicine: A New Tool

Water Lily Medicine: A New Tool

This morning, I woke up to a supportive text from someone who loves and cares deeply about me and realizes it might be a difficult day. I’d awakened early this morning feeling worried about how the day might go but managed to get back to sleep for a couple more hours, and receiving that text, literally within two minutes of waking up for good, made a difference. It was comforting to begin the day knowing that I am not alone and that someone truly cares.

In order to get back to sleep a couple hours earlier, I focused on releasing my thoughts and replacing them with thoughts that brought relief, and I scanned my body to become aware of and release any tension. I told myself it’s okay if I don’t fall asleep and had a Plan B (yoga nidra meditation) if I didn’t. And then I fell asleep and awakened to that wonderful text.

Through half a century of living in this world and being dedicated to personal and spiritual growth, I have developed an well-stocked toolbox to help me regain my sparkle when I’m feeling down. The toolbox is filled with resources that empower me to embrace my wholeness and shine my inner light. I’m sure you have such tools at your disposal, too. Each of us has our own toolbox, though the contents will vary from person to person according to personal preference and what gets the job done. Personally, gratitude is one of my power tools that yields consistently effective and amazing results, and I have many specialized, go-to tools in the mindfulness compartment of my toolbox, as well.

And thank goodness for that because July has been an emotionally tumultuous month here on the Hudson! For example, I took my son (my youngest) to college orientation for incoming freshmen, and it hit me that he really will be going away in less than a month and that I will have an empty nest for real. Not just practice, like when he’s seven minutes away at his dad’s house, but for real. I’ve also been witnessing the decline of a close friend’s mental health and feeling there’s nothing I can do to help. My dad’s physical health is suffering, and another friend is dealing with an alarmingly heavy load that life has served up. 

It’s worthwhile to open our toolbox and do maintenance and improvement on a regular basis because the greatest gift we can give one another is our whole, loving self. It is that wholeness I strive to cultivate so I can give those around me the gift of my best self rather than a smaller version of myself that depends on them providing me with the relief that ultimately comes from me taking personal responsibility and doing the inner work only I can do

But there are times when our energy and resilience are low – perhaps from exhaustion or overwhelm (which can happen when we’re not using our daily maintenance tools) – and encountering a great loss or challenge leaves us feeling needy, vulnerable, and incomplete. We might not even have the strength to open our toolbox and might forget we have a toolbox in the first place.

That’s when a kind and caring communication from someone who truly loves us can make a difference and give us that burst of strength and positivity that makes a difference. So surrounding ourselves with people who are naturally kind, loving, and supportive is a great tool to have in our collection. And it’s important to maintain our toolbox by discarding what doesn’t work for us. Life is too short to waste time sifting through our toolbox to locate useful tools in a pile that includes tools that are broken or never worked for us in the first place, even if others swear by them.

The other night, I felt very sad and lonely. It was an uncomfortable feeling that I realized I probably should sit with even though I wanted to flee from it. I sensed that if I ran from it, it would lodge in my body, whereas if I sat with a witnessing presence, it might dissolve or transform. But the idea of sitting and “being with” the uncomfortable sensations felt daunting. I wanted a distraction to whisk me away from the acute discomfort I was experiencing.

It was a clear indicator that life was offering me a tremendous opportunity for healing and growth…disguised as pain.

And then the image of a water lily came to mind.

White Water Lily-1

I’ve been drawn to water lilies even more than usual lately and have spent hours photographing them on the river. There’s something about their energy and form that speaks to me. So when a water lily appeared in my mind during a moment of acute anguish (aggravated by being overtired), it inspired me with a simple movement that helped me to inhabit my fullness again and expand beyond feeling tattered and diminished. I call it “water lily pose,” and I made my first-ever guided meditation video to share with you. It’s simple and brief, and it’s the newest addition to my spiritual toolbox that can be useful when you are feeling disempowered in the face of personal or world events and long to return to your whole, sparkling self. Water lily medicine.

© 2016 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness 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. 

100 Things in 2016

100 Things in 2016

I mentioned in a previous post that I’ve been working with a new and inspiring tool: Leonie Dawson’s  2016 Create Your Shining Year in Life workbook. I carry it with me everywhere and have been using it to brainstorm goals, set intentions, and map out my year. It’s an incredibly motivating resource.

One of the most powerful features of the workbook is the “100 Things to Do in 2016” list. This is a list of things large and small that I would like to make happen this year. Although it was a little intimidating at first, I managed to come up with more than 100 ideas and could have kept going. But I decided it would serve me better to limit it to 100, so I moved some off the list and onto the back burner for future consideration. Some of the items are things I’ve wanted to do for a long time or am curious about. Others are activities that will force me to stretch out of my comfort zone and say yes to things I’ve been resisting all my life – things that don’t come easily to me at all. I’ve already accomplished some of the goals on my list and feel the list helps me to live a more amplified and creative life in greater alignment with my true self and really gets the energy flowing! 

Throughout January, I worked on creating my “100 list” and mapping as many items as possible into my 2016 planner. I find that mapping it prevents me from trying to take on too much all at once. When it’s written in my planner, I can take a deep breath and know I will get to it in time. And with a few different balls up in the air, mapping it out ensures I will attend to seasonal tasks (such as developing summer workshops/classes and creating inventory for my Etsy shop) without missing the boat. There are other, smaller items that I couldn’t pencil in right off the bat but will revisit at the end of each month to consider whether the time is right to add them to my planner. For instance, this month one of my “fun” goals is to take a tai chi class – which I haven’t done in nearly 30 years!

A lot of work went into creating my 100 list. In the process, I:

  • Brainstormed by filling out workbook sections for creative, soul, mind, relationship, family, body, house, travel and adventure, finances, community, self-care, and support goals
  • Created “magical mountain maps” for my two biggest goals
  • Went through my Pinterest boards to find intriguing ideas I haven’t tried yet
  • Was inspired by other women’s lists and ideas shared in the Facebook group of (mostly) women who are using the workbook
  • Drew upon resources including: notes from presentations I attended, lightning flash inspirations, advice from my spiritual guide, and inspiring materials I came across in the process of purging household possessions
  • Recalled things I’ve been wanting to do but never got around to.

After creating my 100 list, I grouped the items into categories, prioritized them, and wrote the most important and/or urgent ones in my planner. In addition, I broke down two of my biggest goals into smaller steps and wrote each step in my planner. It probably sounds like a great deal of work – and it is – but I find great value in doing it because it helps me to:

  • Really take inventory of my dreams and desires and map out a course of action
  • Remember what is most important to me – and make each day count
  • Challenge myself to stretch out of my comfort zone and grow
  • Keep life juicy and inspired
  • Brainstorm and notice what resonates most – and focus on that
  • Stay on track and get the work done to manifest my goals.

I carry my “manifestation tote bag” everywhere. It is my magical tool box that includes:

  • My workbook and companion diary planner
  • Colored Sharpies, including special metallic ones
  • My gratitude journal
  • Sketch book (because some of my goals are artistic)
  • An inspirational book I’m reading

I also keep two highly inspiring audiobooks in my car to listen to as I’m driving around: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and Wishes Fulfilled by Wayne Dyer.

I keep all these resources close to me at all times because you never know when ideas and inspiration will visit! The workbook is also a great source of support because I took the time to reflect on:

  • How I want to spend my time (and use it more efficiently)
  • My personal mottos and affirmations
  • My strengths and “amazing habits”
  • My sacred word for the year and ideas for embodying it
  • My medicine bag of what I can turn to when I’m low on energy or inspiration
  • “Things to do when everything sucks”.

Workbook3collage

In addition, I created an “attunement lantern” (which I sell in my Etsy shop) around the theme of abundance (my sacred word for the year)

Attunement Lantern Miracle

…and a dream board that helps me to remember my dreams and intentions every day. (I keep it next to my bed so it’s the first thing I see when I wake up and then bring it downstairs so I’ll see it during the day.)

Dream Board

I also created two vision boards on Pinterest that I can keep adding to and changing around as I feel inspired. One is a general vision board, and the other is a photography vision board. And I keep labyrinth art in sight to remind me that sometimes when it seems like I’m far from reaching my goal, I’m just about there – so keep going!

As you can see, I’m serious about transforming my mind, energy, and life by surrounding myself with resources and reminders of my goals and intentions! When I hold them in my awareness, I have more energy and attract all kinds of clues, insights, possibilities, conversations, serendipity, and magic moments that I might not have noticed or encountered otherwise. My intuition is supercharged and at the wheel, and I am having a full-blown love affair with inspiration that makes it easier to deal with the stuff that isn’t so fun or doesn’t come easily. Life feels much more expansive than it used to, and I place my trust in that.

Although it may sound corny, I wake up in the morning and wonder what I will learn, create, and accomplish today and where I will find beauty and inspiration. That motivates me to spring out of bed ready to engage with intuition and curiosity and see where it leads. It gives me the energy to take action and go to the places that scare me, fueled by gratitude and intentions and supported by a community of kindred spirits. So far, I have discovered that the combination of inspiration, intuition, curiosity, and gratitude is magical and transformative and takes life up a notch! This is my year of experimenting with Alan Watts’ question: How would you really enjoy spending your life? 

Before sharing my 100 list, I want to share two videos that have inspired me greatly. The first is narrated by Alan Watts

…and the second is a presentation by Elizabeth Gilbert: Flight of the Hummingbird: The Curiosity Driven Life (click on title to view video).

And finally…

Here is my categorized

LIST OF 100 THINGS TO DO IN 2016

Creativity

  • Complete my book (multiple steps – mapped in my planner).
  • Have a photography exhibit.
  • Photograph:
    • Northern Lights
    • A sunlit, frosted willow (Winter)
    • Snowflakes (Winter)
    • Really creative scenes featuring the full moon and a person and/or prop
    • A spectacular sunrise or sunset over the ocean
    • Pink water lilies
    • Hot air balloons (Lake George Balloon Festival, September 22-25)
    • [My daughter] (and other pregnant women)
    • [My daughter] (and other new moms and babies)
    • Hospice patients (capture the light/essence that shines through as the physical body becomes more transparent)
    • Orbs
  • Video:
    • Ocean waves (production quality)
    • Fireflies in the back yard
  • Write a poem inspired by Mary Oliver’s poem, “Gratitude”.
  • Write about moments when I wished I’d had my camera.
  • Practice calligraphy.
  • Make a mandala from natural materials (Danmala for inspiration).
  • Collect pressed flowers and ferns for art projects. (May-August)
  • Create beautiful papers with acrylic inks and plastic wrap. (January)
  • Make photo candles.
  • Create zentangles.
  • Decorate rocks with Sharpie and/or acrylic paint (and inspirational words).
  • Record a guided meditation.

Creativity: Technical

  • Learn how to use the video function on my camera.
  • Take a Lightroom and/or Photoshop course. (January-February)
  • Finish reading the book about my camera.
  • Attend presentations at Exposure (photography guild).
  • Purge photo library.

Creativity: Business

  • Create awesome résumés.
  • Compose a really great Artist’s Statement.
  • Connect with TB regarding photography biz.
  • Learn all I can about wedding photography. (February-March)
  • Buy a screen and another strobe for portrait/indoor photography. (February-March)
  • Enter a photography contest.
  • Get my photo coasters into stores for tourist season. (May)
  • Apply for and receive an artist grant. (August – Community Arts Grant seminars)
  • Participate in a craft fair. (September: SSPL Maker Faire)

Online Business & Social Media

  • Redesign my website, and add a shopping feature.
  • Boost social media following and mailing list dramatically.
  • Master Instagram, and post daily.
  • Sculpt Linked In presence.
  • Share blog posts and images on Pinterest.
  • Purge and migrate Flickr photos to a new platform. (Behance or Zenfolio?)
  • Make branding consistent across all social media.
  • Connect with JL about selling art online.
  • Create and sell 100 calendars. (October-December)
  • Have a giveaway to build my mailing list.
  • Offer spirit lanterns via my Etsy shop.
  • Explore passive income opportunities (including stock photography).

Teaching

  • Provide creative classes/workshops based on mini courses I’ve already developed, “the best of” my classroom activities, and what I am most passionate about.
  • Create a course menu with descriptions and price ranges. (February)
  • Re-establish a relationship with [a local independent school].

Finances & Prosperity

  • Complete the Money Manifestation course (January)
  • Make a habit of feeling my “Thriving Creative” money persona.
  • Create a filing system for business expenses and record keeping.
  • Resume my full student loan payments, and pay off Sallie Mae loan completely.
  • Get into the habit of searching Craigslist for opportunities.

Spirit

  • Float monthly in a float tank.
  • Go on retreat at Light on the Hill. (September)
  • Do all the experiments in the E-Squared book by Pam Grout.
  • Make a photo album of magic moments and serendipity.
  • Make a gorgeous and inspiring physical vision board.
  • Make and maintain a Pinterest vision board.
  • Maintain a list of inspirational quotes to pair with images and share online.
  • Practice leaning into and ventilating thoughts that arise with an emotional charge rather than getting hooked or resisting them.
  • Discover and walk new labyrinths.
  • Have an astrological reading with Rick Jarow.
  • Experiment with tapping.
  • Take a tai chi class.
  • Participate in a drumming circle.

Body

  • Take yoga classes at the YMCA and/or online (Yoga with Adriene).
  • Whip up a batch of body butter.
  • Obtain a Comfort U body pillow.
  • Have a gift massage from [a local massage studio].
  • Buy a pair of hiking boots to replace the pair I had to discard.

Exploration & Travel

  • Go to the beach.
  • Visit [relatives] in Vancouver/Sunshine Coast. (May or August)
  • Visit [friend] in Wyoming/Yellowstone.
  • Visit Watkins Glen State Park when the fall foliage is at peak and photograph waterfalls. (October)
  • Hike Cascadilla gorge.
  • Hike Robert H. Treman State Park trail.
  • Visit The Wild Center.

Home

  • Purge SO MUCH STUFF. If I don’t use it and it doesn’t bring me joy, let it go! (January-February)
  • Create a home workshop/office space.
  • Clean tarnished jewelry.
  • Grow an herb garden. (May)
  • Obtain a larger, comfortable bed.

Family & Relationships

  • Take [my son] to visit Ithaca College.
  • Attend and photograph Ava’s birth.
  • Write a love letter to Ava.
  • Watch Downton Abbey with Dad.
  • Obtain a baby sling(s) for [my daughter].
  • Use Hilton gift certificate.
  • Make a meal for someone who could use it.
  • Have a garage/estate sale.

Community

  • Hold gatherings for making spiritual, season-inspired art with other women.
  • Leave positive, empowering messages in public places.
  • Accept invitations from female friends.

© 2016 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness mentor whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York. 

The Best of 2015: A Tea Meditation

The Best of 2015: A Tea Meditation

Barely a week and a half into the New Year, I’m feeling a sense of hopeful momentum supported by unprecedented planning, organization, and support. This year, I’m taking life up a notch. I want to play with possibility and see what kind of magic I can tap into that I’ve been shutting out until now. I intend to break the mold, and it’s exciting.

Part of being intentional about planning for the new year is reflecting on the previous year. I’ve been taking inventory of what did and didn’t work, lessons I’ve learned, how I was transformed, what I discovered about myself, etc. At the top of my list of 2015 successes is what I call my “tea meditation,” and I want to share it with you.

The tea meditation is inspired by Michelle Martin Dobbins’ Daily Alchemy blog post on Making “Love Tea” and a breath practice that my spiritual director recommended when I went  on retreat in the fall. It’s really simple and is a meditation that I actually look forward to every day because it feels amazing and is a remedy for when you experience a sense of emptiness or lack or if you simply want to cultivate a certain inner quality or energy.

What is it that you long for? That you feel you lack and might try to acquire in unhealthy or unproductive (and perhaps unconscious) ways? In this mediation, you will focus on that – on really feeling it and then (literally) drinking it in. I focused on love/nurturing, and as a result of doing this meditation regularly for three months, the grief and emptiness I felt stuck in last year has transformed into a sense of wholeness and completeness – a feeling of being tapped into an eternal Source of Love from which I can radiate and source love for others. In other words, I have gone from seeking love to being love and am so grateful for this miraculous shift! Now I am focusing more on abundance (which is my sacred word for the year). But if I feel shaky about love and experience myself seeking or longing for it, I’ll return to it.

You can perform this meditation with tea, water, juice, or any beverage that feels truly nourishing to you. I like to use tea because when the tea bag is steeping in the hot water, it helps me to imagine that the quality or feeling I want to develop is infusing the water.

You might want to dedicate a special mug for this ritual. I chose one that felt right to me, and then my daughter gifted me a mug that she decorated by hand and which therefore means a lot to me, so now I have two. (If you’re looking for a special mug, check out what my talented cousin, Chris, has to offer! )

Tea

Here’s how you do it: While the tea is steeping, hold the mug in your hands, and imagine that whatever you long for most and feel is lacking in your life is being put into it. (Since I focus on abundance, I’ll use that as an example.) See the word itself going into the water, and concentrate on generating a feeling of (abundance). This might involve visualizing yourself manifesting a certain goal, recalling a memory in which you felt a sense of abundance, or imagining how someone who embodies abundance might feel. Put all that good stuff in your cup! Become attuned to the frequency of abundance while the tea is steeping, for at least five minutes. Focus as completely as possible. Really feel it. (It feels quite amazing!)

Tea2

When your beverage has cooled down or you feel ready, start sipping it, and imagine that the vibration of abundance (for example) is going into you and becoming part of you. Feel the warm liquid entering you and spreading through your body. Allow what you seek to fill you!

When I experience the vibration of abundance during this meditation, I often have insights about what attitudes, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors support or restrict the flow of abundance in my life. Sometimes it simply feels wonderful and empowering and raises my vibration. When I’m in that state, whatever is not in harmony with that vibration falls away. It doesn’t resonate. And sometimes I receive encouraging signs.

For example, one morning I was feeling very much attuned to the vibrational frequency of abundance and was really feeling it. Then, in the middle of the meditation, I heard a cha-ching! notification from my Etsy shop that I made a sale! When I heard the sound, I glanced at my phone and saw that it was 11:11 – a time that holds special meaning for me! It felt quite magical and validated that I’m on the right vibrational frequency to attract abundance.

In a recent blog post, I shared instructions for making “spirit lanterns” to illuminate aspirations and intentions for the upcoming year. If you made one, your tea meditation could focus on one of the words on your lantern – whichever one feels most relevant and essential to cultivate at this time. Focus on that word for a month, and see if anything shifts or changes. Focus in depth on the quality you feel you’re lacking. Totally focus on it. Experience it. In other words (borrowing from my previous post): Feel transformed. When you do, you’ll find that you’re not lacking anymore!

I truly look forward to sitting on my cushion and doing my tea meditation. It feels so good to get in the vibrational state of actually feeling and radiating the quality that I want to attract or cultivate – to feel that I already have it. To really drink it in and feel whole, complete…and transformed.

© 2016 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness mentor whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York. 

 

Floatation Restoration (Part Two)

Floatation Restoration (Part Two)

It’s been a while since I’ve written about floating in a float tank (after my first experience back in April). Seven months later, I have several floats under my belt and derive so many benefits from floating that I want to write about it again! (Before proceeding, you might want to click HERE to read my previous article so you know what I’m talking about in the first place.)

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Assuming you now know what a float tank is, I won’t go into any greater detail than to say it’s a sensory deprivation tank that is filled with about ten inches of heavily salted water that makes you completely buoyant without having to do anything whatsoever to stay afloat. There’s a dim light inside the tank that you can leave on if you want to, but I don’t see any point in doing so because I always float with my eyes closed – and you wouldn’t want a drop of very salty water to fall into your eyes if any condensation accumulates on the ceiling.  You step inside the tank, close the door (or keep it slightly propped with a towel if it helps you feel more comfortable), turn off the light (if you want to), and float effortlessly on your back. And then your journey in dark and silent nothingness begins!

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Though people’s float tank experiences differ, there are some themes that have been quite consistent for me before, during, and after floating. Oftentimes before floating, I feel flustered because there’s so much I feel I need to do. There’s just not enough time for everything I want and “need” to do, and I feel a great deal of pressure to accomplish it all. It feels so important.

But inside the float tank, the sense of urgency and pressure melts away and doesn’t matter. There’s nothing so critical that I should allow it to disturb my repose, and I’m able to let go of any anxiety and urgency around my to-do list. Floating in a sensory deprivation tank puts everything into perspective, and my attitude softens into: Just do what you can do! It’s not the end of the world if I don’t get everything done that I think I need to do today.  I’m able to see the small stuff for what it is, and much unnecessary activity falls away. Then I emerge feeling ever so calm and aware of what I really do need to prioritize (i.e. purging my living space!). It’s like pushing a supreme reset button in there. You come out with a clearer sense of what’s important, liberated from what was weighing on you when you went in. You emerge completely reset. Or at least that’s my experience!

Inside the float tank, I find that no thoughts are compelling. I’m simply not interested in thought! I feel like a cell with an impermeable membrane that nothing of this world can penetrate. Thoughts don’t carry any kind of emotional charge when I’m in there. They arise. But they’re not interesting. And they go away. It’s incredibly refreshing! It’s like blowing soap bubbles. They float in the air for a few seconds and then gently pop, and – poof! – there’s no more bubble. It simply disappeared.

Instead of fixating on thought, I focus on the sensation of relaxation and effortless suspension, without anything solid underneath me (which is something you really don’t experience any other time).

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Out of the tank, I try to practice 25 minutes of mindfulness meditation every day. For the first five minutes, I focus on my breath. The next five minutes, I expand my focus to physical sensations. Then listening. Then thoughts. Then all of the above. Being in the float tank for 90 minutes is very much like an hour and a half of mindfulness meditation. Inside the tank, there is no sound except for my deep, steady breathing (which is quite audible), so mindful breathing and listening are completely intertwined. That’s what I focus on the whole time (because with my ears immersed in the water, my breathing is quite loud), along with the sensation of complete relaxation. And I get deeply relaxed in there. I am talking about serious theta brainwaves!

It’s incredible to have no interest whatsoever in thinking! I keep returning to the sound of my breath – which is very slow, rhythmic, and calming – and to the sheer sensation of complete relaxation and suspension. Floating is the only time I experience that, and it’s what I want to focus on in the tank. It really is incredible. I feel the energy in my inner body. I’m not aware of my physical boundaries. I feel so light, and nothing physical matters or even registers. (There’s no gravity, temperature, or sensory input to process. Can you imagine that?) Everything, from the top of my head to the tip of my toes, is completely relaxed. Immersing myself in that sensation of extreme and complete relaxation is really all I want to notice or attend to in there. It’s all that seems to matter. Sheer presence devoid of sensory input.

My experiences in the float tank pose the question: Who am I removed from everything else? Who I am is energy and peace.

Here’s an example of the difference between my post-float and ordinary consciousness: After floating, I turn my phone back on and see that there are text messages and notifications from social media. But there’s barely even a hint of curiosity or interest around that. I’m not looking for communications or information to enhance my life in any way or to add anything to my reality because I am absolutely complete right now. I don’t need anything at all – from anybody. There’s really no need to check my phone in the first place. Nothing can contribute to my experience right now. It’s awesome to feel absolutely complete, fulfilled, and tranquil.

I really appreciate the sensory deprived environment because I am quite sensitive to sensory overload in general. I don’t have a TV and find it extremely jarring when the television is on when I’m away from home. The same is true when I go to a mainstream movie theater and have to sit through pre-show entertainment and trailers. It’s too loud and over the top! I also experience sensory overload in shopping malls and at crowded places and events. And forget bars! I can’t handle anything about that environment and have avoided them my entire life! Even when I taught kindergarten and spent the day steeped in the energy of a classroom of active, young children, I needed to lock my door, turn off the lights, and decompress/meditate next to my soothing water fountain when they were out of the room, to recharge my batteries for the rest of the day.  For me, the quieter and simpler the environment, the more at ease I feel. So I am totally in my element in a float tank.

From my experience, it seems the state of mind you bring into that float tank shapes your experience. There was only one time when I didn’t have a pleasant float. It was in late May heading into the weekend of the anniversary of my mom’s death. I was in a great deal of emotional pain at that time, fraught with raw grief, and the sensory deprived environment just made me more aware of the illusion of separation between me and everything else. It was the exact opposite of what I’ve experienced every other time I floated and was only because I was in such a fragile state of mind at the time. In the tank, I experienced the urge to be connected to the living world and couldn’t handle being alone. I turned on the light at one point just to feel anchored to something instead of surrendering to the usually deep and fulfilling nothingness of the tank environment.

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But that experience provided me with some insight about what it must be like to die – which was totally relevant to the anniversary of my mom’s death and re-experiencing the days and hours leading up to it. I remember thinking that when you die, you want to be in a place of resolution. You don’t want to have unfinished business or deep, dark secrets festering inside because something like that could make it really hard to let go. I recall when my grandfather was dying and kept repeating an agitated cycle in which he looked up at the ceiling, exclaimed his (still living) sister’s name, and stated with urgency, “I’ve got to get out of here!” It seemed there was something important he needed to tell his sister before he could give in to the process and die a peaceful death. I advised my mom and uncle to contact her and see if she could talk with him on the phone. They were unable to reach her, told him so, and asked if they could convey a message for him. After hearing that, he fell silent. The cycle stopped, and he died a couple of hours later. I always wondered what was so important that caused him to fixate on her during the final hours of his life. Was their last interaction discordant? Did he need her forgiveness? Did he have information he needed to share with her? Was he worried about her? He took that mystery with him to the grave, but one thing was certain: Something related to her was getting in the way of him being at peace.

My takeaway is that when everything is stripped away from us – and death is a process of stripping away everything we think we are and believe we need until we’re left with just our core essence – where you are mentally, emotionally, and spiritually is what matters. I imagine it can be terrifying if you’re not in a place of acceptance. You don’t want to get to the end when you’re leaving this life and think that you’re not a “good” person or didn’t live a “good” life, or worry about loved ones. You want to go out with a sense of integrity, reconciliation, and peace. When that stripping away happens, you cannot hide from yourself. Your world becomes progressively smaller, and you enter a cocooning process that seems similar to being in a float tank. There are so many distractions in this world that allow you to hide. But there are no distractions in the float tank. My May float signaled that my emotional “pain body” was so strong that I couldn’t let go and access deeper layers of consciousness that day.

Having no distractions and connecting with deeper layers of consciousness is something I absolutely love about the float tank. Removed from sensory input, the daily stress and all the other dust that has accumulated at the surface dissolves, allowing me to go deeper, like an astronaut floating in the vast universe of inner space. It is an experience of incredible lightness, even in complete darkness. Even when I float on cloudy days, after leaving the float spa, I feel like I’m shining like a sun – because it seems light is what I am at my core when all else is removed. It’s what I find in the deep nothingness.

In the tank, there’s just me, the steady rhythm of my breath, the incredible sensation of relaxation and suspension, and freedom from thought, emotions, and any sense of urgency. It is tremendously therapeutic, relaxing, and simply awesome.

© 2015 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness mentor whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York. 

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