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Category: Self-Care Practices

A Facebook Experiment in Self-Compassion

A Facebook Experiment in Self-Compassion

Last month, I reached my limit. My stress level was high. I felt upset, confused, frustrated, and disappointed and couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t selling more calendars. I had made a substantial investment to have my 2018 calendars printed and wondered why people in my Facebook network hadn’t bought more. Other people seemed to be more successful selling via social media during the holiday season. What was I doing wrong?

I had learned about the “trigger” words to avoid so Facebook won’t squash the reach of a post. The workaround was to pay for an ad, so I took the time to create nice ads only to receive messages about them “not delivering”. Grrrr! Then I learned about the bidding system that prioritizes which ads would be seen. It’s complicated, but the bottom line was that people weren’t seeing my posts or ads. I seriously began to suspect I was chosen without consent to be a subject in a secret Facebook study. By New Year’s Day, I’d had a number of mini-meltdowns and was (and still am) nearly $200 away from breaking even on my investment, which was terribly disappointing.

I was fed up with Facebook.

On the other hand, I was so grateful to everyone who did buy a calendar(s) or share my posts. Every time I received a sale, I literally jumped up and down, clapped my hands, and exclaimed, “Thank you!” It meant so much to me.

But I also began to feel jealous of people who were getting more sales and “likes” than I was – or likes from certain people – and couldn’t understand why, after posting free, uplifting content every day, more people didn’t support their local artist friend by buying a calendar. I’m not proud of those feelings, but I’m being honest.

I reminded myself of the real reason why I post daily to social media. It wasn’t to get likes. It was because photography, writing, and sharing the inspiration that comes to me through them is my spiritual practice. It’s something I can’t not do. It’s who I am and how I express myself. I’d keep doing it if nobody “liked” my posts – which, due to Facebook’s frustrating algorithms – sometimes happens! Reminding myself of this made the jealousy and comparisons seem so superficial and yucky. It was humbling. How could I let my spiritual practice – my true purpose – get hijacked by ego?  

I didn’t want to feel that way or be that kind of person. If my interaction with Facebook took me out of alignment with who I want to be – if I had so much trouble maintaining what Buddhists call “right relationship” to it – the answer was clear: Take a break. A Facebook fast. It would be my “new moon project” for 28 days. Posting to my “business” page was allowed, but no personal posts. Just jump on, post my biz page, and jump right back off without looking at anything else. Including my daughter’s pictures of my granddaughter.

In the nine years I’d been on Facebook, I’d never taken a break and even wondered if it would be possible, especially around the holidays when there’s so much to share! But it ended up being astonishingly easy! Now that the lunar cycle is over, and we’re almost halfway through the next one, I’m in no hurry to jump back in and so far have only stuck a toe back in the water.

It feels good to get unhooked. Amazing, actually.

There were some things I truly missed during my fast. I missed knowing what’s going on in my friends’ lives and being able to offer a word of encouragement to those who could use it or simply to acknowledge that they are seen, heard, and accepted. I missed the enriching and inspiring content certain friends share regularly and the opportunity to radiate love and acceptance to more people than I otherwise would interact with daily.

I think those are positive reasons to engage with social media. But do I need 562 “friends”? I think not. So before I return to Facebook, I intend to clear the clutter from my friend list and only keep those with whom I have or have had a real connection and/or those who inspire and uplift me. Common interests, resonant energy – things like that.

Being on a Facebook fast allowed me to gain perspective on what I like and dislike about the platform and why I engage in the first place. I couldn’t care less about the vanity posts that showcase the masks of idealized self-images we put on to impress others and to feel better about ourselves or to get “likes”. Political posts are a another issue. You can scroll through without much effort, but I have no desire to come across intolerant or hateful posts – which actually doesn’t happen much in my newsfeed. Mostly, I’m interested in authenticity and inspiration and the opportunity to be authentic and to inspire.

As with all relationships, I want my engagement with social media to feed and grow my soul, not my ego. Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s poem, “The Invitation” (of which a few lines are excerpted below – click on the link to read the full poem) sums up the kind of connections and sharing I seek on social media and in general:

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

Source: Oriah Mountain Dreamer. The Invitation. New York: Harper Collins, 1999. Print.

I don’t care about the parties you go to and who you know. I want to know what fuels and inspires you and what you have overcome to be who you are today, how you are the hero of your own life story. I want to know who you are on the inside…because the outside is only a shell, and that’s not the level on which I seek connection.

I want to understand your story and thereby better understand my own, as well as the greater story we are all part of. And I want to share my story with you so you might better understand yours through our similarities and contrasts. I want to feel inspired by the challenges you are able to overcome and connect through your suffering, which (at the most basic level) is also mine and only looks different on the surface. As the R.E.M. song goes, everybody hurts. But when we share our pain or connect with others who have experienced pain we are familiar with, it eases the suffering a bit. At least we don’t feel so alone.

I want my Facebook feed to be filled with authenticity, inspiration, radiance, resonance, and hope. As I declutter my friend list, that’s what I’m looking for. It doesn’t mean only keeping people who appear to be most “like me”. Some people I respect deeply don’t share my world view, and they help me to break down the illusion of “other” and practice equanimity, tolerance, and love.

As I mentioned above, so far I’ve only stuck a toe back into the Facebook stream. Quick peeks. In those glimpses, one friend wrote about some incredible, synchronistic events she’s experienced that suggest her daughter, who passed away over a year ago, continues to communicate with her. This same friend also has shared her pain over losing her daughter. I find her journey through grief inspiring and her accounts of after-death communication uplifting.

Another, new friend posted about learning of her brother’s death, which hit her hard. Last week, her family received the call they knew they’d receive someday but hoped they wouldn’t. Her brother had been estranged from the family for the past 25 years, and she shared her tears and questions about who he was with courageous vulnerability. The next day, she shared joyful revelations about what she had learned about her brother’s life from a stranger who was a close friend of his. These revelations flew in the face of everything she assumed about her brother’s life and is clearly part of her healing journey. I believe we are ultimately part of the same journey and the same story, and witnessing healing and transformation in others helps to heal and transform us.

And then there were pictures of my granddaughter playing with some toys she got for her birthday. Feel-good posts.

These are all reasons why I am going to slowly break my Facebook fast. But as I return, I’ll be conscious of staying in alignment with my true self (not my ego!) while engaging with social media. If I cannot do that and find myself getting hooked again, then I’ll need to either adjust my friend list, educate myself, adjust my attitude, or take another break.

I’m glad to have interrupted the trance I had fallen into by stepping back and turning off what was sabotaging my peace of mind. To say no to what doesn’t feel right. Sometimes you have to get a little distance or take a time-out to regain perspective and a healthier balance so you don’t lose yourself. To remember you have a choice. My Facebook fast was yet another method of decluttering – not physical things this time, but my time and my thoughts. Letting go of what doesn’t serve us, whether on a physical or energetic level, is truly empowering.

It feels so good that I didn’t stop there. Today I’m on my tenth day without chocolate because apparently I’m quite sensitive to that, too (in a different way). And again, it has been so much easier to give up than I ever imagined. But that’s another story for another time.


© 2018 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness teacher whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

My Favorite Morning Rituals

My Favorite Morning Rituals

It’s the first new moon of the new year as I sit down to write. What better time to kick off a series of mindful self-compassion blog posts! I’ve been wanting to do this for a while and waiting until the time felt right, and that time is NOW. It seems so many people are so anxious lately, and in times of stress, we need more than ever to give ourselves the gift of our own kindness and compassion!

I’ll admit right out of the gate that I’m a recovering perfectionist who has struggled with self-worth all my life. I made Self-Love my theme for 2017, not knowing exactly what to call it because the term carries selfish, narcissistic connotations, and that wasn’t at all what it meant to me. I realized I’ve spent the past 23 years caring for others in my roles of mother, partner/spouse, daughter, and early childhood educator. I’ve also struggled with personal boundaries, compared myself to those who seemed to have what I felt I was lacking, and (along with that) tended to put people on pedestals. Not exactly self-esteem boosters.

Finally, I realized something had to change! I’d become so good at caring for and seeing the good in others and not so good at doing the same for myself. Putting my own needs and desires on the back burner was holding me back in a big way. I needed to achieve a better balance between caring for myself and others. So that’s what I did for the past year, and it was truly transformational! I’m excited to share what I’ve learned.

I thought I’d begin with three simple rituals I do every morning that have made a big difference. Rather than rushing into the day and what needs to be done, taking a few mindful minutes to honor myself reminds me of my inherent worth and helps me to start the day in alignment with my true self.

Making the Bed

For years, I didn’t make my bed. Didn’t give it a second thought. 

I’ve been going to Light on the Hill retreat center for individual retreats my entire adult life. At the end of the retreat, you’re expected to remove your bed sheets and make the bed with fresh sheets for the next retreatant. The instructions are to make the bed as if you’re preparing it for your beloved – with intention and a warm heart.

I so love that! 

Last spring, after decluttering the entire house, I splurged and bought a nice, king-sized bed. Getting rid of lots of clutter created space for what I really want in my living environment. The process generated lots of clarity around who I was, who I am, who I am becoming, and what/who supports the vision I have for my life. Waking up every day feeling rested was the foundation upon which everything else…um, rested.

I had been sleeping on hand-me-down beds for a long time, and it was high time to get a better bed. It was a reward I gave to myself after the epic decluttering journey during which I acknowledged how important a comfortable bed is to good sleep and overall well-being. I used some money I had inherited from my parents and felt it would please them to know I did something nice for myself. It made my back happy, too!

Now that I finally had a nice bed, I wanted to take care of it. I recently had gone on retreat and recalled the practice of making the bed for the next person and decided it would be a beautiful, loving gesture to do for myself. So now I make my bed with love and intention every morning, fluffing the pillows, arranging them just so, and brushing off any debris, to prepare it for another inviting and restful night’s sleep. Whenever I walk into the bedroom and see my bed, I appreciate the gesture and feel loved. It really makes me feel happy, uplifted, and grateful. 

Making my bed is not an obligation or chore. It’s a joy. As I do it, I think of how great it feels to walk into the room when the bed looks tidy and beautiful. It’s a little thing that makes a big difference.

Mirror Work

This next morning ritual might sound a little weird. There is a mirror outside my bedroom, and after making my bed, I greet myself in the mirror with a big smile and loving words.

Last year, I worked my way through Cheryl Richardson’s book, The Art of Extreme Self-CareEach chapter in the book offers a strategy to practice for an entire month, and one month, it was mirror work. At first, it felt a little awkward and reminded me of the Stuart Smalley skits on Saturday Night Live. But I was committed to practicing the exercises in the book and gave it a try.

It ended up being the most powerful practice I experimented with from the book, especially because I’ve had body image issues all my life. When I looked in the mirror, I did so critically, noticing what I perceived as flaws. Flaws seen through a magnifying glass! Looking in the mirror was not a feel-good activity.

After greeting myself with loving words, I look in my eyes and state positive affirmations that I have posted around the mirror. It might sound corny, but these affirmations are deeply meaningful reminders I want to attune to every morning…and it works. I really look forward to this ritual! It’s like tuning an instrument, and the instrument is my mind.

Now, quite unbelievably, looking in the mirror is an opportunity for loving kindness and to affirm who I really am and what is most important to me. More often than not, when I look in the mirror throughout the day (not just when I do the “mirror work”), the loving voice intercepts the critical voice, which is rather miraculous! It’s as if I have trained myself to see who I really am rather than compare what I look like to how I think I should look.

I just don’t do the mirror work when anyone else is around…or if they are, I do it quietly

Lemon Water Cleanse

Next, I go into the kitchen and drink a cup of warm water with the juice of half a lemon and a dash of cayenne. This is little reminder to be mindful of what I put in my body. Apparently, warm lemon water has health benefits, and it’s a simple gesture that only takes a couple minutes from start to finish. It feels like a healthy, cleansing way to start the day. It reminds me that my body is a temple, and I begin the day treating it as such. That is the intention behind this ritual.

Doing these three rituals affirms every morning that I matter and have positive worth. It makes me feel good about myself. All these activities are done with a sense of joy, not out of obligation. It feels good to walk into the bedroom when the bed is made up beautifully. It feels good to smile and say kind and loving words to myself while looking in the mirror. And it feels good to begin the day conscious of what I put in my body. Altogether, these three rituals only take about 10 minutes!

Bonus Time!

Vision Board Massage

If time permits – especially on mornings when I don’t have to get ready for work right away – another morning ritual is sitting on the side of my bed and looking at my vision board, which hangs on the wall next to my bed. Looking at my vision board reminds me of my Big Whys, what is most important to me, what I want to manifest in my life, and who I am when I am at my best. Every item on my vision board sparks joy and boosts my energy.

For an extra special bonus, I give my hands and feet a massage while spending time with my vision board. First, I roll my feet on a foot massager, which feels really great. I might even massage my feet with my hands, too. Then I massage my hands either with Chinese health balls, my own hands, or by rolling homemade lavender putty in my palms. The latter is currently my favorite. Think playdough for grownups! It feels so relaxing to roll the putty around in my hands, making balls and snakes, just like when I was a child (and a kindergarten teacher)! It seems to massage the pressure points in the hands, in a fun way. 

Yoga Practice

Another bonus morning ritual is a half-hour of home yoga practice. My favorite resource is Yoga with Adriene on YouTube. Every year, she kicks off the new year with 30 days of yoga. This year, the series is called True. Last year, it was Revolution, and the year before that was Yoga Camp. When I finish one series, I go to one of the others, and there are plenty of videos to last the whole year – and they are free! Adriene’s message is all about self-love and finding what feels good.

I’ve been doing yoga long enough to really feel the difference it makes in my body and mind. It makes me more aware of the energy in my body and where I’m holding tension. I’ll often become aware of my feet when I’m standing in line somewhere, and it’s a pleasant experience that takes me out of the thinking mind, reconnects me to my body, and deepens my breathing and relaxation response. Once, I was waiting in line at the bank, and the customers in front of me had business that took a long time. I became aware of my feet, then aware of the energy in my body, and it was like doing a body scan meditation! When it was my turn, the teller said he couldn’t believe how patient I was.

There are lots of benefits of yoga, and that’s just one of them. It seems to get the energy flowing more smoothly through my body. I tend to live in my head, and yoga really helps me to more fully embody the experience of having a body. It takes my attention away from my thoughts and emotions and is a portal to deeper presence and relaxation.

So those are my morning rituals! I love creating rituals. The possibilities are endless. It’s all about the mindfulness and positive energy they generate – which is why I do them every day. Occasionally, something will come up, and I won’t have time to do all of them, but I resist the temptation to use that as an opportunity to feel bad. I tell myself it’s not the end of the world. Mornings like that happen, and tomorrow is a new day! It’s more fun to wake up and get out of bed when I have something to look forward to, and these morning rituals are a positive, uplifting way to start the day.

© 2018 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness teacher whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

Deep-Freeze Vision Board Inspiration

Deep-Freeze Vision Board Inspiration

I just completed my first personal growth creative project of the year and am excited to tell you about it! It’s a project that’s ideal for this time of year, not just because of the New Year but because the bitter cold, shorter days present a wonderful opportunity for going inward when it’s too cold to spend much time outdoors. 

I overhauled my vision board so it sparkles with fresh, new energy!

I created my first vision board two years ago. It was a simple one on which I glued pictures and words that inspired me and supported my goals. That year, I focused on abundance and freeing myself from abundance blocks and therefore included several positive affirmations related to prosperity. It was a memorable experience because I completed it before going to bed one night, and I hadn’t even fallen asleep before I received a phone call from my daughter who told me she was in labor! It was perfect timing. 

Later in the year, I created another vision board – a supercharged feng shui version – after returning from a life-transforming trip to visit relatives on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia. Spending nearly two weeks with them was a profound experience that helped me to better understand myself and where I come from. In the company of relatives who share my love of nature and my affinity for artistic creativity and writing, I experienced a sense of true belonging and being appreciated for who I was, rather than feeling like the family oddball. Finding my tribe right in my family tree changed everything, and a new vision board was in order.

I loved my feng shui vision board! I learned how to make it under the guidance of a mentor who is a feng shui expert, and it’s different from a “typical” vision board because it has separate spaces for each of the nine areas of the bagua:

  • Wealth, Prosperity, and Abundance
  • Fame, Reputation, and Recognition
  • Love and Marriage
  • Family and Community
  • Health and Unity
  • Children, Creativity, and New Beginnings
  • Knowledge and Wisdom
  • Career and Life’s Journey
  • Helpful People and Travel

I put my vision board on the wall next to my bed, and every morning it was the first thing I saw when I woke up. Then I’d bring it downstairs so I’d see it during the day. It was with me day and night, and I even photographed it and printed out a mini version to carry around with me. The energy coming off it was that powerful, and I found it to be a highly motivating tool for creating a more authentic and empowered life. 

As I achieved various goals, I’d remove those pictures/words from the vision board, to make room for new ones and keep it current.

However, I noticed that for the past month or two, my vision board remained on my bedroom wall. The spaces on it made the placement of the remaining pictures and words seem not quite right (visual person that I am), and it just didn’t have the oomph it used to have. I didn’t feel drawn to it because it felt cluttered. There were some pictures and words on it that didn’t resonate anymore, especially in the Career section. Too many different possibilities which made me feel pulled in too many directions. 

Also, I’d recently undergone another big, inner transformation as a result of decluttering my entire home and focusing on mindful self-compassion for the past year. Now it was time to declutter my vision board and infuse it with fresh energy that fit with the new me! 

I used the existing structure to revamp each section, and now it sparkles with inspiring energy again, and it doesn’t stay on my bedroom wall! I enjoy creating simple, daily rituals to keep me focused on what’s most important and recently came up with a new one that features my vision board and feels really good, too!

I love to give myself hand and foot massages and remembered that I have a foot massage roller that I haven’t used in a while and Chinese medicine balls, as well. So I put them under my bed and start the day sitting on the edge of my bed and using the hand and foot massagers while looking at my vision board for a few minutes and reminding myself of what’s most important. Sweeeet!

It’s a great way to get focused first thing in the morning.

Another ritual I enjoy is to look at my vision board while doing my “tea meditation”. (I wrote an article about it.) Essentially, it involves practicing feeling the feelings of attaining my vision board goals as I hold the cup of tea in my hands, and imagining those feelings going into the tea before consuming it. It’s one of my favorite cold weather meditations!

If you’ve never made a vision board, it’s pretty simple to do! It used to be that you’d need a stack of magazines to look through for inspiring words and images, but Google searches make it so much easier to find inspiring images now! Magazines are still good sources of words, but you also can print out words yourself using different fonts and colors. I hold onto the Omega and Kripalu retreat center catalogs that come in the mail, for words and ideas. Hay House and Sounds True have some really great book and audiobook titles that are great for vision boards! And my Inspirational Photo Gallery and Instagram account is filled with “quote pictures” (my latest creative passion!) – some of which I included on my own vision board. There are so many sources of vision board inspiration available!

There are apps to create virtual vision boards, and another option is to create a Pinterest board for a vision board. However, there is value in creating a physical vision board because you only have a limited amount of space to fit what’s most important to you. That cuts out a lot of clutter and can help you stay focused.

Making a vision board is a great cold weather project. I really appreciate this time of year because it’s a time to go inward, get in touch with yourself, and decide what you want to cultivate in your inner garden this year – how you want to expand. If you’re interested, Google “vision boards” for some inspiration, and give it a go! 

© 2018 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness teacher whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

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. 

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