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Category: Self-Care Practices

River of Leaves Meditation

River of Leaves Meditation

Today I want to share with you a powerful “letting go” practice that came to me a couple days ago. It articulates the inner significance of what is going on in nature at this time of year and was inspired by a “Days of November” meditation shared by psychic medium extraordinaire, Adam Bernstein. When I read through the meditation earlier this week, it resonated deeply. It begins with visualizing yourself sitting next to a river as leaves fall from the trees and into the water. As you watch the leaves spiral downward and float away on the river, think of what you want to fall away in your own life. Adam’s visualization continues, focusing on how more sunlight can shine through now that the trees are bare. What we couldn’t see before (when the leaves obstructed our view) is now revealed, and light is able to reach places that had been in darkness under the leafy trees. It is an exquisite meditation that continues on from there.

After reading through the meditation, my first inclination was to record it word for word so I could do it without having to recall the details or open my eyes to read it. And I’m going to do that. But first, I was inspired to create my own ritual based on part of the meditation. The inspiration came while kayaking on the river during our unseasonably warm weather this week. When I noticed flotillas of fallen leaves drifting by, I knew exactly what to do.

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I found a small basket and filled it with a piece of silk and some fallen leaves I had picked up from the ground during recent walks. These were leaves that stopped me in my tracks because their colors were so vibrant! I meant to press and preserve them but never got around to it because it slipped my mind, and they became curled and dry and past the pressing stage. I also have a collection of pressed leaves from last year that I’ve been holding on to even though their colors have faded. I added a few of them to the basket, as well. The idea of using leaves that I found wonderful at first but then faded appealed to me. But really, any leaves would do.

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The next morning, the air was warm, and the sky was filled with puffy clouds. The reflection on the river looked like a river of clouds, and the conditions felt perfect for doing my “river of leaves” meditation. I brought my basket of carefully selected leaves to the dock, along with my yoga mat and meditation cushion, and set an intention to release one leaf at a time into the river while contemplating what it represents in my life. What am I ready to let go of and leave behind? Then I’d watch the leaf float away, carried along by the river’s flow.

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As I released the leaves into the river, a parade of solitary leaves and leaf flotillas drifted by. It made me feel that I was in good company and that the time was right to let go of what no longer serves a constructive purpose. Instead of focusing on letting go of particular people, things, or circumstances, I turned my attention toward the unhealthy attachments, attitudes, illusions, programming, patterns, etc. that get in the way of my inner peace and freedom – because that’s what attracts unhealthy energy into my life in the first place.

For instance, the first leaf I let go of represented fear. I watched the “fear” leaf float away gently, with an attitude of honoring it – for it was with me for a long time and initially must have served some kind of well intentioned (albeit misguided) purpose. And surely there is room for healthy fear in my life, such as fear as an intuitive signal that something is wrong. But allowing fear to remain in the driver’s seat is what I wanted to let go of. It was satisfying to watch it float away from me, and as I did, I imagined how my life would feel different without it. I really experienced the new vibration and felt much lighter and more empowered – for I was acknowledging and accepting my own responsibility in authoring my life.

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I also let go of a consciousness of lack, certain illusions that have clouded my thinking, making my happiness dependent on any person or condition, placing more importance on the approval and advice of others than on my own intuition and wisdom, and shame about all of the above. Release it all with love, and feel what it’s like to be unencumbered by them. Appreciate how light it feels to be free of them!

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As I watched each leaf float away, I reflected on how my compassion has grown as a result of my choices and experiences. I noticed that gratitude was becoming part of this process.

My spiritual director recently recommended a breathing practice that helps to fill the empty hole inside me with what I desire and feel is lacking in my life so I won’t try to get it from others. This felt like an important exercise to complement the letting go exercise. It seemed that letting go, being grateful, and filling the holes were all important parts of the overall process, encompassing past, present, and future.

I didn’t release the next leaf until it really felt complete with the previous one. Some I watched float away until they were out of sight. As they floated away, I felt them lose their hold on me and experienced a greater sense of inner freedom and joy. With distance and time, the river of life really does pull things away from us, and helps us get over our attachments and move on.

In preparation for the activity, I put leaves in my basket until I felt I had the right number. Also, it occurred to me that you could write a word or phrase on each leaf to express what you’re letting go of. Or you could just write it on your heart, as I did.

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While releasing the leaves into the river, I thought of my friend, Jayne, who traveled throughout Asia after undergoing treatment for breast cancer. She was in Thailand during the Loi Krathong festival during which people practice letting go by releasing floating lanterns into the sky and launching beautiful handmade flower boats into a body of water. As she and her husband let one go together, they focused on releasing “bad health juju as well as any ill feelings towards anyone” and inviting well wishes for the future. She explained, “It was cathartic and a beautiful moment we shared putting the past behind and creating space for something new!”

That is a perfect way to describe how it felt to release leaves into the river a couple mornings ago. I love to be in sync with and inspired by the cycles the natural world!

© 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. 

Flotation Restoration

Flotation Restoration

Today I did something I’ve never done before. I spent 90 minutes inside a float tank (or sensory deprivation tank) in complete darkness and silence, floating ever so peacefully at a local massage center. It was a deeply relaxing, amazing experience.

I first heard about sensory deprivation tanks many years ago – I think in reference to Michael Jackson. They’ve been around for about 60 years. Though the idea sounded intriguing, I didn’t give it much thought until I came across a brochure for the Saratoga Springs Float Spa when I was in town last week – and called to make an appointment as soon as I got home! I’ve been experiencing a lot of anxiety lately and wanted to try something new to relieve the stress.

The float tank was located in a tranquil, dimly lit room with a harmonious, feng shui decor that matched the rest of the massage center and the warm and welcoming energy of owner, Tyler Fedigan. It felt like a very protective and nurturing space. Next to the tank was a shower, and I was instructed to shower before and after using the tank.

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The  tank contains about ten inches of salt water (five times denser than the ocean) that is kept at body temperature. There was a dim light on inside when I entered the tank (which felt like entering a cave), and when I pushed the button to turn off the light, I was in complete darkness. When I lay back in the water, my ears were submerged, and the only sound I heard was my breath. It was actually quite loud, almost like a respirator. (I was wearing earplugs to avoid swimmer’s ear.) But aside from that, there were no other sounds whatsoever.

I felt safe inside the tank, and it didn’t take long at all to become completely relaxed. The buoyant salt water supported me completely. I floated effortlessly and allowed every muscle in my body to relax. Since the water was at body temperature (“skin-receptor neutral”), it was nearly impossible to discern my physical boundaries. I felt at-one with my environment and was surprised when gentle music began playing under water to signal the end of the 90-minute session because it didn’t seem as though that much time had passed.

I tried to do a form of mindfulness meditation in the float tank. However, aside from the sound of my breath, there weren’t any anchors for my attention! Usually when I meditate on my breath, I fix my attention on either the air entering and leaving my nostrils, the elevator-like movement of my diaphragm, or my belly rising and falling with each in-breath and out-breath. However, since I wasn’t aware of my physical boundaries in the tank, I couldn’t focus on the latter two sensations. I could barely feel my body at all! The only time I became aware of my physical boundaries was when I made a slight movement. When I moved, the water felt a bit cool against my skin but immediately warmed up, and I once again lost all sense of physical boundaries, weight, and mass. I just felt weightless and light.

Although people’s experiences in the float tank differ, for me, thoughts did not take hold. Any thoughts that started didn’t get very far. They had a very short lifespan. It seemed that, due to the complete absence of external stimuli, there was nothing to sustain them. Any thoughts that arose had absolutely no emotional charge. It seemed that no negatively charged thought could exist in the absence of gravity, light, and sound. All was well. Complete peace.

It was a very womb-like experience. Coming out of the tank at the end of the session felt like being born. I emerged covered with extremely salty water, which made me think of a baby being born covered with vernix.

It was interesting to hear people’s reactions when I told them about it – from “There is no way in heck I would get in that thing!” to “I’ve heard of those and always thought it would be awesome to try,” to “Do you think I’d like it?”

My time in the float tank served as a profoundly peaceful experience that I can recall when I’m feeling anxious. I can return there in my mind to facilitate relaxation, just as I visualize floating in my kayak or sitting by my favorite waterfall. I remained extremely relaxed and peaceful for the rest of the day – physically, mentally, and emotionally. I’ve read that this afterglow usually lasts for days and sometimes up to a month!

Before leaving, I signed up for additional sessions. Between the heavy workload of the final two months of the school year, the first anniversary of my mom’s death coming up Memorial Day weekend, and other personal matters that have been weighing on me, I think some gravity-defying, deep relaxation in the float tank will be greatly therapeutic! I’m so glad to have discovered this form of relaxation!

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (susantarameyer.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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