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Category: Self-Care Practices

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! )

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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!)

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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. 

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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