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Category: Spiritual Journey

What’s Most Important

What’s Most Important

“What does it mean, say the words, that the earth is so beautiful? And what shall I do about it? What is the gift that I should bring to the world? What is the life that I should live?”

-Mary Oliver, Long Life: Essays and Other Writings (2005)

This week, my favorite living writer died. So did a high school classmate.

Mary Oliver was 83. Matt Riker was 51. His life was snuffed out by the same illness that took my mom from us nearly five years ago. In November, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Later that month, he visited Dana-Farber and learned his illness was incurable.

According to an article in a local newspaper, several years ago, Matt was very unhappy with the way he was living his life. He decided to turn things around and devoted his life to helping others. The more he helped, the better he felt. On a similar note, two years ago when he was borderline diabetic, he took up running, lost a lot of weight, and got into really good shape.

The point being: When he realized he wasn’t living the life he wanted to live, he found the determination and courage to make changes and turn things around. He even went back to school and received his bachelor’s degree last year. By the time he was diagnosed with advanced stage cancer, he felt at peace with his life and continued to focus on helping others because that’s who he had become.

Matt’s story is a real wake-up call. His transformation is inspiring. When you don’t like the story you’re living, you can do something different and change it. 

The weekend before he passed away, there was a celebration in his honor. What a gift to have a celebration of life before someone passes away! It was an opportunity for everyone to say goodbye (even without saying it) and thank-you for happy memories and a life well lived.

I hadn’t seen Matt since high school. After he learned the nature of his illness, I reached out to him, and we shared a memory of being in a choral group together back in high school. I had to drive my son to Albany when the celebration was taking place and made it just in time. Matt looked in my eyes, said my name, gave me a hug, and a few moments later, two companions were on either side of him helping him make his way out of the building so he could rest.

After he left the celebration, a classmate who had gone running with Matt in the fall expressed disbelief. Such rapid physical decline is hard to wrap your head around. When I saw him at the celebration, he appeared as my mother did a week or two before she passed away. I did not expect him to make it to the end of the month. He only made it a week.

When an acquaintance your age or younger passes away, it wakes you up. It might inspire you to appreciate your life and your loved ones more. You might step back, take stock, and consider what’s most important and whether you are living your life in harmony with that.

I realized this week that I’ve gotten a little off-course and lost sight of what’s most important. I’ve been too busy and haven’t been spending as much time in nature as I need to. Haven’t had much time for those who mean the most to me. My heart yearns for more nature connection, more writing, more photography, and more quality time with loved ones. These activities feed my soul. They are my true Work.

What is the gift that I should bring to the world? What is the life that I should live? The answers to these inquiries are within each of us, in our heart center. Our heart is a compass that keeps us on course if we allow it to guide us. Its wisdom helps us to gauge how closely our life is aligned with our true Dharma. Then we can make some course adjustments if need be.

I believe that however long or short our lifetime is, it’s exactly as it should be. Even when death seems to come too soon or too suddenly, there are no accidents. If it’s your time, the universe will make sure you are in the right place. In other words, beyond the personal, senseless tragedy of loss, there is another level on which all is well. These dense bodies we live in only allow us to see a portion of the picture.

The thing is, we don’t know when our time will come. There are things I still want to accomplish, and I’ll bet the same is true for you. Things I don’t want to leave undone. When a friend of mine published her first book, she exclaimed, “I can die now!” That’s what I’m talking about: Don’t die with your song/book/etc. still within you.

Matt’s death awakened everyone his life touched. It inspired me to think about how I spend my time and why, and to take inventory of the Big Picture, just like he did several years ago.

Mary Oliver passed away four days after Matt, on Thursday.

Thursday morning, I HAD to sit on the riverbank (despite the cold weather) as the sun rose and listen to the music of the delicate plates of ice sailing down the river and colliding with piles of other shards. It’s one of my very favorite songs.

It’s no wonder I couldn’t resist the call to be in nature, astonished and filled with appreciation for the visual poetry surrounding me, though I wasn’t aware yet of the significance of the day. All I knew at the time was that it felt like the first real breath I had taken all week, and I could barely feel the cold because I was doing something that set my soul on fire.

When I heard the news that evening, it all made sense: Her soul was passing through. I wonder what she would have scribbled in her notebook about that morning’s frozen splendor on the Hudson. 

Spending time on the river’s edge that morning and learning about the two deaths only a few days apart served the same purpose: They awakened me from the trance of routine and reminded me of what’s most important and what I need to make time for. What I did make time for until a few months ago when I took on another part-time job. (And next month, I will add yet another thing to my plate when I start a two-year mindfulness meditation teacher certification program, which I have yearned to do for years.)

I realized I need to spend more time steeped in gratitude on the water’s edge or elsewhere in nature with my camera in hand and my senses wide open. More time listening to what drifts through the air and bubbles up from within, and taking dictation. More time developing the services I’m trained for and feel passionate about. The Universe has delivered some very clear and consistent messages about moving forward with that NOW, not later. If not now, when?

I had to admit to myself that I’m doing too much. My schedule is too full. Even though I enjoy and appreciate everything I’m doing, something’s gotta give within the continuum that spans from enjoyment to the deeper pull that sets my soul on fire.

Those whose deaths jolt us out of the trance of daily life remind us to make time during our “one wild and precious life” for what is most essential. To not look beyond our own heart to discern what that is.  

To get to Work.


© 2019 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, Reiki practitioner, 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.

Your Children Are Not Your Children

Your Children Are Not Your Children

Last weekend was different from most, even as Hidden Treasure weekends go. For starters, we did trust falls. 

So there I was, standing up on the edge of a massage table with my arms crossed in front of my chest. I repeated a surrender prayer one line at a time, then leaned back and released the full weight of my body to gravity. I experienced nervous anticipation, the moment of letting go, and the unsettling sensation of moving backward through the air supported by absolutely nothing, followed by the thump of landing straight on a cushion lowered gently to the ground by several of my classmates.

As my heart pounded so hard in my chest that I thought everyone in the room could hear it, I felt the grounding touch of three sets of loving hands doing energy work on my body to integrate the experience. The rest of my body was calm, and I realized my heart was excited, happy, leaping in my chest because I’d just burst through another fear barrier – the first of the weekend.

The next morning while meditating in my room, some words drifted into my mind:

Rest assured, mama: Your children are not your children. 

It felt like something was trying to come through, and these words were the first cars of the train. So I opened to the flow and an hour later had a new poem written in my notebook.

That was the easy part.

When I read the completed poem, my heart pounded in my chest, which is my signal to speak up and share something. To feel the fear, and do it, anyway. My Higher Self was encouraging me to share my writing with the group, rather than email it to them after our retreat weekend was over. I’ve learned (the hard way) not to dismiss that voice when it “speaks”.

It’s one thing to share my innermost self in writing. It’s another to speak it in front of an audience. I’ve been a teacher for several years and don’t have any problem speaking in front of a group, in general. But sharing my writing is different.

The last (and only?) time I recall reading one of my poems in front of an audience was during my dear friend, David’s, funeral in 2013. It was a poem I’d composed 24 years earlier and felt comfortable with. In contrast, the poem I felt compelled to share with the group over the weekend was brand new,. I felt nervous.

But I read it anyway, heart thumping and voice trembling. Many people in the room were moved by it, thanked me for sharing, asked for a copy, and insisted they didn’t hear any shaking in my voice. 

After our weekend together, I added a new goal to my list for 2019: Participate in poetry readings. The thought of reading my writing in front of strangers feels intimidating – scarier than publishing it on my website and sending it to my mailing list. There are benefits and challenges to both kinds of sharing, but face-to-face sharing is something I need to do to expand beyond the “I can’t…” stories I have about myself.

Expanding beyond self-imposed limitations is such an amazing feeling! That’s why we put ourselves through experiences that push the edges and take us out of our comfort zone in the Hidden Treasure program. It’s all for the purpose of going beyond the limiting stories of the false self to experience our boundless true nature.

So, the poem

I think of it as a letter to my younger self when one of my children was going through a particularly challenging time. Back then, I was busy arguing with reality and really struggling to accept a situation I could not change. It just as easily could be written for my daughter who often feels bad about being a single mom, or any other parent whose vision of how parenting would be conflicts with reality. Although the poem is offered for mothers and fathers, grandparents, and anyone else who is closely involved in a child’s life, I left the first line as it came through because it feels more authentic that way. 

Rest Assured, Mama

Rest assured, mama:
Your children are not your children.
You don’t understand their reasons
For incarnating.
Perhaps this time and place,
These circumstances,
And your imperfections
Are exactly what they need
To grow their soul.

Don’t spend your energy
Searching for a magic wand
To make everything
And everyone “better”.
Instead: see their Divinity,
Love them unconditionally,
Trust their path,
Accept their personality,
Give them sensible boundaries,
And honor their free will.

Do your best to support their journey,
But don’t be so sure
You know what it is
Or which roads are best for them
To take or to avoid.

Even as you shape and mold them
To live in this world,
Allow them to transform you
Through the vehicle of this world
And lead you to question
Your most basic assumptions.

May your dance together
Through time and space
Turn you around and spin
The nonsense of conditioning
Off the surface
And out of your cells
So you may discover
Your Deeper Self
And put it in charge of your life

So you can trust more
And realize that they
Are here for your growth
As much as you are for theirs
And that you are okay
Just as you are
And so are they.

Click to download poem


© 2019 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, Reiki practitioner, 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.

The Year’s Most Beautiful Lessons

The Year’s Most Beautiful Lessons

At this time of year, when the sun sets early and the warmth of the wood stove and lighting in my home are so cozy and inviting, I turn my attention to a delicious December ritual of reviewing the entire year and setting intentions for the New Year. 2018 was my third consecutive year of being really intentional about goals and doing monthly reviews to reflect on successes, challenges, what I’m grateful for, and what I’ve learned. 

For the past three years, I’ve used Leonie Dawson’s My Shining Year Life Goals Workbook to set and review intentions. I’ve always kept my workbook really close, carrying it in a tote bag that accompanied me everywhere. However, at the end of April I went on a seven-day, silent vipassana meditation retreat that changed everything and completely reset my mind. Most of my goals no longer resonated. They didn’t feel deeply inspired and lacked momentum and oomph.

For a while, it felt like I didn’t really have any goals or desires, other than to maintain a daily meditation practice. Through that practice, new and deeper aspirations arose in time and inspired action. It was a time of presence, trusting, patience, and not-pushing that basically reset my life!

A year ago, I never would have imagined I’d be running a preschool program. But one step at a time, I followed what felt right, and here I am back in teacher mode part-time, loving it and feeling enriched by the presence of young children and a wonderfully supportive work environment.

I also never would have imagined that I’d complete Reiki Master training this year. That was another path that gained momentum as I put one foot in front of the other, following what resonated and lit me up. These were probably the two biggest surprises of the year.

It was a year of deep shifts, soul lessons, and transformation. I learned how to send healing energy of Universal Love to people instead of getting pulled into their dramas or trying to save them. I shifted from grief to appreciation and integration, and from wanting to be loved and taken care of to tapping into a higher source of love and support from which I can nurture others and myself. I’ve shifted from being concerned about what others think of me to focusing on how I can be of service. And from thinking about what I could or should do, to discerning what feels deeply right.

Those closest to me say they’ve never seen me so happy. I feel peaceful and satisfied, even as I work on new goals. 

How did these shifts come about? One lesson and revelation at a time.

Here is a month-by-month glimpse of some of the year’s most beautiful lessons I’ve lived and learned. I’m so grateful for all my teachers, guides, and resources that helped me to grow so much this year, including the Hidden Treasure program at Light on the Hill retreat center, the Abraham-Hicks teachings available for free on YouTube, Tara Brach and Jack KornfieldInsight Meditation Society, my Reiki teachers, and the healing energy of nature.

*Note: I use the terms true self, true nature, higher self, and inner being interchangeably.

January

♥ I am not an orphan. I am a matriarch.

When you spend more time attuned to positive energy, you lose interest in what doesn’t resonate with that. You set your joy thermostat higher.

♥ We don’t have to become more to improve ourselves. We just have to get back in alignment with our true nature. 

February

♥ Perhaps those who hurt me most were planted in my path to help me separate from my false self and align with my true self. Perhaps it was necessary for me to hit an all-time vibrational low in order to apply so much effort in the direction of positive growth and bounce back this much. The past few years have brought me into greater alignment with my true self, by going out of alignment for a while so I could experience the contrast and realize how important it is to be in alignment and let go of what doesn’t serve that harmony.

♥ My parents may not have understood me, but they loved me, and that’s what matters.

March

♥ Choosing your thoughts first thing in the morning is much like deciding what you want to wear. You could even set out a go-to positive thought the night before.

♥ It’s empowering to stop blaming and accept the invitation to take responsibility for your own patterns. If you can be honest with yourself about your patterns, you have the choice to work on clearing them (or not). If you don’t clear them, you’ll continue to attract more of the same.

April

♥ The patterns of fantasy, dwelling on the past, and focusing on what’s missing have caused me much unnecessary suffering! My higher self isn’t interested in the past and isn’t served by focusing on what’s missing. I connect with it by putting attention on what lights me up and inspires me.

♥ I intensify feeling bad about myself by fanning the flames with fantasy and thought.

♥ So much of my mental activity is not useful or necessary. It just fills the spaces.

♥ I learned the distinction between the compulsive need to achieve something versus a deep inspiration to pursue something. I need to rest in this spacious awareness and wait for deeper inspiration to arise without rushing it.

May 

♥ Surrender to the lull because it’s an important season. Trust it, and don’t force anything. Just notice what arises and feels important. Lull times are opportunities to practice patience and equanimity.

♥ On grief: When I was able to name it, allow it, and observe it, it subsided quickly. The waves are sharp, but they don’t last unless you feed them with emotion.

♥ At the end of the retreat, the retreat guides told us we were really deep in stillness and probably didn’t realize how deep, and we were also very sensitive. It’s that way with grief, too. You might not realize how vulnerable and sensitive you are.

♥ It’s easier to ride the waves when you’re not upset at the “inconsiderate” boaters who caused them. You accept that there will be waves and ride them with equanimity.

♥ As I become more conscious of my thoughts, I can choose which ones to give attention to and which ones to release.

♥ A regular meditation practice helps to separate truth from delusion.

♥ Don’t give myself away! It’s important to have people pay for a service so they will be more fully invested in it and get more out of it.

♥ Absence of inspiration or even financial prosperity is no excuse to believe erroneous thoughts. It is an invitation to practice a higher vibration. It doesn’t have to be specific and focused on a certain outcome and simply can be appreciation, love, and trust. When I catch myself thinking about needing to generate more income, I can notice I’m thinking and remember to focus on a deeper, perhaps more general aspiration instead of a worrisome sense of lack.

June

♥ Inspiration arrives when you are present to the here and now, not absorbed in the past or thinking forward to the future. It is an energy of the present moment and spaciousness. There is so much wisdom, insight, and energy available if we can stay in the present and not get pulled back into the past or projected into the future. 

♥ There are moments when I feel grateful for all the choices I’ve made that have brought me to where I am, doing exactly what I’m doing. Moments when I’m not in pursuit because I realize I’ve already arrived (in my own way, not anyone else’s). Moments that are free from any concerns of measuring up. It seems that feeling this way is great practice for a fulfilling life.

♥ Spacious awareness is very different from analytical and logical thinking. It takes you completely out of the well-worn neural grooves of habit and thought. There is so much more wisdom and healing energy available beyond the thinking mind.

♥ When I noticed myself being drawn to a “seductive little thought”, putting space around it brought the realization that there are so many other choices in this moment. When I noticed my mind gravitating toward the seductive thought, it was like it was a toddler getting too close to the fire and a loving adult gently picking her up and bringing her back to safety. Whenever my little mind starts wandering towards seductive and unhealthy beliefs, Big Mind can gently but firmly lead it away. Seductive thoughts, challenging conditions, and temptations are the most powerful invitations to presence. They ultimately offer the realization that you don’t need the condition you are craving in order to be satisfied, fulfilled, content, happy, and peaceful.

♥ The way I feel towards my body is a tremendous opportunity for awakening and practicing loving-kindness and acceptance. Mindfulness replaces self-consciousness with spaciousness that gives rise to tenderness and compassion. Our challenging qualities and emotions are actually our greatest teachers once we stop being at war with them (and with ourselves).

♥ Compulsive beliefs are like weeds, and you have to continuously weed your garden of what is not desired or healthy so you can cultivate what you desire.

♥ Exploring and sorting through inherited stuff has been an incredible experience of discovering where the personalities and relationships fit into a larger context of both family and broader society/history. Holding a person‘s birth and death certificates in my hands at the same time is a powerful reflection on the brevity of life and how we are all links in a chain. Also, noticing what’s left behind from all these ancestral lives puts my own life story into perspective and inspires me to reflect on what is most important.

♥ Don’t be unkind to yourself to be kind to others. Be sure to include yourself in your circle of kindness.

July

♥ Even though they are no longer physically present, my parents and grandparents are still very much alive and able to give me their loving presence stripped of all personality quirks. They are with me now more than ever. It doesn’t matter whether I am calling their spirits to me or am calling upon memories of them and their finest qualities. Either way, their love is real and enduring.

♥ Spiritual expansion is such a delicious experience, whether it’s feeling your heart expand to love a brand new baby when you thought it was already full, expanding beyond the well-worn groove of thought during meditation and identifying with the larger screen of consciousness, or expanding beyond habitual behaviors, activities, responses, etc. to try something new that feels more aligned with your true self.

♥ Unkind thoughts about myself and others are opportunities and cues for loving-kindness.

♥ Times of waiting – in line, at a traffic light, waiting for a website to load, waiting for someone to move out of the scene I want to photograph, etc. – are opportunities for mindful presence and cues for dropping out of thought and into my body or heart. The result is that I don’t live in my head as much as I used to and have more control over that. Presence takes me out of my thoughts. The more I can get out of my head and into the present moment, the better!

♥ The biggest impediment to me being of service to the world is my own self-consciousness and self-doubt.

♥ Certain thoughts fall into the category of “The Forbidden Forest”. I can’t go there for a moment, can’t even stick a toe in that forest. It’s a line you just don’t cross. There’s no need to analyze or reflect. It’s forbidden because I’ve learned from experience not to go there, not to invite in that energy because it doesn’t serve me in any way and can be quite destructive. When one of those thoughts arises, I can acknowledge and choose not to indulge. Basically say, “I see you, and no, thank you.” It takes discipline and willpower, but it’s worth it.

♥ Instead of saying, “I have a problem with this,” reframe it as, “I have an opportunity for healing.” Bless it. It’s an opportunity to rewrite your programming, insert a new line of code into the existing script, or remove a bit of faulty code. You can allow the old, negative thoughts or behaviors to serve as a trigger for something new. Maybe for an affirmation or a more positive thought or response. You might not notice the problematic code until you upgrade your intentions. But it can be removed. You don’t have to blame anyone else or blame yourself. Recognizing it allows you to fix it.

♥ I can send love, light, and Reiki rather than worry about people I can’t help or situations I can’t do anything about.

August

♥ I am the one who needs to accept me.

♥ Instead of feeling bad about myself, affirm: May this, too, serve my awakening.

♥ No matter what you’ve done in the past or how you feel about it, you can choose love, and that transforms everything. You can choose to forgive yourself and have compassion for yourself. Don’t waste a moment depriving yourself of that love.

♥ To forgive does not mean to condone. To accept does not mean to enable someone else or to disempower yourself. Forgiveness and acceptance are qualities of the heart. They are not a checklist of behaviors. The same is true of love. It’s not unloving to hurt someone when your heart is tuned to love. Their reaction is not your responsibility. It’s not your responsibility to make things right for everyone, but to live with a loving heart. Sometimes the most loving response brings pain to another, though you neither intend nor want to hurt them. The pain is not your fault. You did not cause it. It is their opportunity to grow, to dispel delusion, to gain wisdom, to love more. That’s what you can wish for them. You can’t take away someone’s pain. You can’t source their inner peace. Rather than spin your wheels trying to do that, aspire to be a better version of yourself. Put effort into cultivating your own inner peace so you can be an example of how to break free from suffering and live with love. Doing that can empower others by giving them hope.

♥ It’s not about trying to get rid of the ego, but balancing it so it can work in harmony with spirit.

♥ Sometimes the missing piece is hidden in plain sight, but we don’t recognize it because we don’t see it from the right angle. You can just turn something a little bit and see it from a completely different angle, and that changes everything. Clarity dawns, and then you’re different. New possibilities emerge as if out of nowhere.

♥ The most important thing is to be in alignment with who I am and what I want. Caring what people think about me and doing what they want me to do because I want them to feel good doesn’t benefit anyone if it takes me out of alignment with my inner being. 

September

♥ When you get still and quiet, a deeper wisdom emerges that cuts out so much busywork that was neither necessary nor useful. When you take time to tap into deeper wisdom, life has greater ease to it.

♥ New ideas flow to me constantly and create new possibilities. Insight and inspiration flow to me in abundance and enrich my life. If it’s hard to feel good about financial prosperity, focus on that.

October

♥ It was never my job to excavate another person’s heart. That’s messy business, and it takes too much energy and attention away from what’s most important: being in harmony with my inner being.

♥ May the enjoyment of doing something I love, rather than perfectionism, guide my work.

♥ Insight, inspiration, and intuition create new possibilities that didn’t exist previously. Trust that they will come when the time is right and that I will be led to the best paths by following intuition, by making time for stillness, and listening and acting on what arises.

♥ There is light in me that needs to shine. It can’t wait until I think I’m more ready or perfect. Let it shine now!

♥ You can be inspired by others, or you can learn from them how you don’t want to be. But don’t compare yourself to anyone!

♥ There’s a difference between wholeness and expansion. You can feel whole and complete and still seek expansion. Expansion brings you to new levels of awareness and possibilities. Expansion isn’t just about goals. It’s about what happens to you on the inside as you live from day-to-day.

♥ The dark times can be useful for growing your soul even when it feels like you’re doing the opposite. It might compel you to ask questions and look at things in ways you’ve never considered them before. It might push you to your breaking point, which is the point at which everything you thought to be true about your life breaks down and new truth emerges like a shoot from a seed whose shell has broken open. And you’re never the same again. You’ve grown.

♥ Having so many challenging personalities in my life must be part of my path and serve my growth. Playing the victim inhibits expansion. I’ve done that. I’ve cloistered myself out of shame. But that was then, and it’s a whole new ballgame now. I can look at the conditions of my life and the people in it as material for alignment and expansion. They help me to cultivate unconditional love and boundaries. It all serves my awakening and further growth.

♥ If someone seems harmful or hurtful or has really bad energy, I can see them through the eyes of unconditional love from a distance. It doesn’t mean trying to save them or change them in any way. It means seeing their infinite radiance even if they don’t let it show. We have to remember to see ourselves through that lens, as well.

November

♥ There are unresolved stories that live in our body. We can release energy blocks and get the energy flowing by giving attention to those stories and images and bringing unconditional love to those areas – and watching them transform.

♥ I have a new relationship with money now because it’s not tangled up in my relationship with my dad and what he could or couldn’t give me that I really wanted. As I heal my relationship with my dad, I heal my relationship with money.

♥ Unconditional love is different from enabling. It’s about seeing someone’s perfection and loving them completely without wanting to change them or their circumstances because I acknowledge that I do not understand the reasons behind them. My mantra: I see your divinity. I love you unconditionally. I trust your path and honor your free will.

♥ The goal isn’t to get people to listen to me, buy what I’m selling, or look at the world the way I do. Let them be who they are. I just need to focus on moving towards satisfaction. Don’t look outside of myself and blame other people for what I feel insecure about. Stay focused on what inspires me and feels good.

December

♥ My creativity offers opportunities to transcend the need to be approved and accepted by others or to compare myself to others. Create for the joy of it rather than being concerned about any kind of reaction, response, or result. Just create – and share what I create with the world. Maybe even teach it. But don’t keep it to myself.

♥ Competition and comparison are the kiss of death for creatives.

♥ Don’t put attention on what makes me feel bad. Instead, focus on what I feel really good about. If it’s something that needs my attention, find a way to reframe something negative into something positive.


© 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, Reiki practitioner, 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.

From Grief to Gratitude and Beyond

From Grief to Gratitude and Beyond

A number of my friends and acquaintances lost close loved ones this year and are experiencing their first holiday season without them. Today I write from the depths of my heart and the canyon of my own experience to assure you that the pain of loss will not always feel so acute and raw. Time is your friend. This, too, shall pass. And when it does, it doesn’t mean you love them any less. It means you have found new ways to hold the relationship and to integrate what you loved most about them into your life. In other words, there is a light at the end of the dark tunnel of grief that leaves all the love intact and even helps it to grow.

It feels like a miracle when I acknowledge the contrast between how I feel now and how I felt during The Grieving Years (2014-2017) that followed my mom’s death and included my dad’s, as well. This past summer, it felt like the grieving chapter finally and mercifully had run its course. 

The transformation really hit me the other night when I drove home from work past a house with battery-powered candles glowing in each window like my parents had during the holiday season. It reminded me of their home and how joyful and welcoming it felt. In the past, that would have triggered a round of sad tears and missing my parents. But instead of feeling sad and mourning what’s missing now or dreading another holiday season without them, it’s like I walked through their front door and into their warm home and felt nourished and comforted all over again.

Even if it’s just a fleeting thought or feeling, I love that memories of my parents can lift me up and make me feel more connected to them rather than bring me down. I’m grateful that such thoughts can elicit tears of joy and appreciation instead of sadness. That was not the case when grief was fresh.

Everyone’s journey through grief is different. However, it calls each of us to grow and expand in some way. We say that our loved one will always live on in our heart. And we can get in touch with that place in us where what we loved most about them resides and give it new life, through us. We can keep their beautiful qualities alive in the world by watering those seeds they planted in us.

My journey through grief included: feeling the chasm of separation and loss, acknowledging my parents’ best qualities and appreciating them like never before (as if seeing them for the first time), letting go of the resistance and allowing some of those qualities to develop in myself, doing a little weeding, and integrating my parents’ most appreciated qualities into my life in a way that feels right and balanced.

It also involved hearing their voices in my heart and learning how to use that heart connection as a new kind of telephone that allows direct communication whenever I need or want it. The bottom line is that I now realize the distance between us is non-existent. They are part of me. I’ve never felt closer to them, and our relationship has never been better. Seriously.

Grief Work

In the past four years, I’ve let go of a lot of baggage around my parents that I couldn’t release while they were alive. A lot of resistance I carried my whole adult life. Notions about how I couldn’t share qualities with them. The programming went something like this: If Mom or Dad is X, then I am not-X. There were lots of qualities I split myself off from because of this programming that developed early in life as a coping mechanism but resulted in spending most of my adult life shooting myself in the foot!

This is deep stuff that grief helped me to unearth. It’s kind of amazing to finally drop your lifelong resistance to someone or something and reclaim the parts of yourself that you split yourself off from for good reasons back then that don’t serve you now.

When people are alive and we interact with their personality patterns, we might put up walls that don’t allow us to see the person’s essence. We hold ourselves in a pattern of resistance.­ When they pass away, we don’t interact with their personality anymore and can experience their deeper essence. Our relationship doesn’t end when the person dies. It continues. But what’s happened for me is that I have a relationship with my parents’ essence now, rather than just their personality that I used to bump up against. To relate to someone’s essence is very healing.

I have integrated my parents’ finest energy and qualities into myself and have never felt closer to them or more whole. It’s not that I love them any less. It’s that I’ve allowed myself to open to them more. I don’t resist them like I did when they were in physical form.

Beyond Grief

Last night at bedtime, I used up the very last drops of the peppermint foot lotion my mom gave me for Christmas five years ago. Instead of feeling sad about having one less thing from her, I decided to buy some more lotion to carry on how she cared for me. I bought one for me and one for my daughter. When I bought the lotion, I felt grateful for my mom’s kindness, care, and generosity. I felt her love in my gesture of self-care and caring for my daughter.  

I don’t need grief to sustain my relationship with my parents. They never left me. They are closer than ever.

I don’t need grief to sustain a relationship with anyone else that was formed around shared grief. In other words, I don’t have to hold on to grief and suffering as an identity. Nobody who’s ever loved me would want me to hang out there for long. They would be so happy to see me put down that weight and experience more joy and gratitude than ever before.

You don’t miss a person the same way when you’ve reduced the distance between you and them to zero. When you have integrated their most cherished qualities into your very self. When you’re no longer resisting and trying to maintain a separate identity from them. When you know they’re only a thought away, and you can feel their presence in your heart. When you hear their voice in your heart whenever you need it.

My mom loved Christmas and went all-out. This is the first year I can listen to Christmas songs playing in stores or on the car radio without feeling sad. Instead, I feel gratitude for all those wonderful memories of my parents and for not pushing them away anymore. The big, black, iron teardrop in my heart has transformed into the light of unconditional love.

Instead of melancholy, I feel hope and excitement about making new holiday memories with my family, especially my almost three-year-old granddaughter. Those memories will look very different from my memories of Christmases past when my parents and grandparents were alive. Christmas is different now. And so am I. 


© 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, Reiki practitioner, 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.

Angels in My Heart

Angels in My Heart

I’m sure you’ve experienced it: The 3 A.M. wake-up. All shields are down. You are like a turtle without a shell, vulnerable to the thoughts and feelings that seem so urgent in the darkest hours when everyone else is asleep. Thoughts that keep running in circles inside your head like a cat, high on catnip, chasing its tail. You want to go back to sleep, but the thoughts won’t stop. 

I woke up recently in the middle of the night gripped by fear. To be honest, fear is a visitor that has not shown up much recently, and I’ve appreciated its absence. But there it was again, strong as ever.

In my daily meditation, I practice noticing and naming emotions that arise. So when I woke up overcome by fear, I noted, “Ah, fear. This is what fear feels like.” It’s like when you pick up the phone and recognize the voice of a familiar acquaintance at the other end.

This fear was financial in nature and whisked me into poverty consciousness before I even knew what hit me. It fell into the “Forbidden Forest” category of thoughts that don’t lead anywhere productive. Although I work diligently to retrain my brain away from those kinds of thoughts, it caught me off-guard in the middle of the night when my defenses were asleep.

The way I saw it, I had four options:

  1. Think
  2. Meditate
  3. Focus on where the fear is manifesting in my body
  4. Ask for help.

I’m a big fan of developing inner resources. However, I was really tired at the time. So I chose the fourth option.

Calling All Angels

Recently, I’ve sensed an angelic presence in my life and believe there is a great deal of help available to us. We just have to remember to ask for it. At the risk of sounding totally woo-woo, I believe there are legions of unemployed angels just waiting to be asked. They love us and want to help but cannot interfere with our free will and therefore need to be asked. Even so, they won’t work against our highest good, which we might not be aware of in a given situation. 

So I asked the angels for help. I disengaged from fear and became still. From that stillness, a warm light arose and engulfed the darkness of my fear. It carried the realization that insight and intuition flow to me in abundance and are great sources of prosperity in my life. The flow of this kind of wisdom provides the answers I need. I just need to trust in it, open to it, and not block it with fear!

That thought was like a soft blanket of peace. It was as if an angel jumped right into my heart and shined a spotlight on what I needed to know and where I needed to put my attention.

I learned that if it’s hard to feel good about money, focus instead on a form of prosperity that is easier to buy into. The closest approximation that brings you a feeling of hope and abundance. 

Inside the Tank

Something similar happened during my most recent float therapy session. There are no distractions in the silent darkness of the float tank. It’s just you and your mind. Usually, my float sessions consist of 90 minutes of very deep relaxation and meditation. Thoughts tend to lose their hold when I float because there’s nothing to reinforce them. When I’m that relaxed and undistracted, they dissolve like soap bubbles that pop within seconds of becoming.

However, a compelling thought managed to take root this time. It was about how my mom must have felt when she knew she was dying of pancreatic cancer. How hard it must have been for her to let go of absolutely everything that was important to her in this world. And everyone she loved. I also really missed her as I floated in the darkness.

This time, it wasn’t fear. It was the pain of separation that seized me. Feeling apart from. It was a very uncomfortable feeling. However, I stayed with it, knowing it wouldn’t last. I felt both the pain of separation from my mom and the emotional pain she presumably experienced during the weeks and days before she transitioned out of this world. 

Then I experienced an inner sensation of light and warmth, just like when I was gripped by fear during the night. Two memories emerged from that light.

One was a synchronicity that took place after a Reiki training, when I wanted to know which archangel(s) I have a strong connection with. I sensed green light and the presence of Raphael but wondered if I was just making it up. The next day while working at the library, a patron approached me because he had an appointment with a co-worker. He announced in a strong, clear voice, “I am Raphael.” As if that weren’t enough, on my break I got takeout from the natural foods café, and the bill was $4.44. The cashier exclaimed, “That’s a good number! It means angels are with you!”

The second memory was from the earliest weeks following my mom’s death. Lying in my bed at night, I felt myself enveloped by an indescribable sensation of love and golden light that pushed happiness into me. It started at my feet and worked its way up to my head until I was embraced by it completely and immersed in it from head to toe. It seemed to be associated with my mom. Perhaps it was a non-physical hug or a glimpse of what it feels like on the other side? I sensed she is with us and able to tune in to our thoughts. But that wasn’t all. Another family member who is much more skeptical than I experienced the same thing in their bed.

Those two memories engulfed and dispelled the sense of separation that seized me in the float tank. They were much greater than the pain of separation. In the silent darkness of the float tank, I felt deeply connected to and part of the universal life energy that my mom is also part of. For the remainder of the session, I floated in peace and joy. 

Valuable Insights

The morning after fear paid me a nighttime visit, I got up and meditated first thing. During meditation, I understood that help is available when I need it. Answers about the future are not available now because it’s not their time yet. We cannot foresee what choices, possibilities, information, understanding, and assistance will be available to us in the future.

Instead of getting stuck in fear, we can trust that the best path will be revealed to us with every step we take, if we tune in to our inner guidance system. We can trust that we will learn, grow, and expand more between now and then and make choices that have not shown up yet on our radar. We don’t have all the necessary information at this time to pass judgment on how the future will be. In our journey toward the future, we will receive more useful guidance from a state of inner peace and trust than fear or anxiety. Fear blocks the good stuff.

Then I got zapped with an inspiration. Something I couldn’t believe hadn’t occurred to me before. All of a sudden, I envisioned my home in a completely different way that included space for something my heart yearns to do more of. This opened up a new world of possibility and was specific evidence of the insight I had moments earlier. 

Basically, my fear dissolved when I understood that insight and inspiration create new possibilities that haven’t come into view yet. I realized my job is to trust that I will be led to the best paths by following intuition, making time for stillness, and acting on the wisdom that arises. One step at a time.

Such a better alternative to thinking too much, trying so hard, and doing too much work that doesn’t produce desired results. It doesn’t have to be such a hard and fearful journey when there is so much help and light available!


© 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, Reiki practitioner, 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.

One Puzzle After Another

One Puzzle After Another

About a week before I left for British Columbia to visit relatives, I was making myself crazy. I was upset about something I could not control: How other people respond to me.

It felt like the issue was really coming to a head, and it didn’t feel good at all. I felt invisible. And resentful! When such emotions arise, my automatic response is to withdraw and withhold…because not sharing might hurt less than sharing and being ignored and feeling invisible. 

But I knew deep inside that withdrawing and withholding was not the answer. It was just a defense mechanism that doesn’t serve anyone or anything except for my infantile need for attention. I can do better than that. 

Instead of stewing and chasing my tail in circles, I became still. In stillness and silence, a deeper wisdom emerged.

That wisdom assured me that I am better off not concerning myself with the response part of the equation. My responsibility is to give what I have to offer, if it feels right to do so. Leave it at that. That’s all that matters. I can’t control anyone’s response. I can only do what feels right in my heart. And doing that is really important. It’s kind of like the whole point.

It was all just a matter of focusing on the wrong thing and misplacing my attention. I could shift my focus inward rather than outward in an attempt to get my needs met and my emotional holes filled. People are fickle and mortal. Ideally, we source our peace and fulfillment from within. Then we can relate to others from a sense of wholeness instead of neediness.

If I source what I most long for from within myself (and the Universal Energy that is within me and that I am part of), I wouldn’t feel resentful or hurt by the actions or inactions of others. Then I can love more and better because the quality of my love wouldn’t be conditional and dependent on others.

May I be less needy in relationship with others and therefore more loving.
By loving myself unconditionally, may I not put unrealistic demands on others.
May I realize that I am enough as I am and not look to others to prove it to me.

In a nutshell, I realized: I AM THE ONE WHO NEEDS TO ACCEPT ME. The truth is that it never involved anyone else. I had been looking outside for something I needed to cultivate within all along. I need to accept and care about myself enough to allow myself to be in harmony with my Inner Being and not distracted away from it.

Oh my! It might sound simple and obvious, but it was HUGE! It felt like nothing short of a turning point in my life. 

Logical, rational thinking is overrated when it’s not in service of the Higher Self. We tend to overthink and complicate things, when the answers on a spiritual level are surprisingly simple. Learning about my epiphany, one might think, “No shit!” and tell me it’s nothing I didn’t already know or hadn’t heard before.

And they’d be correct. But this time, it SUNK IN. I understood it in all my cells and on all levels, not just intellectually. It’s the feeling of placing an elusive puzzle piece or balancing a rock that seemed impossible to balance. Cracking the mystifying code.

Sometimes the missing piece is hidden in plain sight, but we don’t recognize it because we don’t see it from the right angle. The right words don’t make an impression until we are ready. Hearing them at the right time can be a major turning point in our consciousness and in our lives.

This makes me think of the community puzzle table for adults at the library where I work. Patrons work on it (some are quite serious about it), and when it is completed, that puzzle is removed, and another puzzle is placed on the table. Eventually that gets put together, and then another one is put out. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to complete the puzzle. There will be another puzzle when that one is finished, whenever that is.

In other words, there’s no rush, and you’re never finished. Of course, I’m not just referring to puzzles (wink, wink).

The puzzle that was out before I went on vacation was especially challenging. The only pieces of the 1000 piece puzzle that remained to be placed were about 200 pieces in slightly varied shades of green. Sometimes I’d try my hand at the puzzle, and it was so challenging that I wondered how it ever would get finished with so many pieces that were so similar.

When that’s the case, you start looking more closely at the shapes and subtle color variations. Really get to know the contours and subtleties, and then when you’re looking at other pieces, you might recognize the piece another piece fits with. Alternatively, you can allow intuition to guide you. You might be surprised by what happens when you stop thinking so much and allow intuition to be part of the process.

When I returned from British Columbia, a new puzzle was on the table. I couldn’t believe it! The secret of the former puzzle had been cracked. Even the most challenging puzzles are not impossible. With right effort and awareness, they, too, will be resolved. 

What are the patterns in your life that are crazy-making? The ones that disturb your inner peace and keep coming up again and again in different manifestations? Those patterns are your personal puzzles. They are part of your life so you may grow and expand. It’s all good, even when it doesn’t seem that way at all. 

I believe we have access to all the resources and support we need, to help us grow on a soul level. We’ve just become really good at blocking it! If we look at a situation from a more worldly or “practical” angle, it can be tempting to conclude there’s something wrong with us or with others, when that’s not the case and is entirely beside the point. By thinking too much, we block the inspiration and guidance that is available to us. We see the same pieces again and again until we finally figure out how to connect them – until we learn what we need to and grow! 

But our work isn’t done because there’s a fresh, new puzzle for us to work on. An endless supply of puzzles! As we work on a given puzzle, we might feel hopeful, focused, frustrated, and even overwhelmed. But when the last piece is placed, it feels incredible, just like it feels when I’m balancing rocks, and a challenging rock finally clicks into balance. It’s the feeling of expanding our awareness and understanding of what is possible, the feeling of empowerment. It makes all the challenges worth it. 

And then we roll up our sleeves and keep going.

© 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.

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