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Category: Spiritual Journey

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.

Embraced by a Kind and Spacious Heart

Embraced by a Kind and Spacious Heart

It’s been quite a while since my last blog post. I’ve sat down a number of times to try to write one and have been doing loads of writing. I just haven’t felt like publishing anything.

It’s partly because I’ve been simplifying since returning from the seven-day vipassana meditation retreat in early May. The effects of the retreat continue, and it’s been like a total mind reset. But there have been a number of times when I’ve remained silent even when there was something I wanted to share, and that’s not about simplifying and being more deliberate. That’s about withholding and withdrawing…which tends not to be a good thing. Usually, it means a misguided thought has taken hold, and I’m shrinking and disconnecting rather than expanding and connecting.

I’d much rather expand and connect.

This particular thought has required me to utilize pretty much every tool in my toolbox. It goes something like this:

Nobody is interested in what I have to offer.

It’s one of my mind’s Top Ten Tunes, and I can get sucked into it if I’m unaware or tired.

Fortunately, because I’ve been practicing mindfulness meditation every single day for the past 90 days and began formal training with Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach, I’m aware of it and realize it’s untrue. But it keeps coming back! It’s like weeding the garden. Weeds can grow quickly, and you have to be clear about what you do and don’t want to grow in your garden and stay on top of it.

If I’m looking for evidence that the erroneous belief is true, there’s plenty of it. My family wasn’t receptive to the ways in which I could assist loved ones who were dying. My former principal didn’t value my creative, holistic approach to early childhood education. I often feel invisible and unrecognized in groups. I don’t have many followers on social media. Oh, the list could go on! 

But it all depends on what you’re looking for because there’s also evidence to the contrary. My mom really wanted me around when she was dying because she felt safe with me. Parents from my old school district have practically begged me to start a preschool. I sometimes receive emails from friends and others who read my writing or see my photography and appreciate it. There are people who believe in me and say they wish I could see myself through their eyes.

Working with the problematic belief has been illuminating because it provides insight into how my mind operates. Some days (especially when my self-care slips), it gets me down, but some days I can laugh at it and find some humor in how persistent it is. A sense of humor is a great friend on the spiritual path.

Being with Thoughts and Children

A recent visit with my 2 1/2-year-old granddaughter, Ava, revealed parallels between working with our thoughts and guiding our children. When Ava displays undesirable behaviors, rather than either looking the other way or getting locked in some kind of power struggle, my natural response is to hold her with unconditional love and acceptance while applying a strategy like humor, distraction, empathy, etc. I might ask her if she is tired when she lashes out. Rather than either allow her troublesome behavior (or my troublesome thought) or take an axe to it, there is another option: to hold it in a kind and spacious heart and consider what’s behind it. What unmet need is behind our self-sabotaging actions, assumptions, cravings, etc.?

I’m discovering the key is to develop a friendliness and tenderness towards the fact that such a belief exists, while at the same time considering: Is it true? Is there evidence to the contrary? Am I giving more weight to the absence of positive response than to its presence? Awareness, tenderness, and curiosity can be powerful tools.

When I was in the library the other day, I walked past a toddler who dropped to the floor on the brink of a meltdown. His mother responded by saying, “Oh, honey!” with such presence and compassion that I had to do a double-take. She neither scolded nor placated the child. Instead, she acknowledged him and remained centered, skillful, and connected. Moments later, tantrum and power struggle averted, the child got up and walked along – just like a thought moves along when you meet it with skillful awareness.

I was in awe because it’s not something you see every day. It was absolutely inspiring – and apparently, I needed to witness it.

But it’s not the norm. Children are emotional barometers and often act up when their adult caregivers are already frazzled (kind of like how our pain-body becomes active when we are tired and off-balance). Or perhaps the adult has an agenda that gets hijacked by a tired and cranky child, and then responds harshly to the child. Or they are in a public place and concerned about how they appear (in control of the situation?) to others.

Here’s the part nobody explains to us when we’re little: The authority figure’s response to us is not an indicator of our inherent worth. Their response is coming from the personality level, on which they’ve been subjected to certain causes and conditions that made them a certain way. But none of that is based on truth about our True Nature. If we are not conscious of it, others’ reactions to us become internalized, and we believe untruths about ourselves that carve deep grooves in our neural pathways and become the Top Ten Tunes that are programmed to keep playing in our head.

As Ava’s grandmother who loves her dearly, I’d want her to know that any harsh words that are spoken to her are not truth, and she should not believe them. I’d want her to realize she is a beautiful, worthy being of light (while also being a human being that makes mistakes) and to not let the unkind voices bring her down. I wouldn’t want her to internalize them or act in accordance with them. I’d want her to live in harmony with her True Nature and to help her connect with that because it’s where her power is.

Wanting that for her, and realizing my grandmother wanted the same for me, makes it easier to give it to myself.

Thank You, Mister Rogers

A few weeks ago, my son insisted on seeing the Mister Rogers documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? with me. He knows film, and he knows me, and when he tells me I MUST see a certain film, I listen.

It’s a wonderful movie, by the way, and please do yourself a favor and see it if you haven’t already.

After seeing the movie, an image started arising in my mind during meditation when I noticed myself getting lured toward a seductive thought that makes me feel bad about myself. It’s inspired by animated segments in which Daniel Tiger represented Mister Rogers as a child and is the image of a young child wandering toward a curious something that has strong energy. Just before the child gets close enough to touch it, a loving adult gently picks her up and carries her to safety. I think of it as little mind (personality level) being rescued by Big Mind (Higher Self).

But the loving presence could represent everyone who’s ever loved and believed in me and wouldn’t want me to bring more suffering on myself. This loving presence guides me gently away from danger, just as I would do for Ava. She (it’s a feminine presence) doesn’t look the other way and let me wander into the Forbidden Forest of destructive thought. She doesn’t yell or berate me. It’s more like she ever so compassionately whispers, “Oh, honey!” and takes me gently by the hand so I won’t linger in a place that only generates suffering. It leaves me feeling worthy and loved, and I’m so grateful for the new grooves that are being created in my neural circuitry, both on and off the cushion.

I experienced the last few minutes of the Mister Rogers film as the most poignant of all. People who were closest to him listened to a recording of his voice instructing them to think for one minute of a person who loves/loved them unconditionally. It was powerful to see how their faces changed as they thought about this person. Toward the end, he reminded them that this person would never want them to feel bad and suffer. They only want what’s best for you. They wouldn’t want you to let anyone snuff out your light – the uniqueness that makes you special.

Those who love us unconditionally and those whom we love unconditionally are our greatest allies in helping us to generate lovingkindness towards ourselves when we question our worth, even if they’re no longer in this world. That includes Mister Rogers, who sang:

I hope that you’ll remember
Even when you’re feeling blue
That it’s you I like,
It’s you yourself,
It’s you.
It’s you I like.

How about internalizing that voice?

I walked out of that movie with wet eyes, feeling deeply inspired. Mostly, I knew I needed to continue writing blog posts. It doesn’t matter if it feels like nobody cares about what I have to say. First of all, that’s not true. 🙂 Second, even Mister Rogers struggled with thinking his voice didn’t matter. And third, his spirit needs to be kept alive in this world. Empathy and kindness. Deep listening and appreciating. He and I (and only 2% of the population) are Myers-Briggs type INFP, and that’s what we do and who we are. And even though we can be misunderstood and devalued, the world needs us to express these qualities, big-time. Every single one of us who can bring forth empathy and lovingkindness needs to step up and not give up.

As we walked to the car after the movie, I told my son that the movie motivated me to share my writing again. He smiled a wise grin and said he had a feeling that would be my takeaway. Thank you, Mister Rogers, for reminding me that every message of joy, hope, light, and love matters and is worth sharing. And thank you, Cianan, for realizing I needed the reminder.

© 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.

P.S. I’ve rebranded! River Bliss is now Susan Tara Meyer! I’m also making changes to the way messages are delivered to my mailing list, and your patience is greatly appreciated as I work out the kinks. 🙂  

Even While Waiting for Spring

Even While Waiting for Spring

“It’s another lovely winter day.”

“Don’t spend too much time in the hot sun!”

These are typical greetings I hear every day as we wait for Spring to arrive in all its glory and for Winter to release its stronghold. Spring certainly is taking its time this year.

Yesterday morning, I was mindful of what I needed most of all before heading to work: a nice, vigorous power-walk. I had hoped to get my walk in before the rain came, but it started raining a few minutes after I started walking. However, I had an umbrella with me and a warm enough coat, so I kept walking.

There’s a choice in moments like that to feel grumpy about having to walk in the cold rain. You might even choose to stop walking and go home. Get out of the cool, damp weather. Or you could feel empowered and unbothered by the weather and have a lovely walk despite the rain…as I did. Not that anyone who feels grumpy about the persistent “wintry weather” and ice-covered windshields would want to hear my Susie Sunshine story. But I felt good about giving myself the gift of what I needed most that morning and knew I’d feel better at work because of it and because I didn’t allow myself to make excuses and not exercise.

I also thought about how nice a hot shower would feel when I’m done walking. 

And felt grateful that I could take a shower.

I thought about the homeless population I see every day at the library. If anyone has a right to complain about how long it’s taking for Spring to arrive this year, it’s them. Surely, they’d appreciate being able to come inside from the cold weather and take a hot shower at will.

I felt truly grateful for having hot, running water and a bathroom with a shower. 

The night before, I watched the documentary, Minimalism, which is about decluttering our lives and living with less stuff because “less is more”. I recently completed the requirements for Clutter Clearing Coaching certification and also became a Certified Feng Shui Consultant, so the documentary was right up my alley and very inspiring. An interview with a couple who lives in a “tiny home” helped me to reframe my small (by today’s standards), one-bathroom home built nearly 200 years ago (when people didn’t have nearly as much stuff) as an exciting decluttering challenge. I thought I did a good job last year of getting rid of stuff, but after watching the movie and looking around my home, I realize I can do more.

The documentary reminded me that I have so much more than enough, even though every home I go into for clutter coaching and feng shui seems so much nicer and more spacious than mine.

Of course, it’s not about the amount of space or stuff you have but whether your space and your stuff reflects your values. Having all your possessions fit into a couple of carry-on bags might represent freedom, resourcefulness, and empowerment to one person and disempowerment and unworthiness to another. Someone who values caring for the environment might not be drawn to a large home that takes up a lot of space and requires more energy to heat, cool, and maintain it, whereas someone who values entertaining and hosting holiday celebrations would be unlikely to live in a small home with tiny rooms like mine.

I started thinking about gratitude and my relationship with abundance. I wondered: When is gratitude for what you have an “abundance block” vs. a virtue? 

The late Dr. Wayne Dyer wrote:

“Refuse to allow yourself to have low expectations about what you’re capable of creating. As Michelangelo suggested, the greater danger is not that your hopes are too high and you fail to reach them; it’s that they’re too low and you do.”

During my walk, I felt like I was balancing on a tightrope between gratitude (for what I have) and poverty mindset (being content with what I have because others have so much less). It’s that line I wanted to be more mindful of and understand better. Can I or should I be content with living in a small, one-bathroom home with hot, running water and no usable storage space? It seems foolish to underestimate the value of hot, running water when so many people in the world and even in my affluent hometown don’t have such ready access to it. Does feeling such gratitude for simple pleasures like that prevent me from having higher expectations about what I can create in my life – for instance, a home with more spacious rooms and usable space?

I guess I didn’t want to get stuck or limited by gratitude. But how silly is that? As I continued to walk, I felt an answer coming to me: To feel gratitude for the little things while also feeling a sense of true abundance and worth. 

It doesn’t matter how much stuff you have relative to anyone else. Comparing yourself to others is not the answer. Feeling abundant and prosperous is what matters. Feeling that you are enough and have enough, whatever your situation is. I think that is a useful mindset for discovering what you’re really capable of.

In other words, gratitude and appreciation are not abundance blocks. What matters is how abundant you feel. When you feel appreciative, but a feeling of “not enough-ness”, unworthiness, or lack creeps in, that is the culprit that needs attention. 

So the feeling I’m going for is appreciation for what I have without clinging to it or craving more. A sense of being and having enough and not comparing myself to others – feeling bad about having more than some or not nearly as much as others.

Gratitude is such a powerful mindset. When you are filled with gratitude for what you already have, it produces joy and the abundance mindset and energy boost for continuing to follow your bliss. It leads to more of the same and natural expansion (which may or may not have anything to do with material possessions).

On the other hand, feeling bad about the home you live in, the weather, etc. produces a sense of lack that drains your energy and makes it harder to follow your bliss because bliss becomes out of reach. Dr. Dyer suggested “being peaceful, radiating love, practicing forgiveness, being generous, respecting all life, and most important, visualizing yourself as capable of doing anything you can conceive of in your mind and heart.” Playing the victim of weather or circumstance is disempowering. Being grateful for what you have without any feelings of lack puts the wind back in your sails and empowers you to play with greater possibilities.

It’s like having gratitude for the weather, even when it still feels much more like Winter than Spring in mid-April. Taking a walk anyway and being outdoors noticing the birdsong and legions of daffodils that will bloom in time. Not today, but don’t let that diminish your feeling of enough-ness in this moment. Finding beauty in a cluster of crocuses that are still closed, but the raindrops look so beautiful on them, and the image is simply perfect just as it is right now, and you wouldn’t dare or even think to ruin the poetry of the moment with thoughts of how cold it is.

Feeling appreciative and joyful about that rather than grumpy because Spring hasn’t arrived yet in all its gloryHaving a spring in your step and going about your business with joy in your heart, rather than waiting for the arrival of Spring or “more than this” to feel good.

© 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.

Just for the Joy of It

Just for the Joy of It

As I drove along I-88 to Light on the Hill retreat center last weekend, I felt a little nervous. It was the weekend our group would focus on the Inner Child, and that kind of work hasn’t been my favorite kind of spiritual work in the past. What would my inner children have to say to me? What kind of emotional state would I find them in?

I’d recently finished sorting through all the family photos my parents had accumulated during their lifetime: 23 boxes of them, to be precise. It was like going through a multigenerational life review. I saw pictures in which I stood apart from the rest of my family, as if I wanted nothing to do with them, and felt bad about how I acted during those adolescent and teen years. Even when I was older, I believed I was more enlightened than the rest of my family and sometimes wondered if I was switched at birth. If I didn’t have the “Meyer eyes,” I seriously would have considered that possibility! Where the heck did I come from, anyway? I didn’t see myself reflected in my family.

In the same boxes, I came across baby pictures of my parents and wondered why I had to push so hard against such sweet beings. I imagined how it might be if my four-year-old self could have played with their four-year-old selves and experience a kind of peer equality we couldn’t experience when we were mired (Meyered!) in the roles of Parent and Child.

Basically, my life is quite full and busy, and I didn’t want to put time into reparenting my inner children because it is a bit of a commitment. However, the weekend was profoundly beautiful, and I learned something really important.

In our first guided visualization, my 6-year-old self came out the door of my childhood home, and we had a conversation in the front yard that continued on the branches of the cedar tree I loved to hang out in. That tree was my secret place. It was like a room, dark and hidden from the rest of the world, and during the visualization, it all came back to me: the scent of the foliage, the texture and position of the branches, the way the light filtered in.

My inner 6-year-old was a happy girl and had lots to say. She was a little lonely, but happy. Most of all, she wanted me to lighten up, run around, and be imaginative. I asked her why she’s happy, and she said because she picked a flower and played “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” on her piano. She wanted me to play piano because it brought her such joy.

The next day, my 15-year-old self greeted me in another guided visualization. I was surprised at how pleasant and talkative she was but remembered that I saved my surly side for my parents! At 15, I had lots of rich piano opportunities in and outside of high school, including accompanying choral groups and vocalists and playing piano in jazz band. By then, piano had basically become my identity. However, I’d discovered boys and was putting more energy into being accessible and attractive to them than pursuing what I really loved, and my piano teacher could tell when I didn’t practice the assigned pieces between lessons. (But Bach inventions were so boring, complains the 15-year-old!)

At that age, my ego was all tangled up in piano, and there was more pressure and greater expectations around it, as well as competition and a stubborn root of perfectionism. Not to mention, my mom was living vicariously through my piano accomplishments, and I felt the pressure, so it was a facet of the complicated mother-daughter dynamic, as well. The delicate balance had tipped, and playing piano was more about outcomes, identity, and self-worth than being in the flow and immersed in joy.

When I got to college, the competition was too much for me, and I pursued new interests and identities. I gradually stopped playing piano. I’ve lived in some small spaces, including my current home, and what you make space for says a lot about what’s important to you. I’ve always made space for a full piano keyboard, even if it was played only rarely.

My 15-year-old self wanted to know why I stopped playing piano, why I threw out the baby with the bath water. She wanted me to play, and to do it on my own terms. Play from my heart, what I want to play, how I want to play it, not to please anyone but myself. Play the music that comes to me almost constantly, that I find myself humming and singing into the voice recorder app on my phone. Play without worrying about making mistakes or being seen and judged, without making it be about my identity or self-worth. Play for the joy of it, like I did when I was young because when I play in that spirit, it feels soooo good! It’s inherently gratifying.

On my way home from the retreat, I stopped in Ithaca at a state park I hadn’t been to in quite some time, to photograph waterfalls. As I walked back to my car, I understood the deeper message my inner children were offering me: When have I done something just for the joy of it, without trying to monetize it in some way or draw attention to it? To do something without concern for how anyone else would respond to it. Just do it for the pleasure of it, and leave it at that. Let it be a hobby. Basically, I realized the value of hobbies.

There’s a picture of me playing piano when I was eight years old. I was smiling, and it was all about joy. Playing piano hadn’t become a means of impressing anyone or proving my worth. I just loved playing. I found that picture and placed it on my music stand, to keep me in touch with that spirit.

I’m learning many new skills now and pursuing new certifications. My plate is quite full. However, devoting even five minutes a day to playing piano for sheer JOY could be the most important thing I’ve done in quite some time – a means for healing and integrating my inner child because playing for the sake of joy and delight is so different from having the music all tangled up in ego and ultimately abandoned! Cutting yourself off from something you truly love can really weigh on you. It can be like abandoning an actual part of yourself.

What brings joy can begin to feed the ego instead of the True Self if you’re not careful. When the ego gets too big, it can crucify joy and turn what you love into a false identity that serves ego instead of a vehicle that expresses the True Self. That’s what happened to me. But when you stop blaming others or putting conditions or too much weight on the activity you once loved, you begin the empowering retrieval process. 

There’s a room in my house that I’ve been working on for the past couple weeks. It used to be a bedroom but got converted into a storage room because the house lacks usable storage space and closets. It’s where I store my keyboard. I’ve somewhat facetiously referred to that room as the “graveyard of former passions” because it also houses my collection of children’s picture books from when I taught kindergarten. Those are the two things most visible in that room, and they have survived multiple rounds of clutter clearing. Everything else is hidden away on shelves behind a screen or in a dresser.

This week, I decided to come up with a new name for that room. Something along the lines of the “Inner Child Playground” or “Room for Joy”. I switched the images on the walls to display photography that fills me with delight, including pictures of daffodils and lilacs that I loved to pick when I was a child. I’ve made the keyboard more inviting and comfortable to sit at and have been playing every day since I got home from the retreat. It’s been so much fun that five minutes is rarely enough, and I’ve been giving it the time it deserves. 

It feels like I’ve retrieved an abandoned and very important part of myself. The baby (or should I say inner child) has been removed from the bath water, and the good news is that it didn’t drown but is still very much alive. It has been a very happy week holding that child and appreciating its essence during our daily playdates as the cloudy bath water gurgles down the drain. At last!

© 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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