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Category: Spiritual Journey

Graduation Day

Graduation Day

My youngest child graduated from high school today!

I had intended to bring some tissues to the ceremony, and when I arrived at the venue without any regretted the oversight. However, it ended up not being an issue – for, surprisingly, I didn’t shed a single tear. The graduation ceremony didn’t move me emotionally – maybe because it was nearly three hours long, which seemed about twice as long as it needed to be. And I’m not keen on formality to begin with.

It wasn’t the graduation ceremony that got me. It was watching the movie, Boyhood, with Cianan the night before that did it. We had watched the movie together about a year and a half ago, but watching it again felt like the perfect way to prepare for his graduation, especially since we have a history around film, and he is going to college in the fall to study film.

If you aren’t familiar with Boyhood, I’ll summarize it by saying that it was filmed over a period of 12 years, so throughout the course of the movie, all the characters really had aged that much. At the beginning, the main character was in kindergarten, and his mom had a talk with him about why he put stones into the classroom pencil sharpener. (Because he had an arrowhead collection and wanted to see if he could turn the rocks into arrowheads, of course!) The film ended with him – now an aspiring photographer – arriving at college and connecting with his new tribe of kindred spirits. The high school graduation party scene got me, as I knew it would – especially when his parents (who had split up before the movie even began) were having a harmonious, reflective moment in the kitchen. And the scene in which he was packing to leave for college, and his mom became emotional about that chapter of life coming to an end. And the damn  “Hero” song that played as he drove himself to college. (That song triggers tears every time I hear it.) There’s something about the main character that resembles Cianan. He even has the eye and passion for photography that Cianan has for film – which intensified the realism.

Before starting the movie, Cianan pleaded, “Mom, please don’t cry too much.” I was fine during the first half, but toward the end, I fetched the box of tissues and tried my very best to cover my face and control my breathing so he wouldn’t realize how much I was crying. The movie was awesome – so real and honest. But even bigger magic came after the movie was over, and my tears had dried.

Cianan and I have had so many heart-to-heart talks through the years about film, philosophy, psychology, spirituality, music, and relationships. He is an old soul and a deep thinker. Our talks have been a source of great joy and satisfaction, and the one we had last night was perhaps the best yet. The events, relationships, and dialogue in the film were a springboard for Cianan opening up about how he perceives himself, what high school was like for him, how events from his childhood affected him, ways in which he wants to grow and change, and how he longs to connect with his tribe at college – with people who share his passion for filmmaking and truly “get” him. We talked openly and honestly about relationships, drugs, feelings, and the joy of finally finding your tribe. We talked for a long time, and it felt exquisite and holy. It felt like our own private graduation ceremony. After he left, I cried again because, for the first time, his graduation felt real. It wasn’t so long ago that his world revolved around his Thomas the Tank Engine trains and his beloved frog pond. This milestone came sooner than I could have imagined back then. And I have so loved our time together.

Although he’s always been deeply loved, Cianan has not had what I would consider a particularly carefree life. He’s experienced some challenges and family drama, despite my best intentions and efforts. When I was pregnant with him, his dad (who I was married to at the time) applied for a position with Disney World. Moving 1,200 miles away from our family and friends in upstate New York was the last thing I wanted to think of while preparing for the arrival of a baby, but when Cianan was two months old, we were on our way to Orlando to begin a new chapter that would end up lasting for two years. I wondered and sometimes worried about how the stress and upheaval of the move would affect Cianan. But he was the calmest baby! His aura was pure peace, and his gaze was deep and penetrating. When I nursed him to sleep at night, if my mind wandered to anything other than the present moment, he would become restless and squirm. He was like a tiny Zen master who kept bringing me back to the present moment, and I’ve always felt that, if there is such a thing as past or parallel lives, he must have been my spiritual teacher in another lifetime.

Cianan Allen-Meyer

Cianan has had a passion for filmmaking since he was four or five years old. Around his sixth birthday, he was interviewed by the local newspaper because he’d helped compose the lyrics for one of the holiday songs his musician stepfather had been commissioned to write. When the reporter asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he replied, “A movie maker.” His passion for film has endured for 14 years now. I’m excited to see where it leads him and am grateful for how his art and writing have helped him to channel his emotional responses to life situations and events and cultivate a wisdom and compassion beyond his years. I expect that someday he will make a movie that caricatures the adults in his life and that doing so will be cathartic for him. When he’s experienced bumps in the road, we’ve often reframed them as material for his future movies and talked about how he might put a humorous spin on them.

I remember taking him to the movie theater when he was young and feeling it was a very important thing to do. It felt like more than just a fun and entertaining mother-son activity. He’d cue in to the music and know when a scary part was coming up so he could either close his eyes or bolt out of the theater (which he often did when his dad took him to movies, much to his dad’s frustration). I’ve often joked with him about how, when he makes his autobiographical film, there will be a montage of him bolting out of one movie theater after another.

Even when he was a preschooler, he responded to seeing a movie or reading a book by making a movie poster of it, which was often followed by a book (the further adventures of…). Early on, he’d dictate the text to me and create the illustrations. Then he’d script plays and eventually movies. He’d pace back and forth in the back yard with a tape recorder in hand, dictating his ideas for stories and movies and humming soundtracks. (I saved all the cassettes!)

When I was decluttering the house last month, the sweetest find was a letter from Cianan’s closest friend when they were in either first or second grade. It read, “Dear Cianan, I would like to be in the movie. What part will I play? Tell me about the movie.” That note was concrete evidence that the movie director was already ignited in Cianan at that young age. Although I remember that being the case, holding such an artifact in my hands reinforced how strong it was.

Recently, Cianan’s dad shared some old family movies with me. There was one in which kindergarten aged Cianan was directing and co-starring in a movie with his older sister in the living room. They were acting out The Letter People Come to Life, a story he’d previously dictated to me and illustrated in book form. (When he was in kindergarten, his teacher used balloon “Letter People” to teach letter sounds. So he created a story about the Letter People coming to life.) It was clear, even at six years old, that directing movies was his passion. When his sister did something that wasn’t in the script, he’d look directly into the camera and ever so seriously and authoritatively say, “Cut that part.”

He also loved to create a dinner movie theater at home, which included a menu that he wrote up. While I prepared the food, he’d make tickets and set up the chairs, covering them with silks to make them look fancy. He was so excited! By the time the food was ready, and it was finally time to watch the movie, we were often tired, and sometimes he didn’t have the turnout he’d hoped for. But the thrill seemed to be in the preparation.

It’s amazing to have given birth to someone who has such a clear purpose! I can’t do anything but encourage him because clearly, filmmaking is his path. He and I have had several conversations about the blessings, curses, and challenges of being a creative person and how you really have to be honest with yourself about what is most important to you. If you prioritize materialistic rewards, then take some time to consider whether a vocation in an artistic field is the best path for you. But if creativity itself is as vital to you as breathing, then you must find the courage to go for it.

As long as he maintains his passion and determination, is resilient, and can handle competition and criticism, I think he will do fine as an artist. Driving home from graduation, his dad and I talked with him about that. Earlier in life, I was a pianist, and he was an actor, but neither of us followed through because we felt intimidated by the competition and our fear of failure. We advised Cianan to learn all he can from his fellow film majors and not compare himself to them. The world needs creative people to express their unique voices and not allow fear and doubt to silence them.

As much as I will miss him when he begins college two months from now, he’s so ready to move on to this next step. He’s prepared me for the empty nest over the past two years, during which time he’s lived mostly with his dad after having lived primarily with me until then. During his senior year, he’s been involved with lots of film-related work, such as: interning with a local, independent filmmaker; founding and organizing a film festival for young filmmakers; being the theater manager for the local film forum; and working on his own screenplays and films in addition to assisting other young filmmakers with theirs. He was too busy with activities outside of school to act in school plays or get up at the crack of dawn to attend Vocal Ensemble, so both of those activities slid off his plate. High school seemed to get in the way of his next step, which he already was embracing.

Cianan is a young man with a mission. He hasn’t allowed other people, situations, or limitations to deter him, and I pray this will continue to be the case for him. Recently, when there was a question about whether he’d be able to afford going to college this year, his sheer determination made me feel that I would do everything in my power to support him however I can. I was ready to move mountains. You don’t argue with determination like that. You just have to bow to it and do what you can to support it. His English teacher told me that Cianan’s passion for making movies inspired him to return to writing short stories. That’s the kind of enthusiasm I’m talking about. It’s infectious. May it endure.

When I look back at what classmates wrote in my high school yearbooks, many of the comments referred to piano. One person wrote, “You have a great talent, and you’d be crazy not to let it take you as far as it can!” Well, I guess I was crazy, then – crazy enough to allow fear and self-doubt to snuff out my passion for music. Unlike Cianan, I didn’t have anyone in my life assuring me that rejection, failure, and mistakes are natural parts of the process, rather than conclusive evidence that you’re not good enough. Or that cultivating resilience and developing thick skin is every bit as important as artistic talent and sensitivity. Back then, books like Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic and Pema Chodron’s Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better hadn’t been written yet.

I gave up too easily. Sometimes I still regret that and wonder how my life would have been different if I’d kept going with piano and considered failure a stepping stone, rather than a roadblock, to success, as Timothy Bradberry advises in an article for The Huffington Post. But regret is a waste of time and energy, and it’s more worthwhile to apply that wisdom to my current pursuits. Do what you love to the best of your ability, and enjoy the process. Have goals, but don’t get caught up in outcomes or comparisons. Each of us has a unique voice and perspective, and we contribute to the evolution and expansion of the universe by expressing our unique talent(s). And if your passion for one thing ends up fizzling out and igniting a new passion, then so be it. Follow that. Follow your calling, even if it compels you to head in a different direction than what you generated student loans for. Above all, don’t let fear, a relationship, drugs, or enslavement to any kind of addiction (which can include all of the above) snuff out your light and steal the gift that gives meaning and purpose to your life. May you believe in yourself and have the courage to follow your passion and talents as far as they can take you, dear son, so you can be amazed by what you are capable of.

Who knows: Maybe you will be the next Steven Spielberg or Kevin Bright. Or maybe you will simply enjoy doing what you love at whatever level you do it and will cultivate a happy heart and gratitude for your precious life and for not giving in to the temptation to trade your talents for something much smaller by playing it “safe” (which, I’ve learned from experience, is the riskiest thing you can do). After all, a peaceful, contented heart is a state of mind and way of life that many outwardly “successful” people would trade their BWMs and mansions for. That comes from being true to yourself, doing what you love, and loving what you do. And that is what I wish for you, my son: To go forward and shine your light in this world, no matter what. I have been amazed by it since the day you were born, and now it is time for you to know it, grow it, and share it.

Cianan graduation-2

© 2016 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness mentor whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York. 

Found on the Sunshine Coast

Found on the Sunshine Coast

Have you ever gone on a trip that left you feeling fundamentally different than you were before you embarked on it? A real life changer? Well, that’s what spending nearly two weeks with relatives on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia did for me—and I am excited to write about it!

I met my great-uncle Ralph and great-aunt June in person for the first time more than ten years ago when they visited the East coast. I recognized them instantly as kindred spirits and felt a deep connection with them. (They even founded a Waldorf school in North Vancouver!) Not long after their visit, they sent me the 2005 Sunshine Coast Tourist Guide, with lots of handwritten comments about places that were meaningful to them. I held onto that guide with intentions to visit their home in Sechelt (the heart of the Sunshine Coast off of Vancouver) someday. In recent months, my intuition told me it was time to make “someday” happen. Visiting them was one of the top items on my list of “100 Things to Do” this year.

My dad and I began talking about making a trip to Vancouver together. A health condition was making it more difficult for him to get around, and I felt it was important to make the trip sooner rather than later. We also had been talking about driving to Virginia to visit his sister, who had been ill for quite some time. At the end of January, she passed away unexpectedly. Unfortunately, we didn’t make that trip in time, and that made it seem even more important to follow through with the Vancouver trip. We renewed our passports and came up with specific dates for our trip. When it came time to make flight reservations, my dad had second thoughts and eventually told me he thought the trip would be too much for him. But he still wanted me to go, so we booked my flights, and I prepared to make the trip on my own.

In the days leading up to the trip, I felt I was making some real progress excavating and releasing limiting beliefs that had circumscribed my life for as long as I can remember. But I still felt stuck and unsure about how to proceed. Intuitively, I knew there was something for me in the Vancouver area. Something important. I could feel it, even though I didn’t yet know what it was, other than that it was the next step.

It turns out a great deal was waiting for me there. At least three journeys took place simultaneously: an exploration of the area’s unsurpassed natural beauty, connecting with my ancestral and family tribe, and a very deep spiritual journey.

Natural Beauty

I had wanted to travel to the Sunshine Coast off of Vancouver for a long time, and it was every bit as breathtaking as I anticipated. To get to Sechelt (SEE-shelt) from Vancouver, I took a 20-minute flight in a tiny float plane that could accommodate up to five passengers. The woman sitting next to me was excited to point out landmarks and tell me about the magnificent terrain on which she lived her whole life.

Mountain Landscape

The coastal landscape, dotted with islands and lined with snowcapped mountains in the distance, provided sharp visual contrast to the temperate rainforest featuring moss-covered trees (including broadleaf maple, red cedar, hemlock, and Douglas fir), ferns and mosses, and so much lush vegetation.

Rainforest Trail to Skookumchuck Narrows-4

During my stay, I went kayaking three times—my first experiences paddling in salty, ocean water and in kayaks equipped with a rudder (which is actually quite metaphoric). We paddled by herds of seals, at least one sea lion, great blue herons, and bald eagles.

Tuwanek-2

On different outings, we toured the Coast from Roberts Creek to Egmont, stopping to appreciate the sights and scenery along the way. One afternoon, June and I took a long hike on the rainforest trail through Skookumchuck Provincial Park to view the rapids during ebb tide.

Skookumchuck Rapids

My soul mate of a cousin, Paul, whisked me away a couple of times to catch some glorious sunsets and moonrises.

Davis Bay Sunset Kayaker

Pacific Moonrise

We also explored the Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden (where June and Ralph have their own bench) and spent an afternoon motoring around Thormanby Island and Smuggler Cove on Paul’s future in-laws’ 68-foot yacht—a very special treat.

One pattern that stood out was the residents’ positive, grateful energy. I read that the Sunshine Coast boasts the highest per-capita number of artists, artisans, and crafters in Canada and is also home to a great many writers, nature lovers, and alternative healers. It was like moving from one paradise to another the whole time. And unbelievably, the inner journey was even more astonishing than the outer one.

Ancestral/Family Connection

It didn’t take long to figure out why I needed to make this trip. I needed to connect with my only Pacific Northwest relatives to learn where I came from ancestrally and where I fit in, in relation to my family tree. I discovered that I am part of an extended family of multipotentialites extraordinaire: artists, musicians, writers, and sharp minds. Through the years, I had heard anecdotes of my (mostly European) relatives’ talents, but seeing actual works of art, hearing recordings, and holding writing collections in my hands brought the stories to life and made them more tangible and real. Until recently, Ralph (an architect, writer, painter, and athlete) had been the keeper of the family tree, and when we sat down and looked at it, it seemed everyone he spoke of had at least one jaw-dropping creative talent in addition to whatever else s/he did. I felt like I had found my real tribe and realized that I am part of something larger that I didn’t grasp until now. I finally understood the source and value of my creative and artistic passions that didn’t seem to make sense in the nuclear family I was born into. Artistic expression and creativity are hardwired into my DNA!

I woke up every morning in a room decorated with framed prints of Ralph’s watercolor and acrylic paintings, listened to him read some of his poetry and prose in the evening after dinner, conversed with June about our shared values with regard to developmentally appropriate and inspired early childhood education, took in the extraordinary beauty and magical details of their gardens, and dined on organic fruits and vegetables (some from the garden) and delicious meals, including the most scrumptious coconut yogurt (Liberté Méditerranée) I’ve ever tasted. And so much more.

Ralph June Garden

At 85 and 80, respectively, Ralph and June love kayaking every bit as much as I do (though they have been doing it MUCH longer). Although quintuple bypass surgery a few years ago put a damper on Ralph’s physical activity, I was inspired by how active, fit, and engaged they are at their age and how they took action to create what they wanted, whether it be a Waldorf school or an indoor tennis facility. I just wanted to absorb their positive energy and lifestyle!

It also was wonderful to finally meet two of my three Canadian cousins (technically, my dad’s cousins), who are my age. Paul and I bonded instantly and spoke a common spiritual language that allowed us to communicate on a deep level. I was grateful for opportunities to spend time with him, his fiancée, and her parents throughout my stay. Caroline flew in from Vancouver Island for a few hours, during which time we went kayaking around the Trail Islands in the Strait of Georgia, talking the entire time. I wish I could have stayed longer and visited her on Vancouver Island. Their younger sister, Sonia, who lives in Alberta, was too far away to connect in person, but I spoke with her on the phone. We also called relatives in England, including cousin Bryan (current keeper of the family tree) and Ralph’s (and my deceased grandfather’s) only living sibling, 93-year old Ron, an accomplished pianist and organist (amongst other things). It was such a delight to connect with each of them and bring to life some of the names on the family tree.

One night, it was rainy and cool, and June insisted on sending me to bed with a hot water bottle to keep me nice and toasty. As I appreciated both the heavenly warmth and the kindness of the gesture, it occurred to me that it was the first time I have felt mothered in a long time. I fell asleep with tears of gratitude still moist on my face.

Spiritual Journey

The second morning of my vacation, I discovered the path that leads to the beach, only a five-minute walk from the house. I spent two or three hours at the rocky beach every morning for the rest of my stay. It was very rare to see another person on the beach, so it was my own private sanctuary, where the spiritual part of my journey unfolded.

I had two special places on the beach. The first was my stone balance workshop by the sea, between two logs. I searched the beach for interesting stones and lined them up on one of the logs for later use. Someone had placed a rock that looked like a cradle on the log, and I used it as the base for many of my stone balances. Balancing rocks by the sea is one of my very favorite meditative activities.

Balance by the Sea

My second special place on the beach was under an arbutus tree (my new favorite tree) that grew out of a rock formation.

Arbutus by the Sea

Surrounding the arbutus tree were several wild, pink nootka rosebushes in full bloom, which expressed an intoxicating fragrance into the air.

Nootka Roses

From my arbutus tree sanctuary, I’d often see great blue herons at the water’s edge and hear the gentle, soothing rhythm of waves lapping the shore. Here, I worked on my feng shui vision board, reflecting and envisioning what I wish to manifest in different areas of life. As the moon grew fuller, my vision board insights and clarity deepened. Being on the Sunshine Coast, so far from home with “my people,” helped me to see my life back East from a different perspective. Removed from my daily routine, I was stunned by ways in which I’ve compromised and sold myself short by playing it safe. I came to the realization that there is perhaps nothing riskier in life than playing it safe. But rather than feeling discouraged, I experienced clarity about what I do and don’t want in my life moving forward, including what kind of energy I want to surround myself with.

I had a profound experience walking the 11-circuit, Chartres-style labyrinth outside St. Hilda’s by the Sea (Anglican church) one warm, sunny afternoon. Again, there was nobody else around. When I arrived at the center, an inner voice asked: Are you ready to give up the path of suffering? Are you ready to walk the path of joy? Are you really ready to let go of suffering? I answered yes. Yes, I’m ready! (I understood suffering to mean the internal reactions that set in motion outer circumstances and events.) Then I looked up and saw a rainbow around the sun and experienced a deep sense of peace.

As I walked on the winding path back out of the labyrinth, I realized that as long as I act from love, all will be well. When I allow ego to take the wheel, it never seems to work out. Also, if I feel bad about myself for not accomplishing more or for the paths I chose and the choices I made, that’s ego. Good/bad, right/wrong, and better than are the vocabulary of ego, not Higher Self. Instead of making judgments and comparisons, Higher Self is love that seeks expansion. When you’re aligned with Higher Self, you intuitively know what to do and not do. It’s like a divine GPS that will save you time rather than take you the long, roundabout route. It doesn’t mean that when you don’t follow it, you’re wrong or somehow doomed. You’ll eventually get to your destination. It just might take longer. You might experience more drama and unanticipated traffic setbacks along the way. Somehow your divine GPS knows where the obstructions are and reroutes you to a clearer, more direct path. But if you choose to go a different way that ends up taking longer, it’s ultimately okay because the Higher Self exists beyond time. So there’s no need to regret what could be perceived as wasted time or poor choices. Better to tune into intuition and focus on the road ahead rather than get mired in regret.

These labyrinth insights bathed me in peace. When I exited the labyrinth, I retrieved my camera to take a photo of the rainbow. As I composed the photo, two seagulls flew through the frame. It was a moment.

Rainbow Seagulls

I had an incredible experience on the beach my last morning on the Sunshine Coast, when the moon was full. After doing my vision board work, I decided to do a final rock balance before leaving the beach. When I first arrived that morning, I’d found a rock whose shape was in between a crescent and half-moon and intended to balance it later. So I brought it back to the rock cradle and decided to put a round stone underneath it for an extra challenge. The round stone was so wobbly on the cradle, and the weight of the moon-shaped rock was so unevenly distributed. But I set my mind to it and decided I wanted to do something that seemed impossible, to prove to myself that I could do it, and I never doubted my ability to balance the stones. As I worked with the stones, I recalled my cousin, Paul, telling me that he no longer fears challenges because he sees them as opportunities to discover what he is capable of. It took a while, but all of a sudden, I felt the stones shifting into alignment, and then they clicked into balance! The moment that happened, I cried tears of joy and fulfillment because I accomplished what seemed impossible— because I believed I could and didn’t give up. I immediately texted Paul to share my success, knowing he’d understand.

Last Sechelt Balance-1

That balance inspired me to expand my ideas about what is possible. Dream big. Pursue bigger, bolder goals, and remember the excitement, satisfaction, joy, and gratitude I felt the moment those stones clicked into balance (and remained balanced!). I don’t want to get to the end of my life only to learn that the silver slippers could have brought me home at any time—that I had the power all along. I want to manifest during this lifetime and discover what I can do. And a big part of that is having an unwavering faith that I will succeed, acting on intuition, and having the patience to see it through.

I’m shifting out of a defeatist, poverty attitude, and it is the most miraculous shift of my life. I used to be like Charlie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory receiving his birthday chocolate bar and savoring it for as long as he possibly could because he knew he wouldn’t get another candy bar until his next birthday. An impoverished gratitude. What I’m cultivating is a sense of exploration and adventure. I’ve been traveling more since my mom died two years ago and consider traveling a great metaphor. It’s about having gratitude for where you are now but not clinging to it because you expect to experience all kinds of new wonders, beauty, and joy by traveling to places you haven’t been before. Places that will delight, challenge, and expand you.

Returning Home

After a phenomenal and life-changing visit to the B.C. Sunshine Coast, I flew home that night on moonbeams to a place of fireflies, splendid autumn foliage, and really good spring water, where the intoxicating fragrance of the last, lingering lilacs greeted me the moment I got out of the car. I returned home with renewed energy for creating a shining life.

My great-aunt June told me that she went to my stone balance workshop by the sea after I left and felt my presence there. She said I left a piece of myself there, and that makes me happy. But ironically, even though part of me remains on the Sunshine Coast and surely will call me back there, I returned home feeling more whole and complete than ever—for on the Sunshine Coast, with my tribe, I found my missing pieces and know that my life will never be the same.

To view more of my photos from the Sunshine Coast, click on the image below:

Sunset Paddler at Davis Bay

© 2016 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness mentor whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York. 

There Comes a Time

There Comes a Time

“As soon as people decide to confront a problem, they realize that they are far more capable than they thought they were.”  -Paulo Coelho

I suppose that if you live long enough and/or do enough inner work, or if the factors-that-be fall into alignment, there comes a time when you no longer can hide from yourself. You lay down your shield of excuses, blame, delusion, etc. because you realize the opponents you thought existed outside of yourself were never the problem to begin with. The problem is inside, and you begin to see that ever so clearly. You recognize your patterns, without fumbling for explanations that justify them. You sit with yourself and admit, “I obviously have a problem with this.” And as you take a few deep breaths, and the fierce sting of shame subsides to some degree, a deeper knowing arises: That you now have an opportunity to stop repeating what has been holding you back for so long. You have a golden opportunity to get off the carousel and transform your life into something greater. It is not too late.

Carousel-1

You realize there is no job, relationship, or other external condition that will provide abiding fulfillment. For a long time, perhaps, it has been easy to find fault and blame others for letting you down. People and situations disappoint you, again and again. Why? Because you were reaching into outer space for a star to fill you with light instead of opening to the magnificent light shining at your very core! There is no need to look outside of yourself – for you need to make peace with yourself. You need to muster up the courage to open the closet door, turn on the light, and see what’s been hiding in there. And ultimately, you realize you are so much bigger and more powerful than those gremlins you’ve been afraid to face all your life. Those creatures you’ve shoved into the closet in an attempt to convince yourself and others that they aren’t there.

Guess what? Everyone has (or has had) a closet like that. Shame has never served you.

You realize you cannot look anywhere outside of yourself for happiness, satisfaction, contentment, fulfillment, etc. It was your own responsibility all along, and any time you handed it over to another person, situation, or quick fix, you were only disempowering yourself. You were fooling yourself all along and putting far too much responsibility on other people and conditions. And that’s not fair to anyone, including yourself.

You realize the problem is not that you were overlooked, misunderstood, mistreated, or rejected by others. It was that your own sense of unworthiness was running the show and grabbing whatever disguises it could in order not to be noticed for what it really was. It pointed fingers outside so as to avoid attention and certain death (which it faces now that it has been exposed).

You realize your habit of competing against and/or comparing yourself to others has been counterproductive all along, and instead of helping you to improve yourself, it has been feeding your Inner Critic that has become the biggest, most ruthless bully you’ll ever face. A bully who employs allies to reinforce its belittling agenda and succeed in brainwashing you.

And then it becomes clear why you have agreed to so many compromises through the years: Because you don’t believe (or haven’t believed until now) that you are worthy of more.

Where did that message come from in the first place? Again, you’re tempted to look outside of yourself and make up stories. You become one helluva storyteller and believe in the reality of the fiction that you, yourself authored. You can get stuck in blame if you are not mindful.

You feel completely naked and vulnerable, like a hermit crab that has outgrown his old shell and slips out of it but has yet to find a larger, more suitable shell to inhabit. From the outside, it might look like you have lost your way, even lost your mind. But releasing yourself from a truth or a lifestyle that has become too small and confining is a step in the right direction, especially if you leave it lovingly and with plenty of compassion for all involved, including yourself.

You simply cannot find in “outer space” what you need to awaken to and cultivate inside your own skin. And you know what? Even though the shame of it all might sting and burn and make you question why you are even alive in the first place, beneath all that melodrama (in which the ego is fighting for its life) you realize you have arrived at the place where true freedom and empowerment begins. You are only feeling so much pain because you have gained awareness. You are experiencing growth pains!

You realize your tendency to compete with or compare yourself to others is unhealthy, and your neuroses and/or addictions (and yes, you do have some) are not your friends. They are the starving little gremlins in that dark closet that compel you to feed them or else. Or else what? Or else they will convince you that you are not enough and therefore are unworthy of true happiness and success. They have been brainwashing you into believing that what you want or need is outside, so run off and get it! (The starving gremlins need to be fed!) Go out and buy whatever costume you can find to impress others and focus their attention on the outer appearance that covers your inherent sense of unworthiness.

No, thank you. This delusion will no longer suffice. It is absurd.

So what does this all mean? Quite simply, in this moment, you have a choice: To continue beating yourself up or to inhale deeply a fresh, new, higher truth. When you finally realize what you are doing – the harm you are causing to yourself and others that you used to blame on factors outside of yourself – it becomes less possible to continue allowing it. Rather than wish for a savior, you resolve to take matters into your own hands and stop repeating self-destructive patterns. You resolve to adopt healthier habits, beginning with your own thoughts and self-talk, and when you notice yourself applying an emotional charge to a thought that arises, you look it square in the eyes and nip it in the bud – pull it up, roots and all.

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From here forward, the only viable option is to tell yourself a new, more hopeful and less dramatic story and to seize the courage to live in alignment with your Higher Self – for that voice becomes stronger every day and finally overpowers the discordant howl of your lower nature.

You begin to trust that kinder, gentler voice and to have faith in the process. To unclench your life and be patient.

To be your own knight in shining armor.

© 2016 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness mentor whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York. 

Sometimes the Universe Conspires

Sometimes the Universe Conspires

Sometimes the Universe seems to conspire to ensure that certain works are accomplished or (in my case) images are captured. You can call it intuition, inspiration, or various other names. It’s the voice that might literally wake you up so you can be in the right place at the right time and sometimes employs unwitting accomplices.

That happened to me yesterday morning, after staying up late doing research. At 6:00 a.m., my phone rang. It was the director of a private school calling to ask if I could fill in for the day. I had to decline because I had promised to care for my granddaughter for a few hours. After taking the call, I realized I wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep, although I closed my eyes to try. But something about the misty morning light compelled me to get out of bed, despite not feeling as rested as I wanted to be.

It had been a while since I’d photographed a river sunrise, mainly because of my late night work habits. It was a shocking 7° (F) outside and a morning when I’d prefer to stay indoors. But something wonderful was about to happen. I could feel it and (as I’ve said before) have learned to trust that feeling. So I put on my warm clothes, coat, and shoes and went to the chilly river’s edge to photograph the sunrise, which looked rather like a painting.

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If there is a way to predict the “wow” value of sunrises and sunsets, I have yet to discover it. But the pink-orange mist was intriguing, so I stayed outside to see how it would develop.

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As the sun began to climb the trees, the way it played with the trees and appeared to stretch their branches with golden light was phenomenal. In my four years of photographing sunrises on the river, I’d never witnessed that particular effect so intensely.

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It made me think of Moses and the burning bush – for the trees were “on fire” with brilliant light but not consumed. I hoped I could capture it exactly as it appeared so as to express what drew me to it and stopped me in my tracks – because when a sight grabs you like that, there must be some kind of spiritual nugget in it.

I selected the image below to share online because the way the various elements came together was most pleasing to me. The deciding factor was the relationship between the branches stretched by sunlight in the center of the image and the branches across the river in the lower right corner that seemed to reach out to them. That spoke to me.

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After I shared the image, people reported being drawn to different elements of it and seeing certain shapes and symbols in the sunlit trees. I’m fascinated by how we gravitate to certain images or elements and discover meaning or satisfaction in them. When we gravitate toward an image, it’s an invitation to go deeper. We can consider what calls us to it. What is our connection to it? What does it stir in us? What longing does it satisfy? What does it reflect that is alive in us?

As I contemplated the above image, the words that arose from it were: Source it higher. Fuel your life from a higher source. Gas station and food metaphors came to mind. Tapping into ordinary consciousness is like filling up with regular gas or fast food that makes you feel jittery. But there are higher quality options, like premium gas or farm-to-table, organic meals containing a rainbow of nutrients that leave you feeling truly nourished and energized. A beautiful soul who adopted the name Peace Pilgrim said, “Junk thoughts can destroy you even more quickly than junk food.” That is the idea I’m trying to convey.

My infant granddaughter, Ava, arrived soon after I photographed the sunrise. She napped a few times during the course of our time together. She fell asleep in my arms, when I swayed gently with her, and when I lay her on my bent legs so we could face each other. As she rested in her human cradle, I found myself feeling bad about conditions in her life. But then I heard, “Source it higher” and recalled the luminous image of the sunrise trees – and lifted into a state of trust. I thought of how many challenging circumstances I’ve lived through and realized that my own life experience will help me to trust in her strength and guide her to discover her own strength and resilience. It seemed the spectacular sunrise was the source of the energy I was giving Ava – the energy she was feeding on, even as she slept.

“Source it higher,” backed by the sunrise image, has quickly become my new mantra that helps to dispel worry and fear. It reminds me to unplug myself from a lower source of energy and tap into a higher, more luminous source. Without a mother or grandmother in my life anymore, it seems to be up to me to hold the faith and nurture subsequent generations. Connecting with that light eases my worries and allows me to trust what is and what is in the process of becoming.

© 2016 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness mentor whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York. 

When Snow-Covered Daffodils Speak

When Snow-Covered Daffodils Speak

When I opened my eyes this morning, I was surprised to find the landscape covered with snow. I’d heard talk of snow in the forecast for this weekend but never checked the forecast for myself – and after yesterday’s warmth, chalked it up to an April Fool’s joke. But sure enough, the ground and the trees were white.

I sprung out of bed with my sights set on the daffodils I’d photographed yesterday in the park. It felt Really Important to photograph daffodils blooming in the snow, although I didn’t know why. I have learned to trust that feeling and didn’t waste a moment getting to the park.

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As I spent time connecting with the snow-covered daffodils, it dawned on me why it was so important to photograph them. They carried a message of hope that seemed relevant to challenging times in general, and to my daughter’s current situation, in particular.

Some daffodils were fully bloomed. Others were working on opening up more. Some were still closed, with tips swollen and yellow. Most had some snow on them, and some were more weighed down than others by snow. The message that came through is: Don’t give up because you wake up one morning and find yourself weighed down by a clump of snow on your back. It’s not going to last. The snow that is weighing you down at this moment is temporary. It will melt. In the meantime, keep your face to the sun.

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I photographed one daffodil that had what looked like a petal of snow hanging from it.

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The instant after I snapped the picture, a small twig broke free from being tangled up with other twigs and smacked the snow petal off of the daffodil. Just like that, the snow was gone.

Several minutes later, a gust of wind came along and blew the snow off some of the other daffodils.

Meanwhile, the sun was rising in the sky and becoming warmer and would melt the rest of the snow in time. But you might not even have to wait for the warmth of the sun to melt the snow from your petals because the wind or a twig – or even a person or animal passing by – might come along and remove your burden in an instant. Your situation can change in a heartbeat. New information, possibilities, and answers have been known to fall from the sky. Be aware and receptive.

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As these associations came through the snow-covered daffodils, I spoke them into my voice recorder. I thought of my daughter and felt eager to share my daffodil insights with her, even though I realized it might be one of those “you had to be there” instances that wouldn’t transmit as powerfully as it was experienced. As I was recording, I looked up, and a woman appeared walking on the path hand-in-hand with a very young girl. They were heading in my direction, and I guessed the little girl was younger than two years old. The pair instantly brought to mind my daughter and infant granddaughter. They also brought tears to my eyes because it felt like a serendipitous occurrence. I sensed the Universe was both reinforcing my insights and assuring me that my daughter and granddaughter would be okay by showing me this woman and very young girl walking peacefully along the path.

It turned out they were the only people I saw the whole time I was at the park.

Keep blooming. Don’t become discouraged. We have no idea how quickly circumstances – like the weather – can change. Yesterday, it was sunny and warm. This morning, the ground is covered with snow. But it will be gone soon. Don’t give up, even when the cold stings your back, and the weight of it all pushes you down.

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You have the warm sun – whatever source of light you have in your life. (There is a source of light in everyone’s life.) Trust it. In time, it will melt the snow.

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Don’t become disheartened. You never know who will cross your path and what conversation might change your course. Be receptive to all the assistance that is available to you and discerning about what kind you are willing to accept. Be wise. But don’t wait for someone to come along and rescue you. Show up. Do what you can, without overdoing. Put all your energy into blooming. Have faith that the Universe will help you do it. Even when there’s more snow in the forecast, realize it won’t last. The sun grows stronger every day.

© 2016 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness mentor whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York. 

Boys on Bikes

Boys on Bikes

One sunny afternoon last week, while walking the labyrinth in a nearby park, my walking meditation was interrupted by two boys on bicycles at the top of an adjacent hill, between two slides. My guess is that they were about nine years old. After some consideration of the bumps they might encounter on the way down, they decided it was a good idea to ride their bikes down the grassy hill (with a large bump midway down) and through the labyrinth. Although I prefer uninterrupted solitude when I’m walking the labyrinth, I enjoyed overhearing their conversation.

Clearly, the first (presumably older) boy was thrilled during and after the daredevil mission. The second, more cautious boy seemed to enjoy it, too, and after he came to a stop on the other side of the labyrinth, exclaimed, “Boy, that activated my nerve!” – which I found amusing. His words were so honest and sweet.

The boys enjoyed riding down the bumpy hill so much that they decided to do it again. After their second trip down the hill, the first boy called out, “Isn’t it fun?!!”

The second boy responded, “Yeah, it’s fun, but isn’t it terrifying at the top?”

Their energy was entertaining. But even more than that, I found it inspiring! There they were at the top of the hill, curious and scared. When I overheard their initial conversation about whether or not to go through with the feat, I felt a little nervous about how it would turn out and hoped the outcome wouldn’t be unfortunate. After all, there was no path down the hill, which would soon be covered with daffodil blooms. (Poor daffodils!) At least the boys were wearing helmets…

But they went ahead with it, and they did fine. They looked jubilant, presumably because they took the risk and conquered their fears. It was inspiring to witness. And I wondered: When do we stop taking risks, give in to fear, and refuse to step off the well established path to follow our curiosity into unpaved territory – and miss out on the wild and empowering ride? The thrill of it.

After their third time down the hill (and through my labyrinth walking meditation), their parents returned. I realized I had passed this small group of parents on the trail about 20 minutes earlier and was drawn to their vibe. They allowed the boys the freedom to be out of their sight and to explore on their own. To bring their experience and knowledge to a new situation, weigh the benefits and risks, make a decision (intelligently, not impulsively), and gain confidence and/or wisdom. Obviously, the parents had enough faith to allow the boys to explore rather than remain at their side, afraid of them making mistakes and getting hurt.

Earlier that same afternoon, my son passed his road test. Like the boys on bikes, he, too, was thrilled. Since my son is 18, his driver’s license is not restricted, which means he can drive after 9pm. So I asked him, “Is this the chapter in which I won’t be able to sleep at night when you’re not home?”

He replied, “No. This is when you must learn how to sleep at night despite your son being out doing all kinds of fun stuff.”

He’s right, of course.

It wasn’t until several hours after watching the boys ride bicycles down the hill with exhilarated expressions on their faces that it occurred to me how perfect it was to witness that on the same day my son got his driver’s license. It was also the day when I had a major breakthrough during seated meditation. The breakthrough was something I had been hoping for for a long time, and it left me feeling that I would now be able to push through a barrier that had been blocking me for as long as I could remember. That feeling filled me with an expansive sense of freedom. Only moments after I finished meditating, my son called me to announce he had passed his road test. It felt like we both graduated to levels of greater freedom simultaneously, along with the brand new grass that covered the trail with a noticeable carpet of green and the tiny, emerald tree buds that decided it’s time to burst forth. And the boys on bikes.

Before the boys came along on their bikes, I had been walking the labyrinth thinking about how there are times to focus on a certain thing, times to expand your vision and notice what else is around you, and times to focus inward and pay attention to your footsteps touching the earth without getting distracted by outer influences. I would add that there are times to allow whatever arises during meditation without resisting it and to learn what you can from it – in this case, boys on bikes with exhilarated smiles shooting straight through the labyrinth, modeling a sense of excitement and adventure that is downright inspiring.

Note: The featured image for this post was captured nearly three years ago, in early June. Our grass is not that tall at the end of March!

© 2016 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness mentor whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York. 

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