Category: Spiritual Journey

Perfectly Imperfect

Perfectly Imperfect

Yesterday was the first nice weather day all week, and I was given permission to pick apples at a small, private orchard where the apples aren’t sprayed. They just grow. They aren’t as pretty as apples you would buy in a store. They might be a little misshapen or have small holes in them, and their skin is splotchy. But the fruit inside is just fine.

These apples have character. They are not perfect.

One apple in particular caught my eye.

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It ended up being the image of the day – the one I was most intrigued by. It commanded my attention. And when that happens, I have to ask myself why. How does this image speak to me?

There were two directions I could go with this one – two captions I could give it. One is “The Apple of All Colors,” for it contains every color an apple can be. But the one I’m going with is “Perfectly Imperfect.” It’s the imperfection of this apple that I really connect with. Its exquisite imperfection.

It reminds me of Pema Chodron’s teachings on Getting Unstuck regarding not beating ourselves up when we fall short. When we are imperfect (like everyone else). Pema Chodron encourages us to cultivate a response of “sheer delight” upon noticing we are hooked or feeling we have failed in some way. We can rejoice that we have the wisdom to recognize we’re not living up to our potential. Yay for us because we want to do better and have the intention to do so! Intention is a first step toward liberation from our unhealthy habits and patterns.

After intention comes awareness. When we can recognize that we did it again, double yay! because then we can exercise choice to either continue doing the thing that diminishes us and ultimately causes us to suffer or we can take a deep, conscious breath and make a healthier choice.

With intention and awareness, we can cultivate discipline. But if, in our quest for discipline, we catch ourselves falling short of our intention to do better and then feel badly about ourselves, we end up making the whole job more complicated. It doesn’t help anything to add self-loathing to the mix. It just makes it harder and takes us further away from connecting with our wisdom and acting in accordance with it. Embracing our imperfection is a way of empowering us to deal with “failure” rather than become overwhelmed by it. Instead of focusing on our perceived failure and getting down on ourselves, we can delight in acknowledging we have both the intention to improve and the wisdom to notice.

Of course, the apple image and the advice above could also speak to the way we feel about our physical appearance and our efforts to care for our body by eating well, exercising, etc. And with regard to our body, we can celebrate that we have one to begin with, especially if we can move around without pain. How many people in this world would give anything this moment to have a body that is pain-free? Having a human body is a precious opportunity for experiencing and experimenting with the physical world. It’s our vehicle for doing the work we’re here for.

The image of the mottled, multi-colored apple reminded me that we’re not supposed to be perfect. We’re supposed to be authentic and work with our unique qualities and challenges. Smile at our delicious imperfection, and regard it as our teacher, our path to freedom, and our raw material for practicing  personal alchemy.

© 2015 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness mentor whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York. 

Healing on the Hill

Healing on the Hill

Ahhh… I just returned from a four-day retreat at Light on the Hill retreat center in Van Etten, New York. It is where I go when I need to remove myself from all distractions and journey deep into inner space to work with what arises and get a sense of direction. It felt as if I’d set up camp at the biggest crossroads I’ve ever come to in my life, and it was time to get a move on! I intuitively knew that going on retreat would help to set me in motion.

My underlying intention for going on retreat was to release what doesn’t serve me ( just as a backpacker would want to lighten her load for more efficient traveling), which really means letting go of the attachments and perceptions that don’t serve me. I wanted to purge, from the inside out, what is no longer beneficial and establish “right relationship” with anything I have developed an unhealthy attachment to. I sensed there was some kind of inner blockage preventing me from moving forward in many areas of my life, and I wanted to get in touch with that blockage and dissolve it. Fall is a natural time for letting go, and the fall equinox seemed like a perfect time to be on solitary retreat and make (surrender to? pray for?) such shifts so I could proceed with clearer energy that would attract what is in alignment with my highest self.

Through talking with my guide, Alice, I decided to do a healing retreat, which I had never done before. This kind of retreat involved meeting with her each day for a 90-minute counseling and healing session and doing simple practices and activities in between sessions to integrate the healing work.

I stayed in the Meadow Cottage, as I usually do. When I first walked through the door, the familiar space embraced me as though I’d never left.

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Like the other retreat cottages and huts, the Meadow Cottage has no electricity, which helps me return to a more natural rhythm and fall asleep earlier at night. The view from the sleeping loft is a joy to awaken to.

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And the mist in the valley was irresistible each morning.

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But I was there to do some deep work, and it was a revelatory journey. Drawing upon dreams, emotions, memories, and a whole lot of s*** that surfaced (much of which I thought was long buried and forgotten), I got in touch with the blockage in me and discovered a fantastic story that was living in my solar plexus region. Under Alice’s masterful guidance, I worked with that story, some related dream material, and an understanding of my personality patterns and managed to shift into a healthier, new paradigm for perceiving and interacting with the world. I won’t go into detail because it was an intense and deeply personal process that probably would be lost in translation. But I experienced a profound shift – possibly the shift of a lifetime. At first, the amount of s*** that came up was nearly overwhelming. But bringing it into the light was necessary for releasing and transforming it. It no longer bubbles beneath the surface.

The weather couldn’t have been more spectacular, and I spent a lot of time walking and writing. Twice a day, I walked either of the two labyrinths on the property.

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Both are based on the 11-circuit Chartres Cathedral model, and the path itself served as an allegory for my journey. After walking in the labyrinth for quite some time, I ended up on the outermost circuit, feeling farther away from the center than ever (much like the part of my retreat when I was dealing with all of the junk of a lifetime coming to the surface). However, after just a few more turns, I was at the center. So when I felt the farthest away, I was actually almost there. What a hopeful metaphor!

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An Extra Day

By the time my healing retreat had ended, I didn’t feel ready to return home. I decided to stay an extra day, to make sure the shift I experienced was solid enough to really take hold.

I didn’t spend the day meditating. I mostly walked around Light on the Hill with my camera and did some writing.

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As the sun set, I headed back to my cottage – a different cottage than I had stayed in for the healing retreat.

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The sunset was dazzling!

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Before going to bed, I realized I left my toothbrush in the car and had to walk all the way to the parking lot to get it. On the way back, the lighted path leading back to my cottage was so lovely that I was tempted to take my camera out and photograph it – but I knew better and opted for sleep! However, it made me realize how exquisitely beautiful everything here is. Every building, the land itself, the view – every single detail.

Alice has been my teacher and guide for the past 29 years, before Light on the Hill even existed. During the past 29 years, I have witnessed an incredible story unfold. I remember each step of the process, including when she moved out of her house in Ithaca and onto the hill and married her husband, Larry, who had recently bought the first parcel of land. I remember the various obstacles she and Larry ran into in the course of manifesting their shared vision of building a retreat center. At times, it seemed the universe required them to prove they really wanted it. I remember going on my first retreat in what is now the healing hut, which at the time was the only structure on the land besides Alice and Larry’s house. And now there are two cottages, two huts, a meditation chapel, two 11-circuit Chartres labyrinths, and a huge lodge (for group work) that hosts: 22 dorm rooms, a commercial kitchen, a dining room, several cozy and inspired meeting spaces, and a great room with a fabulous view and a 32-foot high, tipi-like ceiling that comes to an apex with a pyramid-shaped skylight.

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Every detail at Light on the Hill is intentional and uncompromised, from the environmentally conscious products and the comfort of the spaces, to the inspired art work and the architecture and placement of the buildings.

When I woke up during the night with the light of the nearly full moon shining through the windows, it occurred to me that the reason I stayed an extra day was to really experience my connection to the land and to absorb its story. To experience the spiritual, nurturing, protective energy that’s built up here over the past 24 years and to which I’ve retreated whenever I was at a crossroads, sought answers or healing, or simply wanted to deepen my spiritual life. I’ve come here since the very beginning, with the exception of a few years when my children were very small, and I couldn’t leave them. It is where my second wedding and a couple other very personal ceremonies took place. I am so grateful for Light on the Hill.

The work, patience, and persistence that went into making Light on the Hill what it is today is beyond inspiring. Alice has modeled to me that getting over your issues with money and not being afraid to ask for what you’re worth is part of the process. The story of Light on the Hill has been an incredible lesson for me. Without knowing, I stayed the extra day in order for this lesson to really sink in. Here, I have a model for living larger and not compromising the vision you hold in your heart, even when you encounter obstacles.

I felt so grateful for Alice’s presence in my life as my teacher and guide for the past 29 years. She has unfailingly pointed me inward to the source of my own wisdom and helped me deal with the repercussions when my unconscious programming took me to places I might have avoided had I been more mindful. Having known me for 29 years, she is able to point out my dysfunctional patterns and assist me in healing them. Her message has always been one of empowerment, strength, and love, and she has supported me no matter what I brought to the table. I wish everyone on this planet could experience this kind of steadfast, healing presence and have someone so conscious, wise, and honest in their lives. I am truly grateful for everything she has modeled to me in the context of our relationship and for all she has awakened in me.

Takeaways

In addition to the dynamic shifts and integration I experienced, I had some major takeaways from my retreat that centered around energy. For instance…

My work is to keep reclaiming my energy and attention when they wander outside of myself. It’s kind of like retrieving a kitten that keeps wandering out of the basket. When my energy wanders outward, it dissipates. And when that happens? Close your eyes, get still, and feel the inner body – the energy and light in it. Really experience it, and remember that I am that light. Doing so brings me back to the place where I know what is most important and will find everything I need for this journey. It is the most wondrous sanctuary, the most beautiful homecoming to enter my own heart, which is a vast universe of love. It is where I find guidance. Although I’m a human being who needs to do work in this world, my work can be fueled by this source of supreme love and wholeness. When I step through the threshold into this inner chamber, it’s like entering a different frequency, dimension, or channel. Heaven truly is in my heart. And daily meditation and “checking in” is essential to remain centered, experience my inner light, and bring my awareness back when I start to wander.

In addition to realizing the importance of daily meditation, I also realized how vital sleep and movement are to the quality of my energy. I can’t accomplish much when I’m sleep deprived, and I have been in this state for quite some time, almost as if I’ve been operating on a brownout. And it’s such a simple fix that just requires discipline! Adequate, restful sleep is the foundation for getting my mind in the best shape it can be in for the work I need to do and needs to be a priority. After five nights, it’s already making a huge difference! And movement and exercise are fundamental to getting the energy circulating and channeling it outward so it won’t get stuck. Tune in and feel where the energy wants to go, and take movement/exercise breaks as needed.

I also learned not to get attached to the content of my emotions because they are often signals that my energy is out of balance. For instance, what manifests as sadness and depression is probably exhaustion and signals a need for sleep. And when I’m feeling panicked, agitated, anxious, or blocked, these feelings are signals that I need exercise or movement. There’s an excess of energy that needs to be released, so go for a walk or do some yoga! Rather than buy into the storyline, “I’m sad, and this is why” and become dramatic about it, focus on the level of energy and ask what my energetic needs are this moment – and be disciplined about fulfilling them.

It seems to be about working with energy and patterns, not a fixed or stationary self. And that is both empowering and hopeful! It takes courage to see and accept your patterns in the first place, but if you can go to that scary place and not get hooked into self-loathing or self-pity (which also can be patterns!), you can begin to transform them with discipline, patience, and self-love. And even when having a hard time struggling with something, remember that I am light. I am more than this problem. I am a spiritual being having a temporary existence in this human body.

During one of my healing sessions when I expressed lingering resentment, Alice brought me back by telling me exactly what I needed to hear: “I have known you for 30 years, and your life has been a series of mistakes, and the common denominator is you.” (There have been some good choices, too, but we were focusing on what gets in the way of my inner peace and areas for healing.) This message is at the same time humbling and hopeful. I got me into all these messes, and I can change the patterns and get back out!

As I walked the labyrinth for the last time before going home, I reflected on how I wish I took more risks throughout my life, especially related to formal education. There was another time that felt like a huge crossroads, in the early 90s. If I had it to do over again, I’d have left my safety zone and gone to either Boulder, CO or Cambridge, MA to study at Naropa University or Lesley College or followed through with attending either Harvard Divinity School or Union Theological Seminary. Instead, I became involved with my future husband and father of my children and went with him to Syracuse where I pursued an MSW degree part-time while working at Syracuse University full-time. I regret playing it so safe and small – and being steered by a relationship – because doing so prevented me from following my own path/calling/wisdom in so many ways. Even later in life, after getting a master’s degree in education from a progressive college, I took the “safe” route and worked in public education. Early in life, I didn’t have any models for thinking bigger and making more authentic choices. But now I do. And my life isn’t over yet. It’s not too late!

And so, fueled with hope and a planner filled with ideas and deadlines, I left the hill and brought the light with me, ready to pack up camp and start moving. I don’t know how anything will turn out, but as Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron, said about the willingness to get going and follow your heart: “It is taking you forward, and you are leaving the nest [safety zone]. And that never can be a mistake.”

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© 2015 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness mentor whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York. 

A New Day

A New Day

Today is a new day, and thank goodness for that! Yesterday was the first day of school, and I did not expect it to hit me so hard. Summer vacation is over, the tourists have gone home, and the locals have returned from their beach getaways. School buses are back on the road, and my Facebook feed is filled with first day of school photos. It is time to return to business-as-usual. And that’s the issue! There was a rhythm to my life as a teacher that has been broken, and not returning to it made me feel as if there was no ground beneath me, nothing to support me. A sleep deficit didn’t help.

I felt like a train wreck! Days like that come and go. And we can learn so much from them if we face them head on rather than flee from the discomfort.

Waves of emotion kept coming at me yesterday, and they were huge – and hurt when they hit! They knocked me off balance and dragged me under, and it felt as if I wouldn’t be able to come back up for air. But eventually the wave subsided, and I floated back up to the surface and could breathe again.

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And then another wave would come along sooner or later. So working with the waves became my practice. More specifically, I practiced remaining in the present moment with bare attention, without attaching any labels, storylines, interpretations, wishful fantasies, or romantic longings to whatever arose. It’s not reality that is a problem; it’s what we add to it! If we’re not mindful, we can wander into a very destructive place – a downward spiral that leads to a place we don’t want to go. I can think of a thousand better ways to channel my energy, imagination, and creativity! Why go there?

It reminded me so much of being in labor and working with the contractions, which were more intense than anything I’d ever experienced. The biggest lesson I took away from my childbirth experiences was to breathe into each contraction as it comes along and stay focused on just that. Don’t think about how many more contractions I would have to deal with or evaluate whether I was doing a good job or how much progress I was or wasn’t making. Don’t wish to be anyone else in the room. Instead, remain in the present moment, the wellspring of strength and power.

How wonderful to realize that we can set it all aside, push the reset button, and return to bare presence. It’s basic meditation instruction.

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Granted, it’s much harder to do that when your energy is low. Some days you just have to set all expectations aside and be gentle with yourself. Don’t board those fancy trains of thought and imagination that take you to dramatic places. Stay in the present, where you can hear the rich and rhythmic sounds of a late summer day, be enraptured by the geometry of morning glories and the brilliant design of airborne seeds, and engage opportunities that present themselves (or at least realize that opportunities do exist). Focus on the basics, like getting enough rest. And remember that this, too, shall pass. You’re just having a bad day, and your thinking is a bit delusional as a result.

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So that was my practice yesterday. And I learned a lot.

I was reminded of the importance of self-compassion and self-love and that the very first step is to get enough sleep.

I learned that you have to be that quality you most desire from others. Mine it from within. If you want to be nurtured, start by nurturing – yourself and others!

I learned to turn inward for salvation and not lean so much on this world that shifts constantly, like a kaleidoscope. It’s great to have people to reach out to. But they aren’t always available. So why not realize that the answers and the compass we need for this human journey are all inside of us – and lean into our own heart center and source of strength, which is more enduring and always available? Ultimately, everything we need is there.  And the natural world and its larger rhythms and cycles can be a great source of healing, as well.

Sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom emotionally to realize status quo is not working, and to jolt you into awakening and discovering a new way to proceed. The road less traveled. But there’s a tollbooth on it, and the toll required is to leave behind whatever weighs you down and doesn’t serve you. This includes the stories we cling to.

I learned that the feelings that seem so threatening and overwhelming – like tidal waves that threaten to pull us under – are invitations to grow. All the information we need is within those feelings, if we can lean into them and not run away from them. Every single wave that comes along is an opportunity to become stronger and more skilled – at feeling the waves crash over us, letting go of our baggage, keeping or regaining our balance, and then seeing the gifts the waves leave behind in the sand.

When you’re learning and practicing this right there in the water, such insights can make all the difference in the world and save you from drowning. It’s interesting how, as I get older, insights that seem so simplistic on the surface take on new meaning and depth.

Yesterday, I felt expendable and forlorn. Today I feel free and open to possibility. And that makes me smile. Thank goodness for a restorative night of good sleep and the gift of a new day. A day when I once again can notice and appreciate tiny wonders, such as the sunrise and its reflection on the river, captured in beads of dew on a spider web.

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The reality is that, although the rhythm of my life as a teacher has been disrupted, who I am at my core has not been touched. And I am still part of a larger rhythm of the natural world and the cycle of humankind. So I am neither lost nor broken, even on difficult days. And neither are you.

© 2015 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness mentor whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

Reflection on Still Water

Reflection on Still Water

More days than not, I end up capturing upwards of 200 images that inspire, delight, or speak to me in some way. Every now and then, however, I find myself transfixed by an image. It’s rarely the most aesthetically pleasing shot. Usually, there’s just something about it that has some pull on me and sparks an inner recognition of some sort. So I sit with the image and contemplate what it has to say and what feelings or thoughts it evokes, and then consider how the insights that arise might be relevant to my life.

Yesterday, on the spur of the moment, I spent the afternoon at the New England Peace Pagoda in Western Massachusetts. I hadn’t heard of it prior to yesterday morning but felt immediately compelled to visit. Apparently, it is one of only four peace pagodas in the United States.

One detail I was thrilled to find on the grounds was a pond with both white and pink water lilies. I have been longing to see pink water lilies! I took many pictures of the pond, with countless prayer flags flapping overhead.

Here is the image I have been sitting with today:

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The way the water lily is illuminated with sunlight seems so ethereal, and the colorful reflection of the prayer flags adds to the overall impact.

The flower is enchanting.

But it’s not real. It is an illusion. A reflection.

I rotated the image so it’s upside down.

I think of how skewed the reflections are when the water is rippled or turbulent. If we can allow our mind to settle until it becomes like still water, we can perceive with greater clarity.

But another way to read the water lily image is to consider how we project stuff (thoughts, beliefs, desires, fears, etc.) onto reality and then mistake the projections for reality. We add our own inner content and conditioning to the bare “is-ness” of the moment and fall under the spell of our own projections.

In other words, the thoughts we think, the sights we see, the conclusions we draw, and the beliefs and opinions we hold are products of our perception of reality, not reality itself.

Oh, how we complicate reality! The image reminds me to return to bare presence and keep the mental commentary in check. Become aware of it. Allow it to settle and become still, quiet. Don’t believe all the thoughts you think!

When I showed my teenage son this image and asked him if he thought it looked real, he said yes – at first. But he had seen the original (non-rotated) image last night and explained that there are certain clues you can key in on and realize it doesn’t quite make sense when it’s turned upside-down. For instance, the flower appears to be floating.

And that adds another layer of meaning – a reminder to pay close attention to details that suggest that what you are perceiving to be real isn’t so. Avoid the temptation to pull the wool over your eyes and believe in the illusion simply because it’s so alluring, and you want to believe it’s real.

Anyhow, those are some thoughts that came to mind when I sat with and “read” the water lily photo. It’s an interesting exercise to try with a photo or painting that reaches out and invites you to lean in and go deeper.

© 2015 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness mentor whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

As the Waves Roll In

As the Waves Roll In

There is a distinct rhythm to a teacher’s life. When the glorious insect symphony reaches a crescendo with the chirping of crickets as the most prominent voice, and the corn is tall, and evenings become cooler, it’s time to turn attention to beginning a new school year. But not this year, since I resigned from my job. And that disruption of my normal rhythm has been throwing me off! It feels unnatural.

Driven to connect with a more universal and abiding rhythm, I heard the ocean call my name. There is nothing that restores rhythm and perspective like standing at the edge of the vast ocean watching the waves roll in. I longed to breathe the salty air, synchronize my breath with the rhythm of the waves, and inhale the sheer power and majesty of the ocean. I yearned for the ocean to raise my vibration and thus tune my instrument so I may move forward in greater harmony with Life.

And so my daughter, son, and I headed to the beaches of Rhode Island for our first-ever, mini beach vacation with just the three of us. We planned to go to Ithaca, New York – our old stomping ground and waterfall paradise –  but agreed unanimously at the last minute to go to Rhode Island instead.

As I watched my 20-year-old daughter stand at the edge of the ocean as the tide came in and the waves grew in size and intensity, I captured an image that is worth a thousand words. It is the story of a mother standing behind her daughter and hoping she is prepared for the journey ahead and its unforeseen waves.

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I’ve been meditating on waves – all the waves life thrusts our way. The inevitable, intense, and spectacular waves. A day at the beach would not be nearly so alluring without them.

I feel like I have been a student of waves lately. I have been trying to learn how to keep my balance, especially when the ocean pulls so much away, with such force.

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But it also brings us gifts from its invisible depths. We delight in finding exiquisite shells, smooth stones, Mother Nature’s artwork, and other surprises in the sand. The ocean moves in a rhythm of turbulence and grace.

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My prayer for my children is that they will develop the capacity to maintain their balance when the waves hit.

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Meditation is one way to facilitate balance. As a kindergarten teacher, I taught a calming breath practice by placing a rubber duck on each child’s abdomen as they lay on their backs on the carpet.  I instructed the children to do deep, belly breathing by making the ducks rise and fall, gently and slowly as if they were riding waves at the beach. A duck-free version of this basic practice helps me to calm down, find my center, and push the reset button when the stress response gets activated. But even better to practice in calm waters so it becomes a more automatic response when the waves roll in.

I believe that teaching children how to regain calm and balance and build resilience and courage are among the most important gifts we can offer them.

I wish for my children to have a happy life, but even more than that, I wish for them to have the fortitude to withstand and thrive in this imperfect, challenging life on planet Earth. To breathe through the waves and by doing so, access their calm center and discern with a clear and spacious mind how to respond most effectively to whatever situations and circumstances life sends their way. To trust the rhythm of life – the messiness and awkwardness of it – and not feel they are failing when they lose either their footing or something or someone important to them. To know it’s all an integral part of the process.

I wish for my children to dance with the waves and live a fulfilling life, according to their own definition of the term.

Once I heard someone explain that when you meditate and notice your mind has wandered (as minds do), each time you bring it back is like doing one rep. You are strengthening the mental muscles (or neural pathways) that help you return your attention to what you’re trying to focus on. Similarly, each time you lose your footing when a wave comes along and you catch yourself or get up again, you are building strength and resilience. Such are the gifts the waves bring us.

I would not wish for my children first and foremost a life of smooth sailing because it is unrealistic, and I believe they are made for something greater than that. What joy to discover our latent power when we are put to the test and learn that we are far more magnificent than we ever imagined ourselves to be. May they experience the joy and surprise that comes from recognizing their true strength and power. And may this joyful recognition enhance their capacity to imagine and create their future – for manifestation is born of imagination, and the great challenge is to use our imagination wisely. It is a latent superpower, and fear is a gross misuse of it.

We can do so much better than that!

We can cultivate a habit of returning to our private garden of imagination to envision new possibilities and plant new seeds. We can return our attention to that rich and vibrant place when we wander into self-doubt – whether it is generated by external forces or from within. We can resist labeling our experiences as “good” or “bad” and instead adopt an attitude of “It is what it is – not as forlorn resignation and apathy but as unflappable resilience and determination. And let us not forget the marvelous buoyancy of gratitude.

That is what I wish to inspire in my children and cultivate in myself.

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© 2015 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this blog post, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness mentor whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

Waking from the Dream

Waking from the Dream

The Beloved sometimes wants
To do us a great favor:
Hold us upside down
And shake all the nonsense out.
Hafiz

I’m getting tired of writing about grief and loss. My plan was to write my way through the first year without my mom. It’s not that I thought the feelings of loss would disappear or diminish after the one year marker had come and gone. I just didn’t want to dwell on them – for there is so much else going on!  So much else to write about! Positive, beautiful stuff.

There have been many moments in the past week when ordinary images have awakened me in some way. For example, waking up to the rising sun shining through the window filled me with gratitude and a simple prayer: May we rise in the morning fully aware of the value of the gift of this new day and resolve to bring our highest self into expression. In other words, may we wake up and shine! May the first thought we think when we wake up in the morning be positive and hopeful and set the tone for the day.

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On the creek yesterday afternoon, I was able to get closer than usual to a great blue heron and was impressed by the bird’s keen attention, which I interpreted as not thinking or planning but simply being fully present, and from that state of presence discerning where to be, what to do, and when to act. The heron reawakened me to the value of here-and-now presence.

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Opportunities to awaken and expand our consciousness surround us all the time, whether or not we notice them. It’s a matter of mindfulness and perception.

I could write about either of the above images – or many others, as well. But this is an extraordinarily hectic time of year as I wrap up yet another school year and attend to a dizzying array of paperwork, meetings, and deadlines. There really isn’t much time to write during most of June, so I haven’t. Then along comes something that demands to be written, immediately – for last night, I dreamed of my mom. And it threw me.

I barely had enough time to fall asleep before I dreamed that I walked out of the living room, and when I returned, my mom was sitting in the chair. Sometimes in dreams, it takes me a few moments to remember that she has died in waking life. But this time it was instant. I exclaimed, “Mommy!! It’s so good to see you!” (I haven’t called her “Mommy” since I was a young child.) Then I woke up.

The dream only lasted for a few seconds, but it took my breath away. I felt a bit panicked and anxious upon waking and realizing acutely that I will never again experience that particular joy and comfort in this lifetime – for she is physically gone forever from my life.

I’ve written previously about the waves of grief. When these waves hit, they hit hard. It feels like a wave crashing over me with such force that it knocks me over, and I lose my footing. I suppose I should just allow myself to float back up to the surface without so much resistance to “what is”. It’s a very unpleasant feeling.

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I believe it is also an invitation to go deeper and to get in touch with who I Am at the core. The totality of (my) consciousness, where I experience love through being the most loving person I can be, rather than depending on a certain person to fulfill certain emotional needs. It is so much more fulfilling to relate to others from the higher, infinite Self than from the lower, egoic self. The higher Self is like a sun that shines its light freely. It doesn’t need anything from another person in order to feel complete. It is free to appreciate and enjoy the other without any expectations, to be grateful for what was and what is. It is able to find beauty in the present rather than focus on what is missing. When we walk with presence and gratitude, we don’t worry about the future because we trust our footsteps and know we will be okay.  In this manner, each step blesses and enriches our journey.

I recently listened to an Enneagram presentation by Robert Holden and was struck by the notion that on a spiritual level, there is no such thing as a broken heart. Our expectations and hopes break, but not our heart. The essence of who we are can’t be broken because it is made of love. When the waves hit, it’s useful to remember who we are when we’re not suffering and to reconnect with the groundless being that can contain it all – the ocean, itself, which is so much greater than a single wave.

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There’s oh so much I wish I could talk about with my mom, but I won’t be able to, ever, in this lifetime – at least not in the way we were accustomed to communicating. It can be painful to awaken from a dream to the realization that I don’t have a mom anymore and will never experience the joy of seeing her in the same room as me. When I fall into ego and forget who I really am, it feels so lonely.  And when it happens, it’s time to call upon the inner Mother and nurture the little egoic self with kindness and compassion. It is a call to be present to the beauty and goodness here and now rather than get lost in yearning for what is missing. To experience love by loving, rather than yearning for love. Generate it from within.

Why do we characterize others with qualities that we think we don’t have in ourselves and therefore need from them, when who we really are contains the totality of consciousness? The solution is not to look to others for what they can give us – to fill our holes – but to expand our consciousness and cultivate those qualities in ourselves. And then we can REALLY love, from a source that is a blessing and not a burden for others.

From where I am writing, I can see the river sparkling with sunlight. It’s time to engage with the splendor of this new day, one grateful footstep at a time.

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

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