Journal

Let It Flow, Let It Go

Let It Flow, Let It Go

This morning, with temperatures barely out of the single digits, I felt called to the riverside. The river was beginning to freeze, and I was transfixed by the juxtaposition between parts that were frozen solid in place and parts that were still fluid and flowing. 

More than a week ago, I shipped my camera off for repairs. My husband is letting me borrow his camera for the time being. It took a few days before I picked it up because, well, it’s not my camera. But I can’t resist photographing the river as it begins to freeze, so I headed outside with the less familiar camera.

I must have stood at the river’s edge for a good half-hour photographing, filming, and observing the freezing river. A few minutes into the first video, I noticed that a long chain of ice plates, stretched as far as I could see, had stopped flowing. Several minutes later, it began flowing again. A little closer to shore, there was buildup of the delicate ice plates and a sound that’s music to my ears, similar to a crackling fire as the moving ice plates came in contact with stationary masses.

I happened to be there at just the right time and filmed it all. It was amazing and extraordinary.

However, when I transferred the video to my computer, my expectations were quickly deflated. It turns out I had the camera on autofocus instead of manual focus, and the autofocus completely ruined the videos. Every few seconds, you could hear the sound of the camera refocusing, and the focus kept blurring and shifting around. Like autocorrect, autofocus doesn’t always get it right and sometimes gets it horribly wrong.

When I complained to my husband, he quipped, “Didn’t you talk about this in a photography class?”

Not what I wanted to hear in that moment. although he was right. In more than one class, I stressed the importance of taking a moment to pause and check your camera settings. Instead of jumping right in and allowing emotional excitement, or in this case cold weather, to distract you from drawing on your knowledge base. 

Grrrrrrrrr. I did not pause to check the settings, and this was a basic one. It was another live-and-learn moment.

There are two things I’m quite certain I won’t do again, after learning the hard way in recent weeks:

  • Make a nature video on that camera with autofocus on
  • Begin a guided meditation on Zoom without first asking participants if they can hear me. 

But I digress.

Jack’s comment, though irritating at first, helped me to see the humor, stop blaming the camera, and name what was present: frustration and disappointment.

It’s kind of magical when you name your feelings. It puts some space around them so you’re not completely identified with or overcome by them. Instead, you can be in relationship with them.

The space allows another voice to come through. A voice that says: I will try again throughout the day or tomorrow morning. At least I don’t have to drive far for this. It’s right in front of my house. 

However, I noticed the uncomfortable, physical energy of disappointment was still present in my body.

That’s when I remembered what was going through my mind as I watched the freezing river flow. Right there in the moment, the sight brought to mind the importance of letting feelings flow. Let it flow, let it go were the exact words that came to mind.

I recalled how surprised I was when the long chain of ice plates came to a standstill. I hoped they would start moving again. When they did start moving several minutes later, I felt a sense of relief. I also recalled that it was more satisfying to witness the flowing parts of the river than the ones that were frozen solid and not moving.

Like emotions themselves, impressions you receive from nature can be data about your state of being. Like looking into a mirror. Outer nature reflects inner nature, as inner nature is drawn to certain details in outer nature.

I allowed my body to move as it wanted, to move the emotional energy along, like the ice parade flowing along the river. It seemed to help.

So no, I did not make a satisfying video this morning. They were all duds, thanks to autofocus being on. Maybe I’ll have another chance tomorrow morning. Maybe I won’t. (As the sun sets this evening, the river appears significantly more frozen than it was this morning, so I’m not feeling hopeful.) But nature revealed something useful to me this morning, for which I feel grateful. 

I was there at the moment the flow stopped and when it started again. I witnessed it and found meaning in it. The video didn’t come out as anticipated, but I received something of value from simply being there and observing it. 

Even if I hadn’t walked away with a reminder to let emotions flow rather than get stuck, simply being on the riverside taking in the remarkable sight and sound would have been enough. A moment of pausing and being present.

Another message I received from being outdoors this morning:

There is beauty in the world. Get away from your screens, and go outside. The beauty you seek is seeking you. Go find it.

And so I went back to the river’s edge and took a few more pictures with the unfamiliar camera. After first checking and adjusting the settings, of course.

Because: live and learn.


© 2022 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this post or excerpts of it as long as you give proper credit to Susan Meyer and SusanTaraMeyer.com. Susan Meyer is a photographer, writer, and spiritual teacher who lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

True Freedom

True Freedom

More evenings than not, I have lengthy video calls with my granddaughter, who will turn six later this month. The other night, she told me she wishes everyone could “just be good to each other.” My daughter told me that was her “Santa wish”, and she also expressed it again last night at bedtime.

Out of the mouths of babes.

Sometimes I tell her there are adults who maybe should go back to kindergarten and learn how to get along with others and manage their feelings better. She thinks that’s funny…but also true.

Her wish reminded me of some words I penned in the middle of the night recently, before falling back to sleep. I wrote them and then put them aside. Hearing my granddaughter’s wish prompted me to revisit and share them.

True Freedom

Whoever you are, you are
First and foremost to me
A soul being expressed
As a human being
Who loves and hurts
And hopes and grieves
Just like me.

I, too, have held some beliefs
So tightly that a position 
Became my identity 
And lifestyle choices
Became a checklist
By which I judged
And set myself apart
From others.

From that, I learned 
It doesn’t feel good to be so rigid
In my beliefs, to push away
So many “unenlightened” others.
It causes suffering.

I, too, was for a time
On more than one occasion 
Seduced by charisma and appearance.
I, too, clung to an idealized image
Of someone because it helped me
To feel better about myself.

I have both looked down on 
And elevated others
To boost my self-esteem:
Pushed them away to affirm
I was unlike them
Or pulled them close and sought
Their approval and affection 
To affirm my worthiness.

But eventually I realized
It felt better to set myself free
From all that nonsense
Than to perceive someone
As either a minor god or a monster
And sometimes both.

There have been times
When I held onto illusion 
For far too long,
And therefore I cannot condemn
Anyone else for doing so.
My experience, though humbling,
Has grown my compassion.

May I not be content to make
Anyone into a concept such as
Narcissist, corrupt politician,
Or simply other
And fail to see them
As a multifaceted being,
Just like me.

May I not hold any label
As a destination
But rather as evidence
That there is more
To learn and understand.

And at the same time, may I 
Implement healthy boundaries:
See their light and take no shit.
May I feed the Good Wolf 
In myself and others.

Hurt people hurt people.
And I, too, have hurt people.

I have betrayed myself
By using someone else
As a self-worthiness project
And know how bad it feels 
To make self-betrayal into a habit
And a prison

To which we ourselves hold the key.

What great relief it has been
To stop projecting
My stuff onto others
And to set myself free.

It wasn’t easy, but it was
Worth it every time
To step out of the story,
Let the spell wear off
And relate to actual people
Rather than ideas or ideals

Even when someone
Really hurt me.

Choosing to see more clearly 
Even when it makes our ideas wrong
Or somehow less right
Doesn’t make us weak,
Is not failure.
To stop regarding
Our beliefs as Truth
Sets us free.

True freedom is unmasking 
In a much deeper way:
Being seen and valued
Exactly as we are
And accepting ourselves
As such.

True freedom is refusing
To allow our heart
To be held hostage by ego
And not taking our differences
So damn seriously
That we depend on
A bad or unenlightened Other
To validate by contrast
Our own goodness.


© 2022 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this post or excerpts of it as long as you give proper credit to Susan Meyer and SusanTaraMeyer.com. Susan Meyer is a photographer, writer, and spiritual teacher who lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

Paul

Paul

It’s been months since I’ve published a new journal entry. In the interim, I’ve been developing talks and meditations for my weekly mindfulness meditation classes and writing for my mailing list. However, this week, I’ve had the urge to share with a broader audience who and what is most predominant in my heart: my cousin Paul and the rest of my Canadian family.

In the spring of 2016, I traveled to the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia for the first time to visit relatives. After a long day of traveling, I was quite tired when I finally arrived at my great-aunt and -uncle’s home, but their son, Paul, was right there to meet me. He was so excited. It was the first time a cousin visited, and it was a big deal for him. A year younger than me, Paul was my dad’s first cousin and therefore my first cousin once removed. (My grandfather was the eldest of a dozen kids, and Paul’s dad was the youngest.) Looking at him was like seeing my grandfather again.

I instantly thought of Paul as a cousin soulmate. He whisked me away to experience sunsets and moonrises during my visit, and when it was time to leave, I didn’t want to. I felt like I had found my tribe.

Two years later, I visited again. Paul and his wife, Janet, picked me up from Vancouver airport, for which I was immensely grateful. (There’s a lot involved in traveling to the Sunshine Coast, especially with photography gear in tow.) We stopped at Granville Island, had lunch overlooking Vancouver harbor, and drove through Stanley Park before making our way to the ferry and his parents’ home in Sechelt. Paul also brought me back to the airport when I left, again stopping and staying overnight in Van.

In between meeting him that first time and saying goodbye at the airport the last time, we spent time together on his father-in-law’s yacht (which was a real treat for me) and smaller prawn boat. He was really in his element on the water. There were dinners together with more family. A trip to the farmers’ market. Cards and texts and phone calls.

I honestly can say that nobody else on this planet made me feel the way Paul did. I felt welcomed, protected, truly cared for, and understood. Spending time with him and family in British Columbia was transformative. It changed my life. I had dreams of somehow, someday getting a visa and spending more time close to my family tribe in British Columbia.

Paul talked often about going to Cape Cod together, where he had fond memories of visiting an uncle (also my dad’s uncle) who had been an artist and an overall fascinating person. He wanted to take me to Hornby Island. We came close to traveling to England together for a family reunion, but it was so last-minute that it didn’t come together. He wanted so much to experience an “American Thanksgiving” and promised he would make the next visit, for that purpose. But then of course Covid came along.

This year, I wished for the U.S.-Canadian border to reopen so the idea of visiting the Sunshine Coast could come back into the realm of possibility. However, there were complications and factors beyond border status that made it unfeasible. So I traveled there often in my heart, where there are no borders aside from the ones we, ourselves, maintain.

Last Friday evening, Paul passed away after suffering a massive heart attack two and a half weeks prior. His obituary is truly touching, complete with poems written by family members.

My heart is heavy with that old visitor, grief, that comes in waves. What I have learned from previous losses is that the heart is an ocean spacious enough to hold all the waves that move through it, even if it doesn’t feel that way. Although I’m accustomed to relating to Paul from a distance, his parents, daughters, sisters, and other family members are not, and my heart goes out to them. 

In moments of remembering, I practice breathing in memories of Paul and his beautiful qualities – really filling up with that energy – and breathing out compassion for everyone else grieving his absence. After a few breaths, I extend this out-breath wish (also called metta) to everyone grieving a loss. There are so very many, and we never grieve alone. 

This is a different kind of heart wave: the kind that unites us in our common humanity. The deepest losses I’ve experienced have taught me that the heart can become the telephone through which we can communicate even with those who have passed through the veil we call death. May we honor those we’ve lost by embodying what we loved about them, however we can, even if it’s simply recalling their goodness and by doing so, shining a little brighter and allowing their essence to continue rippling in the world. That is the prayer in my heart at the moment.


© 2021 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this post or excerpts of it as long as you give proper credit to Susan Meyer and SusanTaraMeyer.com. Susan Meyer is a photographer, writer, and spiritual teacher who lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

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