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Journal

One Puzzle After Another

One Puzzle After Another

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then we roll up our sleeves and keep going.

© 2018 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness teacher whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

Back in Balance

Back in Balance

It’s been a while since I’ve balanced rocks by the sea, which is one of my favorite things to do. Right now, I’m visiting my relatives on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia. It’s the first time I’ve made it to either coast this year. 

It’s been 2-1/2 years since I last visited my Canadian relatives, and it’s great to be back. I’m so glad I didn’t cancel my trip, which is what seemed inevitable last week due to personal stuff, over-scheduling, and Air Canada changing my travel itinerary in a big way. I called to request that they change my itinerary to something more reasonable than having a 12-hour, overnight layover in Chicago. However, the rep said I’d have to pay a $100 change fee in addition to any price difference. I made my flight reservations back in March, and this would nearly double what I paid originally.

When I considered canceling my trip, pictures of my Vancouver-area relatives on my vision board reminded me how important it is to connect with them. I went away for my group retreat weekend immediately before my scheduled trip, and a few dear women there encouraged me to call Air Canada again and speak with a different rep. They also pointed out that leaning into the drama is an Enneagram Four pattern that I might want to be aware of. Perhaps do something different. Get a little distance from it, and avoid letting other people’s issues stop me from doing what’s best for me!

I took their advice and called Air Canada, and everything was resolved easily without any extra charges. I thanked the rep profusely and felt so happy that I could visit my beloved relatives! My cousin generously offered to pick me up from Vancouver airport, which simplified travel plans greatly. 

We spent some time enjoying Granville Island and Stanley Park in Vancouver before taking the ferry to the Sunshine Coast. The timing was perfect for an incredible sunset on the Strait of Georgia.

There is a rocky beach about a 10-minute walk from my relatives’ house where I enjoyed balancing rocks during my previous stay. I never see anyone on that beach. It’s like my own, private playground, and it’s awesome.

I noticed a starfish on the beach and picked it up along with some rocks that caught my eye. My first balance of the year was a fun warmup that featured the starfish.

The next day, it rained lightly the whole time I was on the beach. But I was determined to balance a particular rock that was shaped a bit like the state of Texas. 

This balance wasn’t as cool as the previous day’s starfish balance. If you knew how long it took to accomplish it, you’d probably wonder if it was worth it or if I didn’t have something better to do with my time.

Well, it was totally worth it! In my heart, I KNEW it could be balanced and never allowed myself to believe it couldn’t. I just knew. I was patient, determined, and really tuned in to the energy and engaged my sense of feeling rather than my dominant sense of seeing. But the main thing is that I believed this rock could and would be balanced and didn’t give up.

Balancing rocks teaches me that if I believe in something and don’t allow doubts or distractions to creep in and stop me, I can do it. Not just rocks. Goals in general. That’s why balancing rocks is so gratifying!

And that’s great. But you know what can totally ruin it? Comparing our accomplishments to others.

I’m connected with a lot of stone balance artists, including the legendary Michael Grab and Peter Juhl, who literally wrote the book about rock balancing art. Whether it’s photography, music, teaching, yoga, rock balancing, finances, or anything else, comparing ourselves to others is a surefire way to put the brakes on any positive momentum you’ve generated toward manifesting your goals. It’s not enough to believe you can. You also have to avoid the temptation to compare your work to others if doing so leaves you feeling not good enough.

It’s great if others’ work can inspire you, but if it brings on feelings of inadequacy, you have to train yourself to stay focused on your own work. Keep your eyes on your own paper, kids! Don’t be concerned with what anyone else is doing or try to keep up with the Joneses. Give your full attention to your own work. Please.

The poet, Rumi, suggested: Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray. THAT is the energy to engage with, rather than the energy of comparisons and self-doubt that divert your energy and lead you astray.

This morning it’s raining, so I’m writing rather than balancing. However, I hope to have more opportunities to balance rocks by the sea before I return home. Already, I have some new pictures to bring back with me. Photographing my rock balances helps me to remember how it felt to believe I could do it – and then actually do it! Practicing that feeling is as important as practicing your craft. And sharing reminds others that they can, too…which is also important!

© 2018 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness teacher whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

Better Than Envy

Better Than Envy

My friend, Colleen’s 18-year-old son, Isaac, is an amazing wildlife and landscape photographer. Last summer, his shot of the solar eclipse made National Geographic’s “Daily Dozen.” I have to admit, I was a little jealous. 

Okay, more than a little. It wasn’t just the shot itself. It was the killer lens he used to capture it and the resources he has access to, including epic landscapes. And he was only 17 at the time.

Today I learned Isaac was named Young Photographer of the Year through the prestigious Windland Smith Rice Awards for nature and wildlife photography, and his winning shot, “Battle of the Bulls,” will be in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Holy cow!

There are moments when you realize how much you’ve grown and that the work you do on a daily basis really does make a difference. Learning of Isaac’s latest accomplishment was one such moment…because I didn’t feel jealous or envious as much as I felt truly happy for him. And that’s a big deal for an Enneagram “Four” like me because we tend to default into envy, comparing ourselves to others and feeling bad because we convince ourselves that we don’t measure up and lack any kind of personal significance and existential worth. 

In the past year, I’ve done a lot of inner work – more than I can remember ever doing in a year. Diving into Enneagram work has made a huge difference in my life. It’s a powerful combination along with daily mindfulness meditation practice. Finally, I can catch myself when I start to go into “Enneagram Four negative thoughts” and label them as such…and transform them or let them go.

Noticing and labeling are important. You can think of a thought as a bus with a sign lit up that shows where it’s headed: “The Dark Side of Enneagram Four”. Seeing that sign, I realize it’s not a bus I want to get on. It’s one of the usual routes I’ve taken all my adult life, but now I can see it for what it is and where it goes to and can let it pass. It stops in front of me, and I hear the sound of the door opening and the bus driver inviting me to get on…and then choose to continue sitting right where I am.

As the bus pulls away, I go back to noticing the sights and sounds around me, the sensation of breathing, the areas of tension in my body, and don’t give that bus a second thought. Eventually, another bus comes along with either another or the same destination sign lit up, and again I can make a conscious choice about whether or not to get on and go for a ride.

This is kind of amazing! It’s like the bumper sticker slogan: You don’t have to believe every thought you think. Freedom from thought. Yes, we do have a choice! Why don’t they teach us that in school?? What a difference it would make in our personal lives and in society.

So instead of wasting time and energy wishing I had that sweet glass and 12,000 Instagram followers, instead of getting on that thought-bus that travels down dismal streets like “I really screwed up my life” and “There must be something seriously wrong with me”…

I allowed Isaac’s success to inspire me and to help me clarify what is most important to me. Because that’s what you can do when you don’t get on the bus that takes you to places that suck the life out of you.

Truth is, I’ve been focusing on a lot of other things lately. Building infrastructure for photography and other endeavors. Decluttering across the board – emails, Pinterest boards, all kinds of stuff that has accumulated but no longer fits with who I have become and what I want to move toward. I’ve been doing portrait shoots, but because I’ve been so busy, I haven’t taken my camera out as much as usual to photograph nature, which is my true passion. I haven’t even left the area in the past year except to go on spiritual retreats at two retreat centers. 

Isaac’s photography reminded me that I have a photography bucket list. It reminded me that the Adirondacks and New England (for fall foliage) are close by. Even Maine isn’t too far away for photographing northern lights. His photography reminded me of the importance of having a work schedule that offers flexibility to travel for photography. And this is good because I nearly interviewed this week for a position that would have made that much more difficult – and doesn’t fit with who I am now, anyway!

Isaac’s photography reminded me that there are beautiful places near and far. Just as with meditation, healing, and spiritual growth, you start where you are right now. That’s what you work with. There’s no need to wait until conditions are better or different – until I can travel out of the area or until fall or until I’m awake for a really nice sunrise on the river. Right now, there is a garden full of morning glories just outside my door. Start there. Photograph them…because that’s what’s available to me right now.

Isaac’s photography reminded me that having my camera in hand makes me more aware of the beauty around me, and that is a big part of my spiritual practice. It re-inspired me to take out my camera every day because it adds so much meaning and joy to my life.

And so I did. I photographed the morning glories outside my door. I didn’t capture any National Geographic worthy images, but I fell in love all over again with the anatomy of morning glories, how they look dappled with raindrops, and the way their petals roll up when they’re ready to call it a day. Feeling appreciation, awe, fascination, wonder, and connection with nature feels so good and allows me to be my best self much more than wallowing in disempowering envy, self-pity, and shame. Neuroplasticity is for real! I am creating new mental habits!

So thank you, Isaac, for your passion for photography, and congratulations on yet another success! Thank you, too, for the inspiration and reminders about who I am and what’s most important. Isn’t it wild that by doing what we love, we can affect others in ways we’d never imagine?

Of course, that could go either way. Witnessing accomplishments like Isaac’s could lift a person up or bring a person down depending on that person’s own level of mindfulness and self-esteem. It’s useful to keep in mind that when you are in the spotlight (or even when you’re not) and receive unflattering comments or unsolicited advice, they often are more about the person commenting/advising than the quality of your work!

And of course, shooting in Wyoming with Isaac is one of the items on my photography bucket list!

© 2018 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness teacher whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

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