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Journal

The Stories Inside Us

The Stories Inside Us

The holistic fair had been on my calendar for months. I made sure not to schedule anything else for the day and looked forward to attending the event.

Then the day came, and I just couldn’t motivate myself to go.

I wished I had some girlfriends to go with who shared my interest in all things mind-body-spirit. No doubt I do. But nobody came to mind. If I lived in Ithaca, I could send an email to my Hidden Treasure group and go as a group. It would be fun. That kind of companionship and sense of belonging to a community is what I long for.

I thought: Maybe I should push myself to go anyway. But when I checked in with myself, I kept hearing no – and argued with it. There was a gigantic should hanging in the air.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in recent years, it’s that in moments like this, the sooner I can get out of my head, the better. The dilemma would not be solved by thinking about it. Because there was emotional energy involved. Frustration, confusion, sadness. I was in an energy funk.

Feelings are signals that are part of our inner guidance system. The energy in my body had information to offer me. If I just thought about it, I’d cut myself off from a powerful source of wisdom and guidance. The emotional imbalance in my body was a signal to tune in and be present to what was happening right now in the moment without getting caught up in mental activities like stories I have about who or how I am or theories about why.

So I sat on my meditation cushion, made some inquiries, and paid attention.

An Alchemy of Presence

First I asked: What feelings am I experiencing now? (Sadness.)

Then I did a body scan to notice where I felt it the most. (In my heart area.) I placed my hands there and let them rest gently over my heart while I tuned in to the energy of that area.

What does the feeling look like? (I saw a hunk of clay.)

What color is it? (Pink.)

Then I saw golden hands kneading the clay that had the consistency of Silly Putty. The hands kept kneading and kneading and kneading. Whereas I was eager to find out what would become of the clay, the hands seemed very patient. They just kept kneading, and as they did, I allowed impatience and sadness to be with me. I didn’t push them away.

Then a female voice (that seemed to be attached to the hands) told me that I am putting too much pressure on myself. It’s okay not to feel like striving today. It’s okay not to have a clear vision yet of what I am in the process of creating. She asked me if I trust the hands that are kneading the clay. (Yes, I do.) Then I just stayed with the pleasant sensation of kneading. I was being asked to be patient and just allow it to be what it is right now.

The voice told me THERE IS NO RUSH. Don’t worry about what it is to become. It’s all in good hands.

At one point, a worried thought arose, and it was worked into the clay. It got absorbed and became part of the substance that was being kneaded. Anything could be added to the mix, and it would help to create this substance that eventually would be formed into something.

Everything belonged.

I remained present to the kneading, and eventually the hands stretched the clay until it was very thin and transparent, allowing the light to shine through. It became so thin that it turned into a bubble. Then there were lots of bubbles. The voice explained that there are so many possibilities.

One bubble caught my attention. It tumbled along the green grass, and when it came to rest, I sat inside it. There were lots of translucent colors on the surface of the bubble. I became curious: What color did I gravitate toward? (Blue.) I allowed the blue light to shine on me as I sat inside the bubble. The blue light charged me with a different kind of energy.

Then the blue light mixed with the pink of the clay and turned purple. The purple became butterflies. So many butterflies! The purple butterfly energy filled me. It fluttered inside my body and filled me with a sense of certainty. I would just know. It was a completely different energy.

Then I saw the face that was attached to the golden hands and the voice. The face was like the sun and blew purple butterfly kisses to me. The butterflies filled me, and then there was a golden bridge that connected me with this higher being. The butterflies inside me pulled me in the direction of the golden hands and face. It was my Higher Self beckoning me.

After about 20 minutes of witnessing the story that unfolded in my heart chakra, it felt complete. The energy of sadness and confusion had shifted into peace, acceptance, and contentment. I felt calm and whole. When I returned to meditating, I experienced the sensation of a waterfall of light flowing down into my head and through my body. My energy pathways felt clear.

The confused, conflicted energy in my body was a signal that wisdom or guidance was trying to come through. It was a message of patience and not feeling like I have to strive today. Instead of going to a crowded convention center, I walked in the sunshine and fresh air, and that felt like exactly what I needed.

Dear Anxiety

I’ve been no stranger to anxiety. It’s taken the form of worry, white coat hypertension in medical settings (traced back to early experiences), performance anxiety, and social anxiety. For a long time, my approach was to try to make the anxiety go away. I couldn’t accept it. It felt like a weakness or defect. If I was “spiritual” enough, I wouldn’t feel anxious. At least that’s what I told myself. 

But trying to make it go away didn’t work. I tried taking deep breaths to get rid of the anxiety. That tended not to work, either. I was still stuck in my head.

This power struggle with my body and my attempts to force it into submission cut me off from its tremendous wisdom. Recommitting to mindfulness meditation practice has helped me to cultivate a different relationship with my body characterized by greater acceptance and less rejection. Hallelujah!

Recently, I discovered “The Felt Sense Poem” (author unknown) written in the voice of the symptoms and conditions that arise from having a body (meaning that I would read it as Anxiety speaking to me). It describes eloquently a different kind of relationship we can have with our bodies, by listening, allowing, and being present rather than indulging in our storylines and beliefs. Here are some excerpts:

I am your friend, not your enemy. I have no desire to bring pain and suffering into your life.
I am simply tugging at your sleeve, too long immune to gentle nudges.
I desire for you to allow me to speak to you in a way that enlivens your higher instincts for self-care.
My charge is to energize you to listen to me with the sensitive ear and heart
of a mother attending to her precious baby.

Let me be one of the harbingers that lead you to the mysterious core of your being
where insight and wisdom are naturally available when called upon with a sincere heart.

Not your typical way of relating to physical or mental afflictions, huh? That’s what I’m talking about.

All the Incredible Stories

There are stories living in our body. Illuminating, healing stories. When I notice emotional energy in my body, I can’t wait to tune in to see what story will unfold. What it wants to tell me.

There was the time when a wild boar leaped out of my solar plexus chakra and ran into the woods. It was an energy that had been living in me for quite some time, and I felt so light and free when it left!

Another time, a mermaid swam around underwater and knew that the structures that seemed separate above the surface were connected underwater like the root systems of trees. When she came above the water embodying this understanding, her tears created healing rainbows.

There was the time when I felt anxious about a doctor’s appointment and saw water in the ocean pushing against a wall that kept me safe from all the water pressure. This story played out in my heart chakra. When I decided to allow the wall to dissolve, I discovered there was a magic umbrella I could hold onto that allowed me to hover over the water until it became calm. Then I enjoyed the sensation of floating on my back on the immense sea, feeling connected with it, part of it. I remembered how enjoyable it was for me to float on my back when I was young, before I became so self-conscious about my body. This was very different from the pressure of keeping that wall in place! I felt the difference and called on that imagery to relax my body when it tensed up before my appointment. The image carried the energy of safety. It was like a portal into calm.

There was the seriously EPIC story that played out in my sacral chakra. The story of the gleaming white Temple of Ascension in which trauma was transformed into transcendence through the presence of unconditional love and light from many angelic beings gathered around me. I can tap into the powerful, healing images and feelings of that story whenever I need to. It is immensely healing, especially when shame arises.

When I felt upset and experienced a desire to control and possess, there was the story in my heart chakra of a large monkey inside a cage. The monkey didn’t want to be in the cage and stomped his feet. Eventually, the monkey shrunk until it was small enough to slip between the bars and out of the cage. Then it regained its normal size and started to spin the cage like a top. It was a golden top spinning gold light. It spun faster, and it was all golden light. Eventually the monkey dissolved, and only the spinning, golden light remained. And my energy had shifted into peace and equanimity.

When I felt very introverted before a Hidden Treasure group retreat weekend began, there was a story in my throat chakra of a bird-like creature almost like a bat with its wings folded around itself, but the wings were blankets. When I rested my hands on my throat area, the shining sun warmed the little creature, and its blanket wings unfolded and became prayer flags. Then the little creature dissolved and became the wind. My energy had shifted from introversion to being ready to connect with my classmates.

And there was the time I felt negativity toward someone whose picture came up in my social media feed. This was another heart story, of a gigantic, black, iron teardrop. As I felt great sadness, the teardrop sweated. I kept my hands on my heart chakra and felt the warmth and noticed the image change. It started to become more greenish-blue and transparent. I noticed hands inside the teardrop, reaching outward. Then the greenish-blue became the ocean. The iron teardrop had dissolved and become the ocean. Then the hands put the sun into the sky. The sun was the head, and the hands were part of a gigantic, luminous body that contained the ocean and everything in it. There was nothing this luminous energy would exclude. This luminous, inclusive being was so much bigger than anything in this world and could embrace it all.

When this story ended, I felt Universal Love toward the person and no more negativity. If I find myself going back into that reaction, I can recall that luminous image at the end of the story and experience it again. It’s more effective than working with my thoughts and self-talk because that image carries healing energy that I can take refuge in.

Out of Our Head and Into the Present

Some of our thoughts are like balloons or bubbles that just float away or dissolve on their own or when they are observed. They’re not emotionally charged. Others carry an emotional charge that’s anchored in the body.

That’s where our energy stories reside. We can dissolve the energy blocks and get the energy flowing by tapping into those stories and images and bringing the energy of unconditional love to those areas. Like a mother attending to her precious baby. If you can become aware of where you feel the energy in your body, your witnessing presence can transmute uncomfortable sensations into healing wisdom.

This is different from going into our heads to try to dominate and fix the problem. Being present to energy sensations in the body is a more receptive response of connection, empathy, and care. For balance, we need both, along with an awareness of when to use them. 

When we go straight to the action step and employ our thinking minds to manage an emotional uprising, the suppressed feelings might get lodged in our bodies, leaving the wisdom untapped and undermining true resolution. This approach only addresses part of the issue. In my opening example, my thoughts revealed a longing for girlfriends I can do things with. But that was only part of the solution. The energy work offered another kind of wisdom. 

Instead of going straight to problem-solving, we can notice where the energy is in our body and be present to it. That might mean resting your hands on that spot with loving presence, simply being aware of the energy (and the act of noticing helps it to shift), or seeing if there are more visuals to work with, or even a story unfolding.

In the beginning, and especially when there is trauma involved, it’s good to have a guide for this kind of work. My spiritual director, Alice, has guided me through the process a number of times, and I’ve witnessed her guiding others during our Hidden Treasure meetings. I had a psychotherapist who used this approach, too. Eventually, I started remembering to take myself through the process when emotional stuff came up.

Experimenting with this approach has been really helpful. It gets me unstuck. It was always available, but I didn’t realize it because I was trapped in my head, convinced thinking was the answer. I’ve learned there are limitations to taking an intellectualized, rational approach and remaining in our stories, explanations, and theories about how we are and why. Especially when feelings are involved.

There is another way to work with emotions that arise, by paying attention to what is going on right now and the fresh content that is emerging. At such times, the sooner we can get out of our heads and into the present moment, the better!


© 2019 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, Reiki practitioner, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness teacher whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

The Exquisite Angle

The Exquisite Angle

It was one of those rare and ethereal, frosty mornings on the river. I jumped out of bed and into my car, and by the time I returned home, I barely had time to wash my face (let alone shower) before leaving for work.

I would have liked to spend more time outdoors with my camera that morning. However, when I’m on a schedule, I tend to use my time better. I don’t waste time and procrastinate as I might be inclined to do when the whole day is open and available. When there’s only a brief window of opportunity, things get done. I do what matters most. That’s why the hour I drove around photographing the frosty river landscape was the most important hour of my day. 

The sunlight, frost, and steam fog combined to create dazzling images. But only from certain angles. I drove along the river in search of the angles that illuminated the frosty trees in the most fantastic way. The effect was surprisingly elusive. Sometimes I’d see it from a distance, but as I got closer to the trees that appeared so stunning, the angle shifted, and the frosty grandeur faded.

In both photography and life, sometimes we need to step back a bit to find the most inspired view or perspective.

A certain property on the river appeared to have the best view of all. I yearned to drive down the long driveway and was disappointed because it was private property. “They’ve got the whole view in their yard!” I griped to myself.

And then I giggled because it reminded me of an old church song. I started singing and making up verses, such as:

  • They’ve got the frosty winter trees / In their yard
  • They’ve got the fog from the river / In their yard

My heart was full of song and joy, and I wondered: Were the people inside the house appreciating the heck out of the view they had that morning? Were they even aware of it? Was their view as stunning as mine was from the road, as I stood and crouched in awe of their frost-covered wonderland? Perhaps not. Who knows: Perhaps the best view was right where I was.

I kept driving and singing and stopping every now and then when I found just the right angle. The angle of YES!

Some of the best views were from the bridge near my house. The “scary” green steel deck bridge that some locals refuse to drive on, that vibrates whenever a car crosses it. (We can feel the vibration inside our house. It’s something you get used to, but visitors always notice.)

Before approaching the bridge on foot, I had to be set with the right lens because I wasn’t about to take the time to switch lenses on that narrow bridge with nearly constant, two-way traffic. The right aperture was another variable to consider: How much to draw attention to certain areas or details? And which ones? How much to blur out? What would be best in this case?

The lens of awareness extends far beyond the camera. My intention, both behind the camera lens and in general, is to find the right angle from which to view something so it becomes a precious opportunity to awaken: to experience, become, and express Love. It’s all about being in alignment.

That’s ultimately what I seek when I take off in my car on beautiful, frosty mornings: images that remind me of how life appears when I hold it at the right angle so the light shines through, and it becomes heaven on earth. Loving awareness makes everything valuable and worthwhile. It helps you to transform your relationship to everything that gets in the way of loving so you can set yourself free. Even your own beliefs about how things should be.

At one point during my drive, I turned on the radio just in time to hear these lyrics from an Eagles song:

So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we have the key.

They were the most perfect words I could hear in that moment. Then I turned off the radio because…confirmation received.

In this broader sense, finding the right angle is about letting everything serve our awakening so we become a fuller expression of love. There are so many examples: Dissolving grudges and resentment into equanimity and even appreciation. Loving myself even when I’ve let myself down. Loving others even when they let me down or hurt me. Loving those who don’t value or agree with me. Loving myself enough not to allow someone’s negative energy into my life but to love them from a safe distance for the role they play(ed) in my awakening and because they, too, experience suffering and are worthy of compassion. Trusting that the situation is exactly what I need to awaken. Being grateful for having the opportunity to awaken.

I’m talking about the little epiphanies that set things right in your heart. Grace.

It’s all about awakening and evolving and love. Cultivating the most loving response possible towards myself, the other, the situation, everything. Holding my relationship to certain emotions, experiences, relationships, etc. differently until it’s bathed in love. This includes reframing thoughts and establishing “right relationship” to them. For example, instead of tuning in to the disempowering channel of regret (“If only I hadn’t…”), reach for gratitude:

  • I’m grateful for whatever it took to wake me up.
  • I’m grateful that this situation helped me to discover my worth.
  • I’m grateful that this experience helped me to cultivate compassion and understanding.

Negative thoughts, irritations, and problems can be transformed into opportunities, possibilities, and blessings. Even something undesired can be reframed to: This, too, serves my awakening. And then all of a sudden, the sunbeams kiss the frosted trees in just the right way, and the steam fog rises around it all, and you’re filled with awe, hope, love, appreciation. You’ve found the exquisite angle.

The angle that sets you free and sends you forth with a song of gratitude in your heart that allows you to make peace with whatever arises, even when you wish things were different. Gratitude for the opportunity to work with your heart and mind in ways you’ve not explored yet and discover what’s possible and what matters more than any particular outcome.

All of this is why that frosty morning drive was the most important hour of my day. It wasn’t just about the pictures. Never is.


© 2019 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, Reiki practitioner, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness teacher whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

Loving Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It

Loving Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It

In the introduction to her book, Radical Acceptance, Tara Brach tells the story of a woman who was unconscious on her deathbed. Her daughter sat next to her for many hours saying kind and loving words to her. Early one morning, the woman suddenly opened her eyes, looked intently at her daughter, and whispered, “All my life I thought something was wrong with me.” Then she shook her head slightly as if to say, “What a waste,” closed her eyes, went back into a coma, and died later that day.

This story brought tears to my eyes. It resonated. Because I don’t want to get to the end of my life and realize it could have been so much more if only I hadn’t held back so much, believing I needed to improve myself before what I had to offer was worth sharing.

Self-Love is Real Love

This week, our culture celebrates love. Romantic love is but a drop in the bucket. There are so many other forms of love, and self-love is one of them. Let’s not forget to include ourselves in our circle of love! Because we still can, and it makes a great difference in our quality of life and the lives of those closest to us.

Nobody is perfect. We’re not supposed to be. We’re not supposed to be like anyone else, either, so forget about making any comparisons.

Can you love yourself exactly as you are and have tenderness for ALL parts of yourself, including everything you’ve done or not done? Doing that pulls you out of the trance of unworthiness and the limiting beliefs you have about yourself. Loving yourself like that transforms your life and allows you to love others better.

If you think it sounds silly, naive, or selfish, then you don’t understand what I’m saying. I’ll use the language of dreams to paint a clearer picture.

“We’re Taking Away the Supports”

A few months ago, I dreamed I was at a large retreat to kick off the mindfulness meditation teacher program I’m taking with Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield. My friend showed me her sleeping accommodations, which felt like the inside of an airplane with no room to move around, and so close to others! I didn’t know what my dorm looked like, but I couldn’t handle being in such close quarters!

Next, I was in a large auditorium not paying attention to the presentation because I craved chocolate. I’d seen a bowl of it earlier, but it had since been taken away.

Then I stood in a doorway at the back of another auditorium. Others stood next to me, and I felt a little “less than”, lacking in some way. Tara Brach came up behind me and whispered in my ear: We are taking away the supports. I didn’t know exactly what she meant but trusted her.

When we came out of that space, we saw that all around the circular auditorium we’d been in, the event organizers had set up cozy spaces for pairs to be together, kind of like tents without roofs. For each pair, there was a small fireplace, two cushions on the floor, and an elegant pitcher of water with two glasses. We were to go directly to our space-for-two. I felt anxious about being up close and personal with someone when I was tired from traveling and hadn’t had an opportunity to touch up my appearance. It was nighttime, and I wanted to retreat to my room and get some sleep.

Over the loudspeaker, a voice asked us to consider the most cherished possessions we hold on to. It wasn’t referring to physical objects, but the excuses we go to in our minds that hinder us from engaging or being more fully ourselves. The things we think we need in order to be okay. This blew my mind, and I started to cry. I wondered: Is this program too much for me? They were going to take us to the depths of our excuses so we could let go of them and be more present. Really present.

They referred to our excuses as possessions that are separate from us. Our deepest, most cherished supports. These would all be exposed, and we’d learn we don’t need them after all. Who would you be without your most cherished beliefs about what you can’t do or who you need to be around others to be accepted? These beliefs are possessions. They are not you. You do not need them to survive.

I woke up from the dream and considered: What do I feel self-conscious about that compels me to keep a certain distance from others? Why does it take so much energy to be around people? (And does it really, or is it more about having boundaries?) What underlies my food cravings? What uncomfortable feelings do they mitigate? What flaws do I feel I need to conceal to be more attractive to others? How do all these things keep me from being my True Self?

This dream showed me clearly what my self-limiting crutches are. It spelled out all the things I feel are wrong with me and unacceptable to others and how I try to hide them and soothe the discomfort. It revealed lots of opportunities for growth.

What Will I Say?

A few nights ago, I dreamed I was in the audience in another auditorium. It was an event for the hospice house in which my mother passed away. When the speaker finished talking, she came up to me and whispered that I was next. That’s when I remembered I’d agreed to be a speaker. But I hadn’t prepared anything to read! I’d forgotten about it entirely! I began to panic.

Then I remembered that I did a trust fall during our last Hidden Treasure weekend, and it reprogrammed me at a cellular level. I’m stronger than I think I am. Maybe I didn’t need notes and could just speak from my heart. Well, I was going to have to do that because I had no notes! I tried to come up with a general idea or a few points I could jot down, but nothing was coming to me.

There were lots of people mulling about. I wanted to use the bathroom and touch up my hair and makeup. All the bathroom stalls were in use, and I didn’t have a chance to look in the mirror because it was so crowded. But deep down I knew it would be better to have a quiet moment alone to get centered. Inspiration was more likely to arise from quietude than in a crowded bathroom or lobby.

When I walked out of the bathroom, the lights were turned down, and the we’re-waiting-for-you music was playing. As I made my way through the backstage area, my mom walked towards me looking for the piano so she could wheel it on stage. My heart lurched because I wasn’t there to play piano! I told her that, and she said the piano was for somebody else. She knew I was there to give a talk and not play piano. Whew!! I felt relieved because I wouldn’t have to play in front of the audience (which would have been much more stressful than giving a talk) and because my mom wasn’t pressuring me to perform to make her happy. She understood that’s not what I’m here for.

Then I stepped on stage, and all of a sudden, I knew what to say. I’d talk about how I found a new relationship with my mom after she died, and sharing my stories would offer hope to people who were bereaved. My talk would be a message of hope that would ease people’s suffering. And I didn’t know that until the moment before I started speaking, and after my mom relieved me of any pressure to play piano. Then I was able to let something arise from deep in my heart that could help others. It was the difference between performing and being real. Impressing vs. connecting.

I didn’t need to look a certain way to be worthy of being seen. I didn’t need to impress anyone. It wasn’t about my hair, makeup, or clothes. I didn’t need to feel guilty for letting my mother (and myself) down for not following through with piano earlier in life. Those beliefs only get in the way of being my True Self and set the stage for end-of-life regrets, like the woman in Tara’s story.

Both dreams revealed the importance of being present to others without worrying about how I look. The purpose of my life is not to impress or please anyone, even though that’s how I was conditioned. It’s about connecting with people heart-to-heart with the intention of easing their pain. 

In waking life, it’s time to cut through the limiting beliefs the dreams spelled out so clearly so I can live more fully, shine brighter, and love better. It begins with loving, forgiving, and accepting myself like my life depends on it. Because it does. And nobody else can do it for me. Or for you. It’s inner work we can only do ourselves. In the poet Rumi’s words:

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.

How about you? What self-limiting beliefs and habits are holding you back? How can you love yourself into the radiant fullness of who you are and shine, shine, shine?


© 2019 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, Reiki practitioner, feng shui consultant, and mindfulness teacher whose work is infused with a deep interest in the nature of mind and appreciation of the natural world. She lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

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