Journal

Eclipse Stories

Eclipse Stories

Now that the solar eclipse is behind us, I wonder: What is your eclipse story? It’s a question that can be answered on a number of levels depending on how deep you want to go.

On the surface level… I didn’t get any stunning eclipse photos because I had to work during the eclipse. But that’s okay because lots of other people had their cameras pointed at the sun to capture the phenomenal event. My friend Colleen’s 17-year-old son, who lives in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, managed to capture a stunning image of the eclipse that was selected for the “Daily Dozen” by National Geographic editors out of thousands of submissions, and my buddy, Peter, was able to achieve a quality representation of our partial eclipse via a DIY rig of his Canon Rebel DSLR. And there were many others, as I’m sure you have seen for yourself. Some of the most intriguing images I saw were of sunlight passing through trees and illuminating sidewalk shadows with hundreds of tiny, crescent-shaped lights – like moons, only they were suns.

It was disappointing to have to be indoors during this greatly anticipated celestial event. But when I arrived at work, I was delighted to learn we had permission to go up on the roof to view the eclipse. There were a few pairs of eclipse glasses up there to be shared, along with other viewing options that included a cardboard box pinhole projector and a colander. I watched the eclipse via NASA’s live stream, and when it looked like it was really getting underway, I went up to the roof. The moment I put on the glasses and looked at the moon partially covering the sun was one I always will remember: a WOW moment you might have experienced, too. What a marvelous sight!

I went back to work beaming and feeling supercharged with eclipse energy! I noticed all the people on computers, and it seemed surreal that something so magnificent was taking place in the sky at that moment, and they were indoors staring voluntarily at computer screens. How could you not be blown away by this? (Well, maybe because you didn’t have eclipse glasses or permission to be up on the roof.) I went back up for a second and third glimpse of the astronomical event and was wowwed all over again. The afternoon flew by, to say the least, and since it was quieter than usual, I was able to focus on my eclipse project. 

A few days prior to the eclipse, I came across the idea of “Absolute Yes” and “Absolute No” lists in the book, The Art of Extreme Self-Care: Transform Your Life One Month at a Time by Cheryl Richardson. The “Absolute Yes List” is about priorities: What most needs your immediate attention in the next few months and makes you a stronger and better person? When making decisions, you can ask, “Is this an Absolute Yes?” That question cuts through a lot of schedule clutter and keeps what’s most important in sight. It’s also important to be aware of your absolute noes. The “Absolute No List” is a list of things that weaken and irritate you and lead you away from the person you want to be. The day before the eclipse, I started creating my lists while floating in my kayak on the river. During the eclipse, when I wasn’t up on the roof viewing the spectacle through special glasses, I engaged with the eclipse energy by putting the finishing touches on my Absolute Yes and No Lists and setting intentions based on them.

Yesterday morning, I took it a step further. I’ve gotten into the habit of paddling to a quiet spot on the river in the morning and stopping there to savor a cup of tea. Holding the mug of hot tea in my hands, I reflected on my yes and no lists and the feelings behind each item and practiced feeling those feelings. As I sipped the tea, I imagined I was drinking in those feelings that I really thirsted for. I realized that, most of all, I wanted to feel aligned with my Higher Self in both thought and action. Several items on my lists were about making time for self-care in the morning, and I realized that taking time to realign with spirit every morning is essential. This includes not checking email, messages, or social media or focusing on anything else until after I have spent some quality time checking in with myself. In other words, get on the Innernet before going on the Internet!

A couple of intuitive astrologers I follow stressed the significance of the period between this month’s lunar and solar eclipses and the current lunar cycle. They said that the effects of the solar eclipse may be felt for a few months after the actual event and that it is a good time for planning, setting intentions, and resetting/reorganizing your life in terms of what you want to do. Unexpected events, revelations, and endings might happen suddenly on a personal and/or planetary level, and it’s all part of a cleansing process.

I love a good metaphor, especially when it comes from the natural world. Whether or not you believe in astrology, the solar eclipse offers metaphors that can take your experience of it to a deeper level so that what happened celestially mirrors or activates something in you. For example, during a solar eclipse, the shadow blocking the light is exposed, and you can put on special glasses that give you the ability to actually see what is blocking the light. On an intrapersonal level, this translates to getting a glimpse of your shadow self and the unconscious blocks that might be sabotaging you and perpetuating illusions that you believe to be true about yourself and others. It can be inconvenient or even scary to become aware of your shadow side or the unconscious blocks and self-sabotaging factors that have been operating in your life behind the scenes. But these realizations are ultimately positive because becoming aware of your unconscious material is a first step in setting yourself free, which is something that can’t happen when it remains hidden. It is an opportunity for clarity, disillusionment, and empowerment. 

When I ask about eclipse stories, this is what I’m getting at: stories involving life-changing realizations and events. Epiphanies. Things you cannot unsee once you’ve seen them, much like the moment I put on the special glasses and saw the shadow of the moon blocking the sun. My own eclipse story seems to begin last weekend, when I ended up at The Abode of the Message by “accident”. Being there helped me to realize I have a need to be part of a spiritually supportive community, and I put that high up on my Absolute Yes List

The day following the eclipse, I had a conversation with some co-workers during which a sentence came out of my mouth that felt a little too honest and self-revealing. Walking away from that conversation was a WTF moment that lingered as I floated on the water the next morning. It was an opening to a surprising realization that explained quite clearly why I haven’t had more success in a certain endeavor – a feeling that I have been misplacing my energy. My speech (which reflects attitudes, beliefs, and feelings) was blocking and even sabotaging my best efforts. Once I glimpsed that block, I couldn’t unsee it and realized I need to make some changes: Either do the work to remove the block or let go of the endeavor, and move towards something that feels more aligned with who I really am and what I really want. 

Similarly, since the eclipse, I’ve also been able to see more clearly the shadow side of others, which allows me to act appropriately and set healthier boundaries based on the clarity that seems to grow stronger every day. Again, disillusionment provides an invitation to either change yourself or your perceptions in some way or to let go of unhealthy relationships. Whatever you do, you can’t unsee what was hidden previously or continue on, status quo.

So, that’s my eclipse story so far. I might have missed out on photographing the eclipse this time around, but I hear that in 2024, our area will experience a total solar eclipse – and I will be ready for it and will make sure I don’t have to work, even though it was fun and memorable to hang out with coworkers on the roof viewing the eclipse through special glasses, cardboard box pinhole projectors, and colanders. And perhaps at that time, while looking through the lens of my camera at the shadow of the moon blocking the sun, I will reflect on the amazing and surprising ways my life changed course after the eclipse of 2017 when some pretty important truths all of a sudden became visible to me.

I wish the same for you.

© 2017 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.

No Accidents

No Accidents

I’ll begin with the all-too-human part.

I’ve been in a waterfall mood, eager to explore new waterfalls closer to home, to hold me over until I get to Ithaca again. I did some research and found a nature preserve within a one-and-a-half-hour drive that has 12 miles of hiking trails with some waterfalls. After looking at pictures on Google, I placed it high up on my to-do list. 

This morning, I was itching for an outdoor workout, had hiking on my mind, and thought about that nature preserve. Jack was preparing to go to a music gig with his band. I couldn’t remember where, but before leaving he said it would be a nice drive through some pretty towns and mentioned the name of the town where the nature preserve is, which he said was close by. I thought: Wow! What a coincidence! Sounded like an opportunity, so I asked if I could tag along and had 15 minutes to get ready.

As we drove closer to where the gig was, my GPS indicated we were getting further away from the nature preserve. Something didn’t make sense. If we were going to pass through that town, why was it twice the distance now from the gig location? Eventually, I realized we were headed in the opposite direction. Turns out the name of the town with the waterfalls was similar to the name of the county where the gig was; hence, the mix-up, and I became quite upset. I’d just finished up a week with a much heavier than usual workload and had my heart set on hiking and photographing a waterfall. Now that plan was foiled, and I didn’t have a plan B.

When we arrived at the gig, I got my bearings and was determined to find a place to be in nature and walk off my grouchy mood. I discovered we were only 17 minutes away from The Abode of the Message, an Eco-Sufi village in New Lebanon, NY. (If you are familiar with Omega Institute, you might be interested to know that The Abode is where Omega began.) In 1995, I was initiated into what is now the Inayati Sufi Order and was active in the Ithaca Sufi Center when I lived there. For years, I worked with my beloved spiritual director, Alice, who gave me practices to do on a regular basis. Eventually, I left Ithaca, was completely immersed in raising my children, and didn’t live close enough to a Sufi community to stay involved. Over the years, I stopped asking Alice for Sufi-specific practices, although every time I sit down to meditate, I still recite the Sufi invocation, and when I thirst for spiritual nourishment, I turn to the great Sufi poets: Rumi, Hafiz, and Kabir. In fact, a book of Hafiz poetry is the only book I keep in my bedroom.

So I drove to The Abode, feeling deep humility for getting so upset. Between the lunar eclipse on Monday and Mercury and lots of other planets being retrograde, astrologers have been cautioning to take it easy and be mindful because tensions are running high, and misunderstandings and drama can arise easily. Lots of shadow material is coming to the surface. Despite having fair warning, I still got caught up in the energy. I should have been more mindful! After shedding a few tears, I decided to allow myself to be human and not get down on myself for overreacting.

As I got closer to The Abode, I noticed several signs and flags that carried political and religious messages that conflicted with my own ideas and bothered me. Then I finally turned onto Shaker Road and drove the last few, familiar miles to The Abode, past a Shaker Museum, where the energy felt different and welcoming. 

It felt great, as always, to arrive at The Abode. It was like returning home to my spiritual tribe. The moment I got out of the van, I realized there were no accidents, no mistakes. I was meant to be at The Abode today. Amazingly, the Abode called me back to it, even though I had my heart set on being somewhere else and pitched a fit when my plans fell through. But that was over now, and I was where I was supposed to be.

I had some lovely interactions with a couple women who lived there and learned that my timing was perfect. The Spirituality in Medicine program participants were on a lunch break for the entire time I’d be there, so the Meditation Hall (where I’d attended Universal Worship services in the past) was accessible.

Had I shown up the previous weekend, the main grounds would have been largely deserted because everyone (females, anyway) moved up to the Mountain Camp for the well-attended Wild Woman Fest ’17. I heard all about it. It sounded amazing and powerful, and I knew I needed to hike up to the Mountain Camp to experience the feminine energy still lingering in the air. Before hiking up the steep path to the Mountain Camp, I asked one of the women if there’s a labyrinth up there, and yes, there was. Awesome! 

Waterfalls and labyrinths are the two things I love to discover. I had planned to explore new waterfalls but ended up walking a labyrinth in the forest. 

I was all alone up in the Mountain Camp on Mount Lebanon, which was sacred ground to the Native peoples, the Shakers, and then the Sufis. When I spotted the ruins of the sanctuary that burned down years ago, the mesmerizing sound of an enormous wind chime greeted me, its wind catcher gliding and twirling gracefully in the space below the long, metal tubes. 

The forest was silent except for the sounds of the wind chime, birds, crickets, and other late summer insects. The labyrinth was adjacent to the sanctuary ruins, with a large tree at its center. In complete solitude, I walked the stone-lined path to the center, strewn with tiny acorns, mushrooms, moss, and some autumn-toned maple leaves.

On my way back from the center of the labyrinth, I came to a turn that seemed like it would bring me right out of the labyrinth and felt a pang of disappointment because I wasn’t ready to leave yet. I wanted to stay in the labyrinth a little longer. And in that instant, the labyrinth became symbolic of a human lifetime, which so many people get pulled out of before they feel ready…so enjoy the journey, every step of it! I also realized there is no such thing as going off the path. Everything we encounter and experience is on the path, including the shadow material that arises and humbles us. There are no wrong turns. We are always on the path.

As I walked back down the mountain, my emotional reaction earlier seemed even more foolish. I had become upset because I didn’t end up where I wanted to be, when the Universe had something even better in store for me. 

I also thought about the signs and flags that bothered me on my way to The Abode and saw them as a spiritual litmus test that offers feedback about where I can open my heart more fully and grow. Hazrat Inayat Khan, founder of the Inayati Order (formerly the Sufi Order of the West) explained, “Sufism is the religion of the heart, the religion in which the most important thing is to seek God in the heart of humanity.” Sufis seek to develop the heart by finding divinity in all creation. Rumi, Hafiz, and Kabir all wrote about this. It is something I have been struggling with lately as so much shadow material has been arising globally, in the U.S., in interpersonal relationships, and in myself. Coming back home to The Abode reminded me of the importance of seeing divinity in all beings, and I really needed that reminder: I am a manifestation of divinity in this life, and so is everyone else. It seems like a critical reminder during chaotic times. Tuning our hearts to a higher frequency is not always easy, but I think we collectively are being called to heal the shadow energy that is coming to the surface en masse, beginning with ourselves so that when we come across signs, flags, and people with messages that contradict the truths we hold as self-evident, they don’t ruffle our feathers. Then we can have a clearer, less reactive sense of how to engage.

A few days ago, I was working at the library, and a book, The Radiance Sutras by Lorin Roche, landed on my desk. It had an inviting energy to it, and I opened to the page that was bookmarked and read the following poem:

That space is bad.
This space is good.
The ride is rough,
Or the going is smooth.
We are thrown into suffering,
We are thrown into joy.

Beloved Soul Mate – 
Find the space in the center,
The pulsing spaciousness
Encompassing all opposites.

Here the essences of creation are at play:
Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Space,
And the senses that perceive them.
The center is the dancing ground.

I think that is an excellent starting point. And I think there is guidance all around if we open ourselves to it, like books and places that pull us to them when we are looking for something else.

© 2017 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.

A Dragonfly Story

A Dragonfly Story

I was on the front porch this afternoon doing some work when I happened to look up and notice a dragonfly just outside one of the windows. It made me smile because I have a special place in my heart for dragonflies.

But it didn’t fly away or land. It just kind of hovered outside the window. As I watched it, the hovering seemed rather unnatural and odd. I began to suspect it was caught in a spider web and got up to take a closer look.

Then I noticed the dragonfly begin to spin fast and also noticed a tiny spider a few inches above it spinning its arms like a masterful puppeteer. (Honestly, it reminded me of Voldemort in Harry Potter.) Clearly, this dragonfly was in a deathtrap and in the process of being bound, paralyzed, and eventually having the life sucked out of it by the hungry predator it was now powerless against.

Well, with all due respect to spiders and their fantastic webs, this was not going to happen on my watch! I was not about to stay put and watch a beautiful dragonfly become a lifeless shell of its former, dazzling self. No siree!

Not knowing if it was too late, I grabbed a long object (since the web was higher than I could reach), bolted outside and batted at the web until the dragonfly became detached from the spider and the web.

The binding process had only just begun, and I saw that there weren’t many sticky threads attached to the dragonfly yet. So I picked it up and brought it inside to inspect it. There were bits of sticky web and binding threads caught on its delicate wings and legs, and I began to remove them ever so carefully, knowing not to touch its fragile wings.

The dragonfly stayed with me for about a half hour as I tended to it and gave it all the love I could. Every now and then, it flew away only to drop to the ground because there were still some threads attached that restricted its movement. Eventually, I managed to get the last bits of spider web off, and the dragonfly flew out of sight.

This little creature must not have realized how close it was to danger. Then it got caught in the web that at first sight probably didn’t look so dangerous. It got too close, got stuck, and couldn’t break free. It must have been terrified when it realized how sticky the web was and how powerless it was against it! And then the very hungry and merciless spider sprang into action. At that point, I imagine the weak dragonfly gave up hope that it ever could break free from the situation and probably thought: What’s the useI’ll never be that brisk, shimmering being again. 

But even in your bleakest moment, you never know who’s looking out for you – who will step in and act on your behalf and watch over you as you recover from the trauma and clear the sticky debris from your wings…because even though you are a tiny dragonfly, YOU MATTER.

The point is: Don’t give up. Even when the situation seems hopeless, and all odds seem to be against you, somebody just might be looking out for you, ready to take action to help you get your wings untangled from the web that seemed so impossible to release yourself from. You might even have a guardian angel working behind the scenes, perhaps in response to a loved one’s prayers for divine intercession. I don’t know how these things work, only that the dragonfly wasn’t paying close enough attention and ended up in the web, and I happened to notice at just the right time.

I often wonder if trees experience time the same way humans do. If so, I imagine being rooted in one place for such a long time would feel like eternity! But I suspect time moves more quickly for trees and probably more slowly for dragonflies, whose lifetimes are so brief compared to humans. That half hour in my care (not to mention the time it was caught in the web) might have felt like years to the dragonfly. Perhaps it felt like a very long time for it to recover from its brush with death in the spider web and rid its wings and legs of the sticky debris so it could once again fly right. Perhaps it required patience – the trying, the falling, the humility of it all, and having to give it a little more time before trying again.

I like to think that when it finally did fly off – perhaps back to its dragonfly family – it did so a little wiser as a result of what it had experienced, with greater knowledge of the nature of spider webs, what to look out for, and how to avoid them in the future. Perhaps the dragonfly flew off with a renewed sense of purpose, a better understanding of its strengths and resources, and a realization that there is goodness in the world and that it is loved deeply.

Thank you, my little dragonfly friend, for giving me this parable. I hope you are zipping around again, feeling loved, and sharing your survival story with all your dragonfly friends. And I’ll share it with mine because it is a story of hope, and I know quite a few people who could use a little of that right now.

© 2017 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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