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Journal

Sculptures of Light

Sculptures of Light

One of my favorite quotes from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross is: “Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms, you would never see the true beauty of their carvings.” Similarly, Michelangelo claimed he saw the angel in the marble and carved until he set him free. The metaphor of carving and sculpting really speaks to me after receiving discouraging health news from a close loved one last week. Perhaps this is why I have experienced my departed mother’s spirit so active around me in recent weeks – most recently in a strong fragrance of lilacs that arose out of nowhere when I was walking outdoors in solitude and stopped for a moment to record an insight. And I have been hearing her loving voice in my mind more clearly than ever. I have no doubt that she is making her presence known to give me comfort and strength, not only for myself but also so I can source it for others.

Hearts are a mystery. Sometimes we feel our heart is enduring one hard knock after another, as if it’s being hammered. We feel we can’t take yet another blow because we’re still stinging from the last one. But perhaps what’s really happening is Life – in its role as Divine Sculptor – is carving us with each purposeful blow of the hammer to reveal the love we are at our core that is concealed within the rough stone of ego. Each strike of the hammer or scrape of the chisel dislodges another chunk of our false, limited self, revealing the radiance within.

This kind of perception allows us to handle loss and heartache with grace, for we realize we are getting closer to our true nature rather than believe we are losing something essential to our wholeness.

Are we losing more of our self with each blow? Yes, but it’s the false self that masks the more authentic Self. The block of ego is the only thing being diminished – and refined. It’s happening in the process of liberating our True Self and our true beauty. We are not being diminished. We are magnificent masterpieces waiting to be revealed. Sculptures of light.

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Perhaps our hearts are not as fragile as we sometimes think after receiving another tough blow. Perhaps the only pieces we can lose are the pieces that are not essential to our wholeness and need to be chipped away because they block the exquisite expression of our inner light.

Thy will be done. And may we trust the process and continue to shine.

I have a friend who is a brilliant sculptor. My favorite of all her pieces is one that was born from great personal loss. Before I learned the story behind the sculpture, I felt its power and was drawn to it. All her work is amazing, but this particular masterpiece is infused with pure spirit. When I imagine the creative process through which she manifested the vision she knew was waiting to be revealed in that block of clay, I conclude that it must have been holy. And I imagine the creative process that is shaping each of us is every bit as holy.

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At times this year, I’ve felt more anguished than I can remember ever feeling in my life. But the whole time – even when I felt the heaviness deep down in my bones – I sensed that the hurt didn’t go very deep, that all was well at the core, and that I had a great opportunity to heal some longstanding patterns. I cried, prayed, and did some hard, honest work – and it still hurt so much! It was such a humbling experience! But then one day, I woke up and finally knew what it felt like to be healed. A shift had taken place, and I had to bow to the miraculous forces at work in my life – the blows that seemed to come from every direction at once and hurt so much at the time but served a greater purpose. So at the end of this very difficult year, I feel stronger and more peaceful than ever and consider 2015 a year of incredible growth and empowerment. The pieces that were chipped away were not integral to my wholeness. They were illusions, ego, and false perceptions and beliefs I organized my life around that needed to be dislodged. The perfect storm that tore through my life was a catalyst for pivotal growth and refinement. I learned so much, generated even more compassion, and activated some energy that had been latent all my life. And now when I look in the mirror (so to speak), I marvel at the beauty of the carvings thus far.

Perhaps the final or biggest blows are not cruel or sad but ultimately are the most loving, skillful, and productive ones that finally and completely liberate the angel that has lived inside us all along: our true and most beautiful nature. I recall when my mom was dying, and her personality, ego, and form became so thin, allowing her formless essence to shine through more clearly and brightly than ever until it seemed she was pure essence.

And so another quote from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross comes to mind:

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

Even when we navigate circumstances that feel painful on a personal, human level, may our journey unfold against a spiritual backdrop that reminds us to be grateful for everything that allows our spirit to shine with greater clarity and brilliance.

© 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. 

Floatation Restoration (Part Two)

Floatation Restoration (Part Two)

It’s been a while since I’ve written about floating in a float tank (after my first experience back in April). Seven months later, I have several floats under my belt and derive so many benefits from floating that I want to write about it again! (Before proceeding, you might want to click HERE to read my previous article so you know what I’m talking about in the first place.)

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Assuming you now know what a float tank is, I won’t go into any greater detail than to say it’s a sensory deprivation tank that is filled with about ten inches of heavily salted water that makes you completely buoyant without having to do anything whatsoever to stay afloat. There’s a dim light inside the tank that you can leave on if you want to, but I don’t see any point in doing so because I always float with my eyes closed – and you wouldn’t want a drop of very salty water to fall into your eyes if any condensation accumulates on the ceiling.  You step inside the tank, close the door (or keep it slightly propped with a towel if it helps you feel more comfortable), turn off the light (if you want to), and float effortlessly on your back. And then your journey in dark and silent nothingness begins!

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Though people’s float tank experiences differ, there are some themes that have been quite consistent for me before, during, and after floating. Oftentimes before floating, I feel flustered because there’s so much I feel I need to do. There’s just not enough time for everything I want and “need” to do, and I feel a great deal of pressure to accomplish it all. It feels so important.

But inside the float tank, the sense of urgency and pressure melts away and doesn’t matter. There’s nothing so critical that I should allow it to disturb my repose, and I’m able to let go of any anxiety and urgency around my to-do list. Floating in a sensory deprivation tank puts everything into perspective, and my attitude softens into: Just do what you can do! It’s not the end of the world if I don’t get everything done that I think I need to do today.  I’m able to see the small stuff for what it is, and much unnecessary activity falls away. Then I emerge feeling ever so calm and aware of what I really do need to prioritize (i.e. purging my living space!). It’s like pushing a supreme reset button in there. You come out with a clearer sense of what’s important, liberated from what was weighing on you when you went in. You emerge completely reset. Or at least that’s my experience!

Inside the float tank, I find that no thoughts are compelling. I’m simply not interested in thought! I feel like a cell with an impermeable membrane that nothing of this world can penetrate. Thoughts don’t carry any kind of emotional charge when I’m in there. They arise. But they’re not interesting. And they go away. It’s incredibly refreshing! It’s like blowing soap bubbles. They float in the air for a few seconds and then gently pop, and – poof! – there’s no more bubble. It simply disappeared.

Instead of fixating on thought, I focus on the sensation of relaxation and effortless suspension, without anything solid underneath me (which is something you really don’t experience any other time).

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Out of the tank, I try to practice 25 minutes of mindfulness meditation every day. For the first five minutes, I focus on my breath. The next five minutes, I expand my focus to physical sensations. Then listening. Then thoughts. Then all of the above. Being in the float tank for 90 minutes is very much like an hour and a half of mindfulness meditation. Inside the tank, there is no sound except for my deep, steady breathing (which is quite audible), so mindful breathing and listening are completely intertwined. That’s what I focus on the whole time (because with my ears immersed in the water, my breathing is quite loud), along with the sensation of complete relaxation. And I get deeply relaxed in there. I am talking about serious theta brainwaves!

It’s incredible to have no interest whatsoever in thinking! I keep returning to the sound of my breath – which is very slow, rhythmic, and calming – and to the sheer sensation of complete relaxation and suspension. Floating is the only time I experience that, and it’s what I want to focus on in the tank. It really is incredible. I feel the energy in my inner body. I’m not aware of my physical boundaries. I feel so light, and nothing physical matters or even registers. (There’s no gravity, temperature, or sensory input to process. Can you imagine that?) Everything, from the top of my head to the tip of my toes, is completely relaxed. Immersing myself in that sensation of extreme and complete relaxation is really all I want to notice or attend to in there. It’s all that seems to matter. Sheer presence devoid of sensory input.

My experiences in the float tank pose the question: Who am I removed from everything else? Who I am is energy and peace.

Here’s an example of the difference between my post-float and ordinary consciousness: After floating, I turn my phone back on and see that there are text messages and notifications from social media. But there’s barely even a hint of curiosity or interest around that. I’m not looking for communications or information to enhance my life in any way or to add anything to my reality because I am absolutely complete right now. I don’t need anything at all – from anybody. There’s really no need to check my phone in the first place. Nothing can contribute to my experience right now. It’s awesome to feel absolutely complete, fulfilled, and tranquil.

I really appreciate the sensory deprived environment because I am quite sensitive to sensory overload in general. I don’t have a TV and find it extremely jarring when the television is on when I’m away from home. The same is true when I go to a mainstream movie theater and have to sit through pre-show entertainment and trailers. It’s too loud and over the top! I also experience sensory overload in shopping malls and at crowded places and events. And forget bars! I can’t handle anything about that environment and have avoided them my entire life! Even when I taught kindergarten and spent the day steeped in the energy of a classroom of active, young children, I needed to lock my door, turn off the lights, and decompress/meditate next to my soothing water fountain when they were out of the room, to recharge my batteries for the rest of the day.  For me, the quieter and simpler the environment, the more at ease I feel. So I am totally in my element in a float tank.

From my experience, it seems the state of mind you bring into that float tank shapes your experience. There was only one time when I didn’t have a pleasant float. It was in late May heading into the weekend of the anniversary of my mom’s death. I was in a great deal of emotional pain at that time, fraught with raw grief, and the sensory deprived environment just made me more aware of the illusion of separation between me and everything else. It was the exact opposite of what I’ve experienced every other time I floated and was only because I was in such a fragile state of mind at the time. In the tank, I experienced the urge to be connected to the living world and couldn’t handle being alone. I turned on the light at one point just to feel anchored to something instead of surrendering to the usually deep and fulfilling nothingness of the tank environment.

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But that experience provided me with some insight about what it must be like to die – which was totally relevant to the anniversary of my mom’s death and re-experiencing the days and hours leading up to it. I remember thinking that when you die, you want to be in a place of resolution. You don’t want to have unfinished business or deep, dark secrets festering inside because something like that could make it really hard to let go. I recall when my grandfather was dying and kept repeating an agitated cycle in which he looked up at the ceiling, exclaimed his (still living) sister’s name, and stated with urgency, “I’ve got to get out of here!” It seemed there was something important he needed to tell his sister before he could give in to the process and die a peaceful death. I advised my mom and uncle to contact her and see if she could talk with him on the phone. They were unable to reach her, told him so, and asked if they could convey a message for him. After hearing that, he fell silent. The cycle stopped, and he died a couple of hours later. I always wondered what was so important that caused him to fixate on her during the final hours of his life. Was their last interaction discordant? Did he need her forgiveness? Did he have information he needed to share with her? Was he worried about her? He took that mystery with him to the grave, but one thing was certain: Something related to her was getting in the way of him being at peace.

My takeaway is that when everything is stripped away from us – and death is a process of stripping away everything we think we are and believe we need until we’re left with just our core essence – where you are mentally, emotionally, and spiritually is what matters. I imagine it can be terrifying if you’re not in a place of acceptance. You don’t want to get to the end when you’re leaving this life and think that you’re not a “good” person or didn’t live a “good” life, or worry about loved ones. You want to go out with a sense of integrity, reconciliation, and peace. When that stripping away happens, you cannot hide from yourself. Your world becomes progressively smaller, and you enter a cocooning process that seems similar to being in a float tank. There are so many distractions in this world that allow you to hide. But there are no distractions in the float tank. My May float signaled that my emotional “pain body” was so strong that I couldn’t let go and access deeper layers of consciousness that day.

Having no distractions and connecting with deeper layers of consciousness is something I absolutely love about the float tank. Removed from sensory input, the daily stress and all the other dust that has accumulated at the surface dissolves, allowing me to go deeper, like an astronaut floating in the vast universe of inner space. It is an experience of incredible lightness, even in complete darkness. Even when I float on cloudy days, after leaving the float spa, I feel like I’m shining like a sun – because it seems light is what I am at my core when all else is removed. It’s what I find in the deep nothingness.

In the tank, there’s just me, the steady rhythm of my breath, the incredible sensation of relaxation and suspension, and freedom from thought, emotions, and any sense of urgency. It is tremendously therapeutic, relaxing, and simply awesome.

© 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. 

River of Leaves Meditation

River of Leaves Meditation

Today I want to share with you a powerful “letting go” practice that came to me a couple days ago. It articulates the inner significance of what is going on in nature at this time of year and was inspired by a “Days of November” meditation shared by psychic medium extraordinaire, Adam Bernstein. When I read through the meditation earlier this week, it resonated deeply. It begins with visualizing yourself sitting next to a river as leaves fall from the trees and into the water. As you watch the leaves spiral downward and float away on the river, think of what you want to fall away in your own life. Adam’s visualization continues, focusing on how more sunlight can shine through now that the trees are bare. What we couldn’t see before (when the leaves obstructed our view) is now revealed, and light is able to reach places that had been in darkness under the leafy trees. It is an exquisite meditation that continues on from there.

After reading through the meditation, my first inclination was to record it word for word so I could do it without having to recall the details or open my eyes to read it. And I’m going to do that. But first, I was inspired to create my own ritual based on part of the meditation. The inspiration came while kayaking on the river during our unseasonably warm weather this week. When I noticed flotillas of fallen leaves drifting by, I knew exactly what to do.

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I found a small basket and filled it with a piece of silk and some fallen leaves I had picked up from the ground during recent walks. These were leaves that stopped me in my tracks because their colors were so vibrant! I meant to press and preserve them but never got around to it because it slipped my mind, and they became curled and dry and past the pressing stage. I also have a collection of pressed leaves from last year that I’ve been holding on to even though their colors have faded. I added a few of them to the basket, as well. The idea of using leaves that I found wonderful at first but then faded appealed to me. But really, any leaves would do.

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The next morning, the air was warm, and the sky was filled with puffy clouds. The reflection on the river looked like a river of clouds, and the conditions felt perfect for doing my “river of leaves” meditation. I brought my basket of carefully selected leaves to the dock, along with my yoga mat and meditation cushion, and set an intention to release one leaf at a time into the river while contemplating what it represents in my life. What am I ready to let go of and leave behind? Then I’d watch the leaf float away, carried along by the river’s flow.

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As I released the leaves into the river, a parade of solitary leaves and leaf flotillas drifted by. It made me feel that I was in good company and that the time was right to let go of what no longer serves a constructive purpose. Instead of focusing on letting go of particular people, things, or circumstances, I turned my attention toward the unhealthy attachments, attitudes, illusions, programming, patterns, etc. that get in the way of my inner peace and freedom – because that’s what attracts unhealthy energy into my life in the first place.

For instance, the first leaf I let go of represented fear. I watched the “fear” leaf float away gently, with an attitude of honoring it – for it was with me for a long time and initially must have served some kind of well intentioned (albeit misguided) purpose. And surely there is room for healthy fear in my life, such as fear as an intuitive signal that something is wrong. But allowing fear to remain in the driver’s seat is what I wanted to let go of. It was satisfying to watch it float away from me, and as I did, I imagined how my life would feel different without it. I really experienced the new vibration and felt much lighter and more empowered – for I was acknowledging and accepting my own responsibility in authoring my life.

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I also let go of a consciousness of lack, certain illusions that have clouded my thinking, making my happiness dependent on any person or condition, placing more importance on the approval and advice of others than on my own intuition and wisdom, and shame about all of the above. Release it all with love, and feel what it’s like to be unencumbered by them. Appreciate how light it feels to be free of them!

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As I watched each leaf float away, I reflected on how my compassion has grown as a result of my choices and experiences. I noticed that gratitude was becoming part of this process.

My spiritual director recently recommended a breathing practice that helps to fill the empty hole inside me with what I desire and feel is lacking in my life so I won’t try to get it from others. This felt like an important exercise to complement the letting go exercise. It seemed that letting go, being grateful, and filling the holes were all important parts of the overall process, encompassing past, present, and future.

I didn’t release the next leaf until it really felt complete with the previous one. Some I watched float away until they were out of sight. As they floated away, I felt them lose their hold on me and experienced a greater sense of inner freedom and joy. With distance and time, the river of life really does pull things away from us, and helps us get over our attachments and move on.

In preparation for the activity, I put leaves in my basket until I felt I had the right number. Also, it occurred to me that you could write a word or phrase on each leaf to express what you’re letting go of. Or you could just write it on your heart, as I did.

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While releasing the leaves into the river, I thought of my friend, Jayne, who traveled throughout Asia after undergoing treatment for breast cancer. She was in Thailand during the Loi Krathong festival during which people practice letting go by releasing floating lanterns into the sky and launching beautiful handmade flower boats into a body of water. As she and her husband let one go together, they focused on releasing “bad health juju as well as any ill feelings towards anyone” and inviting well wishes for the future. She explained, “It was cathartic and a beautiful moment we shared putting the past behind and creating space for something new!”

That is a perfect way to describe how it felt to release leaves into the river a couple mornings ago. I love to be in sync with and inspired by the cycles the natural world!

© 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. 

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