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Journal

A New Day

A New Day

Today is a new day, and thank goodness for that! Yesterday was the first day of school, and I did not expect it to hit me so hard. Summer vacation is over, the tourists have gone home, and the locals have returned from their beach getaways. School buses are back on the road, and my Facebook feed is filled with first day of school photos. It is time to return to business-as-usual. And that’s the issue! There was a rhythm to my life as a teacher that has been broken, and not returning to it made me feel as if there was no ground beneath me, nothing to support me. A sleep deficit didn’t help.

I felt like a train wreck! Days like that come and go. And we can learn so much from them if we face them head on rather than flee from the discomfort.

Waves of emotion kept coming at me yesterday, and they were huge – and hurt when they hit! They knocked me off balance and dragged me under, and it felt as if I wouldn’t be able to come back up for air. But eventually the wave subsided, and I floated back up to the surface and could breathe again.

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And then another wave would come along sooner or later. So working with the waves became my practice. More specifically, I practiced remaining in the present moment with bare attention, without attaching any labels, storylines, interpretations, wishful fantasies, or romantic longings to whatever arose. It’s not reality that is a problem; it’s what we add to it! If we’re not mindful, we can wander into a very destructive place – a downward spiral that leads to a place we don’t want to go. I can think of a thousand better ways to channel my energy, imagination, and creativity! Why go there?

It reminded me so much of being in labor and working with the contractions, which were more intense than anything I’d ever experienced. The biggest lesson I took away from my childbirth experiences was to breathe into each contraction as it comes along and stay focused on just that. Don’t think about how many more contractions I would have to deal with or evaluate whether I was doing a good job or how much progress I was or wasn’t making. Don’t wish to be anyone else in the room. Instead, remain in the present moment, the wellspring of strength and power.

How wonderful to realize that we can set it all aside, push the reset button, and return to bare presence. It’s basic meditation instruction.

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Granted, it’s much harder to do that when your energy is low. Some days you just have to set all expectations aside and be gentle with yourself. Don’t board those fancy trains of thought and imagination that take you to dramatic places. Stay in the present, where you can hear the rich and rhythmic sounds of a late summer day, be enraptured by the geometry of morning glories and the brilliant design of airborne seeds, and engage opportunities that present themselves (or at least realize that opportunities do exist). Focus on the basics, like getting enough rest. And remember that this, too, shall pass. You’re just having a bad day, and your thinking is a bit delusional as a result.

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So that was my practice yesterday. And I learned a lot.

I was reminded of the importance of self-compassion and self-love and that the very first step is to get enough sleep.

I learned that you have to be that quality you most desire from others. Mine it from within. If you want to be nurtured, start by nurturing – yourself and others!

I learned to turn inward for salvation and not lean so much on this world that shifts constantly, like a kaleidoscope. It’s great to have people to reach out to. But they aren’t always available. So why not realize that the answers and the compass we need for this human journey are all inside of us – and lean into our own heart center and source of strength, which is more enduring and always available? Ultimately, everything we need is there.  And the natural world and its larger rhythms and cycles can be a great source of healing, as well.

Sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom emotionally to realize status quo is not working, and to jolt you into awakening and discovering a new way to proceed. The road less traveled. But there’s a tollbooth on it, and the toll required is to leave behind whatever weighs you down and doesn’t serve you. This includes the stories we cling to.

I learned that the feelings that seem so threatening and overwhelming – like tidal waves that threaten to pull us under – are invitations to grow. All the information we need is within those feelings, if we can lean into them and not run away from them. Every single wave that comes along is an opportunity to become stronger and more skilled – at feeling the waves crash over us, letting go of our baggage, keeping or regaining our balance, and then seeing the gifts the waves leave behind in the sand.

When you’re learning and practicing this right there in the water, such insights can make all the difference in the world and save you from drowning. It’s interesting how, as I get older, insights that seem so simplistic on the surface take on new meaning and depth.

Yesterday, I felt expendable and forlorn. Today I feel free and open to possibility. And that makes me smile. Thank goodness for a restorative night of good sleep and the gift of a new day. A day when I once again can notice and appreciate tiny wonders, such as the sunrise and its reflection on the river, captured in beads of dew on a spider web.

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The reality is that, although the rhythm of my life as a teacher has been disrupted, who I am at my core has not been touched. And I am still part of a larger rhythm of the natural world and the cycle of humankind. So I am neither lost nor broken, even on difficult days. And neither are you.

© 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.

Feathers All Around

Feathers All Around

I’ve been noticing feathers everywhere lately. They seem to appear around me constantly. Yesterday morning, I went on the river, and right where I put in the kayak, there was a feather floating on the water. Once again, I took note.

As I got in my kayak, I recalled reading an article about the most common signs from deceased loved ones. Feathers were on the list. I wondered if there’s something especially significant about white feathers – even though the feather floating next to my kayak was not white. Come to think of it, I couldn’t recall seeing any white ones since I started noticing feathers.

So I paddled out to the middle of the river to photograph the water lilies as they opened for the day. (It has been an extraordinary week for water lily photography!) I was totally in my element. Pure bliss.

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When I returned to the dock, what do you think I saw floating in the water right where I got out of my kayak?

That’s right: a white feather. It certainly raised my eyebrows and even brought a few tears to my eyes. Could it be my mom saying hello?

Who’s to say whether the feathers – and the white feather, in particular – are actually a sign from a loved one who has passed on? I’m not committed to that possibility, although I am open to it and would like to believe that’s the case.

Maybe it’s more about perception and becoming more aware of the environment. You think about feathers, and all of a sudden, you see them everywhere. Perhaps they were always there, and you never noticed until now.

Maybe it’s about the power of our thoughts to manifest in the physical world. You think about feathers, and you draw them to you like a magnet.

Maybe it’s entirely random.

But there’s more to the story.

This morning, I returned to the river to photograph water lilies. They were even more ravishing than yesterday.

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After nearly an hour, I paddled to the other side of the river to view and delete some photos in the shade. As I focused on my camera, I felt a tremendous sense of peace fill every single cell in my body. It was the most wonderful feeling. I spent about 20 minutes reviewing and deleting photos and appreciating this profound sense of peace. Then I decided to paddle back across the river to get sunscreen and a bite to eat.

When I put away my camera and looked up, I noticed that I was surrounded by white feathers floating on the water! The feathers definitely weren’t there before because I absolutely would have noticed them.

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With wide eyes and a huge smile on my face, I paddled back home. It felt like a sign, especially because of the incredibly peaceful sensation that accompanied it.

But who’s to say for sure? From my perspective, the most likely explanation is that we have no idea how powerful our minds are and what we are a part of. All I know for certain is that it filled me with joy and raised my energy for the rest of the day!

© 2015 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 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.

When She Comes Calling

When She Comes Calling

My heart is beating a mile a minute, and I’m nearly breathless. I just woke up from one of those dreams! My dad handed me the phone, and when I answered, my mom’s voice was at the other end – so familiar, sweet, and pleasant – and she said, “So, you’re not setting up your classroom like you usually are at this time of year.” I was going to respond, “I told you I wasn’t going to stay in that job!” But I was stunned virtually speechless and could barely even stammer, “MOM????!!!! Is that YOU????!!!!” It was as if my mouth was mostly paralyzed and required every bit of effort and concentration I could muster to utter those words.

It was one of those “real contact” dreams, which are very different from regular dreams I have of her. Every time I have one of those dreams, the conversation only lasts for a few seconds because I’m so stunned that she’s really there talking to me – that it’s really her! I wish I could hear what she had to say rather than allow my stunned reaction to completely interrupt the conversation! Perhaps she just wanted to acknowledge that she is aware I left my job.

I love it when she comes to me in dreams. It tends to happen every two months or so. And when it does, it’s amazing – and so real! In the dream, I feel  overcome with excitement and joy. There’s always some kind of border or transition I’m aware of, such as a staircase or doorway (that seems to be off-limits to me), a phone receiver, or I walk out of the living room and then come back in, and she’s sitting there.

She passed on 15 months ago. But it seems only her physical form is really gone.

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When I was on vacation with my son and daughter earlier this month, I was consumed with sadness one morning as we walked around Mystic, Connecticut on a beautiful, blue sky day. I wore a hat and sunglasses to try to conceal the tears I couldn’t hold back. I can’t remember what the trigger was, but I felt empty and wished with all my heart that my mom were still around because she would be able to make things better. I longed to walk into a space brimming with love, like my grandmother’s house or my mom’s radiant, welcoming smile when she came to the door, and the house smelled of freshly baked raspberry muffins, macaroni and cheese, flowers, or scented candles. I missed her so much as I walked around Mystic.

My son was in search of an elusive record store and led us off the beaten path. And when I was consumed by thoughts of missing my mom, something amazing happened: A car drove by with windows down blasting “Annie’s Song” by John Denver. John Denver’s songs are like my mom’s calling card. I literally stopped in my tracks.

HELLO, MOM!

Fortunately, there was a public restroom right in front of us, and I dashed inside and became a waterfall in a bathroom stall for several minutes while my son and daughter waited outside for me to pull myself together. They understood. When I emerged, we drove to a beach in Rhode Island and had a wonderful afternoon.

After setting up our spot on the beach, I read a book as they rested on either side of me, and I filled with gratitude for what I do have rather than grieve what I don’t have at this time.

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I took a long walk alone on the beach beyond the crowded spots to much quieter areas and felt as if my mom were walking with me.

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Although many people, including some family members, refuse to believe in the credibility of so-called psychics, I keep an open mind. Back in the spring, I went to a psychic medium who said my mom was with me in a particular place I had just visited. A couple months later, a relative had an appointment with a different psychic medium in another state who said the exact same thing. In fact, many of the same messages came through – including that my mom is aware that someone (presumably me) is writing about her publicly, and she thinks it is good because it can help people. So I am willing to believe that my mom was with me both at the place I visited in the spring and at the ocean this summer. I could feel her presence. It’s always such a blessing to feel her presence rather than grieve her absence. And every time she comes, it seems that the greatest fallacy of all is to believe that our loved ones have ever left us.

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© 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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