At this time of year, when the sun sets early and the warmth of the wood stove and lighting in my home are so cozy and inviting, I turn my attention to a delicious December ritual of reviewing the entire year and setting intentions for the New Year. 2018 was my third consecutive year of being really intentional about goals and doing monthly reviews to reflect on successes, challenges, what I’m grateful for, and what I’ve learned.
For the past three years, I’ve used Leonie Dawson’s My Shining Year Life Goals Workbook to set and review intentions. I’ve always kept my workbook really close, carrying it in a tote bag that accompanied me everywhere. However, at the end of April I went on a seven-day, silent vipassana meditation retreat that changed everything and completely reset my mind. Most of my goals no longer resonated. They didn’t feel deeply inspired and lacked momentum and oomph.
For a while, it felt like I didn’t really have any goals or desires, other than to maintain a daily meditation practice. Through that practice, new and deeper aspirations arose in time and inspired action. It was a time of presence, trusting, patience, and not-pushing that basically reset my life!
A year ago, I never would have imagined I’d be running a preschool program. But one step at a time, I followed what felt right, and here I am back in teacher mode part-time, loving it and feeling enriched by the presence of young children and a wonderfully supportive work environment.
I also never would have imagined that I’d complete Reiki Master training this year. That was another path that gained momentum as I put one foot in front of the other, following what resonated and lit me up. These were probably the two biggest surprises of the year.
It was a year of deep shifts, soul lessons, and transformation. I learned how to send healing energy of Universal Love to people instead of getting pulled into their dramas or trying to save them. I shifted from grief to appreciation and integration, and from wanting to be loved and taken care of to tapping into a higher source of love and support from which I can nurture others and myself. I’ve shifted from being concerned about what others think of me to focusing on how I can be of service. And from thinking about what I could or should do, to discerning what feels deeply right.
Those closest to me say they’ve never seen me so happy. I feel peaceful and satisfied, even as I work on new goals.
How did these shifts come about? One lesson and revelation at a time.
Here is a month-by-month glimpse of some of the year’s most beautiful lessons I’ve lived and learned. I’m so grateful for all my teachers, guides, and resources that helped me to grow so much this year, including the Hidden Treasure program at Light on the Hill retreat center, the Abraham-Hicks teachings available for free on YouTube, Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield, Insight Meditation Society, my Reiki teachers, and the healing energy of nature.
*Note: I use the terms true self, true nature, higher self, and inner being interchangeably.
♥ I am not an orphan. I am a matriarch.
♥ When you spend more time attuned to positive energy, you lose interest in what doesn’t resonate with that. You set your joy thermostat higher.
♥ We don’t have to become more to improve ourselves. We just have to get back in alignment with our true nature.
♥ Perhaps those who hurt me most were planted in my path to help me separate from my false self and align with my true self. Perhaps it was necessary for me to hit an all-time vibrational low in order to apply so much effort in the direction of positive growth and bounce back this much. The past few years have brought me into greater alignment with my true self, by going out of alignment for a while so I could experience the contrast and realize how important it is to be in alignment and let go of what doesn’t serve that harmony.
♥ My parents may not have understood me, but they loved me, and that’s what matters.
♥ Choosing your thoughts first thing in the morning is much like deciding what you want to wear. You could even set out a go-to positive thought the night before.
♥ It’s empowering to stop blaming and accept the invitation to take responsibility for your own patterns. If you can be honest with yourself about your patterns, you have the choice to work on clearing them (or not). If you don’t clear them, you’ll continue to attract more of the same.
♥ The patterns of fantasy, dwelling on the past, and focusing on what’s missing have caused me much unnecessary suffering! My higher self isn’t interested in the past and isn’t served by focusing on what’s missing. I connect with it by putting attention on what lights me up and inspires me.
♥ I intensify feeling bad about myself by fanning the flames with fantasy and thought.
♥ So much of my mental activity is not useful or necessary. It just fills the spaces.
♥ I learned the distinction between the compulsive need to achieve something versus a deep inspiration to pursue something. I need to rest in this spacious awareness and wait for deeper inspiration to arise without rushing it.
♥ Surrender to the lull because it’s an important season. Trust it, and don’t force anything. Just notice what arises and feels important. Lull times are opportunities to practice patience and equanimity.
♥ On grief: When I was able to name it, allow it, and observe it, it subsided quickly. The waves are sharp, but they don’t last unless you feed them with emotion.
♥ At the end of the retreat, the retreat guides told us we were really deep in stillness and probably didn’t realize how deep, and we were also very sensitive. It’s that way with grief, too. You might not realize how vulnerable and sensitive you are.
♥ It’s easier to ride the waves when you’re not upset at the “inconsiderate” boaters who caused them. You accept that there will be waves and ride them with equanimity.
♥ As I become more conscious of my thoughts, I can choose which ones to give attention to and which ones to release.
♥ A regular meditation practice helps to separate truth from delusion.
♥ Don’t give myself away! It’s important to have people pay for a service so they will be more fully invested in it and get more out of it.
♥ Absence of inspiration or even financial prosperity is no excuse to believe erroneous thoughts. It is an invitation to practice a higher vibration. It doesn’t have to be specific and focused on a certain outcome and simply can be appreciation, love, and trust. When I catch myself thinking about needing to generate more income, I can notice I’m thinking and remember to focus on a deeper, perhaps more general aspiration instead of a worrisome sense of lack.
♥ Inspiration arrives when you are present to the here and now, not absorbed in the past or thinking forward to the future. It is an energy of the present moment and spaciousness. There is so much wisdom, insight, and energy available if we can stay in the present and not get pulled back into the past or projected into the future.
♥ There are moments when I feel grateful for all the choices I’ve made that have brought me to where I am, doing exactly what I’m doing. Moments when I’m not in pursuit because I realize I’ve already arrived (in my own way, not anyone else’s). Moments that are free from any concerns of measuring up. It seems that feeling this way is great practice for a fulfilling life.
♥ Spacious awareness is very different from analytical and logical thinking. It takes you completely out of the well-worn neural grooves of habit and thought. There is so much more wisdom and healing energy available beyond the thinking mind.
♥ When I noticed myself being drawn to a “seductive little thought”, putting space around it brought the realization that there are so many other choices in this moment. When I noticed my mind gravitating toward the seductive thought, it was like it was a toddler getting too close to the fire and a loving adult gently picking her up and bringing her back to safety. Whenever my little mind starts wandering towards seductive and unhealthy beliefs, Big Mind can gently but firmly lead it away. Seductive thoughts, challenging conditions, and temptations are the most powerful invitations to presence. They ultimately offer the realization that you don’t need the condition you are craving in order to be satisfied, fulfilled, content, happy, and peaceful.
♥ The way I feel towards my body is a tremendous opportunity for awakening and practicing loving-kindness and acceptance. Mindfulness replaces self-consciousness with spaciousness that gives rise to tenderness and compassion. Our challenging qualities and emotions are actually our greatest teachers once we stop being at war with them (and with ourselves).
♥ Compulsive beliefs are like weeds, and you have to continuously weed your garden of what is not desired or healthy so you can cultivate what you desire.
♥ Exploring and sorting through inherited stuff has been an incredible experience of discovering where the personalities and relationships fit into a larger context of both family and broader society/history. Holding a person‘s birth and death certificates in my hands at the same time is a powerful reflection on the brevity of life and how we are all links in a chain. Also, noticing what’s left behind from all these ancestral lives puts my own life story into perspective and inspires me to reflect on what is most important.
♥ Don’t be unkind to yourself to be kind to others. Be sure to include yourself in your circle of kindness.
♥ Even though they are no longer physically present, my parents and grandparents are still very much alive and able to give me their loving presence stripped of all personality quirks. They are with me now more than ever. It doesn’t matter whether I am calling their spirits to me or am calling upon memories of them and their finest qualities. Either way, their love is real and enduring.
♥ Spiritual expansion is such a delicious experience, whether it’s feeling your heart expand to love a brand new baby when you thought it was already full, expanding beyond the well-worn groove of thought during meditation and identifying with the larger screen of consciousness, or expanding beyond habitual behaviors, activities, responses, etc. to try something new that feels more aligned with your true self.
♥ Unkind thoughts about myself and others are opportunities and cues for loving-kindness.
♥ Times of waiting – in line, at a traffic light, waiting for a website to load, waiting for someone to move out of the scene I want to photograph, etc. – are opportunities for mindful presence and cues for dropping out of thought and into my body or heart. The result is that I don’t live in my head as much as I used to and have more control over that. Presence takes me out of my thoughts. The more I can get out of my head and into the present moment, the better!
♥ The biggest impediment to me being of service to the world is my own self-consciousness and self-doubt.
♥ Certain thoughts fall into the category of “The Forbidden Forest”. I can’t go there for a moment, can’t even stick a toe in that forest. It’s a line you just don’t cross. There’s no need to analyze or reflect. It’s forbidden because I’ve learned from experience not to go there, not to invite in that energy because it doesn’t serve me in any way and can be quite destructive. When one of those thoughts arises, I can acknowledge and choose not to indulge. Basically say, “I see you, and no, thank you.” It takes discipline and willpower, but it’s worth it.
♥ Instead of saying, “I have a problem with this,” reframe it as, “I have an opportunity for healing.” Bless it. It’s an opportunity to rewrite your programming, insert a new line of code into the existing script, or remove a bit of faulty code. You can allow the old, negative thoughts or behaviors to serve as a trigger for something new. Maybe for an affirmation or a more positive thought or response. You might not notice the problematic code until you upgrade your intentions. But it can be removed. You don’t have to blame anyone else or blame yourself. Recognizing it allows you to fix it.
♥ I can send love, light, and Reiki rather than worry about people I can’t help or situations I can’t do anything about.
♥ I am the one who needs to accept me.
♥ Instead of feeling bad about myself, affirm: May this, too, serve my awakening.
♥ No matter what you’ve done in the past or how you feel about it, you can choose love, and that transforms everything. You can choose to forgive yourself and have compassion for yourself. Don’t waste a moment depriving yourself of that love.
♥ To forgive does not mean to condone. To accept does not mean to enable someone else or to disempower yourself. Forgiveness and acceptance are qualities of the heart. They are not a checklist of behaviors. The same is true of love. It’s not unloving to hurt someone when your heart is tuned to love. Their reaction is not your responsibility. It’s not your responsibility to make things right for everyone, but to live with a loving heart. Sometimes the most loving response brings pain to another, though you neither intend nor want to hurt them. The pain is not your fault. You did not cause it. It is their opportunity to grow, to dispel delusion, to gain wisdom, to love more. That’s what you can wish for them. You can’t take away someone’s pain. You can’t source their inner peace. Rather than spin your wheels trying to do that, aspire to be a better version of yourself. Put effort into cultivating your own inner peace so you can be an example of how to break free from suffering and live with love. Doing that can empower others by giving them hope.
♥ It’s not about trying to get rid of the ego, but balancing it so it can work in harmony with spirit.
♥ Sometimes the missing piece is hidden in plain sight, but we don’t recognize it because we don’t see it from the right angle. You can just turn something a little bit and see it from a completely different angle, and that changes everything. Clarity dawns, and then you’re different. New possibilities emerge as if out of nowhere.
♥ The most important thing is to be in alignment with who I am and what I want. Caring what people think about me and doing what they want me to do because I want them to feel good doesn’t benefit anyone if it takes me out of alignment with my inner being.
♥ When you get still and quiet, a deeper wisdom emerges that cuts out so much busywork that was neither necessary nor useful. When you take time to tap into deeper wisdom, life has greater ease to it.
♥ New ideas flow to me constantly and create new possibilities. Insight and inspiration flow to me in abundance and enrich my life. If it’s hard to feel good about financial prosperity, focus on that.
♥ It was never my job to excavate another person’s heart. That’s messy business, and it takes too much energy and attention away from what’s most important: being in harmony with my inner being.
♥ May the enjoyment of doing something I love, rather than perfectionism, guide my work.
♥ Insight, inspiration, and intuition create new possibilities that didn’t exist previously. Trust that they will come when the time is right and that I will be led to the best paths by following intuition, by making time for stillness, and listening and acting on what arises.
♥ There is light in me that needs to shine. It can’t wait until I think I’m more ready or perfect. Let it shine now!
♥ You can be inspired by others, or you can learn from them how you don’t want to be. But don’t compare yourself to anyone!
♥ There’s a difference between wholeness and expansion. You can feel whole and complete and still seek expansion. Expansion brings you to new levels of awareness and possibilities. Expansion isn’t just about goals. It’s about what happens to you on the inside as you live from day-to-day.
♥ The dark times can be useful for growing your soul even when it feels like you’re doing the opposite. It might compel you to ask questions and look at things in ways you’ve never considered them before. It might push you to your breaking point, which is the point at which everything you thought to be true about your life breaks down and new truth emerges like a shoot from a seed whose shell has broken open. And you’re never the same again. You’ve grown.
♥ Having so many challenging personalities in my life must be part of my path and serve my growth. Playing the victim inhibits expansion. I’ve done that. I’ve cloistered myself out of shame. But that was then, and it’s a whole new ballgame now. I can look at the conditions of my life and the people in it as material for alignment and expansion. They help me to cultivate unconditional love and boundaries. It all serves my awakening and further growth.
♥ If someone seems harmful or hurtful or has really bad energy, I can see them through the eyes of unconditional love from a distance. It doesn’t mean trying to save them or change them in any way. It means seeing their infinite radiance even if they don’t let it show. We have to remember to see ourselves through that lens, as well.
♥ There are unresolved stories that live in our body. We can release energy blocks and get the energy flowing by giving attention to those stories and images and bringing unconditional love to those areas – and watching them transform.
♥ I have a new relationship with money now because it’s not tangled up in my relationship with my dad and what he could or couldn’t give me that I really wanted. As I heal my relationship with my dad, I heal my relationship with money.
♥ Unconditional love is different from enabling. It’s about seeing someone’s perfection and loving them completely without wanting to change them or their circumstances because I acknowledge that I do not understand the reasons behind them. My mantra: I see your divinity. I love you unconditionally. I trust your path and honor your free will.
♥ The goal isn’t to get people to listen to me, buy what I’m selling, or look at the world the way I do. Let them be who they are. I just need to focus on moving towards satisfaction. Don’t look outside of myself and blame other people for what I feel insecure about. Stay focused on what inspires me and feels good.
♥ My creativity offers opportunities to transcend the need to be approved and accepted by others or to compare myself to others. Create for the joy of it rather than being concerned about any kind of reaction, response, or result. Just create – and share what I create with the world. Maybe even teach it. But don’t keep it to myself.
♥ Competition and comparison are the kiss of death for creatives.
♥ Don’t put attention on what makes me feel bad. Instead, focus on what I feel really good about. If it’s something that needs my attention, find a way to reframe something negative into something positive.
© 2018 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, clutter coach, 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.