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Author: susantara

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.

The Five Greatest Gifts of Decluttering

The Five Greatest Gifts of Decluttering

Two years ago today, I began my great decluttering journey. At that time, I was at a major crossroads. I’d recently resigned from my teaching career and didn’t have a clear vision of what was next. My youngest child was a freshman away at college. Both of my parents had passed away, and we’d just closed on their house, which they’d lived in for 32 years. I’d also recently become a grandmother and was about to turn 50.

I was in uncharted territory.

After putting so much effort into assisting my parents and clearing out their house, my own house was a mess. At the same time, I was grieving the loss of my parents and adjusting to being an empty nester. Though I wasn’t clear about what I was moving toward, I sensed the keys to moving forward were buried under all the clutter in my home. All the stuff that felt more relevant to my past than to my future and took up space in my home.

Think of your home as a giant vision board. What does the stuff you give space to in your home say about what’s most important to you? What intentions for your life do the contents of your home proclaim? What unconscious beliefs do they reveal?

Decluttering my home is a process I’ve written about previously. But my decluttering journey didn’t end there. After clutter-clearing my house, I decluttered my car, garage, computer, website, blog, and photo library. It felt amazing!

At this point, the only area I need to finish decluttering is my rented storage unit that houses my parents’ belongings and ancestral artifacts that I needed more time to process. Last year, I made significant progress by sorting through at least 25 boxes of photographs, papers, and mementos and distributing the “keepers” to living family members. I’m waiting for warmer weather to complete the job and either downsize or eliminate the storage unit.

I began my clutter-clearing pilgrimage with Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, as my guide. There were some categories (such as books and papers) for which Kondo’s advice didn’t resonate, so I learned about other methods and eventually became a Certified Clutter Coach in Denise Linn’s method.

After two years of decluttering my own stuff and assisting others on their clutter-clearing journeys, I’ve developed an approach that incorporates guided inner journeys, feng shui, mindfulness, Reiki, photography, writing, vision boards, and creating letting-go rituals that honor sentimental items and the relationships they represent. I’m grateful for all these tools I can use with clients when it feels right. They make the process deeper and more enduring.

With a holistic and integrated approach like this, the clutter does not return. It’s removed, roots and all, and a whole lot of inner clearing and healing takes place through the process. It’s not just about the stuff. Clutter-clearing can be an opportunity for deep transformation and growth on many levels.

The Basics

First, there’s the most obvious level that encompasses the physical living space and how it feels. I’ve written extensively about this previously and will not go into detail about it here because it’s just the tip of the iceberg. However, it’s what most folks set their sights on when they decide to declutter. 

So, briefly…

For most of my adult life, I didn’t bother to make my bed. However, since clutter-clearing my home, I’ve made my bed first thing every morning without missing a day. It’s not a chore. Instead, it’s the first gift I give myself every morning and uplifts my energy whenever I walk into the room. In addition, there are no junk drawers or piles of clutter in my home. Since every object has a dedicated spot now, I spend less time looking for things. Everything in my home either serves a purpose or brings me joy. The energy in my home feels lighter and brighter. Entering my home is an uplifting, peaceful experience. It truly is my sanctuary.

All that is a big, ginormous deal that makes the work of decluttering worth it. But there’s more! Much more. For the remainder of this article, I will describe the five greatest benefits I’ve received from clutter-clearing, to illustrate how decluttering can improve your quality of life, beyond how your home looks and feels.

#1: More Joy

Throughout the decluttering process, you go through your belongings one at a time and notice how they affect your energy. Marie Kondo asks: Does it spark joy? Similarly, Denise Linn’s guiding question is: Energy up, energy down, or energy neutral? Naturally, you get lots of practice tuning in to joy and noticing when it’s present and absent – and being mindful of the energy in your body, in general.

As a result, I have a much greater awareness of how joy feels and what sparks it. I’m more inclined to take a moment to check in and notice where my energy’s at and to remove from my environment whatever disturbs my peace of mind. I gravitate toward what brings me joy and feels like an unequivocal yes.

Because joy matters. It’s become more conscious and accessible. A way of life. I now choose joy instead of suffering and make decisions based on joy rather than on fear. (I always can feel the difference.) This includes decisions about how to reframe things so I can see them in a more positive light and avoid unnecessary suffering. 

Does it spark joy? is much more than a meme. With practice, it is a major game-changer! My joy setpoint is higher than it used to be, and this is a Very Good Thing. 

#2: More Confident Decision-Making

I used to be more passive about making decisions, deferring to others and sometimes even waiting until decisions were made for me, by default. I relied greatly on the opinions of others and allowed them to call the shots about decisions relevant to my life. I didn’t trust my own judgment and sought validation. 

Decluttering changed all that! It helped me to tune in to what feels right for me. After noticing how objects affected my energy, the next step was to decide whether to keep, repair, donate, give away, sell, or discard each item. This decision was repeated at least a thousand times during the process and strengthened my decision-making muscles, like doing reps at the gym.

As a result, I’ve made a habit of going inward to decide what to do and enjoy how it feels to take charge of my life. I depend much less on others to help me make decisions. Now I’m more assertive and confident about decision-making and feel much more empowered than I used to. 

Tuning in to how it feels in my body and what feels right extends to all areas of life. Being cued in to how things, people, and situations affect my energy allows me to trust my inner wisdom and move in the direction of what feels right – and away from what doesn’t.

And even more than that, I’m communicating what I want, like, and prefer to others rather than simply accepting whatever they do or say and considering “going with the flow” to be a virtue (which it is, within reason). The new me teaches others how I want to be treated instead of passively accepting everyone else’s terms.

All this from decluttering? You betcha. Positive changes can set in motion a surprising ripple effect!

#3: More Proactive

On the most basic level, I don’t let things like dishes and laundry sit around anymore. I take care of them right away. When I put a dishwasher load going at night, I put everything away first thing in the morning so no dirty dishes will accumulate in the sink or on counters. It’s part of my morning routine and is an opportunity to practice gratitude for having dishes and food and a home in which to store it all.

In addition, I order parts for broken appliances, take action swiftly, and don’t allow things to sit around. I pick up tiny objects from the floor and take out the broom rather than leave it for later. I attend to clutter right away because I know how good it feels to be clutter-free, and how things can build up over time and feel overwhelming. Taking a moment now saves a lot of moments later.

Scrubbing the toilet was the worst part of my decluttering experience because our well water has a high mineral content that builds up quickly and stubbornly. It had become really bad, to the point that I just threw in the towel and hoped visitors wouldn’t ask to use the bathroom. When your parents are dying and need your help, such things can happen on the home front.

As I scrubbed the toilet, I vowed I would never, ever let it get that bad again, or even close. I’d be on top of it from now on and scrub away the first signs of mineral stains. It was a great metaphor for some other things (mostly non-things) I’d let slide in my life, and the vow expanded into a promise to myself to be more on the ball in general. Which I have been.

#4: Less Wanting

This month, I will begin a two-year mindfulness meditation teacher certification program that includes a lot of assigned reading. In the past, I’ve had a wall of books. If I’ve ever collected anything, it was books, most of which were acquired inexpensively secondhand. I love books! However, I donated more than half my library during decluttering and only have a few shelves of books (and a few crates of children’s books) remaining that are especially near and dear to my heart.

I can afford to buy the books for the mindfulness program. However, I don’t have much interest in owning more books or more anything. I’m deeply interested in the content of the books for the program and plan to take good notes. Maybe once I get a ways into some of the books, I’ll want to own them. However, I’m starting off borrowing them from the library rather than ordering them on Amazon just because they’re on the required reading list.

The motivation is not so much to save money as it is to save space. I think very carefully about bringing anything new into my home – including books – because I love uncluttered living and want to keep it that way. If anything, I’d like to declutter even more, which is why I do an annual mini-declutter.

#5: More Interpersonal Resolution

My clutter-clearing journey involved going through not only my own photos and personal items, but also all my parents’ and ancestors’ photos, papers, and mementos. That really put things into perspective. It gave me a full lifetime view of each person, which resulted in greater understanding, appreciation, and compassion. 

In my twenties, I attended a weekend intensive to kick off a transpersonal psychology certificate program. We sat in chairs in a big circle and started by introducing ourselves. When it was one participant’s turn, she said that she was looking around at everyone in the circle and thought to herself: If only I knew their stories, I would love them. I’ve carried that thought with me ever since.

Decluttering my parents’ and ancestors’ belongings helped me to get to know them better and learn their stories. It made me love and appreciate them more. The mere act of holding someone’s birth certificate in one hand and their death certificate in the other fosters love and compassion. Going through the family artifacts made me feel closer to my parents and grandparents. This would not have happened if I’d left the boxes unexamined.

Going through the boxes of photos and papers generated insights about family relationships and brought up unresolved feelings. I photographed many of the artifacts and journaled about my insights and feelings as they arose by dictating them directly into my phone. Photographing sentimental items and writing about the stories they tell and the feelings they bring up takes the decluttering process even deeper into forgiveness, healing, and the kind of personal transformation that happens when you finally let go of your grudges and the limiting beliefs that produced them.

Seeing pictures of my parents and ancestors throughout their entire life, and reading correspondence from periods of their life I didn’t know much or anything about, helped me to see them as whole human beings rather than as Parents who were always 30 years older than me. I could see them outside of our parent-child roles and within the context of the times in which they lived. Having a clearer picture of that context allowed me to understand that their attitudes and values were shaped by the times in which they lived, and I didn’t need to take things so personally.

The weight of family relationships that I’ve carried around all my life has been lifted. The stories I held about them have become more universal and less personal. So much energy has been freed up. All because I spent time with my parents’ and ancestors’ stuff and decided what to keep, what to let go of, and what to (sometimes literally) reframe.

The Bottom Line 

It all comes down to this: Decluttering has helped me to know who I am and what I want, and who I’m not and what I don’t want. Such clarity makes real transformation possible. Transformation that isn’t dependent on the opinions or influence of others because letting go of that is also part of the process. As you become aware of how everything in your environment affects your energy, you learn to make use of a valuable feedback loop that draws you closer to your true self.

That is the greatest joy and success I know of.

But don’t just take my word for it. Do some decluttering, and see for yourself!

Aaand if you’d like assistance with your clutter-clearing journey, I provide a continuum of education and coaching services, including a free Facebook page, workshops/presentations, group coaching, and one-on-one coaching.


© 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.

What’s Most Important

What’s Most Important

“What does it mean, say the words, that the earth is so beautiful? And what shall I do about it? What is the gift that I should bring to the world? What is the life that I should live?”

-Mary Oliver, Long Life: Essays and Other Writings (2005)

This week, my favorite living writer died. So did a high school classmate.

Mary Oliver was 83. Matt Riker was 51. His life was snuffed out by the same illness that took my mom from us nearly five years ago. In November, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Later that month, he visited Dana-Farber and learned his illness was incurable.

According to an article in a local newspaper, several years ago, Matt was very unhappy with the way he was living his life. He decided to turn things around and devoted his life to helping others. The more he helped, the better he felt. On a similar note, two years ago when he was borderline diabetic, he took up running, lost a lot of weight, and got into really good shape.

The point being: When he realized he wasn’t living the life he wanted to live, he found the determination and courage to make changes and turn things around. He even went back to school and received his bachelor’s degree last year. By the time he was diagnosed with advanced stage cancer, he felt at peace with his life and continued to focus on helping others because that’s who he had become.

Matt’s story is a real wake-up call. His transformation is inspiring. When you don’t like the story you’re living, you can do something different and change it. 

The weekend before he passed away, there was a celebration in his honor. What a gift to have a celebration of life before someone passes away! It was an opportunity for everyone to say goodbye (even without saying it) and thank-you for happy memories and a life well lived.

I hadn’t seen Matt since high school. After he learned the nature of his illness, I reached out to him, and we shared a memory of being in a choral group together back in high school. I had to drive my son to Albany when the celebration was taking place and made it just in time. Matt looked in my eyes, said my name, gave me a hug, and a few moments later, two companions were on either side of him helping him make his way out of the building so he could rest.

After he left the celebration, a classmate who had gone running with Matt in the fall expressed disbelief. Such rapid physical decline is hard to wrap your head around. When I saw him at the celebration, he appeared as my mother did a week or two before she passed away. I did not expect him to make it to the end of the month. He only made it a week.

When an acquaintance your age or younger passes away, it wakes you up. It might inspire you to appreciate your life and your loved ones more. You might step back, take stock, and consider what’s most important and whether you are living your life in harmony with that.

I realized this week that I’ve gotten a little off-course and lost sight of what’s most important. I’ve been too busy and haven’t been spending as much time in nature as I need to. Haven’t had much time for those who mean the most to me. My heart yearns for more nature connection, more writing, more photography, and more quality time with loved ones. These activities feed my soul. They are my true Work.

What is the gift that I should bring to the world? What is the life that I should live? The answers to these inquiries are within each of us, in our heart center. Our heart is a compass that keeps us on course if we allow it to guide us. Its wisdom helps us to gauge how closely our life is aligned with our true Dharma. Then we can make some course adjustments if need be.

I believe that however long or short our lifetime is, it’s exactly as it should be. Even when death seems to come too soon or too suddenly, there are no accidents. If it’s your time, the universe will make sure you are in the right place. In other words, beyond the personal, senseless tragedy of loss, there is another level on which all is well. These dense bodies we live in only allow us to see a portion of the picture.

The thing is, we don’t know when our time will come. There are things I still want to accomplish, and I’ll bet the same is true for you. Things I don’t want to leave undone. When a friend of mine published her first book, she exclaimed, “I can die now!” That’s what I’m talking about: Don’t die with your song/book/etc. still within you.

Matt’s death awakened everyone his life touched. It inspired me to think about how I spend my time and why, and to take inventory of the Big Picture, just like he did several years ago.

Mary Oliver passed away four days after Matt, on Thursday.

Thursday morning, I HAD to sit on the riverbank (despite the cold weather) as the sun rose and listen to the music of the delicate plates of ice sailing down the river and colliding with piles of other shards. It’s one of my very favorite songs.

It’s no wonder I couldn’t resist the call to be in nature, astonished and filled with appreciation for the visual poetry surrounding me, though I wasn’t aware yet of the significance of the day. All I knew at the time was that it felt like the first real breath I had taken all week, and I could barely feel the cold because I was doing something that set my soul on fire.

When I heard the news that evening, it all made sense: Her soul was passing through. I wonder what she would have scribbled in her notebook about that morning’s frozen splendor on the Hudson. 

Spending time on the river’s edge that morning and learning about the two deaths only a few days apart served the same purpose: They awakened me from the trance of routine and reminded me of what’s most important and what I need to make time for. What I did make time for until a few months ago when I took on another part-time job. (And next month, I will add yet another thing to my plate when I start a two-year mindfulness meditation teacher certification program, which I have yearned to do for years.)

I realized I need to spend more time steeped in gratitude on the water’s edge or elsewhere in nature with my camera in hand and my senses wide open. More time listening to what drifts through the air and bubbles up from within, and taking dictation. More time developing the services I’m trained for and feel passionate about. The Universe has delivered some very clear and consistent messages about moving forward with that NOW, not later. If not now, when?

I had to admit to myself that I’m doing too much. My schedule is too full. Even though I enjoy and appreciate everything I’m doing, something’s gotta give within the continuum that spans from enjoyment to the deeper pull that sets my soul on fire.

Those whose deaths jolt us out of the trance of daily life remind us to make time during our “one wild and precious life” for what is most essential. To not look beyond our own heart to discern what that is.  

To get to Work.


© 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.

Your Children Are Not Your Children

Your Children Are Not Your Children

Last weekend was different from most, even as Hidden Treasure weekends go. For starters, we did trust falls. 

So there I was, standing up on the edge of a massage table with my arms crossed in front of my chest. I repeated a surrender prayer one line at a time, then leaned back and released the full weight of my body to gravity. I experienced nervous anticipation, the moment of letting go, and the unsettling sensation of moving backward through the air supported by absolutely nothing, followed by the thump of landing straight on a cushion lowered gently to the ground by several of my classmates.

As my heart pounded so hard in my chest that I thought everyone in the room could hear it, I felt the grounding touch of three sets of loving hands doing energy work on my body to integrate the experience. The rest of my body was calm, and I realized my heart was excited, happy, leaping in my chest because I’d just burst through another fear barrier – the first of the weekend.

The next morning while meditating in my room, some words drifted into my mind:

Rest assured, mama: Your children are not your children. 

It felt like something was trying to come through, and these words were the first cars of the train. So I opened to the flow and an hour later had a new poem written in my notebook.

That was the easy part.

When I read the completed poem, my heart pounded in my chest, which is my signal to speak up and share something. To feel the fear, and do it, anyway. My Higher Self was encouraging me to share my writing with the group, rather than email it to them after our retreat weekend was over. I’ve learned (the hard way) not to dismiss that voice when it “speaks”.

It’s one thing to share my innermost self in writing. It’s another to speak it in front of an audience. I’ve been a teacher for several years and don’t have any problem speaking in front of a group, in general. But sharing my writing is different.

The last (and only?) time I recall reading one of my poems in front of an audience was during my dear friend, David’s, funeral in 2013. It was a poem I’d composed 24 years earlier and felt comfortable with. In contrast, the poem I felt compelled to share with the group over the weekend was brand new. I felt nervous.

But I read it anyway, heart thumping and voice trembling. Many people in the room were moved by it, thanked me for sharing, asked for a copy, and insisted they didn’t hear any shaking in my voice. 

After our weekend together, I added a new goal to my list for 2019: Participate in poetry readings. The thought of reading my writing in front of strangers feels intimidating – scarier than publishing it on my website and sending it to my mailing list. There are benefits and challenges to both kinds of sharing, but face-to-face sharing is something I need to do to expand beyond the “I can’t…” stories I have about myself.

Expanding beyond self-imposed limitations is such an amazing feeling! That’s why we put ourselves through experiences that push the edges and take us out of our comfort zone in the Hidden Treasure program. It’s all for the purpose of going beyond the limiting stories of the false self to experience our boundless true nature.

So, the poem

I think of it as a letter to my younger self when one of my children was going through a particularly challenging time. Back then, I was busy arguing with reality and really struggling to accept a situation I could not change. It just as easily could be written for my daughter who often feels bad about being a single mom, or any other parent whose vision of how parenting would be conflicts with reality. Although the poem is offered for mothers and fathers, grandparents, and anyone else who is closely involved in a child’s life, I left the first line as it came through because it feels more authentic that way. 

Rest Assured, Mama

Rest assured, mama:
Your children are not your children.
You don’t understand their reasons
For incarnating.
Perhaps this time and place,
These circumstances,
And your imperfections
Are exactly what they need
To grow their soul.

Don’t spend your energy
Searching for a magic wand
To make everything
And everyone “better”.
Instead: see their Divinity,
Love them unconditionally,
Trust their path,
Accept their personality,
Give them sensible boundaries,
And honor their free will.

Do your best to support their journey,
But don’t be so sure
You know what it is
Or which roads are best for them
To take or to avoid.

Even as you shape and mold them
To live in this world,
Allow them to transform you
Through the vehicle of this world
And lead you to question
Your most basic assumptions.

May your dance together
Through time and space
Turn you around and spin
The nonsense of conditioning
Off the surface
And out of your cells
So you may discover
Your Deeper Self
And put it in charge of your life

So you can trust more
And realize that they
Are here for your growth
As much as you are for theirs
And that you are okay
Just as you are
And so are they.

Click to download poem


© 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.

Resting in Satisfaction

Resting in Satisfaction

Happy New Year!

Scrolling through my social media feed last night, I got the distinct impression that 2018 was a very difficult year for many in my network. I know the feeling (been there, done that!), although 2018 was quite the opposite for me. As I drove home from work last night, it occurred to me that 2018 might have been the best year of my life thus far. I took a mental inventory of every year of my adult life and affirmed that it was. My intention for the New Year is to keep that positive momentum going, which is quite different from all the years I was grateful for the fresh, new beginning the New Year offered.

If 2018 was a real dud (or worse) for you, then I wish you a much better 2019.

New Year, New Material

I woke up this morning from a dream that revealed a couple of opportunities for growth this year. I also experienced some feelings that surprised me last night and showed me there’s opportunity for growth there, too. Then there’s my very conscious intention to feel more physically fit and comfortable in my body. In other words, I have some material to work with – which is always the case. And that is actually quite exciting.

And Old Material, Too

Feeling self-conscious about my body is really, really old stuff that has kept me from engaging more with the world. It even kept me from agreeing to be my sister’s matron of honor when she got married. (Yeah, it was that bad.) And I’ve always done my best to avoid any dancing scenarios – although I did teach aerobics many years ago. But now I feel ready to do something about this ridiculousness.

I know when body shame became activated. It was when I was ten or eleven years old, and my mom sat me down and had a little talk with me about my weight. At the time, I was an early developer going through a “filling out” stage. Until that day, I hadn’t given much thought to how I looked. But that talk rocked my world and made me feel there was something really wrong with me. I became fixated on my appearance and felt I needed to look good in order to be loved.

I never told my mom how serious an effect that talk had on me and on our relationship. She never meant to hurt me. She worked as a flight attendant recruiter, and in that world physical appearance was of the utmost importance. And I was a sensitive kid.

I’ve done some inner child work in which I imagined my current self as a loving presence in the room during that talk and assured my fifth-grade self that she was beautiful and loveable just the way she was. That was part of the healing. Now I mostly work with feelings as they arise and constrict the present moment, and send love and compassion to both my mom and my younger self.

Back to the Gym

Last winter, I walked outdoors in all kinds of weather conditions, and it was great to experience the fresh air and nature connection. However, it didn’t do much for me physically and actually left me feeling more out of shape than I’d ever felt in my life. When we had a snowstorm in November, I decided I wasn’t going to spend a long winter exercising outdoors (though I do hope for a good season of snowshoeing) and reactivated my gym membership. I’ve been working out almost every day for the past six weeks or so, and it feels awesome.

Every day, I imagine how great it will feel when I finish my workout, and that feeling motivates me to get to the gym. Focusing on positive feelings is key.

I was inspired by a few friends who’d recently committed to fitness and experienced results that included losing weight, having more energy, and feeling better emotionally. Still, I held off on reactivating my gym membership because the thought of exercising indoors around other people with lots of television screens mounted from the ceiling was entirely demotivating.

But I found a way to make it work. I have a subscription to Gaia and spend my time on the cardio machines absorbed in enlightening, inspirational content. The rest of the world melts away when I’m in my little cardio-Gaia cocoon.

So that is going well and has momentum. I do it because it feels great, and I also anticipate how I will feel even better months from now – because that’s what happened with my meditation practice.

Last spring, I recommitted to a daily habit of meditation, and after more than seven months, my practice is solid. It’s not something I feel obligated to do. There’s no dogma attached to it. I do it because it makes such a positive difference in the way I feel, and I want to feel that way more. I expect to experience the same kind of positive effects with exercise. Already, it’s something I’m motivated to do because it feels so good, instead of being something I “have to” do. It’s a subtle yet important difference.

Mindful Meals

The other part of the physical fitness equation, of course, is food intake. I have a pretty healthy diet already but can improve in terms of quantity. There’s a powerful reference experience for this, too, that gives me hope.

The weeklong vipassana meditation retreat I went on last spring and have referenced frequently (because it was so transformative!) involved sitting meditation, walking meditation, dharma talks, and EATING MEDITATION every waking moment. More than 100 of us gathered in the dining hall three times a day for completely silent meals. No eye contact or words spoken. Just mindful eating. Contemplation of what was on our plate and the sensations of tasting, chewing, swallowing, craving, fullness, etc.

During those meals, my plate was like a mandala. A complete universe. I didn’t think about second helpings, and while chewing a forkful of food, it even felt too complicated to think about the next bite or to arrange the food on my plate while still chewing. Instead, I was mindful of the taste and physical sensations and didn’t pick up my fork until I was ready for the next bite.

I appreciated the sensation of comfortable fullness and noticed the pull between that lovely satisfaction and craving more. Resting in satisfaction and choosing to stay with that instead of longing for more is what I remember most about mindful meals at the retreat center. When the retreat was over, I set an intention to eat mindfully one meal a day. But I didn’t follow through on that. Life got in the way, and meals were often rushed. Stress-eating happened.

When I got home from the gym today, I had a homemade buddha bowl for lunch and became aware of thinking about what I’d have after finishing the bowl. Then I remembered my retreat experience and tried to be present to the sensation of enoughness. And it worked. I didn’t have the rice cake with peanut butter afterwards. Didn’t give it any attention. Instead, I lingered in satisfaction. It was a sprawling, spacious sensation, a sense of fullness. It felt really good. Just like a good workout or meditation session.

So mindful eating is a new frontier I want to focus my attention on. Not in a dogmatic way. No shoulds. Better to remember the delicious sensation of one-plate satisfaction from the vipassana retreat and my intention to bring that awareness into my daily life because it feels so good, in itself. Add another healthy habit to my life as a gesture of self-love and lovingkindness, rather than focus on dissatisfaction.

A Path of Kindfulness

We all have our areas for improvement, but what a difference it makes to set intentions based on self-compassion rather than on self-loathing. Focusing on how we want to feel rather than on a current, unsatisfactory condition that brings us down. Imagine it already so, as Adriene Mishler from Yoga with Adriene encouraged in her kickoff email for Dedicate, a 30-day yoga journey to start the New Year that I’m doing for the fourth year in a row. 2018 was my best year yet because I learned the value of focusing on the positive and not giving attention to negative, disempowering thought patterns.

We have a choice about where we put our attention. Choosing presence and satisfaction over craving is a lovely experiment. When you experience the loveliness of it, it can motivate you to do it more. To make it a habit for all the right reasons. 

In addition to being aware of satisfaction and craving through mindful eating, you also can be mindful of your thoughts and realize when self-consciousness about body image creeps in and let it just pass without clinging. Then your thoughts about your body become an opportunity for awakening and practicing lovingkindness, tenderness, and acceptance. Through kindfulness, you can appreciate and accept your body now, even as you envision feeling even better about it in the future.

Gratitude is another friend when you’re working with body shame. It is a blessing to have a body that is healthy and not in pain. So many people in this world would give anything to have a healthy, pain-free body. Being able to exercise is a blessing. So is having food to eat.

I absolutely did not intend to write today about the cliché New Year’s topics of diet and exercise. I didn’t intend to write at all. But as I sat in satisfaction after finishing the last, nourishing bite of my buddha bowl, it’s what arose. (I love the inspiration that comes from Presence, and writing was more satisfying than more food would have been.)


© 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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