Back into Presence

It’s true: Everything is impermanent. Even seasons of inertia. Thank goodness.

A couple days ago, I finally had my first inspired idea after returning from the seven-day silent mindfulness meditation retreat. It happened without trying, and it felt like it came from a deep place. So now, instead of just framing photography for my upcoming exhibit, I’m painting the frames, too, for a color-coordinated, shabby chic look. It makes a big difference and feels so much more “me.” I’m psyched.

This morning, more inspiration came. I think it’s back. It seemed to come in response to getting carried away by a wave of emotion last night. One step back, two steps forward.

I’ve been doing well embodying mindfulness since the retreat. However, now my son is home from college and has transportation issues. We live in the country, and he can’t get a summer job without reliable transportation. All he has is a bike, which he’s determined to ride. However, the roads around here aren’t safe for bikers, especially when it gets dark, and to make a long story short, I ended up getting hooked by sadness last night. I felt bad about not being able to offer him more than I can, and then sadness morphed into regret for all the mistakes I’ve made in my life that resulted in him not having a car to drive this summer.

Every so often, I acknowledged this is regret and noticed where I felt it in my body. And then I got hooked again. Regret is my seductive teacher. It keeps returning until I’ve learned what it has to teach me and don’t need it anymore.

But everything is impermanent. Even challenging emotions. This morning, I woke up feeling better. During my walk, I recognized: Regret is disempowering. Come back to the present. 

Then I noticed the trees and the new leaves they’re putting out, still a tender, bright shade of chartreuse. I suspect trees don’t regret last year’s foliage or any previous year’s. That’s in the past. Now they are starting fresh with a new generation of leaves. New determination to grow. All that matters now is the leaves that are emerging this year that can capture sunlight and help the tree to grow.

Then it occurred to me that I might want to go home and get my camera because the trees were showing me something about my own nature. On the way back to my car, I noticed an oak tree that hadn’t let go of all of last year‘s leaves. They are brown, papery, and shriveled and such a contrast to the tender, bright, new leaves. I considered the tree holding on to what no longer serves it a rather unappealing quality – and a contemplative image I wanted to capture. So home I went, to get my camera.

When I returned with my camera and started photographing oak and maple trees, I felt completely back in my element. Waiting for the wind to quiet down is a great opportunity to embody presence, and this is what photography has been for me all along: an invitation to presence. Presence when the conditions are right and presence while waiting for the sun to go behind or emerge from a cloud or for the wind to calm down. Photography as a portal to presence. It’s a significant part of my spiritual practice.

I don’t need my camera to embody presence. But I do tend to pause and linger a little longer while waiting for conditions to be more favorable for capturing the image my heart desires that somehow speaks to me. And that right there is the way I want to live my life. It’s the answer to the koan I brought back from retreat about goals and contentment.

When conditions aren’t exactly the way I want them to be, I can focus on being present to and allowing what is. Then, when conditions are right, I can put all that much more presence into the photography. And if the conditions don’t present themselves, then I haven’t wasted my time because I’ve embodied presence and stillness and can walk along like that until the next inspiration arrives! In the meantime, I’m not tempted to put my energy into anything that distracts me from what feels right because I already feel so content and peaceful.

Without even trying, I returned home with this blog post. I didn’t have a goal to write today, but it arose from the stillness.

There’s a season for putting out bright, shiny new leaves – new possibilities for growth. There’s a season for full, deep green leaves collecting maximum sunlight for the growth part of the cycle. There’s a season for letting go of leaves because it’s not time for that anymore, and they’re not needed. And there’s a season for rest and reflection. Each of these seasons is impermanent and important, and wherever we are in the cycle, may we let it be as it is. May we trust in the seasons of our lives and not try to fill them with compulsive activity. In presence and stillness, growth comes without us needing to try so hard.

I bow to the Buddha on my meditation altar. I bow to the leaves in the trees through which Source energy reveals itself. I bow to all my teachers, including unpleasant emotions that carry me away and eventually dissolve back into stillness. I bow to it all.

© 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, 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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