Contemplative Photography & Reflections

Category: Travel & Exploration

Found on the Sunshine Coast

Found on the Sunshine Coast

Have you ever gone on a trip that left you feeling fundamentally different than you were before you embarked on it? A real life changer? Well, that’s what spending nearly two weeks with relatives on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia did for me—and I am excited to write about it!

I met my great-uncle Ralph and great-aunt June in person for the first time more than ten years ago when they visited the East coast. I recognized them instantly as kindred spirits and felt a deep connection with them. (They even founded a Waldorf school in North Vancouver!) Not long after their visit, they sent me the 2005 Sunshine Coast Tourist Guide, with lots of handwritten comments about places that were meaningful to them. I held onto that guide with intentions to visit their home in Sechelt (the heart of the Sunshine Coast off of Vancouver) someday. In recent months, my intuition told me it was time to make “someday” happen. Visiting them was one of the top items on my list of “100 Things to Do” this year.

My dad and I began talking about making a trip to Vancouver together. A health condition was making it more difficult for him to get around, and I felt it was important to make the trip sooner rather than later. We also had been talking about driving to Virginia to visit his sister, who had been ill for quite some time. At the end of January, she passed away unexpectedly. Unfortunately, we didn’t make that trip in time, and that made it seem even more important to follow through with the Vancouver trip. We renewed our passports and came up with specific dates for our trip. When it came time to make flight reservations, my dad had second thoughts and eventually told me he thought the trip would be too much for him. But he still wanted me to go, so we booked my flights, and I prepared to make the trip on my own.

In the days leading up to the trip, I felt I was making some real progress excavating and releasing limiting beliefs that had circumscribed my life for as long as I can remember. But I still felt stuck and unsure about how to proceed. Intuitively, I knew there was something for me in the Vancouver area. Something important. I could feel it, even though I didn’t yet know what it was, other than that it was the next step.

It turns out a great deal was waiting for me there. At least three journeys took place simultaneously: an exploration of the area’s unsurpassed natural beauty, connecting with my ancestral and family tribe, and a very deep spiritual journey.

Natural Beauty

I had wanted to travel to the Sunshine Coast off of Vancouver for a long time, and it was every bit as breathtaking as I anticipated. To get to Sechelt (SEE-shelt) from Vancouver, I took a 20-minute flight in a tiny float plane that could accommodate up to five passengers. The woman sitting next to me was excited to point out landmarks and tell me about the magnificent terrain on which she lived her whole life.

Mountain Landscape

The coastal landscape, dotted with islands and lined with snowcapped mountains in the distance, provided sharp visual contrast to the temperate rainforest featuring moss-covered trees (including broadleaf maple, red cedar, hemlock, and Douglas fir), ferns and mosses, and so much lush vegetation.

Rainforest Trail to Skookumchuck Narrows-4

During my stay, I went kayaking three times—my first experiences paddling in salty, ocean water and in kayaks equipped with a rudder (which is actually quite metaphoric). We paddled by herds of seals, at least one sea lion, great blue herons, and bald eagles.

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On different outings, we toured the Coast from Roberts Creek to Egmont, stopping to appreciate the sights and scenery along the way. One afternoon, June and I took a long hike on the rainforest trail through Skookumchuck Provincial Park to view the rapids during ebb tide.

Skookumchuck Rapids

My soul mate of a cousin, Paul, whisked me away a couple of times to catch some glorious sunsets and moonrises.

Davis Bay Sunset Kayaker

Pacific Moonrise

We also explored the Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden (where June and Ralph have their own bench) and spent an afternoon motoring around Thormanby Island and Smuggler Cove on Paul’s future in-laws’ 68-foot yacht—a very special treat.

One pattern that stood out was the residents’ positive, grateful energy. I read that the Sunshine Coast boasts the highest per-capita number of artists, artisans, and crafters in Canada and is also home to a great many writers, nature lovers, and alternative healers. It was like moving from one paradise to another the whole time. And unbelievably, the inner journey was even more astonishing than the outer one.

Ancestral/Family Connection

It didn’t take long to figure out why I needed to make this trip. I needed to connect with my only Pacific Northwest relatives to learn where I came from ancestrally and where I fit in, in relation to my family tree. I discovered that I am part of an extended family of multipotentialites extraordinaire: artists, musicians, writers, and sharp minds. Through the years, I had heard anecdotes of my (mostly European) relatives’ talents, but seeing actual works of art, hearing recordings, and holding writing collections in my hands brought the stories to life and made them more tangible and real. Until recently, Ralph (an architect, writer, painter, and athlete) had been the keeper of the family tree, and when we sat down and looked at it, it seemed everyone he spoke of had at least one jaw-dropping creative talent in addition to whatever else s/he did. I felt like I had found my real tribe and realized that I am part of something larger that I didn’t grasp until now. I finally understood the source and value of my creative and artistic passions that didn’t seem to make sense in the nuclear family I was born into. Artistic expression and creativity are hardwired into my DNA!

I woke up every morning in a room decorated with framed prints of Ralph’s watercolor and acrylic paintings, listened to him read some of his poetry and prose in the evening after dinner, conversed with June about our shared values with regard to developmentally appropriate and inspired early childhood education, took in the extraordinary beauty and magical details of their gardens, and dined on organic fruits and vegetables (some from the garden) and delicious meals, including the most scrumptious coconut yogurt (Liberté Méditerranée) I’ve ever tasted. And so much more.

Ralph June Garden

At 85 and 80, respectively, Ralph and June love kayaking every bit as much as I do (though they have been doing it MUCH longer). Although quintuple bypass surgery a few years ago put a damper on Ralph’s physical activity, I was inspired by how active, fit, and engaged they are at their age and how they took action to create what they wanted, whether it be a Waldorf school or an indoor tennis facility. I just wanted to absorb their positive energy and lifestyle!

It also was wonderful to finally meet two of my three Canadian cousins (technically, my dad’s cousins), who are my age. Paul and I bonded instantly and spoke a common spiritual language that allowed us to communicate on a deep level. I was grateful for opportunities to spend time with him, his fiancée, and her parents throughout my stay. Caroline flew in from Vancouver Island for a few hours, during which time we went kayaking around the Trail Islands in the Strait of Georgia, talking the entire time. I wish I could have stayed longer and visited her on Vancouver Island. Their younger sister, Sonia, who lives in Alberta, was too far away to connect in person, but I spoke with her on the phone. We also called relatives in England, including cousin Bryan (current keeper of the family tree) and Ralph’s (and my deceased grandfather’s) only living sibling, 93-year old Ron, an accomplished pianist and organist (amongst other things). It was such a delight to connect with each of them and bring to life some of the names on the family tree.

One night, it was rainy and cool, and June insisted on sending me to bed with a hot water bottle to keep me nice and toasty. As I appreciated both the heavenly warmth and the kindness of the gesture, it occurred to me that it was the first time I have felt mothered in a long time. I fell asleep with tears of gratitude still moist on my face.

Spiritual Journey

The second morning of my vacation, I discovered the path that leads to the beach, only a five-minute walk from the house. I spent two or three hours at the rocky beach every morning for the rest of my stay. It was very rare to see another person on the beach, so it was my own private sanctuary, where the spiritual part of my journey unfolded.

I had two special places on the beach. The first was my stone balance workshop by the sea, between two logs. I searched the beach for interesting stones and lined them up on one of the logs for later use. Someone had placed a rock that looked like a cradle on the log, and I used it as the base for many of my stone balances. Balancing rocks by the sea is one of my very favorite meditative activities.

Balance by the Sea

My second special place on the beach was under an arbutus tree (my new favorite tree) that grew out of a rock formation.

Arbutus by the Sea

Surrounding the arbutus tree were several wild, pink nootka rosebushes in full bloom, which expressed an intoxicating fragrance into the air.

Nootka Roses

From my arbutus tree sanctuary, I’d often see great blue herons at the water’s edge and hear the gentle, soothing rhythm of waves lapping the shore. Here, I worked on my feng shui vision board, reflecting and envisioning what I wish to manifest in different areas of life. As the moon grew fuller, my vision board insights and clarity deepened. Being on the Sunshine Coast, so far from home with “my people,” helped me to see my life back East from a different perspective. Removed from my daily routine, I was stunned by ways in which I’ve compromised and sold myself short by playing it safe. I came to the realization that there is perhaps nothing riskier in life than playing it safe. But rather than feeling discouraged, I experienced clarity about what I do and don’t want in my life moving forward, including what kind of energy I want to surround myself with.

I had a profound experience walking the 11-circuit, Chartres-style labyrinth outside St. Hilda’s by the Sea (Anglican church) one warm, sunny afternoon. Again, there was nobody else around. When I arrived at the center, an inner voice asked: Are you ready to give up the path of suffering? Are you ready to walk the path of joy? Are you really ready to let go of suffering? I answered yes. Yes, I’m ready! (I understood suffering to mean the internal reactions that set in motion outer circumstances and events.) Then I looked up and saw a rainbow around the sun and experienced a deep sense of peace.

As I walked on the winding path back out of the labyrinth, I realized that as long as I act from love, all will be well. When I allow ego to take the wheel, it never seems to work out. Also, if I feel bad about myself for not accomplishing more or for the paths I chose and the choices I made, that’s ego. Good/bad, right/wrong, and better than are the vocabulary of ego, not Higher Self. Instead of making judgments and comparisons, Higher Self is love that seeks expansion. When you’re aligned with Higher Self, you intuitively know what to do and not do. It’s like a divine GPS that will save you time rather than take you the long, roundabout route. It doesn’t mean that when you don’t follow it, you’re wrong or somehow doomed. You’ll eventually get to your destination. It just might take longer. You might experience more drama and unanticipated traffic setbacks along the way. Somehow your divine GPS knows where the obstructions are and reroutes you to a clearer, more direct path. But if you choose to go a different way that ends up taking longer, it’s ultimately okay because the Higher Self exists beyond time. So there’s no need to regret what could be perceived as wasted time or poor choices. Better to tune into intuition and focus on the road ahead rather than get mired in regret.

These labyrinths insights bathed me in peace. When I exited the labyrinth, I retrieved my camera to take a photo of the rainbow. As I composed the photo, two seagulls flew through the frame. It was a moment.

Rainbow Seagulls

I had an incredible experience on the beach my last morning on the Sunshine Coast, when the moon was full. After doing my vision board work, I decided to do a final rock balance before leaving the beach. When I first arrived that morning, I’d found a rock whose shape was in between a crescent and half-moon and intended to balance it later. So I brought it back to the rock cradle and decided to put a round stone underneath it for an extra challenge. The round stone was so wobbly on the cradle, and the weight of the moon-shaped rock was so unevenly distributed. But I set my mind to it and decided I wanted to do something that seemed impossible, to prove to myself that I could do it, and I never doubted my ability to balance the stones. As I worked with the stones, I recalled my cousin, Paul, telling me that he no longer fears challenges because he sees them as opportunities to discover what he is capable of. It took a while, but all of a sudden, I felt the stones shifting into alignment, and then they clicked into balance! The moment that happened, I cried tears of joy and fulfillment because I accomplished what seemed impossible— because I believed I could and didn’t give up. I immediately texted Paul to share my success, knowing he’d understand.

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That balance inspired me to expand my ideas about what is possible. Dream big. Pursue bigger, bolder goals, and remember the excitement, satisfaction, joy, and gratitude I felt the moment those stones clicked into balance (and remained balanced!). I don’t want to get to the end of my life only to learn that the silver slippers could have brought me home at any time—that I had the power all along. I want to manifest during this lifetime and discover what I can do. And a big part of that is having an unwavering faith that I will succeed, acting on intuition, and having the patience to see it through.

I’m shifting out of a defeatist, poverty attitude, and it is the most miraculous shift of my life. I used to be like Charlie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory receiving his birthday chocolate bar and savoring it for as long as he possibly could because he knew he wouldn’t get another candy bar until his next birthday. An impoverished gratitude. What I’m cultivating is a sense of exploration and adventure. I’ve been traveling more since my mom died two years ago and consider traveling a great metaphor. It’s about having gratitude for where you are now but not clinging to it because you expect to experience all kinds of new wonders, beauty, and joy by traveling to places you haven’t been before. Places that will delight, challenge, and expand you.

Returning Home

After a phenomenal and life-changing visit to the B.C. Sunshine Coast, I flew home that night on moonbeams to a place of fireflies, splendid autumn foliage, and really good spring water, where the intoxicating fragrance of the last, lingering lilacs greeted me the moment I got out of the car. I returned home with renewed energy for creating a shining life.

My great-aunt June told me that she went to my stone balance workshop by the sea after I left and felt my presence there. She said I left a piece of myself there, and that makes me happy. But ironically, even though part of me remains on the Sunshine Coast and surely will call me back there, I returned home feeling more whole and complete than ever—for on the Sunshine Coast, with my tribe, I found my missing pieces and know that my life will never be the same.

To view more of my photos from the Sunshine Coast, click on the image below:

Sunset Paddler at Davis Bay

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The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a “custom print” in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2016. SHARING IS CARING, and I appreciate my work being shared with others! Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (river-bliss.com). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. In other words, I put my heart and soul into my writing and photography and want to be credited for it and have some traffic sent my way. It’s the high vibration thing to do!  🙂 

A Little Leap Year Inspiration

A Little Leap Year Inspiration

So it’s a leap year, which means my birthday is postponed by a day to accommodate February 29th – for my birthday is March 1st.

I mentioned before that I have been working with a magical resource to create a “shining” year: Leonie Dawson’s 2016 Create Your Shining Year in Life workbook. By now, I’ve filled in virtually all the workbook pages, except for the “How would you like to celebrate your birthday?” page. No ideas came to me, aside from having a small family get-together – which, of course, is actually quite wonderful. But I wanted to come up with some additional ideas, and they just weren’t coming…until yesterday morning, when I woke up with a Big Idea.

If you have been following my blog for a while, you are aware that I resigned from my job as a kindergarten teacher last June after becoming disheartened by how kindergarten had changed over the past few years.

There’s a school in Manhattan called The Blue School that is my dream school. It epitomizes all my values as an artistic, holistic educator. I first learned about the school when the Blue Man Group founders, Matt Goldman and Chris Wink, were part of a panel discussion on “Educating the Heart and Mind” (with Eckhart Tolle, Sir Ken Robinson, Dan Siegel, Murray Gell-Mann, and H.H. the Dalai Lama) during the 2009 Vancouver Peace Summit.

Two summers ago, a Blue School teacher spoke at the Mindfulness & Education Conference I attended at Omega Institute, and I was inspired and deeply moved by her description of the school and its mission – and her obvious love for her work. Actually, I was inspired to tears because it was in such complete alignment with why I was drawn to teaching in the first place.

Peace Table

A couple times recently, a little voice arose from within and urged me to visit the school as a last-ditch effort to determine whether my passion for teaching can be reignited or inspired in the (right kind of) classroom environment. But I am a country girl and avoid New York City (which is about a 3-hour drive) because I find it intimidating.

Well, it so happens that I am taking my son for a film school interview near NYC on Monday and am staying overnight (far enough from the City to remain within my comfort zone). The Big Idea I awoke with yesterday morning is that perhaps I can venture to Lower Manhattan Tuesday morning and visit The Blue School and discover first-hand what it feels like in that kind of holistic educational environment, since I’ll be in the general vicinity, anyway (and the educator who spoke at Omega invited conference attendees to visit).

I intend to call the school first thing Monday morning to set up a visit for Tuesday, if at all possible. So my new vision for my birthday is to visit the school and either be inspired in some way or to feel greater clarity and closure about walking away from classroom teaching once and for all and pursuing other options (i.e. growing my photography business, starting my own teaching inspiration studio). I believe that visiting my dream school will provide me with the ultimate answers, inspiration, and/or permission I seek with regard to moving forward. I asked friends who are familiar with the area for advice about the best way to get there and have a plan of action all mapped out, assuming the school is able to accommodate me on such short notice.

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It might not seem like a huge deal to you, but it’s an epic decision for me. A game changer. I am choosing to go to a place that scares me because my sense of adventure and desire for clarity outweigh my fear, which already has been transformed into excitement. (I suspect excitement is often what exists just beyond the boundary of fear, when you dare to cross that line.) In addition, I have accepted an invitation from the mother of a former student to have my first-ever massage later in the week. Believe it or not, that falls into the same category as a solo trip to Manhattan! And I am thrilled. Thrilled to be busting out of my comfort zone and self-imposed limitations and embracing a larger life. It feels so empowering, as if anything is possible.

It reminds me of my discovery a few years ago that the ocean is easily within reach.

Narragansett Waves-1

The truth is, except for the years I lived in Ithaca, the ocean was always within a four-hour drive. And I love the ocean! But aside from the 2-1/2 years I lived in Florida, I didn’t visit the ocean at all during my adult life. The reason was that I had become a creature of habit. I was comfortable driving west (to Ithaca) and until a few summers ago never thought about exploring in the opposite direction. East was unexplored territory. It wasn’t off-limits by any means. It was merely unexplored. The only thing that prevented me from going to the ocean and savoring the rhythm of the waves and the sensation of warm sand between my toes was that my sense of discovery, exploration, and adventure was dormant. I believed it would have to be a big deal that I couldn’t afford. One day, it occurred to me that a trip to the ocean and back could even be a long day trip. And then I did some research and found a nice, affordable hotel, which meant it could be an easy, two-day trip. And so it was. And then trips to the coast became more regular, and I couldn’t believe what I had missed out on all those years!

Rhode Island Sunset-1

My discovery that the ocean is accessible was revelatory! It was there the whole time and serves as a great metaphor. We can get to the end of our life only to realize that it (whatever “it” is for each of us) was there the whole time, but we just never noticed. Never turned our head an inch to the right, which would have made all the difference. What else are we not seeing or noticing? To love something as much as I love the ocean and to have shut it out for so many years seems utterly absurd now, and I wonder what else I’m not seeing or allowing in that would be nourishing and make a positive difference in my life.

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I don’t know what happened to turn me into an explorer, but it’s the biggest transformation I’ve experienced since becoming a mother more than 21 years ago. It might have been the resolution born from my mom’s quick demise from pancreatic cancer: Life is short. Do what you love. It might have been overcoming my fears and finally having the courage to leave my teaching job. It might have been being close enough to catch someone else’s infectious sense of exploration and adventure. Or all of the above. But the result is that I now have a burning desire to leap out of habit, familiarity, and the safety of my comfort zone and live a larger, more engaged life full of possibilities I’d never opened myself to before. It’s a completely new mindset, and how appropriate for a leap year! I’ve heard the adage that you can’t expect to get different results by repeating the same, old thing, and that rings so true. I sense that a wealth of possibility exists beyond the borders of my comfort zone and am eager to leap out and explore exciting new territory. It’s my birthday gift to myself.

Leap Year Quote

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2016. SHARING IS CARING, and I appreciate my work being shared with others! Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (river-bliss.com). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. In other words, I put my heart and soul into my writing and photography and want to be credited for it and have some traffic sent my way. It’s the high vibration thing to do!  🙂 

Engaging the Explorer

Engaging the Explorer

This week, I did a small thing that made a big difference: I took a solo trip to the Grafton Peace Pagoda in Petersburg, New York. It’s only an hour from home but in an area I’m unfamiliar with. I just learned about the Grafton Peace Pagoda after visiting the New England Peace Pagoda last weekend, immediately upon learning about it. Below are a couple photos of the New England Peace Pagoda and surrounding grounds. (The water lily I wrote about in my previous post was in the pond that appears in both pictures.)

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After visiting the New England Peace Pagoda, I did a little research and was surprised to learn that there are only four peace pagodas (Buddhist monuments to inspire peace and non-violence) in the United States, and two of them are located within a 2-1/2  hour drive of my house! And the Grafton one was, by far, the closer of the two.

So I just had to visit.

As I drove, something in me felt very different. After the initial exhilaration of resigning from my teaching position, I hit the ground hard and felt lost, fearful, and down. It was like literally falling down and feeling dazed prior to getting your bearings, finding your footing, and standing up again. I had no idea what my next step would be and felt completely lost but had a very strong and pervasive sense that I was on course and needed to have a little patience and faith in my ability to figure things out.

As I drove to the Grafton Peace Pagoda, it felt like I was embarking on a real journey even though it was just an afternoon trip. It had nothing to do with anyone else and was something I was doing only for myself, to satisfy an inner longing. Some people might need to hike on foot for 1,000 or more miles (as Cheryl Strayed recounted in her memoir, Wild). But you can go on smaller pilgrimages, too. When you feel the need to escape from your life and most of the people in it, it could be a clear indication that you haven’t heard your own voice in a while and need to find it and follow it. Perhaps every journey is ultimately a journey back to that inner source. To the inner temple. Perhaps that’s what my journey to a physical temple – the peace pagoda – was all about.

Only ten minutes into my trip, I felt energized and hopeful and began having insights about where I could consider going from here – activities for which I have skills and experience and could engage in to generate income right out of the gate. The most obvious things! But they didn’t come to me until I set out on this solo journey. The act of embarking on the journey seemed to activate the flow of ideas.

It occurred to me that when I get away and into my own groove where I can hear my inner guidance, I know where to go and what to do. It’s very different than being in the presence of other people and influenced by their agendas, schedules, preferences, and opinions – however well-meaning. When I’m following my own guidance – completely independent of anyone else’s voice –  I feel absolutely confident that I will lead myself to exactly the right place. There’s a certain kind of magic that happens when you heed the call of your inner wisdom with an adventurous spirit.

For example, I came across a sign for a you-pick farm for lavender, flowers, and herbs a mile ahead. I love lavender! So why not stop? (The Peace Pagoda wasn’t going anywhere!) And so I did.

At Hay Berry Farm, I struck up conversation with the young woman working at the farm stand, and when I mentioned that I was headed to the Peace Pagoda, her eyes lit up! She told me she had wanted to go there for a long time, and it seemed so many of her friends had been there lately and told her about it. She actually had planned to go the previous day but didn’t make it. I loved her energy and enthusiasm and enjoyed harvesting a bundle of 100 sprigs of lavender (and buying some beautiful shiitake mushrooms). It was a gratifying and worthwhile stop. The connection with the woman working there felt somehow magical and seemed like an outward indication that I was on the right track. And I was inspired by the beauty of the dried flower arrangements created by the owner of the farm and the huge display of lavender and floral bundles hanging from the beams overhead.

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Then I continued on my way, feeling even more peaceful and energized than before and eventually arrived at the Grafton Peace Pagoda. There were two signs at the entrance of the dirt road on which it was located. One sign was for the Peace Pagoda, and the other read “Free School.” That felt somehow significant, like following a path of spiritual breadcrumbs! I knew of the Albany Free School and had referenced it several times in recent conversation as an antithesis to public school but wasn’t aware of a Free School in the Grafton area. (I learned when I got home that this was land that had been given to the Albany Free School for a wilderness learning center and forever-wild sanctuary. How cool is that?)

The Grafton Peace Pagoda was only a six-minute walk from where I parked my car on the road. There was a clearly marked forest trail with many stacks of rocks along the way. I was the only visitor and immediately came upon a Buddhist nun who was walking around. We bowed deeply to each other, and she welcomed me warmly. (I learned later she is the resident nun, Jun Yasuda, who is quite well known for her peace walks and was a student of the late Nichidatsu Fujiiwho, founder of the Nipponzan Myohoj order of Buddhism.) The only other person there was a man who was doing some repair work on the temple. When he left for a conference call, I wandered the grounds around the pagoda in complete solitude.

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At the top of the steps is a large statue of Buddha touching the Earth, in the moment of supreme enlightenment.

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The inner walkway that encircles the pagoda includes 11 friezes that depict important events in the life of Buddha.

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I took my time exploring the temple grounds.

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I drove home feeling energized and inspired and reflected on how different this energy is from the energy field I felt stuck in for a week or so prior. My overall takeaway was that when I set aside time for myself and (quite literally) put myself in the driver’s seat, I enter an entirely different story and state of mind. I know what to do. I’m alive in ways I’m not when I’m running around trying to fulfill obligations and please others.

This is so important to remember!

This state of consciousness is totally available when you make the space and time to honor yourself – even if it’s just a two-hour round trip to a place you feel drawn to. It’s like when the clouds pass in front of the sun. The sun is still there. You just can’t see it because of the clouds, the obscurations in whatever form they take.

I found that I was able to enter into that hopeful, inspired state when I gave myself the freedom to explore. Doing so, you notice and gravitate toward things that will take you in a certain direction – that you wouldn’t have noticed if you were hurrying around or had your sight locked on a particular destination or outcome. There’s so much you miss along the way when you travel on autopilot and act without stopping to consider whether you’re engaging what really feeds your soul.

It’s about being the artist of our own life rather than the servant of someone else’s. It’s about how much magnificence we are willing to allow into our life – which ultimately is a question of self love (in a higher sense, not a selfish sense). Is how you are spending your energy and time enriching or depleting you? That is a worthwhile question to ask.

My trip to the Peace Pagoda was quite a journey. But it ultimately wasn’t about the destination (even though it was quite wonderful). It was about being an explorer, looking out for new opportunities, and realizing I am quite capable of navigating my life and engaging an energy that is always available. In the end, it really wasn’t about the destination at all. It was about how I got there.

The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a “custom print” in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Engaging the Magic in Narragansett

Engaging the Magic in Narragansett

So, I ended my last blog post by saying that I planned to have two more adventures before August is over. I didn’t know what they would be but felt they would involve rocks and water. And it turned out my next adventure involved LOTS of rocks and water! How it manifested was truly amazing. Sometimes I am astonished by the ways of the universe and need to write in order to remember that gifts can arise completely expected out of the blue!

My husband and I had been talking about him taking a couple days off from his summer job so we could go to the ocean. We were thinking we’d go to Rhode Island like we did last year and probably get a hotel room for a night so we could have two beach days. It was the day before we had planned to go away, and he still hadn’t requested the time off. And I hadn’t looked into making a hotel reservation because I wasn’t sure we’d actually go ahead with it. Last year we went on the spur of the moment during early August when there weren’t as many things clamoring for my attention as there are a week before a new school year begins. Now it was the end of summer, I hadn’t had a paycheck since June, and my son needed running shoes for cross country, among other expenses. Perhaps it would be better to save money by staying home.

But I really wanted to get to the ocean.

I told my son I’d take him to get running shoes that afternoon, and on the way to pick him up, I received the most exciting news that felt like an answer to a prayer! My husband was at his summer job, and his boss asked him if he wanted to take a break and help himself to some food. Although he was hungry, he wasn’t interested in what was offered and decided to stay put. He then asked his boss for a couple days off so we could go to the ocean and explained that we don’t have any specific plans but would figure out something, as we did last year. Instantly, a friend of mine pulled up on her bike and talked with my husband’s boss. She and my husband recognized each other and began talking. He told her we were planning to go to Rhode Island the following day and had to make plans for a place to stay. It turns out she and her family rented a big beach house for the month that would be vacant for the exact same days that we wanted to be in Rhode Island. Next thing I knew, I received a text from my friend saying that we had a place to stay on Great Island in Narragansett! I couldn’t believe it!

That is what I call “engaging the magic.” Had my husband taken a break to get food, he wouldn’t have crossed paths with my friend, and the invitation wouldn’t have manifested. How perfect is that?

We were so excited that we left a few hours after he got home from work and arrived at our destination at 12:30 a.m. Even though it was dark outside, I could feel the salty air as we drove along and were surrounded almost entirely by water. I felt like Goldilocks exploring the house to decide which bed I liked best – and fell asleep promptly!

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Needless to say, we had the best time in Narragansett. The house was incredible. The location was unbelievable. The weather was perfect. I took more than 700 pictures.

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We spent three afternoons balancing rocks on the beach at Scarborough Beach, Black Point, Point Judith, and other locations. I will write about that in a separate post.

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While packing up after our first afternoon on Scarborough Beach, we ran into an older couple – both native Rhode Islanders. The woman was walking along picking up sponges that had been deposited on the beach by high tide, and she taught me what to look for and how to dry them so they can be used for painting. This was another gift because I love to paint with sponges!

The next morning, I got up at 5:30 a.m. and headed to Point Judith to catch a glorious sunrise.

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Later, we went out for breakfast and then stopped into a store owned by a couple of rock balancers. Before we left, I noticed sand dollars in the display case and asked the man if he sells them. Sand dollars always remind me of my grandfather, who died when I was 17. He wintered in Florida and brought me back a sand dollar along with a story about sand dollars. The store owner replied that he doesn’t sell them, but one day a man came along and gave him a bunch. My husband took notice and exclaimed that he saw a big bucket of sand dollars from the balcony where we ate breakfast overlooking the seaport. We found the bucket, and a fisherman walking by said we could have as many as we wanted because they’d been sitting there for a month. So I added sand dollars to my collection of ocean treasures and gifts from the universe.

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After another afternoon balancing rocks on a beach adjacent to Point Judith Lighthouse, we decided to cook up a meal of vegetables (that we brought from our own garden) and fresh sea scallops. When we stopped at a seafood market along the harbor, we happened to be the lucky customers and received fresh scallops and swordfish for free! It was another matter of perfect timing – showing up on the right day at the right time. And the meal was delicious! We savored it on the upstairs deck while watching the sun set.

The next morning, I woke up at 5:30 again and headed back to Point Judith for another pastel dream of a sunrise.

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Then I retreated to a quiet spot on the rocks at Camp Cronin for some simple, solitary, sunrise rock balancing. I can’t remember ever feeling more in my element!

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We spent our last afternoon (Wednesday) in Narragansett at Camp Cronin/Point Judith Lighthouse. The older couple we met on the beach two days prior had told us there would be really big waves on Wednesday because of a hurricane somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, and this was the case. The wind made rock balancing challenging, and I opted to sit on the rocks near where I had balanced rocks that morning and appreciate it with all my senses, for we would have to return home soon.

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If my husband were writing, his account would differ from mine, for we did a fair amount of exploring on our own. He engaged with the locals more than I did – even when he balanced rocks. It was easy to find our way around, and of course we also enjoyed our time together. The trip was magical from start to finish, and we were filled to the brim with gratitude. It’s so exciting to find new places to love and to be so in the flow! I returned home inspired deeply by people’s generosity and the goodness that can transpire when you open up and engage with life.

The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a “custom print” in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Balance Along the Deerfield River

Balance Along the Deerfield River

Last weekend, I set a goal to go on three more adventures before the month is over. I didn’t have anything in particular in mind other than to engage the magic of the “yes” energy wave I’ve been riding all summer long. As if on cue, a friend contacted me to say she was driving home from Vermont and passed by some rock balances that made her feel peaceful and also made her think of me. I know someone in an online rock balancing community who lives in Vermont and wondered if he might have done them. We had been meaning to get together for quite some time to balance rocks in a beautiful setting, and I didn’t realize how close he lived to us until I asked him if he was responsible for the balances my friend had noticed. Turns out he wasn’t, but the wheels in my head were set in motion, and my husband discovered he had a couple days off in a row for the first time all summer. Less than 24 hours later, we were on the road headed for Vermont for our first experience camping away from home in our RV and our first play date with another rock balancer.

We scored a private, wooded site at a campground just outside of Bennington, with a babbling brook only a few yards away. It was a cold night, and the sky was clear and dark, with no discernible light pollution and a very late-rising moon – all of which combined to reveal more stars and celestial objects than I’ve ever seen, including a few meteors streaking across the sky. It was so quiet.

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The following afternoon, we met Robert, our fellow rock balancer, in person for the first time and retreated to the upper reaches of the northwest branch of the Deerfield River in Searsburg. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day, and the very first trees (few and far between) were turning red.

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It was illuminating to balance rocks with someone much more experienced. I am an eager beginner, my husband has been balancing regularly for the past 15 months, and Robert – a kindred spirit – has been at it for several years. For him, balancing rocks is a daily, spiritual practice.

I warmed up by balancing some fairly hefty, single rocks vertically. I love to interconnect with the energy of the rocks and discover their point of balance, which is inherent and just waiting to be found. It’s a meditative, centering activity.

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Then I set to work on some simple balances, noticing which rocks seemed to be calling to me.

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Meanwhile, the men concentrated on their own balances.

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In the photo below, if you draw a line diagonally from the bottom, left corner to the top, right corner, my balances are in the half that falls within the bottom, right triangle (including the balance in the foreground), and theirs were in the other half. We lined the river with balances!

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My husband’s back was bothering him, so he wasn’t capable of his best work. However, when I compared my self-described “baby balances” to his and Robert’s, it was clear they had pushed through some mental barriers and were working on a more advanced level than me. For starters, every now and then I’d hear loud thuds as large rocks they were working with fell to the ground. (To avoid injury, it’s important to wear protective footwear and/or to be vigilant.) That was because they were taking risks, pushing limits, thinking outside of the box – whereas I was playing it safer. I have come to regard rock balancing as a reflection of one’s willingness to take risks, think creatively, and trust in life – as illustrated by some of Robert’s balances in the photo, below.

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Their work with rocks inspires me, along with stories shared about their lives and Robert’s profound faith and trust that life will provide what he needs. (We engaged in no small talk.) These are unconventional, caring, loving, free spirits who live their lives with deep integrity and without concern for material possessions or pleasing others. There is real freedom in knowing how little you truly need in order to live an authentic, satisfying life – a freedom that reduces fear and inspires me greatly. My sense is that many members of the international rock balancing community have tapped into this energy, and I am inspired daily by seeing the balances – sometimes extremely elaborate ones – that are shared online. They convince me that virtually anything is possible if we really and truly put our minds to it and open ourselves to inspiration and grace.

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Balance and photo by Michael Grab/Gravity Glue, www.gravityglue.com and www.facebook.com/gravityglue

If you don’t take risks that sometimes result in toppling rocks, you can’t take it to the next level. I’m talking about both rocks and life. Toppling and momentary “failures” are a crucial part of advancing. By being willing to take risks, you engage a different level of energy that is ultimately more satisfying than playing it safe and keeping it neat and symmetrical. You get to learn what you’re capable of, expand your limitations, and revise your conceptions of what is possible. It doesn’t mean that life (or balancing rocks) is easy, but you realize that you have the inner resources to work with what comes along and to roll with it. You allow the rocks to guide you, instead of imposing your will on them, so that you are co-creators. You also develop patience. For instance, while working on the balance in the photo below, it took quite a while for me to find the balance point of the large, pointy rock. But I felt drawn to that rock and just knew I could connect with its point of balance. It seemed to volunteer and want to be balanced! And finally, it happened. And for a while, that was good enough. But eventually I returned and added to it.

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When you take it to the next level, you aren’t concerned with balancing just one, individual rock at a time. You expand your awareness to focus on relationships between two or more rocks at a time and how the relationship affects the balance points. You become more aware of the whole and how everything fits together. It’s a different way of thinking than focusing linearly on one single rock at a time. The photo below shows another of Robert’s balances.

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By the time we left several hours later, I couldn’t begin to count all the balances we’d created along the river. And the conversations were every bit as inspiring as our natural surroundings.

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But there was even more inspiration awaiting on our way to dinner, when Robert shared with me a presentation binder that illustrated how he has introduced children as young as three years old to the joyful practice of balancing rocks. I teach kindergarten but haven’t introduced my students to rock balancing because I felt they were too young. However, seeing the interest of even younger children has opened my eyes. With proper ground rules and supervision, I think rock balancing could be an enriching activity for my students – perhaps a quiet center during play time. I might even keep a small basket of rocks in the Quiet Tent for a child to arrange and/or balance in solitude. There are so many mini lessons to be modeled and shared!

We had such a great time on the Deerfield River with our new friend. The energy was wonderful and positive. Although I haven’t figured out my two remaining adventures for the month, I have a strong feeling they will involve rocks and water.

The photographs in this blog (except for those attributed to other owners) and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a “custom print” in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Moonrise on the Lake

Moonrise on the Lake

Did you see last night’s lovely moonrise? Two months in a row, we have been graced with a “supermoon” that appeared larger than usual. And this time, I was intent on viewing it from a great location.

A photographer friend recently turned me on to The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE) app, which is a fabulous resource for outdoor and landscape photography. You input a location and date, and it calculates the angles of the sun and moon relative to the location so you can plan photo shoots based on natural lighting. I had a few moonrise locations in mind and consulted TPE early in the day to determine whether conditions would be favorable. I visited one nearby spot that required a brief, steep hike and – knowing exactly where the moon would rise – realized some trees might obstruct the view. I also decided the location was too perilous to attempt at night.

My second location was a 45-minute drive into the Adirondacks, and although I was disappointed that the closer location wouldn’t work out, I was grateful to know this ahead of time! A third option was to appreciate the moonrise from our dock, but I was in caught up in “YES” energy again and committed to following wherever it led – and it definitely was leading me to a new landscape involving water. I was determined to take full advantage of the beautiful, clear-sky, summer night! Besides, I had photographed from the dock the night before (and captured the moon’s reflection on the water).

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Since I would be alone, I needed to choose a safe location. Having consulted TPE, I decided on a small beach park on the shore of Lake George in Bolton Landing, with mountains in the background.

Although I traveled solo, an older couple was at the gazebo when I arrived, and when they left, another older couple arrived for the moonrise. From watching local news on TV, they knew what time the moonrise was supposed to occur but didn’t factor in how our altitude (relative to the altitude of the mountains standing between the moon and us) affected the timing. This is something TPE calculates, so I knew to figure another half hour for the moon to rise above the mountains. In the meantime,  we watched a steamboat go by.

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The atmosphere on board sounded like a party!

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A few minutes before we saw the first, orange glint of moon on top of the mountain, several other people arrived – all eager to see the moon. I was in good company, and everyone seemed a bit giddy with anticipation.

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As it floated higher into the sky above the mountains, the orange hue faded against a darkened sky, and a chain of moonlight was cast across the lake. Moonrise, part two.

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The shimmering light was mesmerizing, and lots of people were boating under the moonlight!

The drive home was sheer delight, with the moon floating beside me the whole way. When I got home, I transferred my photos to my laptop and shared one image via social media, along with many other people. It was a night when all eyes and many cameras were focused skyward. And how wonderful that so many people paused to notice and appreciate something beautiful that can be seen by everyone on the planet (as long as weather permits). It makes the world feel smaller. People gather in person and share online, and you can feel the collective energy, much like group meditation. Although I usually meditate on my own, when I do meditate with others, it’s a completely different experience. I feel so supported and elevated by the energy of others. I loved spending an evening connected with others, near and far, who were moved by the same moon that was shining in my own back yard.

The photographs in this blog and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a “custom print” in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears. 

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (www.river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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