Contemplative Photography & Reflections

Tag: Dragonfly

Out of My Head

Out of My Head

This morning, I woke up feeling unsettled. Perhaps you can relate? For me, it was a combination of family concerns, feeling overbooked this week and trying to do too much, feeling the usual nervousness/excitement about the photo shoot I’d have later in the morning, and current events. Even though I don’t watch TV or have cable, I don’t live in a bubble, and there was no escaping the topsy-turvy energy in the air. We are deep in eclipse energy at this time, with the solar eclipse only a few days away, and the energy is palpable.

Normally, on the morning of a photo shoot I’d get up and pack up my gear before doing anything else – jump right into the day. But not this morning. I realized I was out of balance and too much in my head and needed to drop down into my body and senses and out of my thoughts. Before getting out of bed, I took a few moments to do a body scan and feel the energy of what Eckhart Tolle calls the inner body and noticed some tension. Shifting my awareness to what it felt like inside my body was a good first step to get me out of my head. It’s the difference between judging the tension as somehow not okay (i.e. there’s something wrong with me) and feeling compelled to do something about it vs. simply noticing, feeling, and allowing it. Yoga works wonders for that, too, and other physical activities, including taking a walk along the river or a beach. Not walking to get somewhere or to check off the exercise box but to experience the sound of the river flowing or the sensation of my feet touching the sand. Being in relationship…with my environment and my body. Not judging or trying…just experiencing. Expanding beyond the thoughts in my head.

Though I was tempted to start the day with yoga, the river was nice and calm, like glass, and I decided to go out in my kayak before doing anything else, while the morning air was still a bit cool. But since I had been dwelling so much in my head, I felt it was time to ramp up the self-care and packed a little breakfast picnic-for-one. I poured steaming, hot water into a travel mug and slipped a tea bag into it, pausing to consider what flavor tea I was really in the mood for rather than grabbing something out of habit. I also packed my favorite mug, for an extra special touch that would help to pull me out of my head and into delightful sensory impressions, such as how beautiful my mug was and how nice it felt in my hands. Then I paddled onto the calm river.

Immediately, I realized that in times like this, it helps to ground ourselves in presence and spaciousness, where peace presides. It doesn’t matter what is going on in the world or in our little corner of it, or what we feel compelled to do about it. Everything we do will be more effective if we first ground ourselves in spaciousness. 

I took out my phone to take a picture and saw that I had several social media notifications, but I had no desire to check them because I was on the river immersed in stillness and beauty, where nothing was missing. Beginning the day like this – with mindfulness and intention – makes a difference.

I arrived at my favorite place to float and stopped paddling. It was tea time! I heard the beating of wings but didn’t see a bird lift off around me. (If I were absorbed in thought, I probably wouldn’t have heard it.) A few still, quiet moments later, I heard the sound again and realized it was the beating of a dragonfly’s wings. The dragonfly zipped around my kayak and then landed on my right shoulder! That was a first! Dragonflies have landed on my kayak and stayed for a while, but not on me. It stayed on my shoulder for about five minutes!

I was not in my head at all during those five magical minutes. I experienced awe and noticed how the dragonfly’s wings shimmered with light. I felt connected with the dragonfly, completely in the moment and free from habitual thought and monkey-mind. Tears of joy streamed down my face. 

After the dragonfly flew off, I realized that in this moment, I am enough. I realized that’s always the case, even though I don’t always remember it. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in being busy and getting things done, checking emails and social media, and you have to stop and pause to cut through all the layers of busy-ness and remember that you’re already enough. No activity or communication is necessary to complete you because you already are whole, warts and all. So bask in it. Embrace it. As Pema Chodron would say, befriend it – whatever you find there.

Stop. Be still. Listen. Feel. Befriend. Then you can discern what’s important and what’s not and get a clearer sense of what to do and keep and what to let go of. This is an antidote to reactivity.

Several moments later, a dragonfly (possibly the same one) landed on my paddle, and then a second one came along. Their bodies touched, and they did a spiral dance (that resembled a DNA strand) together before zipping off together. They made me think of my parents, and it felt like they were with me in this spacious field of presence. Earlier this summer, I dreamed that my mom was with me and communicated that she had been trying to get through to me, but I hadn’t been paying attention because I was too busy focusing on other things, filling my head with thoughts and to-do lists and not making space or being quiet enough for much else to come in. Immersed in nature, my thinking mind settles into the background, into stillness, and I experience spaciousness, where what is most important arises and makes itself known.

With things as they seem now in the world and close to home, it was restorative to be out on the calm, mirror-like river. It was like pushing the reset button. I noticed some ripples on the surface, but then they radiated into the distance, and the water was calm and clear again. Thought ripples! It seemed like the surface of the river reflected my mind and brought me back into calm and stillness as it regained those very qualities. Immersed in nature and sensory impressions, the calming solitude was a channel I really needed to tune in to. When a thought crept in about current events, practical matters, challenging relationships, etc., they were more noticeable and less compelling because I was connected with something so much larger. 

My peach nectar tea was still hot and more delicious than usual.

Then I paddled back to shore and began the day.

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2017. 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 ( 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! 🙂

Blueprints and Dragonflies

Blueprints and Dragonflies

I’m a little more than halfway through the book, Testimony of Light by Helen Greaves, which was recommended to me recently as an excellent text in the “near-death” genre. It is an authenticated account from the 1960s of two nuns who communicated telepathically while they were alive and continued to do so after one of them passed on. It resonates with the other books I’ve read in the genre, and I have been working my way through it by reading small chunks and allowing the ideas to settle in my mind when I’m kayaking or sleeping.

Sometimes I’m out on the water immersed in thought or some kind of pursuit (which often involves an elusive heron). Then I catch myself and am amused by the attempts of my little mind to make sense of the Big Picture – for I sense that the truth of our existence is beyond human comprehension. Our sensory organs and conditioned minds can only handle so much Light.

Today I set out looking for herons but fell in love with a small turtle basking in the sun. Then I returned to my pursuit of herons but dropped that agenda after a short time when I realized the “heron paparazzi” state of mind prevented me from entering stillness. Sometimes it’s grace that brings us back into presence (for instance, coming upon a turtle basking in the sun), and sometimes it’s awareness of mental activity (much like realizing within a dream that we are dreaming).


Then I rested in stillness, knowing there was nothing more important at that time than floating and filling with bliss. I wanted to stay there all day!

While floating, an idea from Testimony of Light entered my awareness regarding the existence of a Divine Blueprint for the work we set out to accomplish in our lifetime – and how it compares with the actual map of our human life when all is said and done. Every cell of my being seems to vibrate with a burning desire to attune to and follow my Divine Blueprint. I want to get down to business and do the work I intended to do. I’ve never felt it so strongly! Since returning from my recent retreat, the energy has been incredible! It’s blown open the door of my self-imposed prison and called, “Follow me!” And I am.

Still, I can’t help but wonder how far off course I’ve strayed by allowing myself to be driven by fear or a desire to please others. That method of traveling seems like taking a detour. Taking the long way home is not a failure. Nor is getting lost. There are times in life when we feel lost, especially when familiar markers are removed from the landscape of our journey. But what’s wonderful about realizing you’re lost is that you make an effort to dust off the map and find your way. Such times are opportunities to get back on course! Intuition is a useful navigational tool for realizing you’re lost and finding your way. It is my compass.

But perhaps in the grand scheme, the journey is more like a labyrinth with one winding path to the center. During times when we are driven by fear or other distractions, perhaps we just slow down and progress along the path in our own rhythm. Perhaps, despite periods of inertia, we’re never truly lost.

How interesting that when I entertained this thought, a dog came to the water’s edge and started barking at me. It reminded me of a story of a dog traveling to a particular town:

His journey was a very long one, taking two or three days as a rule, and yet he arrived before sunset of the same day. The dogs of that town were all surprised to see him so soon.

“Yes, it was a very long journey,” the dog said, “but I attribute my speed to the kindness and help of my fellow dogs. Since I left home, whenever I felt tired and tried to stop a moment to rest, four or five would run up and bark at me and want to bite me. So I had to run on without staying to rest in that place, or to search for food. And so it went on at every place I came to, until in the end I have arrived here at my destination.”

Citation: Khan, Hazrat Inayat (1991). Tales. New Lebanon, NY: Omega Publications.

As far as others are concerned, I can’t even begin to judge another human being’s path through life! It’s hard enough to discern and navigate my own!

There were so many dragonflies darting around on glistening, iridescent wings as I contemplated Divine Blueprints. So much life energy all around!

At one point, I experienced a moment of clarity from which a question – no, perhaps it was more like a prayer – bloomed like a lotus in my heart. And in that instant, a dragonfly landed on my arm for the first time all day. We remained completely still for quite some time regarding each other (or so it seemed), and I felt myself being drawn into dragonfly energy, as if it were the answer to my prayer, pollinating the lotus in my heart.

Then I felt it was time to paddle back home and engage with my to-do list. I focused on the sounds around me – a form of mindfulness meditation – and followed the sound back home.

But this wonderful energy remains, and I follow my intuition from one “yes” to another. It is an amazing feeling – this movement that has broken the spell of inertia.

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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 ( with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Swamp Bliss

Swamp Bliss

Today was the first official day of summer vacation, which is possibly the best day of the whole year! Nothing compares to completing the school year and having a sprawling summer ahead. Last night, I watched the extraordinary firefly show in our back yard and asked myself, “What should I be doing right now?” The answer? Watching the fireflies! What a great feeling.

After a year of tremendous gravity, my mission for the summer is to lighten up in every way possible – and to feel good every step of the way. I want to let go of anything that does not serve me. The time is right, and I am motivated!

After taking a walk with my husband this morning, I was torn between photographing roses at the Yaddo gardens and photographing water lilies in the swamp located within a wildlife sanctuary next to the river.

It’s been a while since I’ve photographed water lilies – mostly because of the boat traffic from the PCB dredging taking place on the river for the past two years. It’s difficult to achieve clear, sharp images if there’s any movement on the water.

Last weekend, my husband and I passed by the swamp on our usual walking route, and I noticed it was filled with water lilies in bloom. Later that day, I tried to do my “work” work but realized I wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything until I explored the swamp for the first time ever. Going into the swamp had never occurred to me until then!

My ex-husband used to talk about how much he loved swamps when he was younger, and I never understood why. But now I get it! There is so much going on in a swamp! Water lilies, dragonflies, and great blue herons, to name a few! I took the following shot from a considerable distance and had no idea that a dragonfly had touched down on the water lily I was photographing until I got back home and zoomed in!

It seems I find something new to fall in love with in nature every day of the year, but water lilies (and waterfalls) are right at the top of the list. Needless to say, the water lilies won my heart today, so I made my second, more leisurely, trip to the swamp. Oh, it was so peaceful! Here are some of my favorite images (minus the soothing sounds that accompanied them). Take a moment to sit with these images and feel the peace!

When I pulled my kayak out of the swamp, an older man was waiting to greet me. He worked for the Nature Conservancy and was just about to have lunch en route to an osprey nest. He asked if I had seen any herons, and I was excited to report that I did. He told me about other wildlife that lives in the wetland, including otters, muskrats, beavers, mink, and more. He was a wealth of information and cautioned me never to pick up a dragonfly nymph because their mandibles are very strong, and their bites hurt! I was so glad to run into him and to learn more about the wetland ecosystem – and to know that my presence in the swamp was encouraged!

When I set out this morning, my intention was to have it be my final time visiting the swamp. But those water lilies are irresistible. And there are otters…


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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 ( with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Dragonflies in December

Dragonflies in December

Lately, I have been reflecting on some of the images I captured on the river over the summer and remembering my plant and wildlife friends – especially water lilies and dragonflies, which I spent countless hours observing with awe and wonder.

Recently, tragedy struck the family of a child in my life, and in my search for stories to help grieving children, I came across a gem of a booklet called Water Bugs and Dragonflies by Doris Strickland. I requested it through the library and was delighted to finally get my hands on it. The gist of the story is that a colony of water bugs wondered why every now and then one of their own would climb up a lily stalk and disappear, never to be seen again. They got together and came up with a plan: The next one who went up the lily stalk would come back and let the others know what happened. In time, another water bug found himself climbing up a lily stalk and turning into a dragonfly. After zipping about for a while, he landed on a lily pad and noticed his old water bug friends at the bottom of the pond. He wanted to go down to tell them what had happened to him, but since he was now a dragonfly, he wasn’t able to go below the surface of the water. And if they were to see him looking down at them, they wouldn’t recognize him in his new form. So he decided that he’d have to wait until his friends climbed up the lily stalk in their own time, and then they would understand for themselves.

I absolutely love the way the dragonfly life cycle can be used to explain death to children. I remember attending a hospice memorial service one December during my internship and hearing what must have been this very story – but I thought it was about caterpillars and butterflies. It was a powerful story that I loved immediately, although I must have misremembered the details over time.

After reading the little booklet, I recalled one afternoon this past summer when I paddled to the lily pads and arrived just in time to witness a newborn dragonfly fall out of its exoskeleton (which was still clinging to a reed) and onto a lily pad. It was pale and colorless and looked completely disoriented. It just lay there still, and I wondered if it would be okay, hoping the fall wasn’t too much for this tiny creature. (The little booklet mentioned such a fall, so it must be a normal part of the transition.)

I felt honored to have witnessed the dragonfly emerging from its nymph state; it felt like a Very Important event to observe despite it being a common occurrence in the natural world.

After seeing the newborn dragonfly resting on the lily pad, I noticed numerous shells, or exuviae, of dragonfly nymphs clinging to reeds and water lily stalks all around me. They were completely motionless and looked like they were sleeping or just resting there. All this time, I had mistaken them for living creatures.

Dragonfly (top) and two clinging exuviae (middle and bottom)

As I read about the dragonfly life cycle, I learned that the exuviae would continue to cling to the stalks. However, they were simply empty shells, ghosts of former selves. Something about this image felt profound to me, and I became fixated on photographing them.

I didn’t understand the power of this image until reading Water Bugs and Dragonflies with the child mentioned above in mind. I realized the exuviae piece could further explain to a child that the body of his/her deceased loved one is merely a shell, not to be confused with the living presence s/he had known and loved.

Although I did not feel it was my place to discuss the dragonfly allegory with the child in question, I passed the information along to someone who is in a better position to do so. The adults with whom I have shared this story since reading it myself were very touched by it, which is why I feel compelled to share it with you. My hope is that it will bring comfort to someone who is in need of it.

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© Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all photos, without express and written permission from this blog’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 ( with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

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