Contemplative Photography & Reflections

Tag: Self-Care

What She Wanted

What She Wanted

When my mom was alive, before any holiday or birthday she would ask me what I wanted. I almost always answered that I don’t need or want anything. My mom liked material things, and I tended to rebel against that and distinguished myself from her through my response to that question.

But it was true: I wasn’t interested in things or clothes. Never went on vacation. Didn’t watch TV. I bought the wedding dress for my first wedding off the rack at Macy’s for $70 only a week before the big day, and I just wore my favorite outfit for my second wedding. I was content where I was, with what I had. My maternal grandmother would comment that she and I were very much alike because we didn’t need fancy things. Give us the wind in the trees, and we could be content. In fact, the last time I visited my grandmother at her home before she fell and went into a nursing home for the last couple months of her life, we sat on her front steps appreciating the sight and sound of the wind in the late summer trees. I loved that, at the end of her life, she found contentment in something so simple and ordinary and that I could join her in that space.

It seemed my mom always wanted more. She loved going to the mall, even if only to look (which I totally didn’t understand because the only time you could get me into a mall was if I had a specific, unavoidable purpose). She grew up poor and was determined not to live that way as an adult. She started working right after graduating from high school and, with the exception of taking some years off to raise children, kept working until a few years before she passed away – at which point she retired from what many would consider a rather glamorous job at a performing arts venue.

She was so generous every Christmas and experienced obvious joy in giving gifts to everyone. Anytime she’d give me money for my birthday, Mother’s Day, or just because, she would tell me to make sure to get something for myself and not spend it on household bills or anyone else. She wanted me to treat myself. Occasionally I would, and more often I would intend to, but inevitably somebody would need something, and I would pass on getting something for myself because the gift was needed elsewhere.

A year or two after my mom died, I was downtown and walked past a shop that had something in the window that captured my attention. Normally, that doesn’t happen because I couldn’t be less interested in shopping. (Retail therapy is not in my self-help repertoire!) I can’t remember what the object was, but when it caught my eye, I felt sad that my mom wasn’t around to ask what I’d like for Christmas…because she was the only one who ever asked, and this time I would have had an answer. And it would have made her so happy that I had an answer!

I spent two full months this year decluttering my home completely. After getting rid of all the stuff I didn’t love or use, I focused on making my home a sanctuary aligned with my authentic Self. I looked around the house and received clear insights about what could make it feel more like I wanted it to. I had received some insurance money after my dad passed away in October and bought some things to elevate the energy of our small, 1840s rental home: a couple Japanese shoji room dividers to create closet spaces where none existed, several plants, a standing desk converter, a digital photo frame loaded with hundreds of my images – things like that. I also finally did something I had wanted to do for many years, which was to wrap some silk vines around the railings on the stairs and weave fairy lights through them. So magical! Now, everywhere I look in my house, my eyes rest on spaces and objects that are beautiful, useful, and/or intentional and that bring me joy. Everything else is gone! It’s an amazing feeling.

However, as I mentioned in my last post, there was one final thing that needed to be upgraded: my bed. The bed I had been sleeping in was tiny and uncomfortable, and when we moved everything out of my parents’ house, I claimed the bed from their guest room, which seemed like an improvement. But it, too, was small and didn’t feel quite right, and eventually I discovered it was more than 20 years old, which was at least twice as old as the bed I previously had been sleeping on. A few weeks ago, I was lying on my bed looking at my vision board hanging on the wall and was drawn to a picture of a large, comfy bed. That’s when I convinced myself to let go of the hand-me-down beds and buy a new one. And with that purchase, my home improvements felt complete.

This morning (Mother’s Day), I got out of bed and created a Mother’s Day altar, which I’d never done before. I clipped some lilacs from a tree in the yard and put them in a vase my mom used for lilacs she clipped from our yard when I was a child. I also placed on the altar her funeral candle and a Mother’s Day card I’d just made, along with a crystal heart and a small turtle with the words “Live with joy” on its back.

Living with joy is my Mother’s Day gift to my mom, wherever she is. Isn’t joy what mothers ultimately want for their children? It’s what I want for mine.

Two years ago, grief felt enormous, as if it penetrated all the way down into my bones. I can’t remember ever feeling sadder than I was during May two years ago when my first Mother’s Day without my mom and the anniversary of her passing were complicated by additional losses. But time really does heal. And having the energy to finally take charge of my home and make it beautiful, uplifting, and joyful was both a big deal and a milestone. It felt like stepping out of the dark forest I had been wandering in since my mom passed away.

I have to believe she would be happy for me because the journey I have been on since February is one of learning to love and value myself and ramp up the joy by creating a sanctuary to support my vision of my best self and who I want to be moving forward. In other words, it’s a process of reclaiming my life. I have created a joyful, uplifting infrastructure from which to create my future. That infrastructure includes details such as:

  • an elegant, crystal pitcher of local spring water on a small table in my bedroom (found when clearing out my parents’ home)
  • red, silk roses in a vase next to my bed
  • a bed tray for having tea and reading a nourishing book before falling asleep
  • an aromatherapy diffuser for creating a lavender-scented bedroom to facilitate sleep
  • a comfy pillow that wraps around my entire body

And that’s just the bedroom! At night, I look forward to “lavender and rose” time with lavender aromatherapy and rose tea while reading or listening to something nourishing so my last impressions of the day are positive and empowering. That’s important because they are what my unconscious mind will marinate in for the next eight hours!

None of these items would have crossed my mind back when my mom asked me for gift ideas. I didn’t think of them until I cleared my home of clutter and reflected on what would make me feel comfortable, joyful, and loved – which is exactly how she wanted me to feel and was the intention behind her gift question. As I decluttered the objects and spaces in my home, a powerful, parallel process took place inside my head that rippled into other areas of my life. The work I have done in my home this year is an act of tender, loving self-care that grows from my mother’s love, for which I have immense gratitude.

The special touches in my home feel like what you would put in place if you were expecting an honored, beloved guest. Throughout the course of decluttering and uplifting my living space, I have become my own honored guest and best friend, which is no small thing coming from someone who used to have a strong inner critic. What parent wouldn’t want that for his or her child?

So, Happy Mother’s Day to my angel mom! My light is bright again, and I think it’s the best gift I can give you because it’s what you always wanted for me.


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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, 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 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!  🙂

Getting Unstuck: The Magical Morning Power Hour

Getting Unstuck: The Magical Morning Power Hour

This year, I’m using a unique and engaging day planner. It’s colorful and spirited, and what I love most about it is that there’s room at the beginning of each month to set intentions and goals and to list the kinds of practical resources and support you’ll need to make them happen. At the end of the month, there are pages to reflect on:

  • What dreams and goals came true?
  • What sucked? What do you need to rant about to feel better?
  • What lessons did you learn?
  • Who/what are you grateful for?

I look forward to filling out the reflection pages at the end of each month because I know that, no matter what transpired over the course of the month, it’s an opportunity to: get a better understanding of where my energy went, forgive myself, and start fresh with setting intentions for the upcoming month.

At the beginning of the year, I used a companion workbook to brainstorm goals and create a list of “100 Things to Do in 2016“, which I use to set monthly goals in my planner. As the year progressed, new goals replaced some of the goals that were originally on my list, so I’ve been keeping it fresh and staying fairly focused and on track.

Until – BOOM! – August hit.

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August and September left me feeling derailed. Off track. Distracted. Frazzled. My dad needed sudden, major surgery and hospitalization followed by a second surgery, hospitalization, and rehab, which required me to significantly alter my schedule and redirect where I put my energy. In the middle of all that, I got my son off to film school (which made me an official empty nester) and prepared for having my first vendor booth at a festival in September, selling my photography (prints, handmade stone tile coasters, and greeting cards) and handmade star lanterns – which was a heck of a lot of work the first time around! It’s also senior portrait season, so I’ve been focusing on drumming up some portrait work. And I began the process of applying for an artist grant to publish my first book and both started a part-time job and returned to subbing at a private school to stay afloat while building my own business…after feeling I haven’t made much progress in that department over the past two months despite my best intentions.

Please don’t get me wrong: I am not someone who glorifies being busy. It’s just that, for whatever reasons, I’ve had a little extra on my plate lately. The bottom line is that sleep, exercise, meal prep, meditation, and writing – the activities that keep me sane and balanced – fell largely by the wayside, and I got thrown out of whack from trying to fit in so much. I became overtired and felt I had gotten quite off course and wasn’t making satisfactory progress toward my goals.

Then I realized that I am not alone. (Are we ever?) In September, “getting unstuck” (stopping a downward cycle, getting out of a funk, etc.) was a common theme amongst virtually every blogger and spiritual teacher I follow. Some of their advice included:

  • Acknowledge where you are
  • Don’t blame yourself
  • Cultivate gratitude for what you DO have and for being motivated to have/do more
  • Declutter your house, schedule, and mind to make space for what you want to attract
  • Take a step out of your comfort zone, and do something you’ve wanted to do, however small
  • Make a small commitment to refocus every day
  • Cut yourself off from negativity by replacing negative thoughts and stories with more positive, productive ones

With the exception of decluttering (which is a work in progress), I’ve done all of the above, and to gear up for a strong final quarter of 2016, I also gave my workbook and planner a fabulous makeover by covering them with my own art work.

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In addition, I’ve been experimenting with a practice that works wonders for me: Starting the day with what I call a MAGICAL MORNING POWER HOUR!

Actually, it was my new moon intention last month, but throughout the course of the month, I became sidetracked by events both within and beyond my control, so I’m recommitting to my Magical Morning Power Hour once again during this new lunar cycle because it makes such a positive difference in the quality of my day – so much that I realize the importance of putting a NO TRESPASSING sign around that time, so to speak. It is sacred time not to be intruded upon by anyone or anything else. It’s my way of staying focused, true to myself, and on track.

My Magical Morning Power Hour is something I look forward to each morning, and it inspires me to get to sleep early enough so I won’t end up sleeping through it. It is time for me. And despite what we have been socialized to believe by a culture that glorifies being busy, taking time for yourself is neither selfish nor lazy because when your energy is in a good place, you’re able to be more fully and effectively present to others. As an introvert, I consider it an absolute necessity for healthy functioning. But introvert or not, when you take time to tune in and nourish yourself, you set a positive ripple of energy into motion.

Some people discipline themselves to do a certain practice every day, but you don’t have to. Having a consistent, daily practice is like photographing the sunrise from the same location every morning. You get to know a place intimately and experience it differently than if you keep moving around. You notice the nuances that can only be perceived when you know a place (which could be a physical location or your own, inner space) so well. But there’s also value in letting intuition guide you toward what you need on a particular day. You can check in with your energy, and consider whether you feel drawn to movement or stillness. Or perhaps you could commit to a regular practice (one small thing) and supplement it with what feels right on a given day.

Although I like the sound of Magical Morning Power HOUR, you need not set aside a full hour! Some mornings, looking at my vision board before getting out of bed and drinking warm lemon water from a very special teacup is all I have time for and is enough to reinforce my intention to nourish and honor my deeper self, set a positive and mindful tone for the day, and refocus my energy. Other mornings, I am able to stretch it out to more than an hour. Many mornings, I’m motivated to do more activities than I realistically can fit in, and I have to reign myself back in and remember it’s not necessary to do so much. It’s like being tempted to fill your plate too many times at a buffet of delicious, nutritious food. More is not necessarily better! Better to savor and taste fully what you are eating rather than rush to consume more. Quality over quantity. What I can fit into the allotted time is enough. It’s really about mindfulness and intention and not just jumping into the day on autopilot.

To give you some ideas, here are some of the activities I include during my Magical Morning Power Hour:

  • Body scan meditation while still lying in bed
  • Sip warm lemon water with cayenne
  • Tea meditation
  • Chakra tune-up (I use Jonathan Goldman’s Chakra Tuner app)
  • Mindfulness meditation (Insight Timer app is a great resource)
  • White light visualization
  • Yoga (I love Yoga with Adriene on YouTube)  
  • Walk in nature with mindfulness of beauty and possibly a camera
  • Watch the sun rise
  • Look at my vision board 
  • Read out loud the affirmations I wrote to accompany my vision board
  • Walk a labyrinth
  • Pull an oracle card (I use Universal Cards and Angel Tarot Cards)
  • Breath practice
  • “Filling the holes” practice (given to me by my spiritual guide)
  • Tapping/EFT (Brad Yates on YouTube)
  • Take my kayak on the river
  • Hand and/or foot massage
  • Listen to inspired, meditative music or spiritual content while preparing food
  • Watch an inspiring video
  • Read a poem (I love Mary Oliver) or few pages from an inspirational book
  • Spend a few moments with the current month’s edition of Sister Joan Chittister’s The Monastic Way pamphlet
  • Balance rocks

If you feel you’ve gotten off track or have fallen into a downward spiral, no worries: You CAN push the reset button! It’s never too late! It might be worthwhile to reflect on how you got sidetracked, but don’t indulge in negative self-talk or blame yourself for not doing better. That, my friend, is counterproductive – a waste of time and energy better spent putting your best foot forward in the direction you want to go. The beginning of a new month, season, or lunar cycle is a wonderful time to clear the slate and set fresh intentions. But really, ANY day is a day you can return home to yourself and accept the invitation to follow the pull from your core and live the life that feels like yours to live – beginning with how you set the tone for your day.

For me, life still feels a little too full for comfort, but as I work on decluttering, my Magical Morning Power Hour is not up for reconsideration. It is a keeper! It helps me to have greater clarity about everything else – what is truly important and what I can let go of. And on mornings when I wake up feeling anxious about (well, name a category!), it is where I source my strength, serenity, and sense of security. Like starting the day with a nourishing breakfast, it is how I power my body, mind, and spirit with high quality fuel at the beginning of each day.

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If you’re not doing so already, I invite you to follow me on Facebook and Instagram!

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!  🙂 

Floatation Restoration (Part Two)

Floatation Restoration (Part Two)

It’s been a while since I’ve written about floating in a float tank (after my first experience back in April). Seven months later, I have several floats under my belt and derive so many benefits from floating that I want to write about it again! (Before proceeding, you might want to click HERE to read my previous article so you know what I’m talking about in the first place.)

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Assuming you now know what a float tank is, I won’t go into any greater detail than to say it’s a sensory deprivation tank that is filled with about ten inches of heavily salted water that makes you completely buoyant without having to do anything whatsoever to stay afloat. There’s a dim light inside the tank that you can leave on if you want to, but I don’t see any point in doing so because I always float with my eyes closed – and you wouldn’t want a drop of very salty water to fall into your eyes if any condensation accumulates on the ceiling.  You step inside the tank, close the door (or keep it slightly propped with a towel if it helps you feel more comfortable), turn off the light (if you want to), and float effortlessly on your back. And then your journey in dark and silent nothingness begins!

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Though people’s float tank experiences differ, there are some themes that have been quite consistent for me before, during, and after floating. Oftentimes before floating, I feel flustered because there’s so much I feel I need to do. There’s just not enough time for everything I want and “need” to do, and I feel a great deal of pressure to accomplish it all. It feels so important.

But inside the float tank, the sense of urgency and pressure melts away and doesn’t matter. There’s nothing so critical that I should allow it to disturb my repose, and I’m able to let go of any anxiety and urgency around my to-do list. Floating in a sensory deprivation tank puts everything into perspective, and my attitude softens into: Just do what you can do! It’s not the end of the world if I don’t get everything done that I think I need to do today.  I’m able to see the small stuff for what it is, and much unnecessary activity falls away. Then I emerge feeling ever so calm and aware of what I really do need to prioritize (i.e. purging my living space!). It’s like pushing a supreme reset button in there. You come out with a clearer sense of what’s important, liberated from what was weighing on you when you went in. You emerge completely reset. Or at least that’s my experience!

Inside the float tank, I find that no thoughts are compelling. I’m simply not interested in thought! I feel like a cell with an impermeable membrane that nothing of this world can penetrate. Thoughts don’t carry any kind of emotional charge when I’m in there. They arise. But they’re not interesting. And they go away. It’s incredibly refreshing! It’s like blowing soap bubbles. They float in the air for a few seconds and then gently pop, and – poof! – there’s no more bubble. It simply disappeared.

Instead of fixating on thought, I focus on the sensation of relaxation and effortless suspension, without anything solid underneath me (which is something you really don’t experience any other time).

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Out of the tank, I try to practice 25 minutes of mindfulness meditation every day. For the first five minutes, I focus on my breath. The next five minutes, I expand my focus to physical sensations. Then listening. Then thoughts. Then all of the above. Being in the float tank for 90 minutes is very much like an hour and a half of mindfulness meditation. Inside the tank, there is no sound except for my deep, steady breathing (which is quite audible), so mindful breathing and listening are completely intertwined. That’s what I focus on the whole time (because with my ears immersed in the water, my breathing is quite loud), along with the sensation of complete relaxation. And I get deeply relaxed in there. I am talking about serious theta brainwaves!

It’s incredible to have no interest whatsoever in thinking! I keep returning to the sound of my breath – which is very slow, rhythmic, and calming – and to the sheer sensation of complete relaxation and suspension. Floating is the only time I experience that, and it’s what I want to focus on in the tank. It really is incredible. I feel the energy in my inner body. I’m not aware of my physical boundaries. I feel so light, and nothing physical matters or even registers. (There’s no gravity, temperature, or sensory input to process. Can you imagine that?) Everything, from the top of my head to the tip of my toes, is completely relaxed. Immersing myself in that sensation of extreme and complete relaxation is really all I want to notice or attend to in there. It’s all that seems to matter. Sheer presence devoid of sensory input.

My experiences in the float tank pose the question: Who am I removed from everything else? Who I am is energy and peace.

Here’s an example of the difference between my post-float and ordinary consciousness: After floating, I turn my phone back on and see that there are text messages and notifications from social media. But there’s barely even a hint of curiosity or interest around that. I’m not looking for communications or information to enhance my life in any way or to add anything to my reality because I am absolutely complete right now. I don’t need anything at all – from anybody. There’s really no need to check my phone in the first place. Nothing can contribute to my experience right now. It’s awesome to feel absolutely complete, fulfilled, and tranquil.

I really appreciate the sensory deprived environment because I am quite sensitive to sensory overload in general. I don’t have a TV and find it extremely jarring when the television is on when I’m away from home. The same is true when I go to a mainstream movie theater and have to sit through pre-show entertainment and trailers. It’s too loud and over the top! I also experience sensory overload in shopping malls and at crowded places and events. And forget bars! I can’t handle anything about that environment and have avoided them my entire life! Even when I taught kindergarten and spent the day steeped in the energy of a classroom of active, young children, I needed to lock my door, turn off the lights, and decompress/meditate next to my soothing water fountain when they were out of the room, to recharge my batteries for the rest of the day.  For me, the quieter and simpler the environment, the more at ease I feel. So I am totally in my element in a float tank.

From my experience, it seems the state of mind you bring into that float tank shapes your experience. There was only one time when I didn’t have a pleasant float. It was in late May heading into the weekend of the anniversary of my mom’s death. I was in a great deal of emotional pain at that time, fraught with raw grief, and the sensory deprived environment just made me more aware of the illusion of separation between me and everything else. It was the exact opposite of what I’ve experienced every other time I floated and was only because I was in such a fragile state of mind at the time. In the tank, I experienced the urge to be connected to the living world and couldn’t handle being alone. I turned on the light at one point just to feel anchored to something instead of surrendering to the usually deep and fulfilling nothingness of the tank environment.

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But that experience provided me with some insight about what it must be like to die – which was totally relevant to the anniversary of my mom’s death and re-experiencing the days and hours leading up to it. I remember thinking that when you die, you want to be in a place of resolution. You don’t want to have unfinished business or deep, dark secrets festering inside because something like that could make it really hard to let go. I recall when my grandfather was dying and kept repeating an agitated cycle in which he looked up at the ceiling, exclaimed his (still living) sister’s name, and stated with urgency, “I’ve got to get out of here!” It seemed there was something important he needed to tell his sister before he could give in to the process and die a peaceful death. I advised my mom and uncle to contact her and see if she could talk with him on the phone. They were unable to reach her, told him so, and asked if they could convey a message for him. After hearing that, he fell silent. The cycle stopped, and he died a couple of hours later. I always wondered what was so important that caused him to fixate on her during the final hours of his life. Was their last interaction discordant? Did he need her forgiveness? Did he have information he needed to share with her? Was he worried about her? He took that mystery with him to the grave, but one thing was certain: Something related to her was getting in the way of him being at peace.

My takeaway is that when everything is stripped away from us – and death is a process of stripping away everything we think we are and believe we need until we’re left with just our core essence – where you are mentally, emotionally, and spiritually is what matters. I imagine it can be terrifying if you’re not in a place of acceptance. You don’t want to get to the end when you’re leaving this life and think that you’re not a “good” person or didn’t live a “good” life, or worry about loved ones. You want to go out with a sense of integrity, reconciliation, and peace. When that stripping away happens, you cannot hide from yourself. Your world becomes progressively smaller, and you enter a cocooning process that seems similar to being in a float tank. There are so many distractions in this world that allow you to hide. But there are no distractions in the float tank. My May float signaled that my emotional “pain body” was so strong that I couldn’t let go and access deeper layers of consciousness that day.

Having no distractions and connecting with deeper layers of consciousness is something I absolutely love about the float tank. Removed from sensory input, the daily stress and all the other dust that has accumulated at the surface dissolves, allowing me to go deeper, like an astronaut floating in the vast universe of inner space. It is an experience of incredible lightness, even in complete darkness. Even when I float on cloudy days, after leaving the float spa, I feel like I’m shining like a sun – because it seems light is what I am at my core when all else is removed. It’s what I find in the deep nothingness.

In the tank, there’s just me, the steady rhythm of my breath, the incredible sensation of relaxation and suspension, and freedom from thought, emotions, and any sense of urgency. It is tremendously therapeutic, relaxing, and simply awesome.

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.

Flotation Restoration

Flotation Restoration

Today I did something I’ve never done before. I spent 90 minutes inside a float tank (or sensory deprivation tank) in complete darkness and silence, floating ever so peacefully at a local massage center. It was a deeply relaxing, amazing experience.

I first heard about sensory deprivation tanks many years ago – I think in reference to Michael Jackson. They’ve been around for about 60 years. Though the idea sounded intriguing, I didn’t give it much thought until I came across a brochure for the Saratoga Springs Float Spa when I was in town last week – and called to make an appointment as soon as I got home! I’ve been experiencing a lot of anxiety lately and wanted to try something new to relieve the stress.

The float tank was located in a tranquil, dimly lit room with a harmonious, feng shui decor that matched the rest of the massage center and the warm and welcoming energy of owner, Tyler Fedigan. It felt like a very protective and nurturing space. Next to the tank was a shower, and I was instructed to shower before and after using the tank.

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The  tank contains about ten inches of salt water (five times denser than the ocean) that is kept at body temperature. There was a dim light on inside when I entered the tank (which felt like entering a cave), and when I pushed the button to turn off the light, I was in complete darkness. When I lay back in the water, my ears were submerged, and the only sound I heard was my breath. It was actually quite loud, almost like a respirator. (I was wearing earplugs to avoid swimmer’s ear.) But aside from that, there were no other sounds whatsoever.

I felt safe inside the tank, and it didn’t take long at all to become completely relaxed. The buoyant salt water supported me completely. I floated effortlessly and allowed every muscle in my body to relax. Since the water was at body temperature (“skin-receptor neutral”), it was nearly impossible to discern my physical boundaries. I felt at-one with my environment and was surprised when gentle music began playing under water to signal the end of the 90-minute session because it didn’t seem as though that much time had passed.

I tried to do a form of mindfulness meditation in the float tank. However, aside from the sound of my breath, there weren’t any anchors for my attention! Usually when I meditate on my breath, I fix my attention on either the air entering and leaving my nostrils, the elevator-like movement of my diaphragm, or my belly rising and falling with each in-breath and out-breath. However, since I wasn’t aware of my physical boundaries in the tank, I couldn’t focus on the latter two sensations. I could barely feel my body at all! The only time I became aware of my physical boundaries was when I made a slight movement. When I moved, the water felt a bit cool against my skin but immediately warmed up, and I once again lost all sense of physical boundaries, weight, and mass. I just felt weightless and light.

Although people’s experiences in the float tank differ, for me, thoughts did not take hold. Any thoughts that started didn’t get very far. They had a very short lifespan. It seemed that, due to the complete absence of external stimuli, there was nothing to sustain them. Any thoughts that arose had absolutely no emotional charge. It seemed that no negatively charged thought could exist in the absence of gravity, light, and sound. All was well. Complete peace.

It was a very womb-like experience. Coming out of the tank at the end of the session felt like being born. I emerged covered with extremely salty water, which made me think of a baby being born covered with vernix.

It was interesting to hear people’s reactions when I told them about it – from “There is no way in heck I would get in that thing!” to “I’ve heard of those and always thought it would be awesome to try,” to “Do you think I’d like it?”

My time in the float tank served as a profoundly peaceful experience that I can recall when I’m feeling anxious. I can return there in my mind to facilitate relaxation, just as I visualize floating in my kayak or sitting by my favorite waterfall. I remained extremely relaxed and peaceful for the rest of the day – physically, mentally, and emotionally. I’ve read that this afterglow usually lasts for days and sometimes up to a month!

Before leaving, I signed up for additional sessions. Between the heavy workload of the final two months of the school year, the first anniversary of my mom’s death coming up Memorial Day weekend, and other personal matters that have been weighing on me, I think some gravity-defying, deep relaxation in the float tank will be greatly therapeutic! I’m so glad to have discovered this form of relaxation!

© 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.

Honor Thyself

Honor Thyself

It has been a snowy week in my neck of the woods! We had our first school snow day yesterday, followed by a two-hour delay today. I think it’s accurate to say that teachers are even more excited by snow days than students, for they are free days off that don’t require writing out detailed sub plans.

And the timing couldn’t have been more perfect because I am swamped with work and obligations this week and next. I honestly had no idea how I could accomplish everything without completely depriving myself of much needed sleep.

Needless to say, I was grateful for the gift of time. I began the day by writing poetry and playing piano because that’s what was knocking on my door. How wonderful to be able to invite them in! Eventually, I got around to tackling my to-do list. For a while in the evening, I became distracted by the beauty of the glistening snow blanket that covered the yard and trees with peaceful silence. I couldn’t resist the temptation to experience it with my camera, tripod, and all my senses.  I ended up staying up too late and still hadn’t gotten to everything – but I looked forward to the morning light that surely would reveal an amazing, grayscale winter wonderland.

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When I got the “delay call” around 5:30 this morning, my first inclination was to go back to sleep. However, I needed to finish some paperwork, and once I got started on that, I was up for the day. I did yoga and intended to make time for meditation and/or exercise – and hopefully a little landscape photography, too.

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There were so many other voices and responsibilities clamoring for my attention, and there were moments when I feared I would give up what I knew I needed to do for myself in order to satisfy them. Even if I could just make a little time for one of the self-care activities, it would be better than nothing, right? But how easy it is to chalk it up to a busy time and attend to other matters – and skip the exercise, again.

Then it occurred to me that snowshoeing fulfilled my need for exercise, meditation, and photography, all at the same time. If I could discipline myself to spend even just 20 minutes snowshoeing, it would be a wonderful way to start the day. I would arrive at work energized and wouldn’t have any of those things hanging over my head throughout the day.

And (yay for me!) I resisted the temptation to divert my time and attention and went snowshoeing for about 35 minutes on my way to work. It was fabulous.

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As my snowshoes crunched through the heavy snow, a voice arose from within me, pleased that I knew what to do to truly honor myself. There was nothing more important to do at that time. As I continued to walk – pausing every now and then to capture snowy images – I realized I’m much more of a people pleaser than I would like to admit. I thought I had worked through that a while ago, but apparently not. Or maybe it’s just different now. Instead of seeking approval and love, it’s more about wanting to take care of others and help them to feel better – beginning with loved ones and the room full of kindergartners with whom I spend most of my days. Another way to put it is that, as a Four (The Artist) on the Enneagram (with a very strong Five/The Thinker wing, fortunately), I tend to move into an unhealthy Two (The Helper) when under stress and have trouble acknowledging my own needs and setting healthy boundaries. Awareness of that is a good place to begin.

The bottom line is that when I make a choice to put another person’s desires or well-being above my own needs, I betray myself. But the satisfaction of honoring my needs by going snowshoeing was so delicious! A solitary bliss. Kayaking season is long gone, and that particular sense of stillness had been lacking from my life. I think I need it like I need oxygen – for it’s when the monkey mind quiets, and the still voice within arises more audibly than ever. It is vital, essential.

As I crunched rhythmically through the snow, Mary Oliver’s poem, The Journey, came to mind, especially the ending:

But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.

It’s true: I am the only one who can save me – by practicing self-love and prioritizing taking care of myself. And then I can share my energy more effectively with others. If I take the time and space to honor my needs, I will not walk around like a beggar looking to others to fulfill those needs – which ultimately are my own responsibility.

It seems so simple – perhaps even too simple to bother writing about it. But when I was alone this morning in the silent, snow-covered landscape, it felt like the most important thing of all.

And it felt really good.

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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, 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.

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