Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas Spirit

This Christmas was very different from Christmases past. My husband was 2,100 miles away for ten days, and there were three weather events during that time. His flights got all messed up on his way home due to weather, and he ended up spending a sleepless night in Chicago's O'Hare airport. His flight took off without a hitch in the morning but then was unable to land due to weather and got rerouted to Connecticut. He had to take a bus back to Albany. He finally arrived home in the early evening and by morning had come down with the flu, which had him bedridden and moaning in agony for three days straight, including Christmas.

Amidst all that, my report cards were due before leaving for the holiday break. And my mom was diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer, which makes all the other grumps and groans seem so trivial.

Needless to say, I didn't have the time or energy to get into the Christmas spirit. There was too much going on. We didn't send out Christmas cards or put up a tree or even any lights. We didn't take a single Christmas decoration out of the box. I had intended to run errands and do a little shopping to finish the gifts I was making but never got around to it. Instead, I spent the few days before Christmas in quiet retreat at home. Although I didn't have much Christmas spirit, I abided deep in spirit.

While wrapping presents on Christmas Eve afternoon, it suddenly occurred to me that there was something I'd been meaning to do for a very long time. Despite feeling very far behind in getting ready for Christmas with family the next day, I knew that going to a Christmas Eve church service with my parents took precedence over all else. I used to enjoy the Christmas Eve service when I was a child and had been wanting to go with my parents for many years but never did for whatever reason.

The other stuff clamoring to be done was ultimately not all that important. Nothing having to do with stuff is ultimately important, especially if it gets in the way of spending precious time with loved ones...now...because we can.

So I went to church, and my sister came along, too. It had been about 30 years since either of us had been to church with our parents, and they were surprised, to say the least. During that service, I received the most wonderful gift of Christmas. At the end when we were all holding our lit candles and singing "Silent Night," my parents whispered something to each other then looked at my sister and me and smiled the most beautiful smiles. It was a moment of savoring that we are all here together in this perfect moment. It was beautiful. 


My parents commented afterward that it was just like old times when we were kids except that they didn't have to force us to go to church. I stayed up much later than I'd intended talking with them and am so glad I did. 

Christmas was quite an emotional day for my family, although my mom's spirit is strong, and we probably had the most meaningful Christmas together ever. I recorded video of her playing "Winter Wonderland" on piano. That is the one song she has memorized all these years - for as long as I can remember. She apologized for being a little rusty but explained it was because she really hadn't played piano at all since she took up guitar a couple years ago. Needless to say, making video recordings of her playing guitar is high up on my to-do list. 

A posed shot of my parents followed immediately by a candid

At one point, my dad said, "Be grateful for every day because it might be your last." Isn't it the truth? The only moment we are guaranteed is this moment. Of all of us, he is most acutely aware of this after suffering cardiac arrest back in February. That he survived is a gift. I remember that evening as we drove to the hospital not knowing if we would arrive to find him dead or alive. That I could talk briefly with him before he was transported to another hospital was a gift. I was grateful to at least have that. But we were given so much more. Time together is the greatest gift of all, especially when you realize how precious and limited it is. 


Health crises like this put everything else into perspective and reorder one's priorities. You realize immediately what is important and what is not - and where your attention needs to be. I am grateful for all of the teachers and experiences that have prepared me to face my mom's illness and the family dynamics related to it with greater consciousness, love, and selflessness than I might have otherwise. Furthermore - and although it may sound absurd to speak of blessings with regard to a cancer diagnosis - one thing for which I am grateful is the gift of time for love and healing. How often do we bump along the road of life thinking we have all the time in the world - and can put things off until later? And then something awakens us and gives us the opportunity to let go of everything that gets in the way of living and loving to the fullest right now. I think of September 11th, 2001 and wonder how many people had an epiphany right before jumping to their death. That we can awaken with any time at all to set things right is a tremendous spiritual blessing. Let's be grateful for each day and live as fully as possible one day at a time, focusing like a laser on what is most important: Love.




Healing prayers for my mom and our family are most appreciated.

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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, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and 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 Photography (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Bringing Light to the Dark Places

"Where there is darkness, let me bring light."  -Saint Francis of Assisi

I am writing in the pre-dawn darkness of the Winter Solstice, surrounded by the light of several star lanterns and the flicker of light shining through the window of the wood stove.


This is the shortest, darkest day of the year, and this year is darker than usual. It is drizzling outside, and the cloud blanket is thick. Looking eastward during early sunrise, I notice a very faint band of pink stretched across the gray-blue sky above the horizon that probably wouldn't register as sunrise unless you were looking for it. Despite the cloud cover, the sun is still there, ascending as it does every morning even though it is more difficult to see this particular morning.

This has been a challenging week for a number of reasons, and midway through it, when I felt like I was at the end of my rope, it occurred to me that this is literally the darkest week of the year.

Every ray of sunshine is precious at this time of year. Sunrises this week have held extra significance. When we ordered Chinese takeout Thursday evening, my fortune cookie message read, "You will always see light after darkness." How perfect.

Sunrise during solstice week


Today is finally Winter Solstice, the turning point at which the light begins to grow in the Northern Hemisphere and the days become longer again. It is the point at which we cease traveling further into darkness - for we have reached the darkest point - and turn around and take a first step closer to the light. This week, I have been contemplating how to bring light into the dark places, particularly given that three people close to me are navigating the greatest challenges of their lives. I look to the sun at the beginning of each day to draw strength and light and to give thanks for all of the sources of light and inspiration in my life. But I am also listening to the voices arising from the darkness and silence of this time of year - the voices that have been ignored and need to be heard, for they show me where healing is needed and assure me that, in the end, all of our challenges are gifts. The question is: What will we do with these dark gifts we are given? How will we shine light on our challenges and through the alchemy of love turn them into blessings, wisdom, art?

Last week, I came across a video that was like the light of a hundred suns during this dark season. It is a TEDx talk given by Anita Moorjani, a woman who was dying from end-stage lymphoma nearly eight years ago. Her organs were shutting down, and doctors told her family that she had only a few more hours left to live. In the video, she describes what happened to her that day and what she learned. She is still alive today and was cancer-free within five weeks of the day on which she was supposed to die. But that's not the part that spoke to me the most. The most amazing part is what she learned that day and how it has changed her life.



Email followers: Click HERE to watch video. Note: She begins by describing in detail her deteriorated physical condition until 2:40, when she begins talking about her near-death experience.

Anita Moorjani's message resonates deeply with me. I was moved to tears by her metaphor of an enormous, dark warehouse in which we flash our tiny beam of light and see only what our light falls on, and what we are looking for. Our understanding and perception of life are extremely limited. There is so much more beyond what our little flashlight reveals to us. We have no idea how powerful our mind is in terms of both limiting us and liberating us from the prison we (with some help from those close to us and society) have created for ourselves based on what we believe to be true about the universe - which is based on our very limited experience of it.

I have been feeling this so strongly lately. There is more. So much more. I want to align my intention with spirit and experiment with the laws of the universe. Many spiritual teachers whom I respect talk about this, and I know in my heart that what they are describing is true. I have had enough experiences myself that cannot be attributed to mere coincidence to know that there is so much more than ordinary consciousness leads us to believe. I have received so many "signs" - uncanny, unexplainable events - that I envision a small group of angels shaking their heads in somewhat amused exasperation, wondering why I still don't get it enough to risk stepping out of my comfort zone and dreaming outside of the box. (Don't get me wrong; it's not like I haven't done it before. I have experience with facing my fears, taking one step at a time in faith, and eventually experiencing the thrill and fulfillment of attaining my goal. But it's time to fashion new goals.)

Why is it so difficult to live according to those higher laws? What is holding me back? I see the image of a wall. A wall of fear. A wall built from my own limited understanding of the world. I know in every cell of my being that infinite possibilities exist on the other side of this wall. Why, then, do I confine myself to this small prison, thinking it's the best I can do? It makes no sense.

I want to break through the barrier of fear and allow love to pilot my life. I want to live a fearless, authentic life. I want to like I've never wanted to before!

And this is where the self-love that Anita Moorjani spoke of enters in. Not the narcissistic kind that bolsters the ego, but the kind of love that supports the fullest expression of the higher Self, which is interconnected with all life. Loving oneself enough to follow our innermost joy and experience the fullness of a fearless life - to find out what is on the other side of fear. Loving oneself enough to step outside of our personal prisons. This message is really taking root in my heart, and I've been reflecting on what self-love means to me. It might mean something different to you, but here are some ideas I have come up with:

Self-love is spending as much time as possible in an environment(s) that values and accepts the gifts you have to offer.

Self-love is surrounding yourself with people who make you laugh and feel good.

Self-love is limiting as much as possible the time you spend with people who bring you down or judge you based on criteria that is completely meaningless to you. 

Self-love is making time for activities and relationships that bring you joy.

Self-love is asking for help when you need it.

Self-love is getting enough rest, exercise, and good nutrition.

Self-love is caring enough not to consume the thing that is unhealthy for you.

Self-love is forgiving your weaknesses BUT not employing forgiveness as a means to excuse or continue to indulge them.

Self-love is being impeccably honest with yourself and taking responsibility (without blaming or beating yourself up) for your life and happiness.

Self-love is knowing where to let go with love and allow others to take responsibility for their own life and happiness.


At the core, I believe we are all made of love and light, and our mission is to manifest these qualities in this world of shadows and help our planet evolve.

In a Facebook post, Dr. Wayne Dyer wrote,

"A half-lived life, as Herman Melville describes it, is one in which we do not get to that inner place of peace and joy. Perhaps the most devastating scenario imaginable is to face death knowing that because of some imagined fear, you have always chosen a half-lived life in which you avoided doing the things your heart beckoned you to do. I urge you to change the scenario now. Start living your life with the courage to follow your heart." 

I hold these words in front of my little beam of light as I form an intention on this Solstice day and feel the truth of Anita Moorjani's words: "In the end, you will always find that your challenges are a gift."


It is now 12:11 p.m., the moment of solstice, as I hit the "publish" button. Happy Solstice!

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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, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and 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 Photography (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

15 Minutes Later

We have been bombarded with snow and blasted with cold for the past few days, and the whole landscape has changed. I measured 15 inches of powdery snow in our yard Sunday morning, and we got another 3 inches or so today.

This morning, the mist looked so ethereal rising from the frozen, snow-blanketed river. There were cotton candy pink and blazing tangerine clouds. I took the picture below about 15 minutes before leaving for work and was not able to wait for the sun to reveal itself above the treeline behind the bridge because it was too close to the time I needed to leave.


Fifteen minutes later, however - right after pulling out of the driveway - I was mesmerized by the most breathtaking sunrise I have ever experienced. It was the golden hour magic moment, and the golden sun illuminated clusters of snow-dusted trees in the most enchanting way. The rising mist swirled like white light in the midst of it all. It was perfect. And it barely lasted longer than the duration of my brief commute, for the rest of the day was overcast and snowy.

This was a morning when I wished more than anything that I didn't have a classroom full of five-year-olds needing me to arrive at a very specific time because this was the magic moment of the day, and I had to just keep driving through it despite having my camera in the car. It wasn't a matter of leaving too late because if I had left earlier, the moment wouldn't have happened yet; the sun rises too late at this time of year. Sometimes I wish I could be just a few minutes late every now and then and pull over and capture - or even just linger in - something so tremendously beautiful. At least I was able to witness it. But I would have preferred to be completely enveloped by it and on my knees in gratitude and awe.

I hope that sometime this winter all the conditions will come together at exactly the right time so I can experience this enchanting sight again on a morning when I am not in a hurry to get to work.

A friend commented that my desire to stop and more fully experience today's sunrise reminded her of Edwin Romond's "Excuse Poem" - a line about being "caught in a sunrise." I was not familiar with the poem but immediately embraced the idea. Eventually she sent the poem to me, but not before I had written a version of my own in which I did follow my heart's desire and stop the car. It expresses the importance of connecting with light during this darkest week of the year:

Please forgive me for being late.
I left on time but was caught
in the most astonishing sunrise
magic moment stoplight
and could not resist the invitation
to linger while large, orange sun
climbed trees on eastern shore
and illuminated snow-dusted forest,
while white mist danced above river
below powder blue sky:
winter Solstice week golden hour
breathtaking delight:
the Most Important Thing of All.
How could I possibly not
brake for love and drop to my knees,
face the illuminated world and pray
with utmost sincerity and awe:
Thank you for this new day 
and for the eyes to see it.
             © Susan Meyer 2013

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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, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and 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 Photography (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Curriculum of Love

At this time of year, it's fun to go back through all my photos from 2013 and notice what caught my eye throughout the year. Usually I spend a week or two fascinated by a certain subject in nature, and then the next thing comes along and seduces my heart, mind, and soul every bit as much.

At one point, I thought I could focus endlessly on spider webs. But they didn't last any longer than anything else. The natural world is like a parade. One subject takes its turn in the spotlight and then fades into the background or disappears, and the next thing takes its place.

Right now, it's frost.


Every morning, I am excited to get out of bed and discover frost paintings left on windows - especially car windows - and intricate ice patterns at the river's edge.


That might have to hold me over for a while...but you never know! There's always birds, sunrises, animal tracks in the snow, and who knows what else.

It just occurred to me that my photo library is a curriculum of love. I often share my photos with my kindergartners on our SMART Board and hope to awaken them to the wonder and beauty all around us. But then again, children are usually the ones who notice such things first. So perhaps they have been waking me up all these years.

When I am in love with a particular subject, I reflect on its essence and what it can teach me. What message does a bee, a great blue heron, a morning glory, a spider web, an illuminated fallen leaf, or any number of other subjects offer us humans? How do they speak to us? How are they models for us? How might they inspire us? As I look to the natural world as my teacher, I find myself at the crossroads of science and social studies - for the inner meaning and teachings of nature speak directly to social, emotional, and character development. Migrating birds teach us about moving on when it's time. Pollinators teach us about paying it forward. Geese teach about community and caring for our young. Flowers teach us about blooming where we are planted. Every morning the sun rises whether or not we can see it and offers us the gift of a brand new day. And so it goes, on and on. No one subject in the natural world is more important than the rest. Everything is diverse and interconnected and has its own time, place, shape, and purpose. And since each of us is unique, we might take away different messages and meanings from subjects in the natural world.

If I had a school of my own, this is what I would build early childhood curriculum around. Fostering and igniting a relationship between children and the natural world benefits both. There is such wisdom and guidance to be found in nature that can speak directly to a child's psyche. And there is so much rich literature to share with children on these subjects, as well. I believe that our planet and our children are in need of this kind of holistic education.

I would also focus on celebrations. What do the people of the world celebrate? What common values are at the core of national, regional, and cultural celebrations? How are we the same and different? Every December, my students and I follow a runaway gingerbread cookie around the world and learn about our earth (geography, climate, seasons, direction, the cycle of day and night, and more) and the ways in which people around the world celebrate light during this time of year. Through the connecting power of the Internet, I have met people from a variety of cultural backgrounds who enthusiastically share and help me to better understand their holiday celebrations and traditions. Sometimes they even share photos of local or family celebrations that I, in turn, share with my students for a very personal window into another culture. There is such richness in this kind of sharing and learning. I have a "Holidays Around the World" Pinterest board with videos of multicultural celebrations and share many of them with my students. I'm always looking for new ones that will work within the context of public education. Ideally, we would continue to learn about celebrations the entire year.

During our upcoming school vacation, I plan to go through my photo library and make some notes about what I gravitated toward each week of the year - pencil it into my personal curriculum map and consider how I might weave it into the fabric of the school year. It's an ongoing project that I've been working on for years. Even when the rigor of the school day doesn't allow for this kind of enrichment, it can be useful for teachers, parents, and caregivers to reflect on such themes (and their inner significance) from month-to-month, to nourish our own development and well-being.

After all, a very dear mentor - a teacher and parent himself - told me decades ago that we long to teach what we most need to learn.

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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, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and 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 Photography (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Little Perspective

Can you imagine a holiday season without any television commercials about gifts to consider giving your loved ones - or what Christmas (or life in general) supposedly looks like?

Welcome to my life.

It's been about 13 years since I've had television reception, by choice. And honestly, I don't miss it at all. At this time of year, I especially don't miss the commercials that try to convince us that we're somehow lacking or would be happier or more loved if only we (or a loved one) had this or looked like that. I, for one, am not buying it.

My husband and I don't even really give Christmas gifts to each other because neither of us is interested in stuff. I'm more interested in getting rid of stuff. And I truly think that not watching television contributes greatly to this mindset. Almost all the time, I am blissfully unaware of all the products and services I don't have. When I go to someone's house and the TV is on, I am blown away by how matter-of-fact the commercials are: "Of course you have this. Everybody does! But here are all the reasons why you need to upgrade to this." And there is also a very clear standard of how you are expected to look. Well, I didn't get that memo, either! I am so glad not to be bombarded by these messages on a regular basis - because I might start to believe them! They are quite powerful.

Bottom line is, my husband and I are pallid consumers. We have had experience living on very little and as a result know how little we actually need to live. Money was especially tight when I was working on my master's degree and completing my student teaching at the same time that my ex-husband's consulting firm went under, leaving him unable to pay child support. But we made it through. And we learned how to live creatively. Now I am in a better situation and am truly grateful for a steady paycheck and health insurance. However, knowing how to live on so little was a valuable life lesson, a gift.

I once read about someone who lost everything in a natural disaster and said that you never really understand how much "nothing" is until that's what you've got. In 1998, I witnessed this right before my very eyes after a tornado ripped through the central Florida town in which I lived. The tornado actually skimmed our subdivision, sending my children's Little Tikes outdoor equipment (a slide and a sit-inside car) flying through the air. We found them a couple lots away the next day.

People around us were not so fortunate. Right outside the walls of our small subdivision, it looked as though a bomb had exploded. Cars were lodged inside what was left of apartment buildings. Some houses and buildings were totally leveled. At least one queen-size mattress had come to rest right against the wall of our gated subdivision. So many people around us - within 1/16th of a mile in more than one direction - had mere seconds around midnight to prepare for a disaster that would literally uproot their lives. Clothing and rooftops were in trees, trees were inside houses, and personal items were strewn about for miles. In the light of a new day, people who had lost everything walked around smiling because they survived. They returned to the rubble in hopes of retrieving some family photos because that was what they valued the most, for the photos were truly irreplaceable. But in most cases, in the end all they were left with was memories and gratitude. Whenever I went into a gas station, post office, grocery store, etc., I would hear people expressing how grateful they were simply to have survived. It was surreal.

Our family lives more comfortably now than we did back in the lean years, but we still cannot afford to buy a home. However, having "owned" a brand new home in Florida, I realize that home ownership is not essential to happiness - so I'm not buying that myth, either. We rent a small, old house that we sometimes refer to as our "camp." It has just one teeny tiny bathroom and three unbelievably small closets, and all the rooms are very small. Sometimes I look around and feel sorry that we don't live in a "nicer" home, but that is usually just a passing thought because a little voice swiftly breaks up the pity party by reminding me that we have always had enough and that compared to so many people on this planet, ours is a life of luxury. We have hot, running water and more food than our smallish refrigerator can hold. We have a wood stove and oil to keep us warm through the winter. We have an amazing view of the sunrise over the river every morning. And of course, we have each other. We truly are blessed.



I read an interview Maria Shriver did with poet Mary Oliver in which Mary Oliver, discussing her calling to be a poet, explained:

"When I was very young and decided I wanted to try to write as well as I could, I made a great list of all the things I would never have...would not have, because I thought poets never made any money. A house, a good car, I couldn't go out and buy fancy clothes or go to good restaurants. I had the necessities."

When asked if she ever had second thoughts about her choice of occupation, she replied:

"I've always wanted to write poems and nothing else. There were times over the years when life was not easy, but if you're working a few hours a day and you've got a good book to read, and you can go outside to the beach and dig for clams, you're okay."

Mary Oliver followed her heart with regard to her vocation, as my husband has done with his music. He never compromised his true passion because he always valued expressing himself musically over having possessions. (His creative spirit and kind heart were what attracted me to him in the first place.) And whether or not you ultimately receive your big break as an artist, you are truly rich and richly blessed when you follow your deepest calling, regardless of the balance on your bank statement. (If, on the other hand, you place a higher value on possessions and comfort, perhaps the artist life is too great a risk to pursue full-time.)

During my weaker, more clouded moments when I sink into feelings of not measuring up to others in terms of our home or financial situation, I have a few books in the bookcase to put everything back into perspective:


...and a brand new acquisition:


Really, any books by Peter Menzel would do the trick, but I only own the two listed above. All of these books put our "first world" lifestyles into perspective by offering images (or - in the case of If the World Were a Village - data) of people around the world in their home environments. Many of the images are of people who have what we might refer to as "nothing." No toilets, running water, beds, walls, appliances, etc. It is impossible to feel sorry for yourself when you look at images of people who have so much less - but whose spirit is intact and shines through their eyes and smiles. And this is something I always want to remember. It provides a profound reality check to our first-world, consumerist standards.

Perhaps what I am trying to describe is best summarized by the following video - an ad for Water is Life - in which "first world" gripes are read by Haitian adults and children.



At a time of year when advertisers pull out all the stops to persuade us to want more and spend more, perhaps we can pause to reflect on what is truly important. This time of year can be so difficult when we focus on what we don't have or are unable to give - whether it's a different family situation or a material thing. Give what you are able to give, joyfully and without apology, for we and our loved ones probably already have enough stuff to begin with. In the interest of sharing the gift of perspective during the holiday season, may we remind one another to honor and give thanks for what we already have and not allow ourselves to be stressed out or discouraged by what is ultimately small and relative in the grand scheme of things.

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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, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and 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 Photography (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Sunrise Lesson

"Do you have the patience to wait 
Till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
Till the right action arises by itself?"
-Lao Tzu

The sunrise is my teacher.

I have observed enough sunrises to know that there are at least three distinct acts. Generally speaking, the first is the dark part. The sky is typically a deep blue - lighter toward the horizon - with dark, indigo clouds. There is a feeling of quiet and reverence, wondering.


During the second act, streaks and patches of rose, tangerine, and/or lavender begin to glow and develop.


 It is the colorful, spectacular part, and clouds make it even more textured and interesting.


The third act is when the sun finally emerges over the horizon, beaming its bright, dazzling rays upon the new day. The darkness lifts, and it is the time of illumination.


In between, there is often grayness or dullness - and time. The drab colors of the in-between sky might suggest an overcast day. And some days will, of course, be overcast. But many will transform into a canvas of color and light. If the river is still and unfrozen, I am treated to a mirrored view.


I haven't had much success in predicting the course of any particular sunrise. From one act to the next, sunrises often surprise me. Some begin with an intensity that fizzles out. Others begin rather drab and then transform - sometimes quite suddenly - into something magnificent.


On some mornings, there is a blink-and-you-miss-it moment of brilliance. If you're not paying attention, you'll convince yourself that it never happened.


Some cloudy mornings, I have waited and waited for the moment when the sun shines through a break in the clouds. And when it does, it makes the waiting worth it. For example, it was my daughter's birthday recently, and I sat on the dock for a long time that morning waiting for the moment when the sun burst through for the first time, thinking of our years together. As I watched the tie-dye sunrise sky go through transformations of color and shape, it was almost like witnessing her path unfolding. And - come to think of it - mine, as well.


The in-between stages are a time for patience. Those moments when the light shines through are so breathtaking and powerful and give value and meaning to all the moments leading up to them.


There might be chapters in our lives that seem gray, dull, motionless, even hopeless. But there's more. The sunrise teaches me this every day. It also teaches me that the cloudless, clear sky sunrises are among the least interesting ones.


Yesterday morning was thickly gray. I glanced out the porch windows a few times and saw nothing but dreary grayness. When it was just about time to leave for work, I commented out loud to my husband, "Well, there's nothing to see out there this morning" - which in my world means that I saw no reason to go outside with my camera. But as soon as those words had slipped out of my mouth, I noticed a burst of color in my peripheral vision. I looked just in time to notice a huge, glowing ball-of-tangerine-sun rising above the bridge.


You just never know when moments like that will happen. All you can know is that they will...often when you least expect them.

Some days are gray, and you don't see the sun at all. Some winters seem endless. But the sun is still there, nonetheless, and people in other places will experience an astonishing sunrise or sunset when all we see is shades of gray. If they have the technology to share it, we can experience it, too. Or perhaps it will inspire them to create something of beauty and value to the world, such as a work of art or an act of kindness. When we are in darkness, just knowing there is more than this - and that this, too, shall pass - can help to get us through to the next spectacular sunrise or sunny day that brings greater inspiration, clarity, and energy to act.

There are periods of illumination, clarity, and inspiration and periods of waiting. Patience truly is a virtue, and sharing our inspired images, stories, and experiences may help to uplift others.

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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, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and 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 Photography (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

River Bliss Gifts

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope your day has been filled with blessings. After my dad's close call back in February when he suffered a heart attack, and with my mom not feeling up to par lately, what I'm most grateful for today is having both of my parents around this holiday season - even though I wasn't able to see them today.

The logistics involved in celebrating holidays with different groups of relatives are often challenging, but the truth is that we are blessed to have so many loved ones to coordinate visits with on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Often, we have two separate family get-togethers on Thanksgiving day: breakfast or brunch with my husband and teenagers

Stuffed squash, apple crisp, grilled polenta, quiche, and pomegranate seeds

...and dinner with my parents or in-laws. This year, I finally discovered that preparing and cooking everything a day ahead of time makes for a much more relaxed holiday!

The passage of Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season, and it looks like I'm going to have to brave the crowds tomorrow in order to buy some mailers because my calendar order arrived yesterday! How exciting!


I am thrilled with the professional quality; the printing company I used did a great job. I am selling them for $20 plus $6 shipping ($1.50 for each additional calendar). This is a 13-month (Jan. 2014 through Jan. 2015) calendar that features one full-page, fine art nature photograph per month. It was a challenge to narrow down all the possibilities and select one photo per month, but I made the selections based on the scenes that really stopped me in my tracks and transported me to a place of awe. There are sunrise river landscapes, sunlit flowers, closeups of tinier wonders, and a waterfall. The bottom page of each two-page monthly spread contains American and some Canadian and multicultural holidays, full moons and new moons, and an inspirational (non-religious) quote at the bottom along with at least one small image. Here are a couple examples:



 The calendar is printed professionally on extra heavy premium paper. Dimensions are 8.5"x11" (closed) or 17"x11" (open), and the binding is saddle-stitched.

A few people have mentioned to me in the past week that they weren't sure how to buy my calendar, so I thought it would be useful to elaborate. There are a few options:

1) You can order through my Etsy shop.
2) I can generate a PayPal invoice. Just send an email to me at riverblissed@gmail.com indicating your PayPal email address and how many calendars you'd like.

3) I can accept checks (made out to River Bliss Photography) from people I know personally.

Small Business Saturday is coming up, and I'd love for you to consider purchasing a calendar or print from me. All orders are received with a grateful heart and processed with tender loving care.

In addition to calendars, I also offer photo prints in a variety of sizes and note card sets. I have many photo prints available in my Etsy shop; however, you also can order any print from my Flickr photostream via the same options listed above. (Note: All prints have text removed.)

To purchase prints via PayPal, send me an email indicating the name and location (i.e. Flickr or Etsy) of the photo in which you're interested and the size print you'd like (11"x14", 8"x10", 5"x7", 4"x6", note cards).

If you would like to go through Etsy, all of the prints in my shop are listed as 8"x10". However, if you would like to order a different size, just click on the item, and in the "item details" description, there are links for the different size options. I'm listing the links here, as well:

If you'd like to order one of my Flickr images via Etsy, simply click on the link (above) corresponding to the size you'd like, and indicate the name of the photo in the "Message to Seller" box during the checkout process - and also that you saw it on Flickr.

I use a professional lab that offers beautiful lustre and stunning metallic finishes, and I would be truly honored with your business.

Happy holiday season!

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© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and 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 Photography (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

An Authentic Life

I just came across an article about the five most common regrets of the dying, written by a former palliative care nurse. The article really puts life into perspective. Click HERE to read it.

Doing hospice work back in my twenties was perhaps the most important educational experience I've ever had. Dying persons - even those with whom I only had one visit - have been among my greatest teachers, and the article explains why. The obvious theme of the article is the value of living an authentic life and realizing that, despite circumstances, we can choose either to be true to our authentic self or to do what others pressure us to do. It is our choice.

I think I have learned the most from human beings who recently entered this world and from those who were about to depart - because at the beginning and end of a human lifetime, people tend to be most authentic. Babies are pure, unconditioned energy that reminds us of who we were before the world convinced us to be otherwise. Young children live in the moment with an innocence that is truly inspiring. They imagine, play, sing, dance, and create. Children are pure potentiality. Each one of them can be an artist or engineer, and perhaps the greatest joy I experience as a kindergarten teacher is witnessing when a child seems to be in his or her element and pointing out special skills, talents, and activities that bring the child deep satisfaction and joy. In other words, I love to notice what lights them up. Witnessing that spark is a responsibility we have to one another. (I watched a video in which children's picture book artist, Eric Carle, spoke of how his kindergarten teacher made a point of telling his parents about his artistic talent and encouraged them to support him in that direction.) Children love stories. And they notice things that older children and adults have learned to look past. Children have helped to awaken me to the wonder and astonishing beauty of the natural world, and I am so grateful for the presence of children in my life. I've heard it said that it's useful to remember what brought us great joy as a child, and to be sure to keep that alive in our life.

Dying persons are "real," too. They need to make peace with the reality of future being stripped away from them and learn to live in the moment. This requires loosening the noose of ego and moving through predictable stages in order to come to terms with the end of life as we know it. There is a limited amount of time for putting everything in order and for reflecting on and reconciling that which got swept under the rug for whatever reason during their healthier, more active years. At this time, people see The Big Picture.

In between childhood and preparing to die, we identify more with the world and often get caught up in various pursuits and activities that consume a great deal of our time, our days, our lives. So it's beneficial to retreat regularly from the hustle and bustle and spend some quiet, solitary moments listening to ourselves and noticing what arises in stillness. Spending time with children and old people is also good medicine, for they can reawaken us to what is ultimately most important.

We owe it to ourselves and to everyone around us to "keep it real." What better gift can we give the world than our authentic selves? Earlier in life, I had trouble determining who or what my "authentic self" was in the first place. I often confused it with worldly pursuits, such as a certain career or goal. No, no, no! Our authentic self goes far beyond any condition or detail we might try to pin on it. It is unconditioned and fluid and goes beyond concepts and words. But you know when you have expressed it because you feel truly alive, energized, and peaceful. At least that has been my experience.

For me, the telltale sign of not living authentically is when I feel disconnected from the people and life energy around me. This happens a lot now in the teaching profession as public school educators across the United States are required to deliver new curricula (tied tightly to third-party student assessments and teacher evaluations) that we often are learning as we go along. Scripted curriculum is not authentic teaching. Even when school districts give teachers permission to "adapt" curriculum, it is very difficult to do that the first time you teach it because you don't understand it well enough. It often takes a great deal of time and reflection to understand something well enough to adapt it. But I've noticed that when I put down the manual and allow my authentic self to drive instruction, magic happens. I feel more connected to my students, and they seem to be more engaged. And when I hear from parents that their children love going to school, I know that authentic instruction is taking place despite it all. Something real within me has connected with something real within them, and that connection is pulling us through. My yearly teacher evaluation score means nothing compared to the wonder and love of learning that I hope to instill in my students - for the connection between teacher, student, and curriculum is what ultimately matters most to me.

My "daily reflection" following my parent-teacher conferences last week is that, despite my concerns about the developmental appropriateness of the Common Core curriculum, to a large degree...


I don't mean only teachers and students in a classroom. This is true of any mentor relationship,  apprenticeship, or adult-child relationship. I think we often learn the most from who our teachers are. How they hold their instrument often speaks louder than the notes they play.

Earlier in life, playing piano was my whole world. I didn't pursue it professionally, though, because of stage fright and not being able to handle competition. I gave it up because it ended up being about how others would perceive me rather than the music I could offer to the world. But sometimes I'll sit down and play, and it's the best feeling. I recently had a dream in which I was sitting at the piano with my eyes closed playing what was in my heart, and it was the most natural thing in the world. The music was so beautiful. I loved that dream and woke up wanting to play more. In the dream, I was not playing to impress others but to express the authentic music springing from within. That is what I am talking about. Teaching, musical performance - it's all the same when it comes to authenticity. We must do our work in this world for the right reasons and be really honest with ourselves about whether the sacrifices we make in pursuit of our goals are worthwhile in the long run - or whether we are pursuing an illusory ideal. Are we overlooking what is ultimately most important? For when we are on our deathbeds letting go of worldly concerns and reconciling bigger questions and fears, we will realize how ultimately small and self-sabotaging our little fears and anxieties were - and will regret allowing them to sidetrack us from what was truly important.

For those of us living in the workaday world and feeling overwhelmed, I want to share some advice one of the wise women in my life offered recently. She insisted that no job deserves 100%; perhaps 60% is enough. Save 100% for spirit. Don't let the demands of the world encroach on your spiritual health and deplete your energy. Know where to put your boundaries, and save yourself by honoring them. We need to remember that we are so much more than any job we do and not allow our lives to be consumed by what we are paid to do - or by whether we will be rated as "effective" or "highly effective." Perhaps "effective" is good enough, especially when the criteria bypass completely your authentic reasons for being there. Achieving a healthy balance between "work" and "life" is critical if we are to end our lives unburdened by regret. If you have your heart set on a pay raise or promotion, it's useful to consider whether the sacrifices are ultimately worth the consequences in terms of time and energy available for the people and activities that are most meaningful to you.

I believe there is always a way to express our authentic selves. We might need to reframe the work we do in our daily life or erect boundaries around our life outside of "work" to allow energy to flow from our authentic wellsprings. Or it could be as simple as smiling at someone or following through on an impulse to perform an act of kindness. And, as I wrote above, it is also our duty to help others recognize their own authenticity when we see the telltale light in their eyes.

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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, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and 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 Photography (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Canvases of Gratitude

I wonder: Will there ever come a time when there is nothing new to notice? Is it possible to look at the same basic scene and always find something new to appreciate? Nature has been surprising me lately as I am drawn to new sources of inspiration and artistic possibilities. The natural world is like a good story - perhaps a Sufi or Zen teaching tale - that you can hear repeatedly and each time connect with a new element or nuance that anchors your awareness and supports your evolution.

Sometimes I am deeply inspired by my photographer friends and mentors. In much the same way as a therapist or teacher offers an insight that opens up new doors of understanding and awareness, sometimes someone will share an image that opens my eyes to something I'd never noticed before. One example is colors of trees, sunrise, etc. reflected on the water. If you zoom in and focus only on the colors on the surface of the water - isolate them from their context - they look very much like a watercolor painting. I see them as a canvas. When paired with reflective thoughts, the images become the background for "daily reflections."


Frosty windows offer another canvas for possibilities. Instead of cursing the cold, take a closer look at the intricate frost patterns, and enter a whole new world where frost becomes enchanting.


Since my world will be painted with frost for the next several months, I might as well find something to love about it!

This is the way of gratitude. A grateful heart is a powerful antidote to apply when life gives us challenges. Training our mind to find goodness in the midst of the full catastrophe of life - to embrace what is - helps us to stay afloat. Gratitude is like a life raft. It changes everything.

The sun continues to set earlier every day, and usually by the time I get home from work it already has sunk behind the trees. So I have turned my attention to the sunset silhouettes of trees


...and silhouetted symmetry.


And of course, there's the moon.


A couple nights ago, I was caught off-guard when I glanced out the window and saw the breathtaking image of the moon rising over the river large, low, and orange. The sky already was much darker than in the picture above, and the long reflection of the low moon looked like a flame flickering on the water. I didn't go outside with my camera but just sat on the futon looking out the window and feeling such peace as the moon gradually floated higher, becoming smaller and brighter, and the reflection became shorter...until it was no more than a tiny, bright, dancing disk.

Nature is abundantly generous, and I believe there is no end to the blessings and inspiration it offers us, every day of the year. For not only is the natural world changing constantly, but we are, too.

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Reminder/Update: 
My River Bliss Photography 2014 wall calendar is now available for purchase! You can either order through my Etsy shop or I can generate an invoice through PayPal. For PayPal, contact me at riverblissed@gmail.com with your email address and the number of calendars you would like. I spent many focused, joyful hours capturing the images, assembling the calendar, and selecting 14 of the most uplifting, inspiring photos from my collection for the cover and 13 monthly pages (January 2014 through January 2015).



I am very pleased with the quality and happy to be able to offer this calendar! Quantity is limited, and I am offering a special price of $20 per calendar (plus $6 shipping) for the rest of November. All orders are received with a grateful heart and will be packaged with love and care and sent from the riverside to your door.

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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, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and 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 Photography (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Leaf Mandalas

A few weeks ago, an anonymous, kindhearted soul left a gift in our yard: A Land Art calendar featuring the environmental art of Robert Shilling. Amazing stuff! It was a lavish feast for my creative soul. My husband and I were both in awe...and inspired. A few of the pieces resonated deeply with me, and I decided to try to recreate something similar on my own. So I began collecting fallen leaves of different shapes and colors.

Fall is the time of year when you will find stacks of thick books around our house. I put freshly fallen leaves between the pages of the books and then stack the books on a hard surface for a week or more to press the leaves flat. After that treatment, they are ready for art projects, such as leaf lanterns and beeswax balloon lanterns, which I wrote about in previous posts.

This week, after removing all of the leaves from the books and returning the books to the bookcase, I felt inspired to create a leaf mandala (Sanskrit: "circle") on the living room floor. I put down a large piece of washi paper for a canvas, made a circle from a willow branch, and began arranging birch leaves around it.

And then I continued from there.


Then I created another, much larger circle from willow branches (which are wonderfully bendable) to define the mandala space. Only, my canvas was too small to contain it, so I had to figure out how to extend it.

Silks! Back when my children were in early and middle elementary school, I ordered a set of plain white, hemmed silk squares from Dharma Trading Company and spent a summer weekend dying them different colors. The Waldorf style silks have served many purposes over the years, from play silks to photography backdrops. They are among the most useful purchases I've ever made.

From there, I began arranging all of the materials I had gathered for the project into a frame around the large circle. It kept getting bigger and bigger, until...tah-dah! My fall mandala felt complete.


In the end, it was composed of pressed leaves, willow branches, hand-dyed silks, homegrown gourds, handmade felted acorns, acorn caps, hand-picked apples, firewood, and dried herbs from the garden. It's temporary like a sand mandala, for the apples will be cooked and eaten, the leaves will be used for leaf lanterns and other projects, the firewood will heat our home, etc. Creating it was a meditation on the gifts and transience of fall.

A couple times, I've had the pleasure of watching Tibetan Buddhist monks construct sand mandalas with unwavering concentration and precision. After a few days or weeks, the mandala would be dismantled and the colorful sand released into a body of water to spread spiritual blessings far and wide. For onlookers outside of the Tibetan tradition, at the most basic level a sand mandala might be experienced as a work of sacred art and a highly detailed meditation on impermanence.

A few years ago, I came across the gorgeous book, Natural Mandalas: 30 New Meditations to Help You Find Peace and Awareness in the Beauty of Nature by Lisa Tenzin-Dolma. Seeds of inspiration were planted as I explored the mandalas in the book. Last year, after revisiting the images in Natural Mandalas, I had the urge to make my first fall mandala. It was much simpler than this year's.


Back in my subbing days, I worked at a private school that had a puzzle table in the great room, and everyone in the school community was invited to work on it during free time. Remembering this got me thinking about the idea of a community mandala. You could put out materials for creating a mandala, and individuals could add to it as they saw fit, working out from the center.


A leaf mandala also could be created by children on a light table, to emphasize the translucent nature of leaves (that I love to capture through photography when the sun shines through at just the right angle). To make the leaves more durable, they could be laminated. This also could be achieved with pressed flowers, ferns, etc. for a spring or summer mandala.

Or you could create personal mandalas - either temporary ones like mine or more enduring works of art made by gluing pressed leaves and other collected natural objects on paper. Another variation is a leaf mandala suncatcher created by assembling leaves on the sticky side of a circle cut from clear, transparent contact paper. (Click HERE to see an example.)

The possibilities are endless!

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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, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and 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 Photography (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Trees and Geese and Letting Go

“Anything you cannot relinquish when it has outlived its usefulness possesses you.” –Peace Pilgrim

Here on the riverside, the dominant sound is of honking geese flying south in formation.


The dominant visual is of bare trees with a carpet of crunchy leaves on the ground below.


Fall foliage is stunning. But now the landscape is composed of bare trees and evergreens punctuated by an occasional burst of color from a deciduous tree that has not yet let go of its leaves.


Inspired by all this, there are two questions on my mind. The bare trees invite me to consider: What has outlived its usefulness in my life? The migrating geese inspire me to ask: Where is my highest wisdom calling me?

Fall is a time of letting go, creating space for new growth. In between releasing and rebirth/renewal, we here in the Northeast move inward for a time of resting and dreaming. But first, we must let go.


At the most basic level, I feel an irresistible urge to get rid of possessions. We live in a small, old house with virtually no usable storage space, so everything we own is out in the open. I’m tired of looking at the clutter that merely collects dust and traps energy. If something gives me joy or is still useful, it will stay. But let the great purge begin! Perhaps my closet and library are good places to start.

But I am contemplating letting go on other levels as well, especially letting go of outdated, limiting beliefs and sabotaging thoughts. Actually, that is a huge part of it - perhaps the most important part of all - for sometimes thoughts can be like prison guards keeping us locked in a cage and preventing us from moving forward.

Our materialistic culture values accumulation, getting and achieving more and more, expecting that our investments of money and time will pay off and provide us with a comfortable, "successful" life. But there is an art to letting go - releasing what has outlived its usefulness just as trees release their leaves when the time is right and birds migrate with changing seasons. We build houses with rocks that are perhaps put to better use as stepping stones.

Has the highest part of us moved on, following the flow of the living universe to new horizons - or is the self-centered personality restless like a discontented child? That seems to be the critical discernment. There are some situations in which some training and discipline could help us to make the most of our present life situation and lead a more fulfilled and joyful life. There are other situations that have lost their value with no reasonable expectation of bouncing back, and we need to make our peace and move on with gratitude for the experience.

Trees release their leaves when the time is right and are bare for a while. Their energy is drawn inward, and they enter a period of rest. In time, the next generation of leaves will manifest and collect energy from the sun. The rhythm repeats itself every year, inviting us to trust that letting go will result in rebirth and renewal, and to honor the in between period of rest that is necessary for our growth and cannot be rushed. During this time, we do not draw our energy from the outside world. We go within. It is quiet enough during the cold months to hear the still voice within - our deepest wisdom. Even if it looks like nothing is happening on the outside, a hidden transformation is taking place.


I believe that the highest in us (that some call the soul) goes where life energy flows and understands that challenging circumstances are valuable for the clarity they provide – and gives thanks for them, without harboring any grudges or regrets. For example, it’s okay if something in which you invested a lot of time and/or money loses its value. If you have derived your identity or self-worth from it, you learn that you are so much more than this one thing; your existence does not depend upon it. Praise and bless it as a stepping stone. Let it go, and move on if that is what you feel deeply called to do. When the time is right, you will know. The soul doesn’t care how much money or time you spent to get to this place where you are now. It grabs your hand and says, “Come on! There’s more yet to see.” It follows the flow of life. It is like a migratory bird acutely aware of the subtle signs heralding a new season. It knows when to leave and in what direction to travel.

Basically, I believe that great changes occur when love pulls you toward something rather than when you are motivated to move away from something that has lost its value. Recently, a friend pointed out that what we move toward might be an ideal or quality rather than a particular outcome. Perhaps we begin to focus on inner peace, freedom, or joy, and as we attune to that vibration, the details begin to take shape. It is a process that requires honesty, courage, and patience.

As Joseph Campbell stated:

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.” 

I truly believe this to be true. Without making any drastic changes, simply take a step in joy, and notice what happens. In my experience, inner peace and joy draw synchronicity to us, and each step reveals new possibilities and small miracles.

Without even looking for them, I've recently come across some articles related to exciting discoveries about neuroplasticity - how the brain rewires itself constantly based on experience. The following links offer much hope regarding our ability to continue growing, improving, and reinventing ourselves as we age.

Why It's Important to Follow Your Bliss After 50

Why We're Hardwired for Midlife Reinvention

Midlife Crisis - or Power Surge?

The third link was especially powerful for me and brought to mind my participation in a women's group at a local retreat center more than a decade ago. At the time, I was in my mid-30s and was the youngest one in the group, and I was contemplating what to do for work after staying home with my children for a number of years, thinking it was too late for me to pursue a new career. I listened to women in their 50s and 60s talk about reinventing themselves as the article describes, and it helped me put things into perspective. I think what cut through my illusions more than anything else was their laughter when I voiced that I felt it was too late in life for me to switch gears and go back to grad school. It was delighted, authentic laughter filled with such compassion and wisdom. I learned from these women that it is never too late to reinvent yourself.

Letting go, as nature models so boldly to us at this time of year, is the first step.


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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, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and 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 Photography (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.