Sunday, February 24, 2013

An Open Letter to the Children in My Life

This past week was a school vacation week, and it's been a powerful time to dwell in the Big Questions as various circumstances converged. Yesterday I wrote down a "letter in verse" that was drifting through the air when I was tuned to that channel. Although it probably could stand on its own, I thought I'd provide a little context.

This week I have reflected on my role in the lives of the children in my care and engaged in some deep and honest conversations with my teenagers. The teen years aren't easy ones - so many questions about "Who am I?" and "Where do I fit in?" and how to manage the challenging circumstances and conflicts that arise, with self-esteem intact. As I wrote in a previous post, I was blessed with a mentor who guided me throughout my teen years and beyond and became a dear friend. He passed on a week and a half ago, and I was honored to participate in an incredible celebration of his life last weekend. Rereading the letters he wrote me throughout my late teens and twenties made me realize how much patience is required of parents and mentors before they finally have the satisfaction of seeing kids "turn out" (in his words). You have to be really patient with the process!

At the same time, my dad came home from a two-week hospital stay for open heart bypass surgery following an episode of cardiac arrest. There's something interesting about open heart surgery. There's a sense of appreciation for still being alive and a desire to "return" (in my dad's words) the outpouring of love, concern, and support from so many people. The heart truly does open up, and you feel closer and more connected to the people in your life. And when this happens to someone else, you are better able to provide support, having experienced it yourself as either a patient or family member.

Finally, in the midst of a very challenging school year, I set the intention this week to reconnect with the passion and guiding values that led me to a career in education in the first place.

If the following words resonate with you, I invite you to share them as long as you cite me as the author, along with this blog address. Namaste!

*       *       *       *       *       *       *


An Open Letter to the Children in My Life


Dear Child:
 
The divinity in me
Sees the divinity in you
And from this perspective
Knows we are One,
Honors our differences
As expressions of the One;
We are brothers and sisters.

Our unique talents and gifts
Are to be celebrated
And cultivated to the fullest 
So that we may inspire and uplift
Others through our example
And experience the extraordinary
Flow of being in our element.
But, my darling, please take care
To avoid falling
Into the trap of shoulds
Or putting your gifts
On a pedestal above any others.
You must catch yourself
Again and again
For the ego is cunning.

You are special
And so is everyone else.
But this does not make you
Any less integral
To the symphony of Life.
Each of us has our note to play;
May we give it our fullest attention.
May we give it our all.
May the inspiration you find
Be a torch you pass to others:
The courage to be uniquely, authentically,
Fearlessly you.

My spiritual great-grandfather
Hazrat Inayat Khan advised:
Make your heart as soft as wax
To sympathize with others,
But make it hard as a rock
To bear the hard knocks of the world.
This, dear one, is why I must give you
Both love and limits
As you grow in the garden of my care.
Sunshine alone is not enough;
A garden must also be weeded
To fulfill its potential.
And know, too, that the rains of sorrow
Play an important role.
The water on our planet
Is always being recycled.
We drink the tears shed by others
And are never alone in our suffering.

Both warm-heartedness and resilience
Are necessary for this journey;
They go hand in hand
And I toil here in the dirt
So you may grow strong.
Do not doubt yourself
When things do not come easily
For it is good practice.
May you weave your heartache
Skillfully into the fabric
Of your life
And make the best of
Whatever life sets before you.

Sometimes the best way
To empower yourself
Is to take responsibility
For your own contribution
To any disharmony that exists
Between yourself and another.
This is a strength that allows you
To burst open the door of your cage,
For hatred and resentment
Imprison those who adopt them.
Let them go! Be free to fly!

Embrace each moment
With an inner YES
But do not fall
Into the dream of complacency.
Think for yourself:
How can I bring about positive change:
By transforming the situation
Or my attitude toward it? 
Never give away your power!
Let it glow close to your center.

Step away from the screen, dear child
And open your eyes
To the beauty and wonder all around!
Open your ears and all your senses!
You may be convinced there is nothing
To see or believe in,
But this is innocent ignorance.
May you awaken one day
To the miracles of life
With awe and delight
As you did when you were younger
And wonder what took you so long
To return!

How odd that we must
Experience such wanderlust
And leave in the first place
Wearing the dualistic glasses
The world fashions for us
Only to realize anew
The all-encompassing Oneness
Where all paradoxes are reconciled.
But somehow the journey is necessary;
It makes us strong and wise,
Turns us into better guides
For those who follow in our footsteps.

And yet, even as we are inspired
By the words and deeds of others,
We must do the work ourselves;
The responsibility is ours alone
Though others may cheer us onward.

Dear child, may you find your way back home
All the wiser and brimming with love
Thus leaving this world
A better place than you found it.
May you know this to be
The ultimate measure of success:
To have emerged from the chrysalis
Of your small, separate self and become
Love
Love
Love.

© Susan Meyer, 2013 
 

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© Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lost in the Woods

Yesterday I took a walk in the woods, and it turned into a teaching tale relevant to these uncertain times and questions I ponder on a daily basis.

To begin with, I had to turn around after a few minutes because the shallow snow was crusty, hard, and slippery. I realized that I needed to better equip myself before going any further, especially since there were many hills and lots of uneven terrain to navigate. I returned to the house to get some ski poles (thinking that's the best I could do), but my husband provided me with some crampons and a walking stick instead, which were far more effective.

Properly equipped, I returned to the forest.

After climbing a steep hill, there is an area on the trail in which the sun beckons brightly, drawing me toward it.


Sunlight illuminates the path, and I can't resist walking in the direction of the light. I love that part of the trail. It makes me think of the importance of following our highest light as we navigate our life's journey.


A little further along the path, there is a chair, which gives the feeling of a presence of some sort. It feels like a gatekeeper.


Almost immediately after passing this point, I lost the trail. I walked for a couple minutes on what I thought was a trail, but it turned out to be a dead end. Although I had lost the path, I still had my bearings and knew which direction the road was, and the stream. These were the perimeters of the forest. I knew which direction not to go and which direction I needed to travel; the problem was, I had run into obstacles in the form of heavy brush. And I was not in the mood to bushwhack (which in this case felt like forcing my agenda on the forest).

I became frustrated and perturbed that the trail wasn't more clearly marked. I even called my husband and told him exactly what I thought of his trail maintenance. He tried to describe the way to me, but what he said didn't make any sense. I kept turning around and going down different paths that resulted in dead ends, again and again. I still knew where I was in relation to the important markers and perimeters and had a clear sense of which directions were completely off course and must be avoided. I could see where I wanted to be but couldn't figure out how to get there.

Then I recalled a few lines from one of my favorite poems, "Lost" by David Wagoner:
Stand still. The forest knows where you are. You must let it find you.

So I chilled. I became quiet and calm and entered the stillness, the soul of the forest. Almost instantly, the swaying pines started calling to me, making a whispering, rustling sound that they probably had been making all along, but that I couldn't hear when I was so focused on the rantings of my small self that insists on separating itself from all else.

And then - just like that - I knew the way. It was an intuitive knowing. I found my way downhill to the tall, swaying trees with ease. From the start, it had been my intention to photograph this area.


There was a heart in the negative space where the treetops came together.

After putting away my camera, I began walking and once again could not find the trail. It was nowhere to be seen. I had missed the markers and even forgotten to look for them.

I became still and receptive again and noticed some animal tracks, filled with certainty that they would lead me back home even though I saw no signs of humans having traveled this way. I followed them, and they did.


While following the tracks, I didn't know what kind of animal left them, although I felt it was one that could be vicious. When I got home and flipped through a track identification book with my husband, the fisher tracks caught my eye, and later a wilderness expert helped me to positively identify them as such. I was curious about the symbolism of the fisher, did a little research, and learned that the fisher is portrayed as a brave hero in Woodland (Native American) Indian legends.

The moment I stepped out of the forest, I realized that I had left my walking stick in the area of the tall pines. I had promised my husband that I wouldn't leave it in the woods, so I felt I needed to go back and make good on that promise. I called him on his cell phone, and he was in the woods looking for me. We met under the tall pines and found the walking stick. He pointed out the markers and explained that he made the trails to be confusing on purpose. Having had this experience, I'm quite certain that next time I won't get so lost in this area.

This morning, I was involved in a conversation about how challenging it is to raise teenagers in this day and age and how neither I nor the other person claims to have the answers. It could have been a conversation about the teaching profession and the crisis in our public schools or any number of social or personal issues with which we grapple. And then I thought of my experience in the woods, which became a powerful metaphor. (Actually, just as in dreams, there are lots of metaphors contained within the experience!)

Getting frustrated because the trail isn't well marked.  (But it was designed that way on purpose!)

Becoming still and finding guidance.

Following the way of the brave hero. 

There's also the idea of being properly equipped (with knowledge). When we come to the limits of our knowledge, that's where intuition takes over. And I think that the integration of knowledge, experience, and intuition gives birth to wisdom.

I think we need to realize that we can't find answers by sticking to "the shoulds" or believing there's one single path (i.e. conventional wisdom, the way we were raised, scientific research, the "experts," religion). But if we can become still and present in the moment - and be receptive and aware - we'll know what to do. The answers will come; they seek us even as we seek them. It might mean taking a completely different route. But intuitively, we find our way.

I believe that such guidance is abundant and readily available to us if we become receptive to it - if we tune in to that channel. However, it does not come to us when we are in an egoic, reactive state because we are shutting it out. It's a matter of tuning the dial of our awareness.

Though it may be tempting to take the shortcut and do what others tell or expect us to do, life becomes so much richer when we open ourselves to the peace and possibilities of the present moment, where new ideas are born. If we are willing to live an authentic, creative, courageous life, we discover that there ultimately are no clear cut answers, no one true way. However, we can keep our bearings with love as our compass.

These are confusing times, and the answers may be unclear when we remain inside our chattering minds and think too much about the obstacles in our way. But perhaps there is some peace in knowing that I'm here in the woods with you. You are not alone.

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© Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Lost Art of Letter Writing


This morning, I woke up feeling a sense of urgency around finding a box that has traveled with me through decades, through countless moves and life transitions. It is a box that contains letters and cards dating back to fourth grade and that has sat undisturbed for years. In a way, it is like my own little time capsule, and today was the day to open it.

Our house has very little usable storage space that is safe from rodents and/or mildew. Two winters ago, I went into a small attic to retrieve a box of our winter clothing (hats, mittens, scarves, etc.). The lid was not secured, and I found the entire contents of the box covered with mouse droppings and reeking of urine. Everything had to be discarded. Rodents are an inconvenient fact of life when you live in the country - in an old house, no less!

After that discovery, I transferred all of our storage items (as well as much of our food and clothing) into plastic bins with secure lids. However, there was one box I missed in the garage: the sturdy Kinko's cardboard box with the hand-sized openings on the sides for easier carrying. And of course, this is the box that housed my treasured collection of letters and cards. I was afraid to take the lid off the box for fear of discovering evidence of rodents having been there.

However... I was amazed not to have encountered a single dropping! Everything seemed to be in perfect condition. I'm not sure how, but this box was mercifully spared the fate suffered by so many others. And I'm truly grateful.


I have spent much of the day going through the contents of this box and reading the old correspondence - and unearthed some real gems. There is something really special about handwritten greetings, and I am glad that I grew up in the years predating the digital revolution.

Don't get me wrong: I have tremendous appreciation for digital technology and how easy it is to let people know you're thinking of them with a few quick clicks on a keyboard. I love the green, paperless movement that spares the life of entire forests and allows us to leave a smaller carbon footprint on our overpopulated planet. Although it seems so archaic now, I remember the days of typewriter ribbons and correction tape and piles of crumpled up, discarded attempts at composing a letter, paper or poem by hand. I love how easy it is now to edit my writing with a computer as I go along and change my mind about what I want to say or the direction I want to take it. Since I type much faster than I write by hand, using a keyboard is gratifying in that it allows my fingers to keep up with my stream of consciousness. It's all good!

Still...

I cherish the handwritten letters I have received through the years, which I consider both works of art and historical artifacts. I've always felt that a person's handwriting - much like their eyes - is a window into his or her soul. And writing a note to someone is an act of friendship and kindness.

Looking through my box of old letters reminds me of so much that time had erased from my memory: my grandfather's love of sports, a certain friend's sense of humor, how extensively I corresponded with a few friends, how much closer a relationship I had with others. It makes me want to reconnect with those who are still alive and to wonder how we managed to drift apart when we had such a connection. (I do wish that every piece of mail had the date written on it or that I had saved more envelopes.) I can't recall any real falling-outs; I guess life just started moving faster and became busier.

All of the ways we have now to stay in touch instantly is wonderful; it's a whole different ballgame. And how fortunate we are to have so many choices about how we communicate! It's great to be able to reconnect with friends and acquaintances from previous chapters of life and to get to know others, whom I would not have met without our modern technology. And many of these people provide real inspiration, support, and friendship to me in my daily life, and vice versa. But still, there's something special about a handwritten letter or card - going through the gestures involved in sending it off and the delight upon opening the mailbox and finding something besides junk mail and bills. Something unexpected.

Surrounded by decades worth of handwritten (and some typewritten and hand-corrected) correspondence from people I was close to throughout the years makes me want to revive the lost art of letter writing. I managed to keep it alive in my life probably until around the time I returned to grad school for teaching and life got much busier. I'd like to say that I'm making a commitment to write a letter every month or something like that; however, I'm going to resist the urge to "should on" myself. Perhaps I will find time to write more the old-fashioned way, or perhaps not  - though I'm hoping the spirit will move me to do so. But in this moment, I am fully appreciating this little box I've toted through so many chapters of my life, and remembering correspondences and events I've long since forgotten.


Postscript: 
How uncanny! No sooner had I clicked the button to publish this post, and I came across a video that fits perfectly with this topic. (The video just popped up on my computer screen without me even looking for it!) It is about a woman who started a project to make the world a better place by sending handwritten letters to uplift the spirits of people who are in need. What an inspiring story!



Email subscribers: Click HERE to view video.

To learn more about The World Needs More Love Letters, click HERE. There is information about how you can participate in this project or request a love letter for someone you know.

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© Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Father Figures

It has been an eventful week for the two most influential men in my life aside from my husband and son.

A week ago, my dad was exercising at the local YMCA and went into cardiac arrest while on one of the weight machines. Talk about being at the right place at the right time. Had he been anywhere else - at home, in the car, in the grocery store - he probably wouldn't still be with us. However, the staff was so alert and well trained and literally saved his life by performing CPR and using the defibrillator. He underwent quadruple bypass surgery earlier this week and is now in recovery in the cardio-pulmonary surgery unit of a renowned local hospital, where he is in a state of confusion at the moment. When we were on our way to the hospital after his collapse, we had no information about his condition and didn't know what to expect. I was so grateful to be able to talk with him at the hospital later that evening and found it somehow comforting and reassuring that he had no recollection of the cardiac event. He remembered being on the exercise bike and then waking up in the hospital. So perhaps when something like this happens, it is much more traumatic for those witnessing it than for the victim.

Since then, my mother has spoken with the person responsible for saving my dad's life by simply doing what he was trained to do. Perhaps he doesn't consider himself a hero, but he most certainly is, and my family will be forever grateful to him. He saved the life of a father, husband, grandfather, brother, and uncle who perhaps didn't understand how much he is loved and cherished - or by how many people - until this happened. So there is a blessing in this. To have the opportunity to express and receive love is a blessing. Another blessing for me personally is that my priorities have shifted. A brush with death (a loved one's, if not our own) can certainly shake a person awake and set us straight, reminding us of what is most important. The small stuff just falls away, and we have the chance to realign and rebuild.

[If I could, I would insert a photo here of my mom holding my dad's hand the day after his surgery. However, I did not have a camera with me at the time.]

Tonight I also learned that the man whom I considered my spiritual father passed on today. David came into my life at exactly the right time, when I was going into eighth grade. "When the student is ready, the teacher appears" was absolutely true in this case. He was a social studies teacher at my high school, although I never had him for a teacher; I met him through one of his sons. A fellow Pisces, he introduced me to spirituality, Eastern philosophy, Jungian psychology, Edgar Cayce, astrology, and dream work and was a spiritual compass who helped me to rise above the superficial preoccupations of teenage life. He gave me Richard Bach's novel, Illusions, as a high school graduation present, and the story made a big impression on me. Convinced that my life's purpose was to offer my talents in service of others, he introduced me to the field of music therapy and sent me articles and books on that topic. (My undergraduate senior thesis was on music therapy because of his influence.) He also gave me magazine subscriptions (The Quest, Heron Dance, etc.) as gifts for several years. For Christmas this year, he gave me a two-year gift subscription to Joan Chittister's The Monastic Way, and when I received it, I knew the subscription would outlive him. We maintained an ongoing correspondence throughout the years, and I have probably what amounts to an entire box of letters he wrote me when I was in college and grad school and in between and afterward, when I was trying to figure out my place in the world. He remained a spiritual teacher and friend until the end. He loved to talk and always told such intriguing stories, almost always on spiritual and metaphysical themes. My children and both husbands were close to him, as well. He was family. He was my hero who always encouraged me to find spiritual, loving solutions to the challenges I encountered.

In hindsight, I find it interesting that this morning I was thinking of one of my former students who has a particular talent and interest, and how I'd like to introduce him to a certain performing group that he might find inspiring. It's the first time I've ever had that kind of thought in connection with a student. When this child came into my classroom this morning to say hi (as he does most mornings, just as I stopped into David's classroom every day when I was in high school), I asked him if he's ever heard of the group and promised to bring in a DVD for him. I felt as if David's spirit was being channeled through me; only this time I was the teacher, not the student. How interesting that, unbeknown to me at the time, David had died a few hours earlier.

I saw him for the last time in October, when he came for a visit on a sunny autumn day and sat at the kitchen table in the seat with the best view of the river. It was a lovely visit. He seemed at peace and so full of love. At one point, I felt his spirit shining through so strongly and beautifully that I just had to photograph him - and I am so grateful now that I did this. (It was the only time I ever did this in all my decades of knowing him.) Before he left, he spoke about wanting to get together again soon. But I also sensed an unspoken goodbye somewhere in there, and when he drove away, my heart sunk as I wondered if that would be the last time I'd see him. But he looked so healthy and radiant that day, and that is how I will remember him.


I am going to miss him so much and shed plenty of tears tonight, although the whole time I couldn't shake the image of him smiling and even chuckling. I think of the scene in the movie Field of Dreams in which the writer character played by James Earl Jones was invited into the cornfield and laughs as as he takes his first steps into the unknown - the great adventure. After retiring from teaching, David spent several years at the end of his life researching and writing books about ghosts and hauntings both in our region and around the world, and this is how I imagine him walking through the doorway of death. I spent a long time sitting on the riverside tonight beside a candle, visualizing him bathed in light and releasing him to the light.

I also find it interesting that when I was snowshoeing over the weekend, I was really drawn to this image:


I wrote a poem nearly 25 years ago that David really liked and that he told me he shared with several people. Although I'm sure I will come across many profound quotes in letters and emails he sent me through the years, I shall offer this poem here in cyberspace as a tribute to David. After a life well lived, may he rest in peace.


I AM NOT GONE

I am not gone - 
    I have simply changed my form.

You will find me
    In the coolness of a raindrop
    And in leaves that brighten the autumn ground.

You will hear my voice
    In the whisper of a falling stream

And feel my touch
    When the warmth of the sun meets your skin.

My soul will travel to you
    In the flight of a seagull

And you will see my smile
    In a fresh, summer flower.

I am the energy that fills your spirit
    When you witness the beauty of nature.

We are called together
    When you remember a time we shared
    For I exist within those thoughts.

Whenever your heart is touched
    You are receiving the gift of my love

And every time you cherish me
    My soul is blessed.


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© Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Hot Meals to Warm You Up

For some reason, when it snows, I get the urge to cook (even more so than usual). Today I'd like to share with you some of my favorite cold weather recipes that have been warming us up this winter.

The first is a Vegetable Curry recipe from How It All Vegan! by Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer. It is divine! I like to serve it over brown basmati rice or brown jasmine rice. I always add plenty of fresh spinach to the basic recipe. You can use whatever vegetables you have on hand. I sometimes leave out the mushrooms and increase the amounts of the other vegetables or substitute zucchini. It is a very adaptable recipe. I use either coconut milk (reduced fat works fine) or almond milk for the liquid, but coconut milk makes it especially awesome, in our opinion! I also like to sprinkle a few cashews and some fresh cilantro on top.

Click HERE for the recipe.


Next is Black Bean Chilaquile from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites cookbook. This is what I cooked up during the snowstorm last night. It consists of alternating layers of crushed tortilla chips, seasoned vegetables (onion, corn, tomato) and black beans, spinach, salsa, and cheese. Click HERE for the recipe.


Although the recipe is excellent as written, I always omit the salt. There are a few other modifications I usually make that you may or may not want to consider. One is substituting Lisanatti Almond Cheddar Style "cheese" when I have it on hand. It is available in natural foods stores and is the best cheese substitute I have found (although it contains casein and therefore is not vegan if that's of concern to you). In recent years, I have had trouble finding baked tortilla chips and usually make my own by putting corn tortillas in a 350° oven until they are crisp (but not brown) and then crumbling them for the recipe. Also, a 1-lb. bag of frozen spinach can be substituted for fresh.

Staying with the southwestern theme, Tamale Pie is another favorite casserole. It's from Jeanne Lemlin's cookbook, Vegetarian Classics. It consists of a spicy bottom layer of onions, peppers, corn, and kidney beans, followed by a layer of cheese, and a delicious cornbread-like topping. Click HERE for the recipe. I follow it exactly as written, although you can substitute a 4-oz. can of chopped green chilies (undrained) for the jalapeno.


Finally, here is my time-tested recipe for Vegetarian Chili. Sorry I don't have a photo for this one. It's superb. The bulgur gives it a very meaty texture. I can't remember where I found this recipe (which I've adapted slightly), and I haven't found an exact match online...so here goes:

Vegetarian Chili
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 chopped onions
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne or ground chipotle pepper, or 1-2 teaspoons of canned chipotles in adobo sauce, chopped and seeds removed for less heat
  • 2 green peppers, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 28-oz. can tomatoes, undrained and chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 15-oz. can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup bulgur
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Chopped cilantro (optional, for garnish)
  • Shredded, reduced-fat cheddar or Monterey jack cheese (optional, for garnish)
Sauté the onion and spices in a large pan. Add peppers and garlic for one minute. Add cocoa powder, tomatoes, and water; bring to a boil. Add beans, corn, and bulgur; reduce heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until bulgur is cooked. Add salt and pepper. Serve with fresh cilantro sprinkled on top.

This is really good on its own or over brown rice. It's a hearty meal when served with brown rice and topped with a sprinkle of cheese. It's also great served over cornbread - a new favorite combo!

I must have had food on my mind when I was outside photographing snowflakes yesterday afternoon because the thick, slushy, lacy flakes reminded me of a bowl of stellini pasta from back when my children were little!


Two more posts to go in my winter food series, so stay tuned! 

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© Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Winter Meditation

The ice along the river has been phenomenal lately; the changes from day to day are a delight to behold.


I love what happens when sunlight meets water in its various states: frost, ice, snow, etc. The light illuminates the water droplet or crystal, making it come alive. It's as if the water broadcasts and intensifies the light passing through it. This morning while driving to work, the sun was rising behind a small wooded area, creating a misty scene illuminated not only by the newborn sun rays but also by thousands of bursts of light where the frozen droplets of water on the tree branches danced with the light of the new day. It was dazzling. I felt so blessed to see it. But really, awe-inspiring sights are around us all the time.

I was going to write about the river ice and share a few photos but decided the images are more powerful on their own, without words. So I created a video instead. I offer it as a relaxing meditation on the peace and beauty of winter. I hope you will enjoy it! For best results, view it in full screen high-definition (720p). And - as always - feel free to share the bliss!


Email subscribers, click HERE to view video.

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© Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Passions and Hobbies: Working with Love

"The moral to be drawn from my experiences seems to be, provided one has an aptitude along any given line, is to take up a hobby and follow it through life. A seemingly unimportant study sometimes brings unexpected results. ... I have devoted almost my whole life to the study of a very small part of nature, to a part of it which few people ever give more than a moment's consideration. Yet with that small part, my life has been made industrious."  -Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley

I came across the above quote in the documentary, Wilson Bentley: Snowflakes in Motion, about the life and work of Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley. This reflection made an impression on me; however, I deleted it from my recent "Diversity, Tolerance, and Snowflakes" post after deciding to take it in a more "teacherly" direction. I want to return to it now because I haven't been able to let it go. It is about the importance of hobbies and doing what you love.

I can't remember a time when I wasn't fascinated and completely immersed in a passion of some sort. For at least 12 years earlier in life, it was piano. For a while, it was exercise. Then hospice work. And attachment parenting. And teaching. Now it is photography. At this time, when the teaching profession is being attacked ruthlessly and altered to such an extent that it has become nearly unrecognizable, nature photography is a quest for beauty that gives renewed meaning to my life. I want to learn all I can about it! It is quite literally the lens through which I make sense of the world and experience the oneness and flow of life. It is how I transcend the gravity and absurdity to which no life is immune.

I am so inspired by people who follow their bliss and dive into their interests and passions. I notice how the lives of friends, relatives, and people I've never even met take on new meaning and depth when they discover and follow a passion. It can be anything: taking up an instrument, yoga, horseback riding, learning calligraphy, etc., etc., etc. It may or may not evolve into a means for generating income. Diving deeper into photography has without a doubt improved the quality of my life and enhanced my state of consciousness.  

My husband is amused by how I cycle through creative preoccupations: being immersed, letting it go, returning. Each is like an old friend - even piano, which is my oldest friend and the one with whom I visit least frequently. However, on those rare occasions when I sit down and play, it is the most amazing feeling. It is like visiting a place where you once lived and where part of your soul remains. It is that way with origami, writing poetry, and painting, as well. They all fit together. And they are all forms in which I can completely lose myself, in a good way. In a sense of flow

I remember my very first hospice patient, who had an origami crane hanging from a bar above her bed. She explained to me that origami was something she'd always wanted to learn to do but never did. A recent visitor had folded the crane for her, and she loved to look at it. Origami was something I had always wanted to do, too. Several years later, I remembered this conversation when I came across an origami instruction book during my first visit to a craft store and decided it was time to learn. And I'm so glad I did. It's one less thing to regret not having done at the end of my life.


Next, I want to work on my calligraphy and learn to balance rocks. Seriously.

There is a young man from Boulder, Colorado named Michael Grab, whose gravity-defying work with stone balancing amazes and inspires me. From interviews I have read, it sounds like the seemingly insignificant practice of stone balancing is, for him, a portal to self-transcendence. In addition, it awakens his audience to possibilities they never would have imagined.

See for yourself in this incredible video (and prepare to be amazed):


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Although I am curious about the technical aspect and skills involved in balancing rocks, I am even more interested in his state of consciousness as he works. That's where the juice is for me. He explains:
"Usually if I begin thinking about anything at the creek, it'll be in terms of music rather than words. And then still deeper are the most intense pivotal moments of stone balance, or "ZERO POINTS," where focus is 1000% and I can't really begin to comprehend where my mind is, or what it's doing... I LOVE this place of "no-mind" as Eckhart Tolle refers to because it is so mysteriously ecstatic AND unaware of time. Each balance is like a unique journey through a state of no-mind or stillness... There is no way to comprehensively explain the state of mind in words." (Michael Grab)

This sounds a lot like meditation to me! I often describe origami as a "meditative art" because of what happens to my mind when I am doing it. Kayaking, too.

Amazing outcomes can arise when one is working "in the flow" - when the doer merges so completely with the work that the sense of self falls away. Or when the observer unites so fully with the object of observation that they are no longer separate; duality dissolves.

Follow the call of your soul, your passion, what lights you up. Whether or not it is a means for making a living, it very well could be a vehicle for bringing meaning to your life. Do what you feel called to do without concern for results. Immerse yourself fully in the process of doing what you love, and it might become a means for transcending the frustrations and challenges of life, the egoic self, or even the laws of physics as we think we understand them!




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