Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Surprising Intensity of Resistance

It is a gorgeous, warm, sunny, Friday afternoon in October. The Friday afternoon feeling is a wonderful feeling that heralds two days of relative freedom!

There is so much I want to do this weekend. First and foremost, I want to WRITE! There is so much inside me that wants to be released on paper! It’s been hard to fit in writing time during the week after exhausting days at work - and futile to even try on some days. The weekend is when I look forward to making space for writing.

I want – no, I need – time alone to recharge my batteries after teaching kindergarten all week.
I want to spend time with loved ones. Sunday is my parents’ 51st wedding anniversary – the first one my dad will not be able to celebrate with my mom. I would like to be around for him this weekend because I know it will be difficult for him.

I want to have some time this weekend to work on mid-term reports that are due in a week – and to plan and prepare for the work week ahead. It's so easy to fall behind!

And of course I want to follow light and beauty with my camera and share magical moments.


But I am not going to do any of these things this weekend. Instead, I am beginning a new adventure that involves spending the weekend at a retreat center four hours away with a group of people whom I haven’t met, shut off from the outside world. It is a commitment I have made to myself for deep, meaningful spiritual growth – the kind of work you cannot do on your own. Speaking with someone who is in the homestretch of this journey was like talking to my future self – a self who has faced and overcome many fears, barriers, and defenses and is more integrated and stronger as a result. I want to birth that self even if it means going through the hard work of labor - for I believe it is worth it.

This afternoon, I am experiencing so much resistance that I could gnaw off my hands! Part of me wants desperately to stay within the confines of my comfort zone and not go away this weekend to embark on this new adventure. It wants to remain fixed and stable and feels like crying, gnawing, escaping. But a deeper, quieter, calmer, larger part – the part that feels like the backdrop on which the events of my life are played out – is steadfast and confident that I must go. The deeper part knows it’s all going to be okay. Better than I can imagine. I sense that the larger part can hold it all. There’s room for everything.

The voices that would have me stay home are the ones that have kept me stuck all these years, that haven’t allowed me to grow past a certain point. I can’t follow them anymore, for they just lead me in circles. No, thank you. I’m going to get off the carousel this time.

The work I intend to do is similar to how I need to train my kindergarten students in order to have a well run, effective classroom. I can’t get rid of difficult students but have to learn more about them so I can work with them more effectively and do my job to the best of my ability. I cannot allow the behavior of a small number of children to sabotage the experience of the whole, just as I cannot allow myself to be sabotaged by any unhealthy or undeveloped parts of my psyche.

In hindsight, I know it doesn’t matter one iota that taking the first step wasn’t easy. The only thing that will matter is that I did it. That I forged ahead despite the parts of me that felt threatened by my commitment to changing and evolving spiritually. I’ve done it before and want to strengthen that response whenever it's time to shift or change in some way. I want to live dynamically.

Of course, after acknowledging how unsatisfying certain aspects of my life are, I remember all the underprivileged people in the world who don’t have enough resources to feed their families. People living in war zones. People who are dying or watching loved ones die. So much suffering! What right do I have to be discontent with any aspect of my privileged life? To complain about anything at all? The irony is that the suffering of watching a loved one die is what awakened me to the realization that some things need to change in order for me to live a fulfilled life. It's not about the grass being greener elsewhere. It's more about flowing with the current. Getting off the carousel when it's time.

How strange that, at the same time, it is so hard to fathom staying the same and also so hard to take the first step into the unknown. At this moment, I am feeling the tension between simultaneously being discontent with current circumstances and being afraid to change. I'm writing about it because I know it is a temporary but very intense place to be. It's the point at which you can choose to stop or to proceed. But despite the resistance, stopping is not an option.

I’m making a choice to be really aware and conscious and to explore those places that frighten me, that I didn’t even really know were there because I feel pretty comfortable with myself and enjoy spending time alone. I'm actually very surprised by the intensity of this resistance! It makes me think that the possibility for transformation is even greater than I'd imagined!

And I know I am going to look back at this afternoon and laugh about all this resistance. Possibly even by the end of the weekend.

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

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

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Magic Carpet Time

"There is no greater gift you can give or receive than to honor your calling. It's why you were born. And how you become most truly alive."  -Oprah Winfrey

Every morning for the past week and a half, I have prayed for clarity. Really prayed, with every cell of my being. And every day I have received it. In clouded moments, it arrives feeling like failure. But in the stillness of the evening, when I let go of the day's residue and tune in to myself, I know to thank and praise clarifying circumstances because they are pushing me closer to living a more fulfilled life, no matter how uncomfortable and inconvenient it feels on the surface.

I am ready to open to the winds of change and make some shifts I've been too afraid to make until now. This time, I will do it. I am determined! It is a promise I have made to myself, and I'm beginning to build a support network.


Last weekend, I took specific action by committing to a three-year program of personal and transpersonal transformation that I had been resisting for years for various reasons including finances, even though the facilitator is my longtime, beloved teacher in whom I have complete trust. I was guided to talk with a woman who began the program two years ago despite having the same initial misgivings, and she assured me that the money will come. She said she doesn't understand how it works, only that it does. Before we hung up, she said she doesn't know what kind of sign I would need to know for certain whether or not the program is right for me, but she hoped I'd get it. However, I'd already heard and felt what I needed to and made the commitment immediately after hanging up the phone. I knew that the time finally is right to do the deep, inner work.

Yesterday morning while doing yoga, I happened to catch the pink reflection of sunrise in a window as I twisted backwards. I jumped up from my mat and dashed to the dock to photograph the colorful sky and its reflection on the river. On my way back inside, I opened the mailbox and found a check that would cover exactly two full weekends of the five-weekends-per-year program, including my share of carpool expenses. I was elated and felt the magic already was revealing itself to me because of my commitment to transformation. It was my sign.


 It has been a week of tremendous clarity.

A few days ago, I heard the words, "Let it go," spoken around me several times in different contexts - even from the mouths of my kindergartners. A wise soul once advised me to pay attention if I hear the same message three times. So I did.

That evening, a friend shared a link to Jimmy Buffet's song, Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On, which I'd never heard before. It was exactly what I needed to shift my energy from sorrow to serenity. I've adopted the title as my mantra.

The same evening, another friend posted an interview with Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman suffering from brain cancer who plans to take advantage of Oregon's Death with Dignity Act and end her life on November 1st. Her words really spoke to me:

"The reason to consider life and what's of value is to make sure you're not missing out. Seize the day. What's important to you? What do you care about? What matters? Pursue that. Forget the rest." -Brittany Maynard

This morning, I awoke at 3:30 a.m. from the most real and powerful dream yet about my mom that left me feeling ecstatic and absolutely certain of the importance of engaging new possibilities and playing with life instead of being ruled by fear.

Watching my mom die has convinced me that life is too short to remain stuck in circumstances that drag us down. We can try to adjust our attitude and perception, but sometimes there's no denying when it is time to move on. Life is a flowing river, and the work is to follow the Life Force where it flows - or as Henry David Thoreau put it: 
"Dwell as near as possible to the channel in which your life flows."
In the nearly fifty years I've been alive, I've learned a few things that have prepared me for the journey:

I've learned that the way I feel now isn't how I'll always feel. Moods come and go like clouds.

I've learned that spring always returns, and the sun rises every morning,

That one mindful moment, or one conscious breath, can change everything,

That when you make a full and sincere commitment, you attract the right people and circumstances out of the blue, recognize them as such, and embrace them.

And inspiration plays an important role.

Conditions one recent morning were too cloudy for me to witness the full lunar eclipse at sunrise. But I knew that someone would see it, and I would be able to experience it through their lens.

Somewhere someone is standing on a beach watching the sun rise over the ocean. It is happening right now even though I'm not able to see it because I'm a four-hour drive away from the coast. There is so much beauty in this world at every moment, even when we aren't experiencing it for whatever reason. Just knowing it exists can be a lifeline that provides balance and perspective.

Somewhere someone has resolved not to be ruled by fear and limitation any longer, and this inspires me and gives me strength to follow in his or her footsteps. (And it's why I write!)

Somewhere someone is balancing stones in seemingly impossible arrangements and, by sharing his work, is helping me to redefine what is actually possible. I am grateful for this. It opens the way for me to dream bigger.

All around the world, there are people engaging the magic and setting powerful examples by manifesting and expressing their higher purpose. We can make excuses and say they got lucky and are the exceptions; they're somehow special. We can make all kinds of excuses that keep us locked in our comfort zone, even when it's not so comfortable there. Or we can seize our rightful power and discover higher laws at work in our lives when we have the courage to surrender the props that support the false self that masks our magnificence. The kingdom of heaven is within.

I fully expect to be amazed and inspired on this journey and to amaze and inspire others. How often are we unwitting messengers when we share what moves and inspires us?

I used to believe that each of us entered this life with a specific purpose to fulfill, and our great work is to discover and pursue that one thing. But now I experience life as more fluid than that and suspect that our true calling is more broadly to engage our divine nature and infuse matter with spirit. Doing so elevates our life into a work of spirit and inspires others toward spiritual artistry.
"On earth, it seems that most people fret, worry, and lose sleep over some of the silliest things they've done. But what's funny is that later on, from here, more often than not, it's the things they didn't do that they still think about. Which of course sends them back." -A Note from the Universe
No more excuses. No regrets. It's magic carpet time!

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

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

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

All the Places I Find Her

Although I connect daily with the light that shines through each and every one of the five-year-old angels assigned to my heart this year, some weeks are more trying than others. After a brutally long week of what felt like mothering the world, I wish I could pick up the phone and call my own mom and get a little mothering, myself. I've been missing her a lot lately.

Every morning on my way to work, I ask for blessings on my mom's soul, send out prayers for loved ones and myself, and then express gratitude for everything I can think of. Yesterday morning, I was in a dejected mood but did this practice anyway. Immediately after I said, "Amen," I received a blessing. It felt like a spiritual wind embracing me (yes, while I was driving), and I was filled with an inner knowing that everything (is and) will be all right. It felt like a response to my prayers.

Is that how my mother speaks with me now? (Or some other benevolent force?)

Fall, my favorite season, has arrived in all its colorful grandeur. However, there's something about this particular fall that makes my mom's absence feel more real. Perhaps it's because summer always was her busiest time of year and the season in which we saw her the least. She was more present during fall. But on top of that, I realize from my earlier work with bereaved populations that we are heading into a challenging time of year - a two-month span that includes my parents' anniversary, both of my children's birthdays, Thanksgiving, my mom's birthday, and Christmas. My mom's absence will be felt big-time, by all of us.


In the past few weeks, I've caught traces of my mom's essence several times. It's a far cry from picking up the phone and talking with her - and even from the supra real dreams in which she has appeared. And yet, sometimes brushing up against her imprints makes me feel closer to her than ever, as if she truly does live on inside of me. As if there are no boundaries between us. Sometimes it even feels as if the qualities that were expressed through her actively seek expression through me (and others, I'm sure) now that she's moved beyond this world.

A couple weeks ago, I found her a few minutes after dropping off my son at a friend's house for the evening. Alone in the dark car, I turned on the radio and heard a song I'd only heard once before - when my dad and one of my mom's best friends from 50 years ago sang it around her deathbed two days before she passed away (after we'd belted out a few John Denver songs). The song is, "Eddie, My Love," and my dad told us she would sing it to him all the time when he was taking his time getting out of the house. I'd never heard it before but remembered enough of the lyrics to recognize it - and gasp - when it came on the radio in the car. Certain that was the song they sang around her bed, I pulled to the side of the road, took out my phone, and recorded it so I could play it when I returned home. (Interestingly, right when I took out my phone to record the song, I received a text from my sister asking for one of my mom's best-loved recipes. What timing!) It turns out that yes, it was the song, and when I played it for my daughter, she explained to me wide-eyed that the very same song popped into her head completely out of the blue earlier that day, and at the time she wondered how she would feel if she ever heard it on the radio - for she, too, only had heard it once before, at my mom's bedside. And that is the truly amazing thing about sharing such experiences. Had I kept it to myself, I would not have received the information my daughter had to offer that took the experience to a more intriguing and powerful level.

Needless to say, I let my dad know about the song coming to both my daughter and me the same day, and it made him happy.

That same evening, while sitting at the kitchen table, I happened to notice that the bag of ecologically grown apples I'd bought that afternoon came from the small town in Vermont where my mom grew up. I've never before seen or heard any reference to that town other than in my mom's obituary and in her stories about her childhood!

Last weekend, I was surprised to find one of her memorial prayer cards on my bed. It was the only thing on my bed.

And then there's a certain kind of longing that is entirely new to me.

Recently, I was preparing for a meeting about which I felt quite anxious. As the day of the meeting approached, I found myself wanting to channel my mother's energy for the first time in my life. It continues to astound me that it took a terminal diagnosis before I was able to perceive and appreciate fully the gifts she gave to the world through the kind, gracious, and hospitable manner in which she lived her life. In an effort to differentiate myself from her and become my own person with a strong backbone and the ability to say no, I had rejected and discarded some of her most salient qualities, considering them weaknesses (for nobody experiences a parent's shadow side as clearly as his or her children). But that week, I was nearly desperate to retrieve them, for I was neither whole nor balanced without them. If only I could channel my mother's energy, I knew I could relate to the other parties with loving-kindness and handle the situation with grace and poise. As an extra measure, I wore one of her bracelets that day - a delicate chain with gold hearts and pearls - as a visual reminder to stay calm and rooted in kindness. It worked, and I left the meeting feeling relieved. (Thanks, Mom!)

As I floated in my kayak one afternoon this week, the following words drifted through my mind as I thought of my mother:

As Jesus taught us to pray
And our mothers taught us to love,
Let us forgive our parents' mortality
And embrace our divine heritage
Which is unconditional love and light.

When I write my way through grief, there's a natural tendency to want to tie it up neatly by the end. But the human reality of my mom's death is not neat. Pardon my language, but it sucks not to have my mom physically in my life. I derive strength from knowing I am not alone in this journey and that losing a parent is part of the natural course of human life. But I also find strength in the recognition that my mom's legacy lives on through me. Integrating the qualities that I used to push away is a journey towards wholeness and a blessing. To discover my mom's essence inside the very breath I breathe is a joy to which the only response is gratitude. Gratitude like mighty rays of sunlight that evaporate the tears of the clouds that temporarily cover the luminous sky.

It cuts through the sadness.


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

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

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Astonishing Light

The Astonishing Light   


(a new poem)


I am a devotee
Of sunrise, sunset,
Sunlit flowers and leaves,
And love. But why?
Friend, I want to show you
The astonishing light that
Shines in this world
Of shadows
So you will know
You are never alone
And always
In the presence
Of grace.
I want you to look
In my eyes
And see the reflection
Of your inner light
And fall in love
With your
Exalted self. I want
To awaken you
To illuminated moments
When sunbeams penetrate
Shadow and form
And extend a ramp
To paradise.

—Susan Meyer © 2014


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

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

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Floating to the Center

"What you will see is love coming out of the trees, love coming out of the sky, love coming out of the light. You will perceive love from everything around you. This is the state of bliss." -Miguel Ruiz

Tonight I am grateful to have kayaks and ready access to two different bodies of moving water to which I can bring a burdened heart and mind and invite the water to work its magic. It begins with the sensation of floating, weightlessness. But there's more.

I rarely feel less lonely than when I'm alone on the river or creek surrounded by the sounds and movements of the natural world, removed from the human drama that weighs so heavily. Nature absorbs emotions wondrously until all that's left is serenity and love.

In nature, we are never alone. I have learned this from animals, sunrises, flowers, and the list goes on and on. This evening, the sunset was absolutely dazzling. The colors along the shore were extraordinary. The sound of acorns plopping into the water was constant and sometimes indistinguishable from the tapping of a redheaded woodpecker. But sunlit oak leaves - THAT is where the magic was late this afternoon. They commanded my attention and ushered me back to my center. And I am ever so grateful.


After paddling for a short time, there is a place on the creek where I come to rest in stillness, and my heart becomes a net that catches sermons of love drifting through the air. I open a small notepad and take dictation.


In this place, I know that we must be kind, first and foremost to ourselves, by practicing self-care without ceasing to love - and (ultimately) to love everything and everyone: the full catastrophe. Here, I appreciate the value of growing a warm heart that doesn't break when handled carelessly, that acts without holding others' wounds and grace against them, and that respects the responsibility of others to do the work that is necessary for them to evolve. I realize that everything I experience, however unsettling, is an opportunity to discover the still point and cultivate compassion - and that I am the only one responsible for my happiness and peace of mind. Here, I know that sensual pleasure is a mere shadow of spiritual joy and am filled with the joy and serenity that are readily available when we stop wrestling with or running from life and embrace what is.


Oh, to be clear and free and floating in stillness warmed by the late afternoon sun! Here it is all so simple. The sunlight twinkles on the water like water lilies of pure light flashing on and off.


How blessed to be still, to whittle the complexities of life down to the bare bone of this present moment by letting go of stories and assumptions. To be less afflicted by the gravity of the world and the tyranny of the conditioned mind. I wish I could give this gift to everyone. God, help me to love the best I possibly can. Make me a channel of blessings and light.

That is what it feels like to float in this sanctified solitude.


I can't be so naive or condescending as to believe that what works for me will work for everyone, for every mind has its own history and design. Rather, I must do it myself and share, hoping some of the energy will be transmitted through the images and words and make a positive difference, however small.


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

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

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Schoolhouse Rocks

It was an awesome day in kindergarten. I couldn't hold out any longer. Today was the day to introduce the youngest generation to stone balance art. I didn't plan to do it. But all of a sudden, the moment felt right, and I seized it. I use humor a lot in my teaching and have a running joke with my students that when they don't follow our rules and make it difficult for me to do my job, I sometimes start dreaming about becoming a princess or a rock star. This morning, I decided to explain what I mean by "rock star."


During our Morning Meeting, I turned on the SMART Board, opened my Flickr album of Stone Balance Art, and showed them some of my balances. They started oohing and ahhing and wondered how I was able to balance the rocks so precariously. They were amazed to learn that stones they assumed must have fallen immediately remained balanced for a couple days. Then we sat in a circle on the carpet, and I took out my basket of beach rocks.

I explained that the rock basket is our newest indoor play center and that they can either arrange, stack, or (if they want a real challenge) balance rocks. Then I demonstrated each, beginning with arranging rocks in a spiral pattern - for arranging is about lining up stones to make shapes, patterns, or pictures. I also showed them how to stack the rocks by laying them flat, one on top of the other like a tower. Finally, I modeled how to concentrate on balancing stones on their ends and then ever so carefully placing more stones on top.

A couple basic ground rules to begin with were:
  1. No throwing rocks.
  2. Be careful not to knock down anyone's rocks.
I also explained that rocks will fall, and that's okay. Just start over again, and it will be even better the second time. When the rocks fall, it means you were trying something difficult and learning what does and doesn't work. No big deal. I explained that eventually all of the balances I photographed fell down but that pictures make them last forever - and that if they create a balance they are proud of, I will photograph it and put it on our class website.

What I didn't tell them is that every time you try to balance rocks and they topple before you're done, you have a golden opportunity to transform failure into resilience. Every time you choose to keep trying, you strengthen your resilience response, and that is one of the most crucial life skills you could develop in any classroom. Failure is permanent only when you stop trying as a result. Learning to fail without giving up is essential practice for life.

When it was playtime at the end of the day, a number of students went straight for the rocks. They got right to work and within minutes approached me with great excitement and asked me to come see what they had made.


I was every bit as excited as they were. After taking a few pictures, I invited them over to my computer to look at what other stone balance artists have created. We explored the portfolio on Michael Grab's Gravity Glue website, and they were blown away. They seemed so interested and excited, asked questions, and commented on what they liked most about the pictures. There are so many talented members of the international stone balancing community, and I intend to expose my students to a variety of artists and styles, to inspire their creativity.

They returned to their work and called me over a few more times to see and photograph their stone art.



Genuinely thrilled, I complimented their work. They seemed so proud. They were beaming. They worked cooperatively, and everyone was careful not to knock over anyone's stones.


At dismissal time, as I walked the children to their buses, one boy who had called me over several times to see his stone art looked up at me and announced, "I'm going to miss you." I told him that I will miss him, too, but we will see each other in the morning. But I understood what he really was trying to say: Thank you for noticing and valuing me. He felt good about himself. Every year during our Open House night, I tell parents that although my job is to teach the Common Core curriculum, my overarching objective is to help their children feel good about themselves and love coming to school. For that little boy, balancing stones served that purpose today.

For some it is art. For others, music or sports. The list goes on. As an early childhood educator, it's the best feeling in the world to see a child light up with pride and passion. Ideally, my role is to provide the materials and a dose of inspiration and then stand back and and allow their natural curiosity and creativity to lead the way and amaze me. The best days in my classroom are the days when I'm able to create the space and time to be truly amazed.

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

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