Sunday, March 29, 2015

Seeing Beyond the Obvious

This post was originally published on March 22, 2015 on River-Bliss.com.

Bald eagles have commanded my attention for the past few days. It began during the Spring Equinox sunrise when one glided through the frame as I composed a landscape, making its high-pitched piping sound all the while.


Bald eagles have been showing up daily in my field of awareness ever since. As I drove home this morning, I noticed one flying toward me when I was stopped at an intersection. Even after I turned, it continued to fly overhead until I pulled in my driveway, and it continued along the river. But then I looked up and noticed another bald eagle flying over the yard! I parked, took out my camera, and waited for an opportunity to photograph an eagle. I waited for quite some time but didn't see one and eventually gave up.

Interesting. I just happened to notice bald eagles (quite literally) out of the blue on several occasions over the past few days, but when I looked for them, they were nowhere to be seen. I waited and waited, and they didn't show up...because apparently it doesn't work that way. It's not about willing something into being like that. It's about awareness of what is presenting itself. And there is always something.

Later in the day, I sat in my warm, sunny car and observed a red-bellied woodpecker at the back yard bird feeders. I wanted to photograph it but didn't have my car key, so I was unable to lower the window for a clear shot - and didn't want to open the door and risk scaring it away. Eventually, I went inside the house to get my keys and returned to the car...and waited. No sign of the woodpecker. However, for several minutes I had marveled at the fiery, red glint of the woodpecker's head as the late afternoon sun caught it just right - and in those moments my life was richer. It didn't matter that I was unable to capture an image (until much later). Noticing is what mattered.


There have been many occasions when I have waited to photograph something that had yet to manifest. I've waited on the river for waves and ripples to subside in order to capture clear reflections on the surface of the water. I've waited for the sun to emerge from behind a blanket of clouds to illuminate objects, and I've also waited for clouds to conceal and subdue sunlight for better exposures. Through waiting, I have developed patience. But I've also learned to expand my awareness in the moments in between. Countless times, I've gone in search of a certain thing only to discover what is really there! Then I found it unbelievable that I'd never before noticed the phenomena that all of a sudden seemed so obvious, present, and relevant. How could I have lived all these years without them registering in my awareness?

Depression-era American documentary photographer, Dorothea Lange, stated, "The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." I agree wholeheartedly. Since taking up photography, I have developed a different way of seeing that involves opening my awareness to perceive beyond the more obvious features that I've been conditioned to notice or value. I've become mindful of more subtle details that I previously would have overlooked and have found that when I open my awareness to what is there (rather than what I want to see), so much reveals itself! It's like seeing the pregnant spaces in between, much like rests (silences) in music.


One of the benefits to this kind of perception became obvious throughout the long winter from which we are beginning to emerge. Many times, I left home without my camera on overcast days after convincing myself that I wouldn't encounter anything worth photographing. And almost every time, I regretted that decision because something showed up unexpectedly and made an impression on me that I would have liked to capture and share. I learned not to hold out for blue sky days and began to notice the little things, such as shadows and light, and frost on windows. There's something every single day that is worthy of attention. It's not about going out and looking for a particular thing but being open to whatever arises in your field of consciousness. One of my favorite winter impressions was when flowing shadows and light from the river were projected upon the bedroom wall like a gray-scale movie while I listened to gentle music. When I noticed the interplay of shadow and light on the wall and the way it fit with the music, I was filled with the exquisiteness of the moment. With practice, you can train your eyes to see the little things that can awaken you, enrich your life, and make you feel more alive and connected with the world around you.

Awareness is an antidote to boredom and desire that can release us from our personal prisons. While waiting for what's absent or missing, we can open our eyes to what is. Then the waiting will cease and ultimately become irrelevant. When we focus on what is, life becomes fuller and more robust. I believe there's nothing that isn't here right now that is necessary for our completion and contentment. There are so many perceptual possibilities. Let them reveal themselves! Open the windows to your senses, and allow yourself to become aware and perhaps even delighted or astonished by the subtleties so often overlooked that are waiting to be discovered and appreciated - the details that present themselves for your awakening.

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

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

So Much Goodness in the World

This post was originally published on March 14, 2015 on River-Bliss.com.

This week, with great enthusiasm, I observed two telltale signs of spring: the first daffodil shoots


 ...and a bluebird perched in a tree.


I can't remember ever seeing a bluebird! I've always thought of them as rare. A couple years ago, I dreamed a bluebird was in my back yard and have wanted to see one ever since because I attributed special significance to them.

These signs of spring accompany a noticeable increase in birdsong and a change in the appearance of the willow trees that dominate the landscape as they shake off the drabness of winter and take on a brighter, light auburn tone.

I woke up this morning inspired to view pictures of spring. As I browsed through my photo library from last spring, I recalled how my daily search for beauty fueled me to care for my dying mother. The photos were organized chronologically, and following pictures of her last few days and memorial events was a long and diverse parade of flowers that continued without missing a beat despite her absence. I needed more than ever to connect with the abundant beauty of the world as I began to grieve. It was my medicine. No matter what horrific events the news tells us are taking place in the world, and despite all the factors that dampen our spirits or condition us to lead fear-based lives, I have faith that love and beauty outweigh the darkness and can save us every day if we allow them to.

In my last blog entry, I wrote about the theft of almost all of my husband's musical equipment while he was substituting at a school for the day. That (Friday) evening was a very heavy one as the reality of the loss set in. But over the course of the weekend, he surrendered to it. I watched him sit on the floor somberly making a list of everything that was taken from him. He wasn't in a hurry to tell people what had happened. He was too busy compiling the list and letting it all sink in. Some of the most difficult losses were like old, familiar friends that carried higher sentimental than monetary value - for instance, a bag he got at a Grateful Dead show when he was young and had used to tote musical accessories for decades. There were other personal things of a similar nature that can't be replaced. And yet (he reminded me whenever I expressed sympathy), they are just things, and the most important things in life aren't things. These are the sentiments of someone who has been tested greatly in recent months and has responded by immersing himself in spiritual teachings and making the conscious decision to evolve and apply the teachings to his life rather than give up or be a victim. It is a brave choice we can make every day of our lives when we wake up and refuse to let our lives be run by unconscious programming.

The lyrics of the song "Drive" by Incubus come to mind:
Sometimes, I feel the fear of uncertainty stinging clear
And I can't help but ask myself how much I'll let the fear
Take the wheel and steer
It's driven me before
And it seems to have a vague, haunting mass appeal
But lately I am beginning to find
That I should be the one behind the wheel
Whatever tomorrow brings
I'll be there with open arms and open eyes
Whatever tomorrow brings
I'll be there, I'll be there
So if I decide to waiver my chance
To be one of the hive
Will I choose water over wine
And hold my own and drive?
It's driven me before
And it seems to be the way that everyone else gets around
But lately I am beginning to find
That when I drive myself my light is found
On Sunday, I urged Jack to go public with his story in hopes that someone would hear about it and come forth with useful information. In addition, people had a right to know what was going on in their back yard - including my dad, who literally lives right behind the school and my friend, who lives across the street. So Jack sat down at his computer and let his heart do the talking, and he shared the result on social media. The response was like wildfire. His phone and laptop blew up for days with messages from people expressing sympathy and appreciation - both for the musical memories he created for so many children and families over the years and for his positive, loving attitude, which I believe the world needs desperately. Many people wanted to know where to send money to help him replace his stolen equipment, and we didn't feel comfortable giving our address to strangers (however well-meaning they seemed to be), so I started an online fundraiser - which also took off like wildfire. People from far and wide contacted him, including newspapers and news stations. He had several interviews - the first of which took place three days after the incident.

It's interesting what snippets end up on the news and in the papers. Jack's intention was to spread peace and love, which has been his professional motto for years ("Peace, love, and understanding: Spread it all around the world!"). But the spirituality with which he responded to this crisis ended up on the newsroom floor for the most part - and it was the message he wanted most to convey to the world. Brief quotes taken out of context appeared as nonchalance to some people who could not accept his radical, spiritual belief that everything would be okay and his refusal to harbor ill feelings toward those who stole from him.

The public did not hear the private conversations between us - how difficult it was for Jack to open himself up to receiving money and offers of equipment from friends and strangers. When the donations started rolling in, he worried about what to do if they surpassed the amount needed to replace his stolen equipment. He was adamant about not accepting more than he needed because there are so many other people in this world who are in greater need. With regard to any excess donations, the two best options seemed to be to refund or pay it forward. It was a bridge we would cross if we came to it. And it's an important back story that I want people to know about because some unconscious people have made it clear that they cannot fathom the possibility of a person facing this kind of situation with a positive, loving attitude. They say it's not natural and that it doesn't make any sense. And I suppose it doesn't when one sentence is inserted out of context within a news segment or article based on an interview that the public doesn't realize took place days after the incident occurred, after Jack had time to process it and make a conscious decision to proceed with an attitude of peace and love. It takes faith and familiarity with someone's character and personal circumstances to understand that love is a viable, healthy response to tragedy - a brave and radical choice.

It's interesting: I have faith in the beauty of the world to support me when crises arise or when the daily grind of life wears me down. I retreat into the natural world to recharge my battery and adjust my attitude. I realize it's not the answer for everyone, but it is strong medicine for me. However, I've had what feels like an impenetrable lack of faith with regard to financial security. For years, Jack has encouraged me not to stay stuck in a rut based on fear of the unknown. Do what you love, and the money will follow. In his own words:

Will you struggle? Sure. But it will be a different kind of struggle. The difference is that your energy will be put into what you love, and you will do what you need to do to make things work. It's nothing compared to the struggle of getting up every day and spending your days consumed with work that feels wrong, in an environment that weighs you down. When you live your life with purpose and give your gifts fearlessly to the world, you will open yourself up to possibilities you can't even begin to imagine. So many of your beliefs about what you need will fall away, and what you really do need will come to you when you live an inspired life aligned with your Higher Power. Take that leap of faith. Jump out of the plane, and don't worry about the parachute opening. It will.

These are radical words that fly in the face of everything we have been taught and conditioned to believe. I've come across the basic message countless times in spiritual circles throughout my adult life. Reading (and even understanding) it and living it are two entirely different experiences. Part of me considers it magical thinking in which a responsible parent (and the family breadwinner) can't afford to indulge, and another part of me thinks that kind of faith is the missing ingredient that keeps me from moving forward into a more fully expressed and fulfilled life. I wish I could have that kind of faith - as much as some people wish they could find beauty in the world when they are feeling down and battered by life.

We all have so much to teach one another, don't we? So many ways to inspire one another. Although many people aren't ready to remove fear from the driver's seat and allow Spirit - love, harmony, and beauty - to steer them through life, our words and deeds are constantly sowing seeds in this world. And although it's not always easy to have faith, as poet Mary Oliver challenges (in an excerpt from her poem, "Lines Written in the Days of Growing Darkness"):

what else will do
if the love one claims to have for the world
be true?

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

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Facing Misfortune with Grace

This post was originally published on March 8, 2015 on River-Bliss.com.
 
My husband has been up against so many challenges lately. Lots of things came to a head recently, and he has responded by making some enormous lifestyle changes. He turned to meditation and has been absorbing himself in lots of spiritual teachings, especially those of Dr. Wayne Dyer and Ram Dass. He is like a flower finally blooming, and it is inspiring to witness him shifting and experiencing the clarity and natural high that comes from meditating and being mindful. Although I have felt badly about any suffering that could be attributed to me, from a spiritual vantage point it feels as if we are playing our assigned parts in some kind of divine symphony that is much larger than us. I believe it is a blessing when a soul wakes up - however it happens - and that we make soul agreements before incarnating, to help each other learn certain lessons.

Two days ago, in broad daylight, out in the open in a school parking lot, someone broke into Jack's multicolored "happy van" and stole all his musical equipment - a devastating loss. He can't perform without his gear and will have to cancel all his booked gigs until he is able to replace his equipment - which could take quite some time. However, the way he is dealing with this on top of everything else is beyond inspiring. I want to share with you a post he put on social media, in order to spread the word (because you never know who might see or hear something that could prove helpful) and to provide inspiration. Although he has his moments when the weight of the world and the sense of loss feel overwhelming, he is choosing a path of love that can serve as a shining example for the rest of us.


His misfortune reminds me of the Zen story of an old farmer whose horse ran away. When the neighbors heard the news, they sympathized, saying, "Such bad luck!" The farmer replied, "Maybe."

The next morning, the horse returned along with a few other wild horses. After hearing the news, the neighbors exclaimed, "How wonderful!" The farmer replied, "Maybe."

The next day, the farmer's son tried to ride one of the wild horses and fell off and broke his leg. The neighbors again visited to offer sympathy. The farmer responded, "Maybe."

The following day, military officials came around to draft young men but passed the farmer's son by because of his broken leg. The neighbors came to offer congratulations, to which the old farmer replied, "Maybe."

I am hopeful that the suffering Jack is experiencing will flower into spiritual and material blessings and that someday it all will make sense and serve a higher purpose. Perhaps in the end, the theft won't be the misfortune it seems to be right now. How can we possibly know at this point how it will turn out? The best we can do is to navigate the hills and valleys of life with as much awareness and love as possible.

It seems as if Jack suddenly is being stripped of so much that he relied on for his happiness and sense of identity. That is the kind of stripping away that people experience when they are dying. To experience it while one is still alive and healthy is both an enormous challenge and a great opportunity to live and appreciate life more fully. Jack is learning not to take anything for granted and is experiencing inner resources and states of mind that are much more gratifying and enduring than old habits or depending on anything or anyone external to himself for fulfillment.

Here is the story from Jack's perspective. May you be as inspired as I am!

Hello to all my brothers and sisters. I need to ask a favor from all of you...and that is to please share this post with everyone. I am facing a very challenging situation. I've hit a speed bump so to speak on this journey called life.

This past Friday (3/6/15) while subbing at BOCES F. Donald Myer's Education center in Saratoga Springs, my "Happy van" was broken into (side window smashed) between the hours of 7:45 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Every piece of musical equipment I own was stolen (except for my two guitars which were not in the vehicle). My entire livelihood has been taken away from me - many thousands of dollars worth of equipment that I absolutely need to be able to continue providing music for people of all ages as I have done for the past 20-plus years of my life as both a Zucchini Brother and as RiverJack Z.

I know that this is just another challenge in my life that I have been presented with. It's neither good nor bad; it just is. What do I do with this? What do you do with the things in this life that you are attached to and identify with and are taken away from you? I myself realize just that: They are just things. Lately, I have encountered a lot of circumstances and situations that have made me step back, slow down, and realize where exactly I am in this life of mine as Jack (a.k.a Jack Zucchini/RiverJack Z). And I realize that I am right here right now, and this is exactly where I am supposed to be. I don't need to understand it. I just need to go with it and remember that I am a spiritual being having a human experience, and even more importantly: I AM LOVE and LIGHT. This is just an experience along the way. What can I learn from it except the obvious? (Don't leave your livelihood in your van.) There are teachers all along the way and lessons to be learned with every step you take. I choose not to hate or be angry. I feel sorry for the poor, disconnected soul(s) who had to break into one of the happiest vehicles on the road and take away another person's cherished possessions. But there you go: They are just possessions, and I don't really own them, and I won't let them own me.

I remain positive. I surrender to this life. I am alive and grateful for every second I experience. It's taken me nearly 50 years to really wake up, but I am starting to do so, and in doing so I am really living in a very mindful way. It's been a long, strange trip, and I'm grateful to be still chugging along. I hope to have many more blessed years and to keep waking up a better person than I was the day before. That's all we really need to do in this life. There is no "us and them". There is only we. We are all one, and I love you all - even you who are having a hard time right now and deciding to take things from your brother. I hope whoever you are, my brother/sister, that you can start to love yourself more in this life and realize that whatever you do to another you do to yourself. I choose to love you and hope you can find the help you need to make this world a better place to live.

In closing, below is a list of my worldly belongings that have been taken away from me. Again, please share and keep your eyes and ears open. I have no way of singing my song at this point, but I know things have a way of working themselves out...

Namaste,
Jack
*   *   *   *   *

  • 1 -pair Merrill Hiking Boots
  • 1 -pair Costa Sunglasses
  • 1 -Head lamp ( flashlight)
  • 1-large green suitcase
  • 2 -Tripod Stands
  • 1 -Tripod iPhone camera holder
  • 2 -Sm 58 microphones
  • 3-Microphone clips
  • 2-EV-5 Roland Expression Pedals
  • 1 -1500 SHS power amp rack mount
  • 2- 15 inch Kustom DE/speakers
  • 2- Peavy PR 15 Speakers
  • 2-2ft speaker poles
  • 2 guitar stands
  • 1-Xenyx 1202 fx/1002 fx mixer
  • 1-Boss Oc-3super octave pedal
  • 1 Boss rc 300 loop station
  • 1-Digitech vocalist live 4 ( vacal harmonizer & effects processor )
  • 5-Harmonicas ( a,c,d,f,g )
  • 4 tambourines
  • 1-small birchbark covered leather drum
  • 2-Steel brushes
  • 4-small mallets
  • 2-Guitar capos
  • 4-sets of Elixir Nanoweb Acoustic guitar Strings
  • 4 20 ft. speaker cables
  • 2 50 ft. speaker cables
  • 4-3 ft guitar cords
  • 2-4 ft guitar cords
  • 4-5 ft guitar cords
  • 1-10 ft guitar cord
  • 4 3 inch guitar cords
  • 1-Panasonic HDC-TM90 video camera1-Zoom H4n handy recorder (audio)
  • 1-4GB Audio card
  • 2-64 GB SD cards
  • 1-32 GB SD card

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Love What Is

This post was originally published on February 29, 2015 on River-Bliss.com.
 
This morning was the morning I had been waiting for all winter! The day before my birthday, Mother Nature bestowed the gift of an absolutely dazzling, frosted landscape - on a morning when I didn't have to rush off to work, no less!


Satisfied with my frost photos from last winter, I had no interest in replicating them. I wanted to discover new images - perhaps a frosted willow tree. I headed up the hill toward my favorite willows but realized the frost was limited to the immediate riverside areas. Then I drove to my favorite willow across the river - which, it turned out, was completely untouched by frost. The surrounding landscape was breathtaking except for the dredging barges and cranes sticking out of it and ruining an otherwise potentially awesome shot.

Eventually, I retreated into the solitude of my favorite riverside sanctuary, steeped in joy.



The gentle percussion of delicate frost showers striking frosty, dried leaves still clinging to oak trees was exquisite and carried a song that filled me with certainty that all is well, and everything is and will be all right. What a reassuring message during this long, cold winter!


Later in the day, I was in a mood and retreated to the forest once again to find some peace of mind. Upset about factors beyond my control, I was more focused on what was absent or missing (for instance, being able to celebrate my birthday with my mom) than on the richness of what is. I felt so agitated that I couldn't even see much beauty in the woods, aside from the sun shining through the trees (which gets me every time).


Following deer tracks through the woods, I remembered a couple lines from the poem, "Lost," by David Wagoner:
The forest knows where you are.
Let it find you.
I stopped and contemplated those words as a barred owl flew silently overhead. After a long moment, I announced out loud to the forest, "I am here. Please heal me." And the forest answered.

The first thing I noticed was the rainbow-colored sparkles glowing on the surface of the sunlit snow. Nearby was a fallen tree that was covered with snow and looked like a perfect canvas. I became still and listened to the words that bubbled up from my heart: Be kind to yourself. Love what is. I wrote those words in the snow above the fallen tree.


I wrote them on a patch of sunny, sparkling snow. As the sun sank rapidly behind the ridge, I wrote them a third time in a higher, sunny spot around a heart-shaped deer track.


As I made my way out of the forest, I felt so much more peaceful than when I entered. I realized (humbly, once again) that the one factor that is within my control is my attitude toward whatever manifests in the present moment. My response toward "what is" is something I can control, even if it means having to release the energy physically or retreat to a healing space. It is important to know yourself and what you need in those moments when you are overcome by destructive thoughts, feelings, and perceptions so you don't get stuck in them for long. Life is too short to deprive ourselves of the joy and contentment that is available to us when we focus the lens of our awareness on gratitude and beauty instead of deprivation and lack. It seems absurd to waste a single moment resisting reality or adopting a negative perception of "what is" when we are surrounded by so many gifts.

There is always something to pull me back to the present moment and awaken me to its fullness. It might be the song of a chickadee or the delicate zigzag trails left by snowballs rolling on top of the snow.


Make no mistake: There is always something. The important thing is to keep looking.

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

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Right Angle

This post was originally published on February 14, 2015 on River-Bliss.com.

Yesterday afternoon, I walked my kindergarten students to their buses with a spring in my step - for once the buses pulled away, Winter Recess began! It was a blue sky day, and my first order of business was to take my camera exploring! I needed to do this not only because it is my passion, but also because I needed desperately to unwind from a very high energy day at work. The persistent misbehavior of some of the children throughout the course of the week had managed to drain my energy, and I needed to recharge my battery.

I had no specific destination in mind, although river and mountains were calling to me. I headed east along the Battenkill River toward the Vermont border and was dazzled by the scenic, snow-dusted Green Mountains in the distance, which stood out vividly against the backdrop of clear, blue sky.


I breathed in the stability of the mountains and the beauty of the view - and felt serenity wash over me. Healed by nature, once again!

On a whim, I followed a road leading to the Rexleigh Covered Bridge that connects the towns of Salem and Jackson, New York. Whether in the form of barns, cardinals, this bridge, or other structures, I find the contrast of red against a snowy landscape dramatic and compelling.


After a chilly photo shoot, I headed back down the road and noticed a baby evergreen tree growing along the side of the road. The sun was shining on it just right, and it captivated my attention. As I drove slowly past the tree, the angle of sunlight changed, and the tree didn't look so extraordinary.

It occurred to me that, in terms of photography, circumstances, and people, the right angle makes all the difference. Thinking of my challenging students (and how their behavior affects my energy and attitude toward my work), it seems important to regard them from a more flattering angle, in order to really connect with them. If I go to work dreading having to manage persistent behaviors or feel my energy being sucked out the instant a certain child walks through the door, it means I haven't yet found that angle - or that I've lost sight of it. If I am not connecting with the child's light - his or her highest good - then I'm not engaging the magic. The child's needs are not met, and he or she doesn't shine. Neither do I.

In contrast, I recall how children's faces light up when I present them with a cardboard star ornament painted their favorite color. In the center of the star, I print the child's name, and on each of the five points, I write one lovely quality I see in the child (for a total of five). It is a joy to see my students beam as they gaze at the special star in their hands. The same thing happens when I give them a "What We Like About (You)" book written and illustrated by their classmates. I truly believe that when we see people from their most favorable angle and connect with their inner light, we help them to shine. Doing so makes real understanding, communication, and relationship possible. If you don't feel an outpouring of love and compassion toward someone, you probably have not yet found that angle.

The same is true for circumstances. With effort, we can change the way we perceive a circumstance or situation. It's not always necessary to change the circumstance. Oftentimes, changing the way we see it makes a critical difference. Therefore, when we have a negative attitude toward our circumstances, I believe it is useful to reflect on whether there is a more positive, empowering way to perceive them. And if we're honest with ourselves, chances are the answer is yes.

How easy it is to fall under the spell of certain thoughts which might not serve us. Thoughts are not truths. They are like angles of light based on our position relative to the various external elements of our life. They are not the light itself. We must choose them wisely, as a photographer considers lighting in composing a photograph.

This is what the baby evergreen taught me as I drove by it.

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

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Lighter Path Through Winter

This post was originally published on February 11, 2015 on River-Bliss.com.  
"The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper." -W.B. Yeats
A few years ago, I dreamed of a very long, desolate winter. The cold and gloom felt almost claustrophobic. It went on and on, and there was no escaping its firm hold. It was a horrible feeling. I woke up from the dream and realized it was only October! Winter hadn't even begun yet - and there was no escaping it. When I recall that dream, I still can feel the unpleasant sensation in my body.

But there is another way to travel through the heart of winter. A path of light.

When light is less abundant and your eyes grow accustomed to the relative darkness of winter, you can become attuned to the light so that you are able to notice even subtle shifts and not let a single beam of sunshine go unappreciated. You notice the moment when sunlight bursts through the clouds and how it interacts with the various elements of the natural world at just the right angle and fills them with vibrance. You notice the radiance in someone's eyes. You are drawn to light and experience awe - a lot.

I realize many Northeasterners are getting very tired of winter. But because of winter (both literally and figuratively speaking), I have trained my eyes to find some form of beauty virtually every day. It's both a survival strategy and my daily spiritual practice.


Last winter was the most challenging winter of my life, as my mother withered from an aggressive case of advaned pancreatic cancer. The beauty and grandeur of winter saved me every day. Because there was so much sadness and so many health emergencies to manage, I needed a healing connection with nature. It was as essential as the air I breathe. I walked alone and ecstatic through frozen, frost-covered landscapes, overcome by beauty and light. In the words of poet, Mary Oliver, "I got saved by the beauty of the world."


We are about to enter an arctic blast of subzero temperatures, and I can't wait to go outside and explore a frosty wonderland! I have my heart set on seeing and photographing golden sunlight shining through a frosted willow tree and wonder if I am close to experiencing that delight. Even if I'm not, it is something to look forward to. It keeps my eyes open and keeps me going!


Over the weekend, the icicles commanded my attention. They reminded me of the pipes of an organ - and when sunlight caressed them just right, oh, how they sang! I was enchanted by beaded snowflakes, too.


Every year, spring returns. But in the meantime, I try to find something to love every day - because there is something waiting to be noticed and appreciated every day. A gift. To find beauty in the dark, difficult places makes a difference. With gratitude, the journey takes on a whole new meaning. This is something I have learned through experience.


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

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Single Snowflake

This post was originally published on February 3, 2015 on River-Bliss.com. 

For teachers, a snow day is a gift - a gift of time. A  free day off. You don't have to make elaborate sub plans or get materials ready for a substitute teacher. Usually travel is perilous, so there's no pressure to go anywhere. You can stay where you are and let the day unfold.

Today was our second snow day of the school year, and I had lots of plans for it. I spent most of the day editing and sharing photos and cooking while listening to music. Outside, a blizzard blew fine snow through the air, creating tall drifts. Inside, the wood stove kept the house warm and cozy.


Before sunset, I noticed the snowflakes were getting larger and had the urge to photograph them. Some snowflakes were collecting on the door windows, so I decided to set up my tripod inside next to the door and photograph snowflakes through the window. Although there weren't many to choose from on the windows, I couldn't resist trying. The darkness that was setting in provided the perfect, contrasting background. Here are a few of my favorite captures:


I love the flower at the center of the above snowflake!



Upon close inspection, I noticed that virtually all of the snowflakes on the window were fractured by the time they landed. If you think of the fall of a snowflake as the snowflake's lifetime, it makes sense that they get a little battered in the process, doesn't it? We all do. But the basic pattern of the original design remains discernible. And each snowflake is so lovely!  How many individual snowflakes comprise the massive snowdrifts outside? Surely, I don't have vocabulary for such an enormous number.

People complain about winter - the cold, the snow, the inconvenience. But to notice the intricate splendor of a single snowflake is a revelation of all the tiny wonders and beauty that surround us.

Over the weekend, I became annoyed when my car didn't heat up after driving for quite some time. However, rather than remain stuck in frustration, my attention was diverted to a frost design on the window that looked remarkably like a dragonfly. I slipped into a state of awe and joy. Eventually the car warmed up, and all was well. But all was well all along when I allowed myself to see beyond the cloud of frustration to perceive something more.

I wish I could share this flexibility of perception with everyone so nobody would get stuck in distressful states of mind - because life is too short for that kind of distraction and inertia! Large and small wonders are in abundant supply if we tune in to that channel. By noticing, perhaps we can help others to notice and appreciate.

Look around! There are so many wonders waiting to uplift you if you will take a moment to stop and connect with their magic. Allow something as small and commonplace as a two-millimeter snowflake to awaken you to the beauty of our world, even in the middle of winter. That is my wish for you!

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

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Canning Jar Oatmeal to Go

This post was originally published on January 28, 2015 on River-Bliss.com. 


It's been ages since I've written a foodie post! But I just have to share my reinvention of an idea I came across a couple years ago on Pinterest: Canning Jar Oatmeal To Go. It's similar to the instant oatmeal packets you can buy pre-made but sooooo much more wholesome! I made a case of it for my daughter when she was busy working and taking college courses, and she loved it. You put the dry ingredients in a glass jar with a lid, and when you're ready to consume it, just add boiling water, put the lid back on, and let it soak and soften for a few minutes. My favorite jars for this are 16-oz. salsa jars or wide-mouthed mason jars.


I wanted to start making the instant oatmeal jars again recently, but the recipe was no longer available online, and I hadn't saved or printed it. So I created my own which, in my opinion, is even better than the original. It's so simple! The recipe is as follows:

Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup quick or old-fashioned oats
  • 1 tsp. chia seeds (optional)
  • 1 tsp. hemp hearts (optional)
  • 1 Tbs. brown sugar or coconut palm sugar
  • 1 Tbs. raisins
  • 1 Tbs. dried fruit, diced (such as apples, strawberries, or mangoes)
  • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • Pinch of allspice
  • Pinch of cloves
Procedure

Stir the mixture to combine, and then screw on the lid. When you're ready to eat it, add boiling water nearly to the rim, stir, put the lid back on, and let it sit for a few minutes - and remember to bring a spoon! The jar can be quite hot at first, so you might want to wrap a dish towel around it if you're going to transport or handle it.

It's delicious as is, but I often bring along a banana to chop and add to the cooked oatmeal. It's a nice touch but not necessary by any means! You can keep a couple jars in your car and have an instant meal anytime with a quick stop for hot water.

Enjoy!

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Zooming In and Zooming Out

This post was originally published on January 25, 2015 on River-Bliss.com. 

A few mornings ago, feeling emotional after waking from another "visitation" dream of my deceased mother, I went outside to see how much frost needed to be removed from my car before I could leave for work. There was a layer of frost, but clinging to the frost were thousands of snowflakes - an unexpected visual delight I hadn't seen all winter! There was very little time left before I needed to leave, but I took out my photography gear and spent about five minutes reveling in the beauty of the patterns of the snowflakes magnified through my macro lens. It was a world that so easily could go unnoticed. Either you get up too late, after it already has melted away, or you start defrosting or scraping without seeing such tiny details - for instance, stacks of delicate snowflakes as captured in this image:


Every snowflake in a sprawling blanket of snow, and every drop of water in the ocean, is precious.


The catch is that you have to train your eyes to see such miniscule wonders. Or perhaps your eyes are opened by grace in a given moment because it was time for you to see. There is a sermon inside every snowflake if you look at it the right way and are receptive to its fascinating secret.
Each year, a tree produces hundreds or thousands of leaves. If you look closely, you will notice that every leaf is imprinted with the pattern of a tree.


And consider our bodies. Inside our bodies, there are multitudes of cells being generated, living, and dying, just like humans on planet Earth. At a cellular level, dramas unfold through reproductive processes that take place silently and secretly - processes of which we are not conscious. Every single breath is a spectacular event - perhaps like a roller coaster ride or a story of transformation from the perspective of oxygen molecules - but we are largely unaware of the rhythm and process of it as we go about the business of living our lives.

There is so much taking place, so much to be revealed to us if only we look more carefully or employ tools that help us to zoom in and see beyond what we can perceive with the naked eye. And on the opposite end of the spectrum, zooming out provides us with insight about how everything fits together into something larger than itself.

Becoming aware of the universe that exists inside each human body makes me wonder: If we were to zoom way out, are we like infinitesimal cells inside a larger being that we are too small to perceive? And could that entity be but a single cell in something even larger?

These thoughts have been building over the past several days and are blowing my mind this morning! A few days ago, I came across a video (which is absolutely worth three and a half minutes of your time) based on a gargantuan, panoramic photo released by NASA of the Andromeda galaxy. The video portrays impressively our place in the vastness of the cosmos. For me, the timing was perfect.



Prior to seeing the video, I had been revisiting a vision I had a while back of a vast wall covered completely with a sprawling, painted canvas. But the masterpiece painted on the canvas extends far - perhaps infinitely - beyond the boundaries of the wall. Somewhere on the vast wall is a postage stamp sized frame, and if you look inside the frame you can perceive familiar forms - perhaps sky, trees, houses, and figures of people and animals. We humans are the size of pin heads in relation to this postage stamp sized frame, and we take it all in, make what sense we can, and to some degree think we understand the meaning of what we see inside the tiny frame. This miniscule masterpiece (that is a small part of a larger canvas, that in turn is but a small portion of a possibly infinite canvas) represents our perception of our human lives. But what we can perceive - the part that falls within the postage stamp sized area - isn't as it appears if you zoom out. Doing so, you see that the individual forms inside the frame extend far beyond the frame and are parts of much larger shapes and patterns.

It's like taking the sensation of standing at the edge of the ocean or on a mountaintop and magnifying it a thousandfold.

We debate and argue about the meaning of the forms we perceive within the confines of the postage stamp sized frame - which is all our conditioned minds can see. We blame and/or venerate others, exalt ourselves for our perceived successes, and/or rebuke ourselves for our perceived shortcomings and failures - thinking or even fearing that we know The Truth.

But how could we possibly know?

From a wider perspective, perhaps events that seem confusing or tragic on a personal level serve a larger, higher purpose in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps they offer us the gifts of awakening and evolving. Perhaps the biochemistry we inherit or the personal losses that throw us off balance and feel so jolting are actually spiritual blessings. Perhaps we need to extend our perception through time and space to understand this and to realize how inherently connected we are to other forms, beyond the extremely limited frame of human perception. Perhaps doing so will help us cultivate serenity, love ourselves more fully, and in turn live more authentically.

How would it change your life to believe - truly believe - that you are not broken or deficient in some way? That who you are at your core is the light of the universe, imprinted with the pattern of the galaxies? That you can access this higher power at any time by focusing on your inner light?

Zoom in, zoom out, shine on.

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

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Beneath the Surface

This post was originally published on January 18, 2015 on River-Bliss.com.

Just a small reminder (at a time of year when many of us need it) that what we can see is only a small part of what is going on...


Don't be deceived. In Winter, when the world looks bare and seems to be at a standstill, be patient and know that much is happening below the surface. Life is preparing to burst forth again after a necessary time of preparation. May we learn to trust the rhythm of life and the role of the darkness and cold.


Even the river carries this message. Beneath the frozen surface, there is movement taking place. It doesn't stop.

May we go inward and put all the energy we have into preparing for new growth. The time will come soon enough, and all the work we do in the meantime will serve to make us stronger and healthier.
At this time of year, may we cultivate the art of patience and give our attention to that which seeks to emerge from the stillness.

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

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Steeped in Joy on An Ice Coated Morning

This post was originally published on January 5, 2015 on River-Bliss.com.
 

Last night, freezing rain drizzled all night. This morning, there was such beauty outdoors, in spite of the unrelenting grayness!

I walked around outside in awe of the ice covering the tree branches and everything else. All was quiet except for the gentle, soothing sound of melting ice dripping on the crusty snow, punctuated by the occasional cracking of ice in the trees. Then I stood still and heard church bells ringing faintly in the distance from the church on the hill. The tune was Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, which was so familiar and made me think of my mom. It was as if her voice was calling to me in the stillness of this beautiful moment as a resident woodpecker climbed the pole of the basketball hoop, and a bright red cardinal darted by. It was a moment of transcendence and peace.


All around the yard, even the most delicate blades and pine needles were coated individually with ice. (Doesn't the ice formation in the picture below look like underwater coral - or baby ginger?)


Some of the ice formations were so delicate and lacy, and if I hadn't been there at that moment, I'd have missed them altogether because earlier they would have been too hard and frosty, and soon after, they would have melted. You have to catch them at just the right moment.


After 18 days off, I have to return to work tomorrow, and the wish popped into my mind for freedom to do this all the time without having to work around a schedule that steals my free time during all the daylight hours at this time of year. I know I'm missing out on so much splendor when I have to be at work all day and am not free to observe and notice the transient wonders and magnificence of nature. But that wishful thinking takes me out of the moment.

When you're immersed in the fullness and beauty of the moment, you're in a state of blissful interconnectedness - flow. Then you think, "But I want more! I want to be able to do this all the time!" And that is where the trouble begins. Why not be content to do it now? And then go live your life. As a result of doing it now, you will bring more vitality to whatever it is that requires your attention. Taking the time to immerse yourself in what you love, in whatever dose you can manage, enriches your entire existence. You don't have to be able to do it all the time. You just need to bring the vibrance and joy with you into your life. Doing so makes you feel more alive and engaged, and your enthusiasm may create a ripple that inspires and awakens others. It begins by steeping yourself in what fills you with wonder, awe, and/or joy.

Dive in, savor it, and make it part of you.

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

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Dawn of the New Year

This post was originally published on January 2, 2015 on River-Bliss.com.

New Year's Day was our fourth sunny day in a row (so far!) after a long string of gray days in December. It's been such a joy to take out my camera again!

Although I would have preferred to sleep in, I opened my eyes in time to notice intense sunrise colors low on the horizon and was out the door within a couple minutes - with my sleep eye mask still dangling around my neck!


The bridge and trees obstructed much of the color, so I jumped in the car and set off in search of a better view. The intense tones were elusive and fading quickly, but I was on a quest for sunrise inspiration and beauty in whatever form it appeared.



Then I was drawn to the Saratoga Monument, which commemorates the American victory in the Battle of Saratoga - the "turning point" of the Revolutionary War.


That was the image of the day. Something about the juxtaposition of the sunlight and the cannon spoke to me.

Going off in search of beauty and inspiration is a great pleasure in and of itself. It's like a daily treasure hunt. The images I capture become part of my visual gratitude journal - which presently contains thousands of images that remind me on gray days of the goodness and wonder that exist in the world. Meditating on what drew me to a particular image takes the process to an even deeper level.

The image of the tree standing in between sunlight and the cannon speaks to me of the choice we have every moment of our lives to be at war or in harmony with the present moment. Are we receptive to the grace that shines in our life even when we are on the ground fighting our various battles? I believe that pausing to connect with the light makes all the difference.

After returning from my New Year's sunrise quest, I tried to get a little more rest. As I lay down, the sunlight beamed through the window, and I experienced the sensation of being filled with light, beginning in my toes and going all the way to the top of my head. It wasn't something I tried to do; it just happened, and I allowed it. As light filled me completely, the word grace (and the feeling of grace) entered in as well. For a few moments, I was filled with light and grace - and felt as if I was light and grace. I have experienced this sensation a couple other times, and it is a most wonderful gift.

Being receptive to the light that shines in our lives - the light that is at our core - is a gift we can give ourselves. Every moment is a choice!

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

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
 

The Last Christmas Present

This post was originally published on December 29, 2014 on River-Bliss.com.
  
During the summer, my dad gave me some money that my mom "would have wanted me to have" after she died. I knew immediately what to do with some of it: It would be my last Christmas present from my mom. So around Thanksgiving, I bought the wide angle lens I'd been wanting for a long time but couldn't afford on my teacher's salary, wrapped it, and placed it in a gift bag my mom gave me last Christmas. I wasn't around on Christmas and didn't put up a tree or any other decorations because I just didn't feel up to it. A few days after Christmas, I was still waiting for the right time to open it.
 

   
When this morning's colorful sunrise interrupted a long string of gray days, I knew the time was right. I opened the present with the excitement of a child and then ran outside to use it right away and send a big thank-you into the beautiful sky. 



The idea of buying a lens "from my mom" came from a dream I had of my grandmother after she died less than four years prior. My grandmother came to me in a dream and seemed excited because she wanted to give me one last gift. I recently had been given some money from the sale of her house and woke up from the dream knowing what to do with it: I used it to buy my first "real" camera. It was probably the most important purchase I ever made because nature photography - and sharing it online - has completely transformed my life and given me a renewed sense of purpose.

And speaking of dreams...

On Christmas morning, I dreamed - twice - that my mom was picking up the phone to call me. After waking up from the dream fragment the second time, I decided to meditate. When I did, I heard my mom's voice telling me to call a certain relative. I resolved to make the call a little later, only to hear my mom's voice once again, saying, "NOW." So I did. The person seemed very depressed, and I am so glad that I called when I did and passed along the story of how I ended up calling sooner rather than later. We talked about how my mom seems to communicate with us through one another.

So it seems I received two Christmas gifts from her this year. One was planned, and the other was a surprise to be shared.

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.

Looking Back with Gratitude, Moving Forward with Hope

This post was originally published on December 29, 2014 on River-Bliss.com.

As the year draws to a close, I continue to be immersed in Big Questions that frustrate me with their lack of definitive answers. Clearly, it’s part of the awakening resulting from my mother’s death mid-year. This year, life has taken on a more urgent quality than ever before, and this has been a theme throughout my writing all year long. I want answers, and I want them now! I feel desperate to know: Why am I here?

And what would having The Answer(s) do for me? Well, it feels like I’m in a game (along with everyone else) but don’t know what the object of the game is, so I don’t know what rules to play by. And I am at a crossroads and want to know how best to proceed. Play the life is short/follow your bliss card? The gratitude card? The perseverance/don’t rock the boat card? Where does my responsibility to others begin and end?


What are the rules of this game we’re all in together? What is the purpose? Is there a purpose? And if so, is it universal or different for everyone?

Yes, I have been doing some deep soul-searching lately...

With these questions in mind, I decided to take a good look at my life thus far from a meditative "breathing space" and consider what opportunities for learning and growth my various experiences, relationships, and circumstances have presented to me. It was something I felt spontaneously guided to do, and it was an insightful exercise, which is why I’m sharing it. I considered my childhood, teen years, early adulthood, parenthood, marriages, career – the whole picture, one piece at a time. What themes have arisen? What struggles? What patterns? How have I been successful, and what areas offer further room for growing my soul?

You could call it the Preparing for the New Year / Mid-Life Check-In.

After journeying through my whole life and writing about the gifts and opportunities offered by my various experiences (that often felt like neither at the time), I looked for common themes and consolidated my list into more meaningful chunks. Making the list was satisfying. It put my challenges and struggles into perspective, allowed me to put a positive spin on absolutely everything, and gave me some insight into the question: What am I here to learn?

Here are several answers I came up with:
  • To understand that enduring peace and happiness are not to be found in external circumstances, relationships, or when a certain condition is met – but here and now, despite circumstances
  • To have the courage to release situations that have outlived their usefulness and follow where spirit leads – to joy, passion, and a renewed sense of purpose (to be led by love, not fear)
  • To find beauty, serenity, inspiration, and connection in nature
  • To share my gifts to uplift, heal, and inspire others (not to bolster my ego)
  • To see and reflect divine magnificence in others and in myself
  • To receive from my parents the gifts of love, music, kindness, and stability
  • To honor my own needs (for exercise, sleep, etc.) first
  • To release the shame and stop hiding who I am so I may live a more fearless, uninhibited life
  • To not be overly sensitive to the opinions others (including my Inner Critic) may or may not hold about me
  • To avoid elevating others above myself or resenting them for having what I don't have
  • To trust my own guidance and wisdom instead of looking to others for answers and authority
  • To develop compassion and acceptance through experiences that did not meet my expectations
  • To cultivate patience but not to the point that it becomes a hindrance
  • To grow a backbone that allows me to relate to others without being taken advantage of or giving away my power
  • To empower myself by forgiving others and accepting my own responsibility
  • To forgive myself and allow others to accept their own responsibility
  • To regard my body as a vehicle for navigating through life, and to care for it without making my self-worth dependent on it
The above list is hard-won wisdom. It is advice I would give to my children.

After this exercise, I did a guided meditation that helped me to answer the question: Why am I here? I visualized floating in space among the stars, stripped of everything except for my core essence. I felt myself being drawn to planet Earth and considered why I wanted to go there. The answers I received put the above list into an even greater perspective.

All in all, these contemplative exercises proved to be powerful practices to prepare for the New Year. I don't feel so frantic anymore. Instead, I feel grateful for everything that has come my way - and hopeful about what is yet to come. It feels like a good posture for stepping through the threshold of a new year.


Thank you for hanging in there and following me through the most challenging year of my life. I wish you many blessings in the New Year!


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.