In the Details

Photograph © 2018 Peggy Kornegger
“God is in the details,” some wise individual once said. Different people interpret that sentence differently, but for me it means the Divine lives in every seemingly insignificant detail in the world. God does not show up solely for fiery sunsets, mountain panoramas, and sacred ceremonies. God is also in the tiny ant crawling across the picnic table and the voice of a neighbor singing off-key at 6 a.m. God exists beyond judgment and circumstance. God is everywhere.

My own experience of God over the years has frequently been rich with color, light, and sound, as well as tears of gratitude and awe. Sunlight on a flower at dawn or Andrea Bocelli singing Italian love songs both make me cry, as does the exquisite imagery of a poet like Mary Oliver or the inspiring words of a spiritual master. Yet, I am finding as my life journey continues that perhaps the most profound connection with God is in the finely drawn details of daily life. Seeing God in subtlety is perhaps the greatest blessing of all.

To gaze at a luminous bird of paradise or a faded handmade quilt with equal reverence. To recognize spirit in every living being. I saw God, as well as many lifetimes shared, in my father’s eyes as he neared the end of his life. I also saw God in the eyes of a black-and-white pit bull who turned to look intently at me as he passed by with his human companion. Each of these experiences moved me profoundly. There was no doubt in my mind that I was in the presence of divine spirit (only the form differed), and grace had allowed me to see it.

Although my experiences of God are at times powerful, at other times they are less dramatic, such as a synchronicity or sign that redirects my path in a small but significant way. God’s presence is not always obvious, as when rays of golden light illuminate the landscape in magical and breathtaking ways. It is in the quiet, simple moments as well—waking to a new day with fresh energy and enthusiasm, feeling the gentle touch of a loved one’s hand, hearing a mockingbird’s song late on a summer evening.

God is also in the seeming catastrophes of life when things fall away or apart, and we feel lost and helpless. Invariably on the other side of those experiences is a wider horizon, a new vista, and the opportunity to expand even further on our life’s journey. Everything holds within it possibility and the full spectrum of life’s experiences. The recent appearance of a For Sale sign in front of the house where my partner and I have rented an apartment for ten years opened the door to an exciting new adventure for us in a completely different part of the country.

So, as I go through my day, I am grateful when I notice and appreciate the myriad details that surround me. For therein is a connection to spirit that does not rely on visual or audial drama and fanfare. Life just is—and every part of it is a miracle. Ultimately, the truth is that each one of us is God seeing God everywhere. There just is nothing else.

 

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Your Crowning Glory

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Photograph © 2017 Peggy Kornegger
Okay, can we take a look at the elephant in the room, the one we avoid, the one we pretend isn’t there? Specifically, the white-haired elephant, otherwise known as ageism. Ageism affects us all at one time or another in Western culture. Women get hit by it around 35 or 40 when the first white/gray hairs appear, and we are encouraged to run for the hair dye. Around the same time, makeup ads advise treating those new wrinkle lines with cover-ups, serums, and lotions so they don’t become permanent. Later, Botox is the treatment of choice.

Men get the wakeup call if they begin to bald early. Ads urge them to get hair transplants, or the trend now is to shave their heads. If their hair starts to lose color instead, they may receive a few years of deferment with the “distinguished gray” perception. However, eventually they too are faced with the white-hair stigma. The idea of just allowing our physical bodies to age gracefully and naturally—with a healthy diet, exercise, and a stress-free lifestyle instead of some kind of intervention—still remains on the outskirts of the collective consciousness. We live in a culture that promotes “youth” relentlessly.

I wore makeup in my early 20s, but when I came to see the underlying sexism and ageism in it, I stopped. I’ve never dyed my hair for the same reason. It’s all just costuming anyway. If we could see it as play, it might be fun, but when it’s tied to tight social expectations and judgments, it becomes an impediment to self-acceptance. Women are habitually trained to wear masks to alter their appearance and disguise their age. And one white hair can give you away. So I have had various reactions over the years to my gradually whitening hair.

What I’ve discovered is that there are three kinds of assumptions people may unconsciously make when they see someone with white hair:
1) The person is old, frail, and physically weak.
2) The person is mentally slow-witted and forgetful.
3) The person is just plain invisible.

I’ve occasionally had one of the above directed at me (or one of my parents), such as someone offering a bus seat or a salesclerk over-explaining in a condescending way. When my father was still alive, I habitually had doctors or salespeople talk only to me even when my father was asking the question. Your individuality and your humanity often become invisible because of white hair or wrinkles. Not to everyone, but to some. Many people respond with an open generous heart, regardless of age, sex, or physical appearance. Others get lost in their own preconceptions.

I’m certainly not criticizing people for offering seats; really that’s a kindness we should extend to everyone. It’s the socially created assumptions behind certain behaviors that are annoying. A receptionist at my eye doctor’s office recently said to me in a somewhat snotty tone, “Do you realize you’re a half hour early for your appointment?” I replied, “Yes, of course. I always arrive early. Better than being late.” It took me a minute to realize that she would never have said that to someone younger. My white hair made her think I needed some kind of wake-up call.

Isn’t it about time that we see aging as a journey into wisdom and well-being instead of decline and stupidity? We expand into more awareness, empathy, and generosity as we age (if our hearts remain open). Many cultures honor their elders as the most valued citizens of the community. They don’t ignore, shun, or discard them as we do in Western society because they no longer bring in “a capital wage.” So many broken paradigms are falling away—this one needs to as well.

Let’s look at white hair as natural and beautiful instead of something we have to hide or deny. Don’t let anyone else’s perceptions define and limit you. Be your own unique soul self throughout your life. As you stretch and grow with each year of your time here on Earth, think of that shining white light at the crown of your head as a sacred gift: God’s blessing for a magnificent, expansive, fully lived life.

Life Is Complicated, Life Is Simple

Photograph © 2018 Peggy Kornegger
We humans like to think life can be reduced to a list of tips or suggestions that will keep everything controllable and running smoothly. Social media and marketing promote this illusion with articles and ads that proclaim the “top ten” ways to health, wealth, love, or eternal youth. The truth is that life is not manageable. Relationships can be challenging, checkbooks may not balance, and the most carefully thought-out plans fall through. Is this the end of the world, reason for despair? Absolutely not. If life were predictable and reducible to easy steps for across-the-board success, it would be boring, and we would not grow and evolve.

Which is not to say that we shouldn’t be open to wisdom that can come from many sources, including others who have walked a path of challenge before us. Still, to believe that we can completely control outcomes is a trap that keeps us caught in trying and aspiring to something just out of reach. If we let go and allow life to unfold naturally, just surrender to being itself (as God and our souls intended), we relax into possibility and relinquish predictability. The divine plan for our lives and life itself is so much more expansive than anything our minds could conceive of. To experience the wonder of that is such a blessing.

I admit that I’ve written to-do lists for much of my adult life. Many years ago my massage therapist had me stop writing them as a way to relax at a deeper level. It was a challenge, but she was right. When you only see life through the filter of tasks to be completed, you miss so much. You miss the bends in the road and the side-paths that may take you to unforeseen miracles. You miss everything that can’t be written down or spelled out. And honestly, God will always find a way to tear up your to-do lists and send you tumbling into the unknown. Better to surrender the human need to control ahead of time and trust that something greater, beyond words, will support you on life’s journey.

Doors will magically open ahead of you and experiences will flow when you just allow them to. Don’t let fear stop you. It is only the mind’s defense against loss of control. On the other side of fear is infinite possibility—an entire cosmos waiting for your open-hearted participation. Yes, I still scribble down passing thoughts or ideas on pieces of paper or in my journal. As a writer, I feel I am often a conduit for my soul’s voice, and I don’t want to let that pass unnoted. But I am no longer ruled by a numbered list of tasks. My life unfolds more organically and spontaneously. In the deepest part of my heart and soul, I acknowledge God/dess as the source of all, not my own mental constructs. There is freedom in that. In letting go, I am open to so much more.

So don’t be fooled by the voices that tell you that one short list will solve all your problems. The key is not to see life as a problem at all. It is complicated and messy at times, but it is not really a problem to be solved. Everything becomes simpler if we open ourselves to a cosmic design beyond our comprehension and just allow it to transpire in its own intricate and unpredictable way. Then we tap into life’s greatest wisdom: Miracles can’t be listed or self-generated. When you surrender completely to a greater intelligence in the universe, or whatever your own view of God is, your life begins to soar into experiences your wildest imagination couldn’t foresee. And then there is only one word written on your heart: Gratitude.

The Temple Is You

Photograph © 2018 Peggy Kornegger
Your physical form is not a throw-away container to be mistreated or ignored and then discarded at the end of your life with reluctance or relief. As the greatest mystics have said, your body is a temple. It is the holy shrine that houses God and your eternal soul and is to be treated with honor and gentleness. Perhaps even awe. It is an amazing gift to be alive on this planet at this time. At any time really. There is great mystery involved in our beingness, most of which we will never understand while we are in our physicality. However, we can experience that mystery as the miracle that it is in every moment of our lives.

Life can be challenging, no doubt about it. Physical pain, emotional distress, loss, grief. Yet there is also joy, love, self-expression, and celebration. These are the extremes of being human on a planet of polarities. This is why we came here, to experience everything (and for God to experience it through us) and to come to the ultimate awareness that it is all a blessing, not a curse. In that realization lies freedom from suffering. It opens the door to being immersed in divine connection 24/7, within which we are fully conscious of our own divinity. We understand that all of what we experience on Earth is for our evolution and expansion, not our destruction, and our bodies are the vehicle for this human/divine process within universal consciousness.

So your body is a temple where you can meet God directly and be held in that transcendent embrace of unconditional love. You don’t need the external physical manifestation of a building or shrine, although sometimes those can be powerful reminders. The greatest reminder, though, is your own heart, your own soul, which are ever-present in your physical form. With one deep spirit-infused breath, you can access the divine Presence that is always with you. In many languages, the word for breath and the word for spirit are the same, and this tells you something about the ancient wisdom that surrounds us at all times. When the mystics and masters said that “God is within,” it wasn’t a metaphor. It is a physical as well as metaphysical reality.

We meet God/dess everywhere all the time. It infuses life on Earth; it infuses our own lives. There is nothing you can see or touch or hear or imagine that isn’t sacred Source energy, which created this extraordinary universe to begin with. Actually, it wasn’t so much a beginning as an expansion within timelessness: Being exploring itself beyond beginnings and endings. That may sound strange or esoteric, but the day-to-day reality is this: When you look at the sky, you are seeing God. When you look in the eyes of a loved one or a stranger, you are seeing God. When you look in a mirror, you are seeing God. That’s all there is. In realizing that at the deepest level, you begin to walk upon the Earth with wonder and gratitude for the preciousness of every experience, every second we are gifted with here.

Yes, you are the temple. And so is everything else. No separation. The human mind sees separation, otherness, but that is an illusion. The heart knows the ultimate truth that there is no them, no it, no inanimate objects that are disconnected from us and can be used or abused. Everything you do or say to another, you are doing or saying to yourself, to God. When you hold that awareness in your consciousness continuously, your life becomes a prayer and a living meditation. And isn’t that the greatest gift you could possibly give and receive in your lifetime?

 

Gratitude Instead of Grievance

Photograph © 2017 Peggy Kornegger
Celebrate the blessings in your life and let go of the perceived wrongs. At the deepest level, everything is a blessing, and those who challenge your identity or cause you pain play their role in your life too. It’s all a giant improvisational drama, this life on Earth. We came into this world with a soul framework, a few costumes, and a troupe of other players. Together we live the magic of life lessons and evolving epiphanies, which lead us forward on our journey.

In grade school, I had two teachers who each embodied different qualities: one, Mrs. Logan, was pure loving-kindness, and the other, Mrs. Wyman, was filled with anger and a need to control.* Both of them taught me human lessons beyond the classroom and had an effect on my life that I’m beginning to see more clearly now after all these years.

Mrs. Logan was my fourth grade teacher, and she was sweetness personified, always giving us interesting games to play between lessons as well as free time to read on our own (my favorite). She was extremely patient and listened attentively to our day-to-day life stories. She also told us about her own life and her grown daughter. In many ways, she was like a second mother to each of us, and everyone loved her. I cried at the end of the year when I said good-bye and later told my mother, “There will never be another Mrs. Logan.” She was my all-time favorite teacher, and I’ve never forgotten how genuinely loving she was to me.

Mrs. Wyman, on the other hand, scared me to death. When I was a shy first-grader, she grabbed me harshly by the shoulders one day in the lunchroom and hissed, “Next time you throw away the crusts of your sandwich, I’m going to make you take them out of the garbage and eat them.” In sixth grade, when I entered the art room (yes, she was the art teacher) as the bell was ringing, she proclaimed me late and made me stay after school and write “I will never be late again” over and over for an hour. Quiet, good student that I was, those two incidents both frightened and embarrassed me. And at the sixth grade level, it also filled me with outrage at being unjustly accused. (My locker had stuck and I was “late” because of that.)

So, right there, my life path was laid out before me: a peaceful warrior for both justice and love. In my twenties I became first a hippie flower child and then a political activist, later a radical feminist. Love was at the core of everything I believed in, a love that was inclusive of all peoples and the Earth. I had no patience with authority or hierarchy of any kind (what a surprise). Over the years, I watched as the patriarchal paradigm that we all grew up with slowly start to be challenged and disrupted by women and men alike. New options, based in freedom and equality, rose out of the growing awareness of each successive generation.

The old top-down structures still hang on, but something else is being born. Something circular and flowing and filled with life. I see myself in the students now who are standing up against violence and power politics. The heart of love continues in them in spite of the forces waged against it, and the people who have been wounded reach out in compassion to others who are suffering. The deeper truth is that those doing the wounding were also wounded themselves. They too are suffering. It is time for the cycle to be broken.

Looking back I can see the loving-kindness in Mrs. Wyman that she was unable to express because of her own core wounding. I no longer feel anger toward her but only empathy. And also, interestingly, gratitude. She helped me find my voice in the world. She, along with Mrs. Logan, helped me become who I am today. Every single person in our lives plays a role, one taken on before birth. When we can see life the way God sees it, we understand that there is only evolving, expanding awareness, only love. So let go of your grievances, and embrace gratitude instead. That one opening will liberate your soul from the constraints of all your stories about the past.
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*Names changed