Raking Leaves: Connection

Photograph © 2015 Peggy Kornegger
In autumn here in Massachusetts, I often preempt the landscapers hired by our landlord and rake the leaves in our yard myself. In doing so, I not only avoid the gas fumes and deafening noise of their leaf-blowers, I also step into a kind of spiritual practice. Raking leaves, in the quiet of a crisp fall day, is sweetness for the soul. The slow movements back and forth are deeply meditative. My body moves gently and unhurriedly with the natural rhythm of the seasons. I listen to the sounds of blue jays and chickadees calling and pause silently to watch when a butterfly or bumblebee alights on the periwinkle ageratum flowers. Gratitude fills my heart. I feel intensely the beauty of nature all around me. The sun on my face and hands, the slightly cool breeze, the smell of fallen leaves and the earth itself. At times like these, I am fully present, fully connected to the spirit within me and everywhere around me.

We miss this connection when we fill our lives with machines and technology (leaf-blowers, snow-blowers, cell phones, WiFi, etc.). The health hazards associated with them are now more widely known, and the toll on our physical and spiritual bodies is great. So much better to adopt life-affirming practices such as raking leaves or hanging freshly washed clothes to dry instead of saturating them with chemically created smells from dryer sheets. Choosing organic locally grown produce instead of commercially grown GMO-ridden foods. Cutting back on cell-phone use and social media habits and talking to our neighbors and friends in person. All these are sacred spiritual practices really. Ways of living in harmony with others and with our Mother Earth instead of thoughtlessly using her to fulfill our manufactured desires for short cuts and convenience.

Life in essence is not fast food or fast cars. It’s not noise and frenetic multi-tasking. It’s the contemplative moments of connection to something greater—nature, God, mystery—that we will recall at the end of our lives, not what we have “owned” or achieved. The rush to consume and fill our lives with objects leaves us empty-handed in the end. Life and death are one continuous process, nothing ever lost or gained but awareness. We learn this when we align ourselves with the seasons; when we garden, or shovel snow, or rake leaves. “Chop wood, carry water,” before and after enlightenment, as the saying goes.

As we become more conscious and aware, we open ourselves to more natural, life-affirming ways of living on Earth. We connect more personally and less superficially with the people in our lives. We start to eat more wisely from natural healthy sources. Sometimes we walk or bike instead of drive. Intentionally, we begin to opt out of the easy solution or quick fix in favor of the more integrated and holistic choice. In other words, your version, whatever it is, of raking leaves in the fall. It’s not hard to find ways of coming into balance with life and nature. The harmony you will experience within your heart and soul will fill your life with a new sense of connection to all lives everywhere.

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Glimpses of God

Those of us who have been on a spiritual path for twenty or thirty years know firsthand that there is no fast track to enlightenment. No door that can be forced open by sheer will power, on the other side of which God sits waiting. No treasure chest that a special secret code can spring open. Detective work and safe-cracking tools will get you nowhere, except back to where you started from, learning again and again to sit quietly and open your heart to the God within. Our lifetime search brings us home to ourselves, realizing at last that God is everywhere and everything, including us.

That realization is a reflection of our connection to universal consciousness (another name for God), and it does not occur overnight, transforming us instantly to an enlightened being of light. The truth, of course, is that we are already that at the soul level. It is our awareness that is evolving and expanding. And this is a gradual process. It requires patience and a commitment to experiencing both the presence and seeming absence of divine connection as we move forward. The light within us, our soul, is awakening us slowly to the powerful cosmic light that permeates everything in the universe. Just as we can’t look directly at the sun with our human eyes, our human form can’t immediately take in the overwhelming power of the divine light that is God. As we evolve here on planet Earth, we are gradually coming to a point at which we can fully embody the light and experience God within ourselves, just as the ancient mystics did.

Meanwhile, on the way, we catch glimpses of God. The power of these experiences is so all-consuming that many times we believe we have arrived, that we are Home permanently with God, fully “enlightened.” Not so fast. As the weeks pass, the powerful experience fades, and we may feel as if we’ve lost it all. Untrue. With each glimpse, our recognition of our connection deepens. Our soul steps more to the forefront of our daily experience, and the personality self, or ego, takes a back seat. Eventually, there is nothing but soul, nothing but God awareness, cosmic consciousness. But in the human frame of reference, this takes time. After all, this is a journey to eternity, not a weekend workshop.

So we continue. We learn to trust, surrender, and have faith in an eternal presence, even if we are not entirely conscious of it at the moment. With each letting go, our awareness expands, and we open ourselves to ever-deeper experiences of, and merging with, God. Samadhi, union with the Divine, lives within us, and as we evolve, its presence permeates every cell with greater, and more indelible, power. After we have experienced our first glimpse of God, this is what we live for. It is a longing for complete oneness, which we return to again and again with each experience. The glimpses may last longer and be more all consuming as we progress, but the secret is to just be present for whatever occurs and trust that God’s timing is perfect. Your awareness will flower completely when it is meant to. Your soul knows the divine plan by heart.

“Has it ever occurred to you
that you are seeking God
with His eyes?”
—Adyashanti

Saving Grace—Elephants, Dolphins, and Whales

Elephants, dolphins, and whales are three of the most intelligent, grace-filled beings on Earth. In this week’s video blog, I talk about my own experiences with them and offer a prayer/plea for their survival. May we humans open our awareness and step away from cruel and heartless behaviors that endanger the lives and well-being of these magnificent creatures we share the planet with. Save the elephants. Save the dolphins. Save the whales. Save all animals. And in doing so, save the sweet grace they embody in their lives.

Butterfly Effects

Photograph © 2017 Peggy Kornegger
The aptly named “butterfly effect” has become well known in recent years as people begin to take seriously the interconnectedness of all life on our planet, as well as the nature of energy itself. The name refers to the possibility that the movement of a butterfly’s wings affects the world around it in unforeseen ways. The greater truth of this idea resonates within my own life again and again, often quite literally.

Several weeks ago, I reread Sharon Salzberg’s book Faith, published in 2002. I had read it then, but I was moved to take it off the shelf again because its title called to me strongly. As my spiritual journey has deepened, I have found myself repeatedly stepping off the edge of certainty (or the illusion of it) into the unknown. Over the past two months, everything seemed to fall away until I realized that I was being asked to move forward completely on “faith.” Thus my reason for rereading Sharon’s book. With each chapter, I saw how much more deeply I connected with it than I had 15 years before.

Sharon’s personal stories and insights met me right at the center of my own current experience. In her words: “Whatever takes us to our edge, to our outer limits, leads us to the heart of life’s mystery, and there we find faith.” Faith is in essence “the ability to move forward even without knowing.” Which, ultimately, we are all called to do in life, however we may resist it by building an iron-clad belief system or distracting ourselves with what we think are facts. In their wisdom, Native Americans called life “the Great Mystery.” Over the preceding weeks, I had found myself spiraling at the center of that mystery. I kept moving forward inch by inch until finally a wider perspective presented itself in the one word faith. I understood that I may never know with my mind, but I will always know with my soul. And it was my soul that guided me to Sharon’s book.

Photograph © 2017 Peggy Kornegger

I decided to read the last few chapters of Faith sitting out in my backyard. When I walked out the door, book in hand, the first thing I saw was a monarch butterfly flying from flower to flower in my garden, my first sighting of the year. Monarchs have become less frequent visitors lately as their numbers diminish because of destruction of their habitat. However, its very presence, its brilliantly colored radiance, attested to the miracle of its survival in spite of all odds. My heart skipped a beat when it lifted its wings and soared right over my head and then circled back to land on another flower. Sheer magic.

After a time of just standing and watching the monarch in wonder, I settled into a lawn chair to read nearby. For more than two hours, it visited flower after flower. Periodically I looked up and gazed at its delicate beauty. As I read the last page, I could feel faith in the unseen divinity that is at the core of all life flood my soul with love and awareness. My small butterfly visitor embodied that blessing. It had come to renew my faith as it lifted its wings and my heart simultaneously. And this is also part of the butterfly effect: The butterfly’s divine life force and magical beauty moves our hearts into alignment with the grace of God’s presence, where faith resides, always. From that place, we too can share our own beautiful life force with others and lift their hearts.

 

The Transformative Power of “Me Too”

Photograph © 2017 Peggy Kornegger
It has become a social media phenomena, the #MeToo that says “yes, I too have been sexually harassed or abused.” Women’s voices are finally being heard and acknowledged in huge numbers after years of fear, shame, secrecy, and silence. We have endured hidden and overt harassment in our lives since childhood. Children of both sexes have also been subjected to sexual abuse, and women of all ages have been raped and traumatized. At last, the invisible is becoming visible, and the secrets are becoming public as courageous individuals shine the light of truth on sexual predation and disempowerment.

Presidents, priests, Olympic doctors, Hollywood moguls, and countless unnamed others are part of a worldwide epidemic of disrespect and sexual violation. With great bravery and integrity, women, and adults of both sexes who were abused as children, are speaking up and sharing the experiences they have held inside themselves for so long. Each revelation empowers others to speak up and say “me too.” Each voice that is heard adds to the collective transformation from personal trauma to liberation from fear and shame.

All these secret transgressions are being revealed because the time of rape and violation behind closed doors is coming to an end. The secrets are being revealed, and the collective voice of humanity is saying “no more.” “Me too” empowers each of us in our lives to speak up and stand with others who have been hurt and shamed by assault and harassment. Personally, I know of no one among my women friends (and a number of men, as well as gender fluid and transgender, friends) who has not experienced some form of sexual hatred or harassment. Me too.

From catcalls in the street, to unwelcome comments or touching from bosses, landlords, dentists, or complete strangers, to the violence of rape, we have experienced disrespect and disregard for our basic humanity. It is ending. The courage and strength of a few individuals has become an avalanche of shared stories and coming together. Yes, me too…and no more. We are stepping out of the old framework based in “power over” into a new paradigm of inner power based in compassion and respect for all—adults, children, elders, animals, plants, and Mother Earth herself.

“Me too” is about inner fortitude, resilience, and refusal to be silenced and subjected to the will of another ever again. It is also about compassion and empathy for all those who have been in that position. The larger “me too” helps individual women and children of both sexes say No to transgressions against the sanctity of their bodies and souls. For sexual abuse is a violation of the spirit not just the physical form. So many people are disengaged from the spiritual nature of humanity. We are God/dess in human form on this Earth. If this were universally understood, then everyone would see that our human bodies are sacred temples for the soul, never to be desecrated or violated. When individuals are aligned with their inner divinity, only love and compassion are possible in the outer world. The time has come for a healing of spirit and form, in all people.

The chorus of voices now speaking the truth shines light into a world darkened by soul-less actions and horrible violations of the human spirit. Awakening is occurring, on all levels. We are evolving, as individuals, as collective consciousness, into full awareness of who we really are at the soul level. The strength and determined truthfulness of the few is multiplying until it circles the world in numbers that ultimately will include every living being on this planet. When we say “me too,” we are opening the door to oneness and stepping into a more inclusive and expansive experience of life and the world around us. Finally we can live from love not fear. That is the transformative power of those two simple words: Me too.