Upside Down and Backward

Photograph © 2018 Peggy Kornegger
When I was a child, I used to lie on the living room rug and gaze up at the ceiling, imagining it as the floor. I pictured how it would be to live in an upside down house and walk from room to room stepping over the doorway arches. My partner Anne used to do the same thing when she was little, even though she grew up in an entirely different part of the U.S. Is this something that all kids do, or just a coincidence? I found myself wondering if it is a genetic code within us for novelty and reinvention, which somehow gets lost as we grow older. How do we keep our vision of the world fresh in an adult world that teaches us that physical reality is solid, unchanging, and that facts and predictability are the basis for living a safe and orderly life?

At an early age, children often aren’t interested in order and rigid perceptual rules, unless they have had it already instilled in them via parental fears. What if, at heart, we aren’t either? What if our souls really want imagination, improvisation, and exploration? The element of surprise. After all, we came to this extraordinarily diverse and beautiful planet to live our human lives fully and completely. Who wants to live it in a box of repetitive, expected events and experiences? I’ve always intuitively felt this way. That’s why I’ve moved and traveled so much in my life, from coast to coast and continent to continent. Every time I went somewhere else, I saw the world with fresh eyes. I loved it. I still do.

This move to Florida has been particularly powerful. Literally everything has been tossed up into the air. Anne and I are beginning anew in a different state, a different home, and a different climate. North to South: upside down. I continually feel as if we have crossed into another dimension. Everything unknown. Each day I see something new. The flowers and birds are unique. Even the sky is different—dramatic and ever-changing weather patterns and clouds in an infinite number of shapes, sizes, and colors. We are acutely aware of the new world we are experiencing and what a gift it is to see every detail of life as if for the very first time.

I don’t want to lose that feeling. Last evening she and I reversed the direction of our walk on the nature trail around our community. We did it “backward,” and it felt like a completely different experience. Even in a month, our eyes and brains had acclimated to our surroundings. By changing direction, we flipped the “predictable” switch in favor of “unplanned.” It was exciting to spontaneously and consciously choose the new in a relatively familiar situation. I realized that I can do that at any given moment. A small shift in your inner vision can have a huge impact on your outer experience. Life is, after all, a reflection of your inner state of being.

This morning as I walked the trail by myself, I was very conscious of all that was new to me: the butterflies, lizards, dragonflies, purple beautyberries, orange canna lilies. It was thrilling just to be outdoors on this bright sunny morning. Halfway through my walk, I heard thunder in the distance and realized there might soon be another sudden Florida rainstorm. I watched one half of the skies darken and the other half stay sunny, as the thunder rumbled closer. Then, as I walked in the sparkling sunshine, it began to rain lightly. I stopped and stood there smiling, enjoying the experience of simultaneous rain and sun, the sky divided like a huge yin-yang circle of dark and light. Opposites and oneness at the same time. All my senses were awakened by that juxtaposition.

The exhilaration of opposites is available to us at all times, and we can hold them in our awareness—an inner yin-yang—in order to immerse ourselves in the full spectrum of life’s experiences. Upside down, backward, forward, inside out. Choose the opposite path, the new activity, the unheard-of option. Every single one is an easy-access restart button for your consciousness to keep you open and expansive, mindful and soulful. A fully alive human be-ing having an absolutely amazing experience here on planet Earth. Perhaps that’s the most wonder-full thing you could possibly do with what poet Mary Oliver has called “your one wild and precious life.”



Another Day in Paradise

Photograph © Copyright 2018 Peggy Kornegger
When I used to take walks at my favorite nature sanctuary, Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I often thought to myself, “This is paradise,” as I gazed up at the towering oak and maple trees and listened to the varied birdsongs. Now that I live in Florida, I find myself feeling much the same way. Each morning after sunrise, I walk the nature trail that encircles the perimeter of the community where we live, enjoying the palm trees and flowering bushes and the calls of birds that make Florida home. This morning at the end of my walk, another walker passed me, said “Good morning,” and commented, “Another day in paradise.” I laughed and agreed with him. Most people I pass on my walks make some similar comment about the beauty of the day.

I know the stereotype of tropical climes like Florida is a paradise with warm weather and easier day-to-day living. That vision is not entirely fantasy, in spite of an extremely challenged ecosystem and ongoing political polarities.* Florida is living its own variation of what is happening in so many places in the U.S. Still, I do see paradise here, as well as up north in Massachusetts. In fact, everywhere. It’s all about how you frame life as you look out at the world around you. If I see only environmental loss and breaks in human connection, I miss the larger picture, which includes the possibility of change and transformation. If I consciously “reboot” to a wider perspective, I see every seemingly divergent detail as sacred and integral to the evolution of life on Earth.

Is “reality” as malleable as all that? Well, to me, it’s more like shifting into seeing the truth behind the facade, the inextinguishable light beneath the tarnish, wear, and tear of human existence. Life can be hard, no doubt about it. But there are always those who seem to be able to perceive hope and possibilities in all people and events. They intuitively understand that everything is part of a greater expansion and growth that we on this planet are now experiencing. Solutions arise out of the problems themselves. Life unfolds on so many levels and in so many uniquely diverse human hearts and souls. Yet, as singer/songwriter India.Arie has expressed it: “It all comes down to One.”

If I open my heart, I see this oneness, and the beauty of it, everywhere I go. It becomes a daily practice. I take a deep breath, as I sit in meditation or walk outdoors, and consciously bring myself back to the peace that lives inside me. From this space, nothing is dissonant or out of place. In spite of broken glass, broken promises, and broken hearts in the world at large, I can feel our collective heart beating as one, reaching out for a common vision that will uplift and sustain us. This is not an impossible dream or an insubstantial, unrealistic desire for change. Whatever is within each of us that keeps us moving forward on our life paths is what makes up that connection—to one another and to something greater.

Photograph © Copyright 2018 Peggy Kornegger
The universe is not an accident. Pause and look carefully, and you can see the intricate interweavings that constitute our lives and our world. The key is to stop periodically, step back, and allow the larger picture to fill your consciousness. This is not something we are taught to do in our society, but sometimes we stumble upon it by accident or through someone else’s help, and it begins to sustain us. I hold to this awareness in my own life in order to remain centered in what some call universal wisdom, or God.

We are not alone and we are not lost. In spite of what seems to be catastrophe and conflict on a global level, something else is occurring. We are evolving and expanding with the universe itself. It is my deep trust in this that helps me to walk through my front door each day and experience paradise, wherever I happen to be. To see paradise in the eyes of those around me and to hear it in their voices. Visible or invisible, we all hold paradise in our hearts; it lives in our souls. We have but to shift our vision slightly to see it everywhere, every day. And live it, going forward.

*e.g., toxic red tide on the Gulf Coast from pollution flowing out of Lake Okeechobee;
on gun control, immigration, environmental protection, etc.


Finding Home

Photograph © 2018 Peggy Kornegger
It seems that we are always getting ready for something. Always preparing for the next step, even though the next step will come whether we prepare for it or not. We think we have control of our lives but we don’t. We pack and unpack our memories, accumulating more and more—until death arrives to show us how memories fall away as does the illusion of control. To move from one place to another is to experience a death of sorts and a loosening of control. Every ending is an opening to something greater.

When I moved to Florida from Massachusetts last month, I could feel my consciousness loosening and opening up as we drove south, state by state. By the time we reached Florida, I felt completely detached from any one place. It was almost as if my awareness was free-floating over the entire eastern seaboard, perhaps even beyond that. In moving, I had been letting go of former selves as well as physical objects and familiar places. Even time. As I traveled from New England through the southern states, time and place became almost meaningless. There was nothing but the present moment, in a very intense way. Nothing was familiar, everything new—something I’ve experienced in every major move I’ve made in my life. Yet, this time it’s a little different.

In this key transitional move, the letting go is deeper, the awareness more expansive. I am older than the 20-year-year-old self who left the Midwest to be a California flower child so many years ago. The past and the future seem equidistant in my mind. Soul guidance is at the forefront of my life now, and that shifts every perspective, inner and outer. Even that distinction loses its meaning because everything is within me. The external is just a reflection of my infinite soul’s progression through time and space.

My soul is non-localized: unattached to Massachusetts, Florida, Illinois, California, or any of the other places I’ve lived in or traveled through over the years. I am experiencing myself as Being, without location or identity. Almost as if I am a visitor from another planet or galaxy. Actually, aren’t we all that? Dropped down from some other dimension onto this blue planet floating in a sea of stars called the Milky Way. We are stardust ourselves, shining light on the world around us as we move through our lives. When we meet as our separate paths merge, there is recognition, an awakening realization that we are here together to embody connection and love, to transform our lives and everything around us with that love.

As I passed through Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, and finally reached Florida, I watched the skies themselves transform, the heavenly towering white clouds dramatically darkening with daily thunderstorms and lightning flashes in the humid heat. Palm trees lined the road; tropical bushes and flowers proliferated. Observing it all, I was neither here nor there, but everywhere. I was part of the eternal movement into the unknown. Yes, this is why I moved, not knowing anything except that I was to go. To let go and go. Spirit is moving me, all of us, on our soul journeys.

Spirit survives the packing and unpacking, living and dying. It is within us and all around us and has no beginning or end. It moves to its own cadence, beyond human events and activities. When we step into this perceptual field—this greater awareness of the source of all life—beginnings, endings, arrivals, and departures fall away, and we are Home. No need to hang on or resist; the entire journey exists in this very moment. Breathe deeply and see the far horizon that lives within you. This is infinity; this is God. This is who you are.

Name Dropping

Photograph © 2018 Peggy Kornegger
So many unexpected events and experiences have arisen in the process of moving from Massachusetts to Florida, everything from the sale of the house where we rented there to finding a condo here that far exceeds anything we could have imagined. Probably the most surprising pop-up occurrence was finding out that I had to have my name legally changed in order to obtain a Florida driver’s license. What?! Well, you see, my mother named me “Peggy,” but she used “Margaret” on my birth certificate because the former was traditionally considered a nickname for the latter and not the real name. Of course, today no one cares much about that tradition, and you can name your child “Redwood” if you so choose.

Anyway, I never used “Margaret” on anything throughout my life, including driver’s licenses, health insurance, Social Security, etc. “Peggy” was my name; only my birth certificate and passport showed “Margaret.” No one cared—until I went to the Florida Registry of Motor Vehicles to have my Massachusetts license changed to a Florida one. The fact that my license did not match my passport was not acceptable. The two had to match or I couldn’t have a license. Since 9/11, the federal laws about IDs matching have tightened up, and what was once not a problem is now definitely one. Having my name legally changed to “Peggy” was the simplest solution.

So the very kind and sympathetic clerks at the registry explained the process to me: (1) Fill out a form for a legal name change (listing all the places I had lived since birth—for me it was 25) and (2) file it at the county clerk’s office along with a $400 fee. (3) Go to the police station to be fingerprinted, which is electronically sent to be part of the application. (4) Wait for a court date when (5) I go before a judge for a decision. My scheduled court date is August 21 at 1:30 p.m. I was assigned a 5-minute window.

Meanwhile, the underlying symbolism of this event has not escaped me, given that I have felt I was leaving behind all my past selves in this latest life move. What could be a more powerful letting go than dropping the name on your birth certificate?! True, it was never a name I identified with (or liked), but it was the one that my parents and the legal system handed me upon entry into this world. It defined my existence as a citizen of this country, at least in the eyes of the law. That aspect was not something that interested me as much as the idea of naming itself. I began to think about how language defines our lives in so many ways.

Humans have used words and language to organize, name, and often establish ownership over the world around them. Children are named to give them a lineage, a connection to the family they come from. Within the patriarchal system, names (particularly last names) establish ownership, father to child: “You belong to me. You are my offspring, not someone else’s.” Family pride leads to pride of nationality and eventually, often in this world, to conflict and war over whose nation or heritage is better or “right.” We have yet to evolve beyond these delineations and identifications.

Still, life itself tends to break down the differences and separations that language constructs. As we age, the need to establish and proclaim individuality or superiority has less significance. Over the years, experiences of great love or great loss can open our hearts and hasten the process of letting go of what in the end doesn’t serve our soul’s journey through life. Ultimately, we are born without a name, and when we die, we pass from this world into the nameless, formless beingness that is God. Names are transitory and limiting. Even trying to find words to describe God narrows its infinite unbounded nature. So if we too are God—spirit in transitory human form—then birth names can limit possibility and evolution in our lives.

Of course, names do serve a purpose as we relate to each other as fellow humans on the Earth, perhaps to eliminate confusion if nothing else. Still, to hold onto your name as who you really are is an illusion. We are more than words. We are more than our physical form. We are, as God is, infinite. Drop your name and the illusion falls away. All you see when you look in the mirror and at your neighbor is beingness in a temporary form for this lifetime.

So, as I contemplate dropping my birth name and continuing with the name I’ve used my entire life, I’m experiencing a lighter touch about the whole thing. “Margaret” falls away, “Peggy” stays‚ until she too falls away. This is human life on Earth. One transitory experience in the universe. And the more we let go, the more universally expansive and freeing it becomes. I am reminded of Kahlil Gibran’s wisdom in The Prophet:
“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself….
What images drawn on the earth can hold you?”

Moving On and Letting Go of Everything Past

Photograph © 2018 Peggy Kornegger
Last fall, the house where my partner Anne and I lived in Massachusetts went up for sale. We knew immediately that that For Sale sign was also a sign from God: Time to move on! A door was closing, but another was so clearly being opened. Fortunately, we had a lease that allowed us to remain in our apartment for several months after the house was sold. We had plenty of time to make decisions and then step through that open door into new possibilities. As events unfolded, we felt guided to move to Florida, where we had a number of friends, and the winters did not include snow, ice, and freezing temperatures. Also (and this was key), we discovered that buying a condo there was less expensive than the rent we were currently paying in Boston. Neon signs pointing south…

So we were excited about this brand new adventure. We flew to Florida for a visit, looked at potential places to live but didn’t find exactly what we wanted. After deciding to rent for a year and keep looking, we returned home. Then, out of the blue, our realtor called us with news that a condo we had looked at that was above our price range had come down in price and she thought we could get it for even less. Long story short: we made an offer, and it was accepted. For the first time in our lives, at retirement age, we found ourselves potential homeowners.

Thus began an intense month of letting go of everything past in our lives. It was like jumping off a cliff into the unknown. Anne had lived in Boston her entire life, and although I had moved back and forth coast to coast many times, I had been in the Boston area for more than 30 years years. Time to move on. We felt some apprehension, but mostly we were excited. We felt supported by old and new friends alike in our decision. It was both energizing and at times overwhelming, but synchronicities and good fortune kept leading us forward. There was never any doubt for either of us that this was the right path.

As the date of the condo closing drew nearer, we organized a yard sale and called local groups to donate to, clearing out piles of old books, clothing, etc. Then it got down to the hard stuff—the really old memorabilia that we still had in drawers and boxes (and we are not really savers). I had one drawer and one box that condensed many years of my life. One Saturday, I spent several hours throwing out booklets, programs, articles, letters, etc. from my 20s and 30s, all of it awash with memories of a past self that was distantly familiar but not really part of my present life.

Then I opened the box that held childhood photos, report cards, high school yearbooks, and letters from my mom and dad and many dear old friends. I pitched almost everything, except a few of my parents’ letters. I probably would never look at or read all these things again, so why keep them? It was like holding onto a memory of my former self. The love in those relationships was within me. Time to let go of the external.

Just as I was tearing up the last set of letters, it hit me—a dull pain in my left side. It remained for a while and then eased. At 2 a.m., however, extreme pain and nausea woke me from a sound sleep, and Anne drove me to the ER. Hours of tests and strong pain medication, and the diagnosis was a kidney stone that should pass in 48 hours. It did not.

For a week, I juggled pain and medication, trying to continue to function as we prepared for the closing. And, in the midst of it all, it suddenly dawned on me that the stone could be seen as a physical manifestation of everything past in my life that I was letting go. That insight did little to alleviate the pain I was feeling, though, or the fear that the stone would never pass. Then, after 8 days, the pain stopped. The past passed through me the day before the condo closing—perfect timing.

Photograph © 2018 Peggy Kornegger

Sometimes life is literal and sometimes it’s symbolic and sometimes it’s both. We come to this Earth for life experiences, soul growth, and shared evolution, and boy are we getting them! There is no one among us that is immune to the jolts and jumps that this particular time span on the planet is rich with. We are all being jettisoned into a new future, which is actually the Present in disguise. We are being asked to leave behind the memory of our selves in favor of a present-moment awareness that includes all time and timelessness.

When Anne and I stepped out of our past—through the looking glass—the entire world around us accelerated and renewed itself in magical ways. It’s still happening. We have no idea what’s coming next, but that’s part of the magic. When you let go of everything past, you are carried forward by life force, by spirit, to a destiny that only your soul and God understand fully. That is life’s greatest mystery—and sweetest grace.