Losing Heart and Having Heart in the Trump Era

Photograph © 2017 Peggy Kornegger
When you “lose heart,” you become discouraged and lose hope. When you “have heart,” you keep your faith and trust in spite of the odds. We are living at a time in which both of these options present themselves. The shadow side of our collective consciousness in the United States is coming to the fore, and we are seeing people fiercely hanging on to privileges and prejudices as if their lives depended on it. In truth, it is their identities, their egos, that depend on belief systems based in hierarchy and entitlement.

The 1% believe they have earned their place at the top of the heap and that those they have stepped on and profited from in order to get there are losers and leeches. Minorities and immigrants are targeted as threats to an elitist, white-male status quo. The exact opposite of the values of democracy and equal rights that this country is supposedly founded on. Of course, those founders were also white, male, and many were slaveholders, so the underside of American “freedom” has always existed.

When the rest of us look at this scenario, our hearts are tested. Will we lose hope or will we keep our faith that the imbalances will eventually right themselves? To paraphrase (and update) Thomas Paine: these are the times that try human souls. Can generosity, compassion, and loving-kindness eventually prevail in a society like ours where the accumulation and hoarding of monetary wealth and material possessions, as well as the oppression of entire segments of the population, is so widespread? Classism and racism overlay our so-called democratic society, to say nothing of sexism.

Everyone’s consciousness is affected by this skewed worldview. Many with more don’t want to give up what they have in order to assist others who have less. The media promotes consumerism and the lifestyles of the rich and famous, as if these were behaviors to aspire to. The artificially created “need” to buy and keep buying invades our daily lives. Unless we make a conscious decision not to participate. Unless we choose sharing over greed, caring over selfishness, simplicity instead of overconsumption. Unless we choose to live from our hearts and not our conditioning.

All the extremes and polarities are being displayed in full view of the world. The advent of Trumpism as a belligerent, self-aggrandizing approach to life is pervasive. There is an increasingly harsh and ruthless holding on to privilege, often accompanied by hatred of all those who stand up for their rights as equal citizens. Yet, there is a hollowness to these defenders of entitlement. Their hearts seem to be empty, their minds filled with delusions of superiority based on money and power. Appearance is more important than truth. But there is only so long they can maintain that facade. Their extreme behavior is the death rattle of an outdated paradigm, doomed to disappear like the dinosaurs.

Hope for the future lies with those who are, everywhere on this planet, now awakening to a conscious awareness that sees unity and commonality, not separation and divisiveness. People whose lives are lived heartfully and soulfully in deep connection with their fellow beings. Generosity of spirit prevails. You don’t hear as much about these individuals, because the media tends to focus on disaster and destruction instead of imaginative and inspired alternatives to power and elitism. But they/we are out here, and we are not going away.

Even though at times the odds seem overwhelming, we mustn’t lose heart. In having heart, in living heart, we open the heart of the world to greater compassion and caring so that eventually everyone, every soul on this Earth, can step out of separation and live in oneness. A critical mass of love and kindness has the power to shift everything. You never know when even the most recalcitrant of dinosaurs will have a change of heart. In the long run, hate can never “trump” love.

Advertisements

Hard-Wired or Habit?

Photograph © 2017 Peggy Kornegger
There is a trend lately to think of certain behaviors as immutable and impossible to change. We hear comments like “Oh, he’s just hard-wired that way.” Meaning, it’s in the genes; he (or she) can’t change. Really? That line of thinking can take us down a rather pessimistic path into entrenched fear. Fear of the external world, fear of change, fear of those different from us. Are these fears hard-wired in us or simply habit? Do our genes control our destiny? Maybe not. Perhaps our genes and we ourselves can be transformed by shifts in collective consciousness and the power of divine energy. By connecting through the heart with our fellow human beings and to the God/dess within us.

Biologist and author Bruce Lipton has written about “spontaneous evolution.” He cites scientific studies that show that “genetic determinism” is an outdated belief, and we are not victims of heredity. Signals from our external (or internal) environment ultimately control gene activity. Translated, this means that genetic predispositions can be overridden by real-world experiences such as those that open our hearts or connect us with our soul. Spiritual awakenings or other transformative moments have a power that can break through habitual personality patterns. As our awareness grows, we can also consciously choose to align with our soul instead of our personality self or ego.

New neural pathways are laid down in the brain with each change in consciousness or new experience that is consistently repeated (neuroplasticity). In other words, we are not doomed to replay old behaviors, thoughts, and memories over and over. As we allow accumulated emotions to be felt and released, space is freed up for the full power of the soul to take its place at the leading edge of our awareness and our lives. Within a regular spiritual practice, hard wires can be disconnected and old habits broken. Something as simple as meditating and aligning with your inner spirit on a daily basis, in your home or in nature, can open the door to this process. You begin to see the world and others with fresh eyes.

Right now, in this moment, breathe and let go into the inner peace and stillness inside you. Your soul is “wireless” and has no attachment to past experiences. Allow it, and the breath, to guide you to a totally present-moment experience of life, wherein peace alone fills your conscious awareness and defines your day. In doing so, you are no longer tied irrevocably to past behaviors and feelings that are fear-based. In the present, nothing exists except beingness and love, which is God embodied in human form. Fear cannot exist in the presence of love. Breathe in divine energy and breathe out old restrictions and preconceptions. In this state you are free, liberated from everything that has held you back in the past.

I find that when I consistently and consciously choose to let my soul lead the way, I start to recognize opinions and judgments, whether mine or someone else’s, for what they are: replayed past fears that separate people from one another. If I live from an open heart, I begin to think of people as doing the best they can with the awareness they have at the moment. This applies to self-recrimination as well. To see everyone, including myself, as being in the process of evolving allows for the possibility of transformation, individually and globally. No one is hard-wired for anything really—except love.

That’s Wonderful

Photograph © 2017 Peggy Kornegger
When I told a good friend recently that I had lost my connection to God and could feel nothing during meditation, he responded, “That’s wonderful.” A month or so later, when I told him that the house where my partner and I rent our apartment was for sale and we would probably have to move, he again said, “That’s wonderful.” In both instances, he was expressing the wider perspective that something greater often arises out of a seeming loss. That turned out to be absolutely true. In the first case, the emptiness I felt opened me to an even deeper and more expansive divine connection; I had to be swept clean in order to receive it. In the second case, that For Sale sign was indeed a “sign” that it was time for Anne and me to move, which is now becoming an exciting exploration of possibilities.

My friend’s responses were a perfect reminder and reflection of my own evolving consciousness as I more continuously see “wonderful” myself in all of life’s day-to-day events and changes. To be able to look beyond the present circumstances at the full spectrum of life’s experiences and possibilities can be a tremendous comfort. For nothing is good or bad except in our judgment of it. The things we deem to be “bad” may turn out to hold within them the biggest blessings of our lives. Ultimately, everything that occurs is for our soul’s evolution and expansion into light, and indeed, that it is incredibly wonderful. Gradually, we learn to accept “what is” and allow the process of life to unfold without judging or categorizing; to celebrate all aspects of life as “wonderful” because from the vantage point of the soul, they are.

There is an old Chinese parable about a farmer whose life gains and losses over the years were viewed by his neighbors as good or bad luck. His own reaction was always noncommittal. Each time, the “bad” ultimately held the “good” inside of it. His son’s broken leg from a fall spared him from being taken away to fight in the emperor’s war. The wisdom in this teaching story is that judging current circumstances is essentially useless because everything is always changing, and nothing is just one thing. I have come to see this as a universal truth as I live my life and gain greater awareness about the interconnectedness of everything.

When we focus on the present moment, and practice coming back to it in meditation, we are no longer at the mercy of mental meanderings into the past or future. In the “now,” experiencing the inner peace of our heart and soul, all is well, and nothing is good or bad. We connect with the God within and see our lives with conscious awareness of the infinite expanse of beingness. This perspective allows us to let go of the need to predict or conclude, to anticipate or fear. Instead we just surrender to the divine trajectory of our own lives; our hearts are open, and we trust that whatever happens is for our greater growth and soul evolution.

For me, this has repeatedly proven to be the most expansive and wise way to live my daily life. That didn’t happen overnight; it’s an ongoing practice, and there is sometimes a mental delay of several minutes (or longer) before I re-center my consciousness in the moment. The breath is my touchstone, because you can’t breathe in the future or the past, only in the now. So when I take a deep breath and then let go completely, suddenly everything is indeed wonder-full, and I see life as the miracle, blessing, and adventure that it truly is.

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.

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