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 He cites scientific studies that show that “genetic determinism” is an outdated belief, and we are not victims of heredity.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.

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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

Shiva, Irma…and Faith

Photograph © 2017 Peggy Kornegger
Shiva is the power of destruction, dissolution, or transformation in our lives. Nothing entirely new and innovative can be created without this strong, and often unsettling, force that turns the tables on the status quo, normality, and habituation. Without Shiva, our lives would be dull and uneventful—one long Groundhog Day, playing the same scene over and over again. Yet the word destruction strikes fear in our hearts; we freeze at the very thought of losing what is dear to us. Of losing everything.

Hurricanes like Irma, Maria, and Harvey embody this extreme aspect of Shiva. Monumental raging winds and rising water completely obliterate the old, often leaving thousands homeless and grieving the deaths of friends and family. In the aftermath, something new is eventually created, but loss of home and loss of life are not easily assimilated or accepted. Those affected may experience emotional trauma as well as financial burdens. These human crises break our hearts. How do we face life at times like these?

Not easy. Granted, hurricanes are not daily occurrences, but loss of one kind or another is. There is not a day that passes in our lives that we don’t lose something—or believe that we do. Life on Earth brings us face to face with the end of relationships, jobs, living situations, and life itself. We cannot avoid it. Grief at times like these is entirely natural, but our beliefs about those experiences shape what comes after. Unless we can move on and create something new afterward, despair may take hold. This is where faith comes in. Trust in some greater, ultimately benevolent presence in the universe, and in the compassion of our fellow human beings. Belief in a positive outcome, whatever the circumstance.

Recently, I took part in a weekend spiritual retreat that was the energetic equivalent of a hurricane. Everything that had been superimposed on my soul’s essence over the years was wiped out, dissolved. This had been happening bit by bit anyway, but now I was becoming something like a clean slate. There was nothing to attach the memories of my old self to anymore. Both liberating and painful. The painful part was that my recent experiences of oneness and illumination were also gone—or at least seemingly so. I could feel no connection to God whatsoever. Or to anything or anyone else. I felt as if I were ghost-walking through my own life, lost and alone. An island on which all lines of communication have been knocked out.

Gradually, however, I began to gain some insight into what was occurring. I was being asked to go further and dive deeper—beyond surrender and trust, to faith. Faith that God, or Goddess, was present even when I couldn’t feel that presence. Faith that everything was happening for a reason: to ultimately bring me to an even more expansive awareness of God/dess within me. I couldn’t completely experience that until what had come before had been dissolved. Within spaciousness, life unfolds, the Divine manifests. Slowly, this has occurred, like restoring downed lines after a hurricane. Day by day, moment by moment, I am feeling divine connection again, and with it, a deeper faith in its ever-presence, which reconnects me to the world as well.

This kind of process can be set in motion by any great loss or unforeseen ending, in the course of which we are swept clean and sent on our way again to experience life at a deeper level, beyond what we thought was final. We learn that even in the worst of times, if we reach out to one another and open ourselves to new beginnings, we will survive. Faith replaces fear. It is the bird singing in the darkness, reminding us that dawn is at hand.

Often we believe death to be the ultimate ending, but it too is transition, transformation. God consciousness, embodied in you and me, is never-ending. Our souls know this, and it is this inner faith that will carry us forward if we experience loss or disconnection. Eventually, the creative force of life fills us with divine energy, and we are transformed yet again through the powerful hidden blessing that is Shiva.

 

This Is God

Photograph © 2017 Peggy Kornegger
Some of the most profound spiritual wisdom tells us that everything and everyone is God and that all that we do is in service to God. I’ve taken that in at deeper and deeper levels the more expansive my spiritual practice has become. Lately I’ve found this awareness popping up at surprising moments to remind me of God’s presence everywhere in my life.

A few weeks ago, I was taking the subway into Boston, and there was an older man at my subway stop, toothless, with a crumpled cardboard sign that read “Homeless Vet.” He greeted everyone who walked by with “Good morning.” As I passed him, I looked into his face, and the thought “This is God” unexpectedly passed through my consciousness. I turned around, pulled out my wallet, wished him “Good morning,” and gave him some money. “God bless you,” he said. I could feel my heart expand. As I boarded the crowded rush-hour train, someone rose from their seat and got off. The woman in front of me held out her open hand to the seat, looking at me and smiling, as if to say, “It’s all yours.” I sat down with tears in my eyes, feeling the angelic energy of the man’s blessing carrying me within the flow of life. God’s presence in everyone….

Then, yesterday I was sweeping the steps leading to the basement, a rather dusty, sneeze-filled task. Cleaning house is something I can only sporadically see as cheerful “service to God.” I’m usually kind of gritting my teeth to get through it. As I was sweeping the broom back and forth, suddenly, unexpectedly again, I thought: “This is God,” meaning myself this time, as well as the broom and the dust. If God is everywhere, s/he is here now, experiencing step-sweeping through my human form. Would s/he be irritated? I asked myself. I don’t think so. God, or infinite consciousness, embraces everything as a part of oneness. If I am God, as we all are, complaining doesn’t enter the picture. God, as me, would be dancing down the steps, broom in hand, celebrating another aspect of humanity/divinity on Earth.

“This is God” has now become a reminder mantra for me that re-centers me in my connection to something greater in every moment. It can be applied to everything, animate or inanimate, human, animal, bird, butterfly, flower, tree, chair, rug, on and on. If I pass a stranger on the street without really seeing him/her, I may be missing a direct encounter with the Divine. If I stumble over a stone in my path and curse it, I am cursing God. Why do it? Bless it instead. If everything is unfolding perfectly exactly as it is, then stumbling was part of my soul path somehow. I may only find out much later what the actual blessing was (perhaps to wake me up to being fully present!), but in the meantime, I need to remind myself that there is nothing that happens that isn’t an integral part of my soul’s journey, that isn’t grace. And that there is no one who isn’t God, including myself and every sweet soul I meet along the way.

View from the Edge—Our Human Journey

Photograph © 2017 Peggy Kornegger
I seem to be living on the edge in my life. By that, I don’t mean hanging precariously in a danger zone. I mean delicately balanced between one paradigm and another, old and new, memory and present, personality and soul. Actually, the truer description is that my soul is fully present in the new paradigm, and “I” am increasingly aligned with that pure being-ness, observing remnants of old memories floating by me. I have a sense that this is where many of us are now, as the world “turns upside-down” all around us, and we step over the edge of certainty into mystery, and beyond. We are learning to live from an awareness and a soul presence that is continuously evolving.

So much is happening and not happening, everywhere at once. At times, I am floating in the space between the memory of who I once was and the timeless presence that is my soul. However, more and more, I am immersed in my soul’s wholeness, viewing my personality and my life story as if from a distance. This has been a process of gradually expanding into a deeper connection to spirit, which can often transcend stories and past memories. Last month, this all played out in one intense afternoon at Mt. Auburn Cemetery, a nature/spiritual sanctuary where I often walk or sit in meditation. As I passed beneath the towering old trees at Mt. Auburn, I stepped into a kind of life review in which I experienced both my own mortality (singularity, separation) and God’s infinity (oneness).

Gazing at the play of light reflected in the water of Mt. Auburn’s Spectacle Pond, suddenly I became acutely aware of my own eventual death and the shortness of my time on Earth. Perhaps because my birthday had just passed, I found myself looking back over my life with a pang of grief in my heart: it was all so rich and wonderful—and so brief, in the greater scheme of things. So many years had passed, and how many remained? And how would I live them? An urgency filled me, a deep desire not to waste a minute, to step fully into every possibility. Yet, at the same time, I felt suspended in time, with no desire to act or move at all. All I could do was cry at the bittersweet poignancy of human life and the ephemeral nature of my physical form.

After a time, I walked to Willow Pond, on the other side of the cemetery. As I came over the hill, I saw a pair of blue herons circling low overhead, like two avian sky dancers embodying grace and beauty as they flew. One landed at the top of a tall willow and stood in profile, preening like a prehistoric bird in paradise. Indeed, everything around me seemed Eden-like: large clumps of purple, yellow, pink, and white flowers that were magnets for dozens of bees and butterflies; a kingfisher calling loudly and diving to spear a fish; swallows swooping to catch insects mid-air; red cardinal flowers, wetland grasses, and willows encircling the pond. I sat beneath a tree whose branches hung low over the water and felt as if I were in another dimension. God’s dimension, where divinity dripped from every plant, tree, animal, bird, and butterfly. In this magical space, death did not exist. Everything was eternal, infinite. My heart and soul were at peace.

In the space of a few hours, I had moved from solitary sadness to euphoric connection. So much so that as I left the pond, the mere sight of a familiar old oak tree along the path, its massive trunk and branches reaching heavenward, reduced me to tears again, this time from the deep inner knowing that the expansive consciousness we call God or Goddess lives in all things, always. We carry that formless presence within us, and the more we open to our own soul’s light, the more clearly and consistently we see it everywhere. That was my journey that afternoon (and our collective human journey now): to come to fully understand that God’s loving presence is not limited in any way, in life or death, Heaven or Earth. Those of us who incarnated at this time are here to live that truth so completely and powerfully that separation is finally dissolved within a planetary oneness and radiant light that reaches the far corners of the cosmos.