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.

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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.
___________
*Names changed

The Experience of God

Photograph © 2017 Peggy Kornegger
God is everything. Yet within that everything, God has many aspects of being, from formlessness to form. At the center of the universe (actually before the universe became the universe) is just Source energy, pure potential. In some teachings, this is called the absolute, or “I.” It is the precursor to the Big Bang: out of nothing came something, out of absolute being arose relative being, or “I Am,” wherein God becomes relatable, experiential, as love, as consciousness. When we on the spiritual path feel divine love, when we expand into conscious awareness of something greater in our lives, we are experiencing the “I Am” at the soul level.

The next aspect is “I Am That,” in which we as humans identify completely with our physical forms, personality selves, or egos, and forget our divine connection. Forgetfulness is the common state for humanity at this time. In forgetfulness, we get caught up in all the polarities and dramas of human physical life on Earth. Our minds, emotions, and bodies are our primary experience, and the soul takes a backseat, often completely overlooked. This also is God, but it is God forgetting that it is God—something we all experience before we awaken again into the “I Am,” the love we came from.

In the collective awakening that is happening more and more on this planet, we reconnect with our souls, with the God within. This is the primary experiential focus for many of us who have incarnated at this time—to expand in awareness from “I Am That” to “I Am” and finally to “I.”

My own life has taken me through all three aspects at different times. Most of my early life was spent in “I Am That.” I dropped much of my socially created personality when I left my small-town home at 18 and went away to college to “find myself.” I spent years exploring “who am I?” and “why am I here?” I often felt lost and in despair during this self-exploration because I couldn’t really see beyond the Earth plane. I was on a spiritual quest, but I didn’t know it as such. I found meaning and a new kind of self-identification within the breakthrough experiences of my generation in the late 1960s and 1970s—flower-child consciousness and political activism. Belief in Love defined my life and informed all the experiences I had at that time. It was a period of awakening, but at a beginning level.

Many years later, I began a conscious spiritual journey, which eventually took me to “I Am,” experiencing God, or universal consciousness. This occurred in my own spiritual practices (meditation, yoga, programs with inspiring teachers), in Nature, and eventually I found that divine connection existed within me at all times. These were powerful moments of bliss and joy, when tears streamed down my face at the all-encompassing loving Godness that filled me. I began to live more and more from my soul (and my heart which is the entry point to the soul) instead of my personality or ego. My fears around infinity and death gradually began to be replaced by trust and surrender to something greater than my single human life. Yet, there was more.

I am only now beginning to touch into “I,” or the absolute. I experienced it once years ago at the very start of my work with Panache Desai, when in an individual session, he took me there. More accurately, he accessed that state within himself, which opened the door for me to access it within myself. It was a completely emotionless state of peace beyond peace. This was infinity, on the other side of any fears my mind could invent about it—because there was no mind, no me. There was nothing. I remained in that state for hours, with no desire to do anything but rest in the experience. It made a huge crack in my previous level of consciousness, and deeper awareness began to trickle, and then gradually stream, in. Because of this crack, I was able to experience God in ways I never had previously.

The door is opening wider now to that fathomless, directionless, experience of absolute potential, where God is not even a definable entity. In a recent immersion retreat with Panache, I found myself “lifting off” into that state, like a hummingbird spiraling upward into invisibility. Here there is no language, no recognizable signposts to point to, so when I “return” (actually, there is no return because it is ever-present, the source of everything), I can find no words to describe it. A woman at our retreat called it the place of “no God”—in other words, God before God is seen by us as God. And it’s not frightening because fear doesn’t exist. As I said, indescribable.

These are the states that great masters throughout time have spoken of and, seeing into the future, told us: “All this you will experience, and more.” I have no idea where I am going on this journey; every bit of it is beyond my human “understanding.” It’s a Great Mystery that I am here to experience in its eternal expansion through formlessness and form, emptiness and fullness, potential and presence. In all honesty, the “I Am That” in me at times still fears the nothingness of the “I” and wants only the loving comfort of the “I Am.” Yet my soul knows they are all God, all one unified ocean of energy and light within me and all around me. Separation and fear only exist in my mind.

Living Kindness

Photograph © 2017 Peggy Kornegger
We learn kindness and patience step by step, sometimes in the receiving, sometimes in the giving. And sometimes, even more powerfully, in the shadow experience: through thoughtlessness or impatience, our own or someone else’s. Hurt by hurt, mistake by mistake, we walk forward into the swirl of human emotion and interrelationship. We learn about pain by being hurt as well as by hurting another. Someone else’s anger or offhand remark can cut to the quick. But to see pain in a loved one’s eyes from our own unthinking or harsh words is to know the other side of pain. It can break your heart, but in the breaking is the opening­—to compassion, to kindness.

When I look back honestly on my own life, I see moments that have taught me, painfully, to be more compassionate and aware. In the years before my mother’s death, she began to have challenges with both her eyesight (cataracts) and memory. I felt tremendous responsibility and fear around making sure she was okay. Once, after a doctor’s appointment, I was asking her questions about what had transpired (What did he say? Did you ask him about ____?). She couldn’t think fast enough to answer me and finally burst into tears. Abruptly I realized I had to slow down and just listen patiently instead of question her. I could see the pain in her eyes at not being able to answer me quickly. It stopped me in my tracks, and I hugged her. What did the answers matter when my mother’s ease of mind was at stake?

Years ago, my partner Anne and I were traveling in the south of France after visiting a friend in Paris. The morning newspapers brought stories of bombings in Paris, which made us apprehensive about returning. Still, we continued to enjoy our trip before heading north again. After our train reached Paris, we began to walk (a bit nervously) across town to our friend’s apartment, but at a certain point we needed to ask directions. I didn’t want to ask because I couldn’t remember the exact French word (I had lived in France years before and felt I had to say it properly or not at all).

Anne thought this was ridiculous and went ahead and asked anyway. She was understood, answered, and we were on our way. I, however, was angry with her (and myself) about it and insensitively pointed out a mistake in her wording. She began to cry. I can still see her walking by the Seine with her heavy backpack, sobbing. It broke my heart, and I apologized with tears in my eyes. What does perfect French (or potential bombers) matter when you’ve just hurt the person you love most in the world?

This is what it means, I suppose, when they say we relive our entire life, all of it, in a split second before we die. We see the times when we were caring and compassionate as well as when we caused suffering or pain. If we are fortunate, we come to realize before that last moment the ways in which we affect others, and we self-correct to be mindfully conscious of the power of our words and actions. We learn to choose kindness in every situation. Just like the wisdom teaching about asking yourself three questions before speaking: 1) Is it true? 2) Is it necessary? 3) Is it kind? In most cases, a “no” answer to any of those prevents us from hurting another. To quote the Dali Lama: “Whenever possible, choose kindness. It is always possible.”