Surrender the Outcome

Photography © 2013 Peggy Kornegger
Photography © 2013 Peggy Kornegger
In the last month or so, I’ve been coming face to face with issues related to my physical body–specifically an eye diagnosis and more frequent migraine headaches. Since I am simultaneously participating in a yearlong accelerated program with Panache Desai, I’ve learned to look closely at everything I experience as part of that acceleration: What part of my soul’s journey is now being highlighted? I sometimes ask “Why?” too, but that question can be a distraction if it arises from fear or a sense of unfairness. What’s happening is happening; if I can accept and embrace it, the experience becomes fully integrated into my life.

So what about uncertain health diagnoses or physical pain? That is what is before me now. As humans, we resist this experience. I certainly have. So perhaps that is why it’s accelerating. Until I can fully accept all aspects of my physicality as part of my life experience, I will continue to suffer on some level. My human mind wants perfect health with no pain, so every time I am faced with something short of that mental construct, I resist what I am experiencing. The outcome that I hold tightly to is preventing me from flowing with my actual experience. The more I resist, the stronger the pain or unease.

It’s about surrender again, at a deeper level. I am being guided to release attachment to any outcome whatsoever. Perhaps even to reality itself. I’ve watched my eye diagnosis shape-shift over the past month or so, depending on which doctors I saw and which test they were looking at. Perhaps this particular health scenario is an encapsulated version of all of life. What we view as reality is always changing. Ultimately, everything is a continuously shifting illusion that we create in our minds (individually and collectively) to experience life as it passes before us. More simply: life happens; we then assign meaning to it, spinning the illusion of reality out of thin air. If we assign negative meaning, we are unhappy. If we assign positive meaning, we are pleased. But if we just observe life from a place of spacious awareness, allowing it to be a divinely orchestrated mystery, then we experience inner liberation.

There is a profound freedom in no longer being tied to specific outcomes or ways of seeing the world. In doing so, we are entering the realm of the soul, the god consciousness that lives within. Our souls have no opinions or agenda. They are just witnessing life peacefully, here solely for the experience of it and their own evolution. When I open to my soul’s full emergence, my mind steps into the background and releases the reins of control. I am no longer mentally committed to any particular version of reality; I’m just “along for the ride.” I begin to flow with life.

Not the easiest path to access, especially when facing health issues, as I am. The external world continually pulls me in the opposite direction. Still, when I take time to connect to my own inner peace, I am less tightly tied to outcome. I feel lighter, freer, more open to all possibilities. Many of us are facing crossroads like this in life. I believe that is one reason we are here on this planet at this particular time: to finally let go of the mind’s centuries-long control and allow the soul to be the divining rod of our earthly lives. To release the illusion of certainty and embrace an ever-evolving mystery. May we all find our way home to that very wise, soulful part of ourselves.


The Unexpected

Photograph © 2013 Peggy Kornegger
Photograph © 2013 Peggy Kornegger
Crises or challenges enter our lives unannounced, sometimes in the midst of great happiness or peaceful contentment. A relative dies, a life partner loses a job, or you yourself receive a frightening health diagnosis. The latter happened to me a few weeks ago, and I am still regaining my equilibrium after the impact of it. In each of these scenarios, we are facing the unknown—life without a loved one, life without income, life without optimal health. In my case, the diagnosis was about my vision (inflammatory eye condition), which was shattering to me because I love the world through my eyes. I celebrate its beauty and wonder, its miracles. I am also a writer and a lifelong avid reader. What would I do if I lost my full range of vision, this deep connection to the world around me?

We take so much for granted in life. Our ability to walk, to hear, to see, to touch and taste—all such incredible blessings. If we lose any one of them, even temporarily or partially, it is shocking. We feel vulnerable, uncertain, fearful. And unfairly robbed of something so integral to human life—seemingly. Yet, so many individuals live without complete access to one or more of these abilities, and they live full rich lives grounded in gratitude. Yes, you may say, but I don’t want to face that kind of challenge. That is the kicker. We want, and expect, life to be a certain way, and we are devastated when it is not. We learn over time—if we are wise, if we are open—to accept “what is” as life unfolds before us, moment to moment, completely outside of our control. Because if we do not, we suffer, and we hang on to our suffering.

Loss is part of each of our lives here on Earth. We don’t escape a lifetime without being touched by some kind of sadness or pain. But extended suffering is optional. We can grieve without holding onto the sorrow tightly and tormenting ourselves with “what ifs.” We can allow the tears to flow through us and cleanse us of our grief. Every emotion we have, if experienced fully, can free us of suffering. If I can let life be whatever it is, my suffering softens and eventually dissolves. If I sit quietly in stillness, I get in touch with the calm peace that resides at my core. I often find this to be true yet learn it anew with each challenge that arises. In this case, my eyesight. The situation continues to be filled with unknowns, and each new doctor’s appointment brings more shifting realities—and more waiting (to see if any change occurs). I find I have to repeatedly dig deep for patience and acceptance. I move forward one step at a time, reminding myself to feel everything and still remain open.

Dear friends and family, and one particularly kind doctor, have also helped me tremendously.* Again and again, the empathy of friends and strangers alike brings me back to some sense of balance and relationship to everything. Because not all of life is loss or fear of loss. Life is also connection. There is so much beauty and love in the world everywhere, visible and invisible. Other people reached out with kindness and caring when I most needed it. Love guides us out of solitary sadness and isolation and shows us our commonality with all of humankind. The sweet tenderness of shared experience, of heartfelt understanding and compassion, makes life worth living. That is why we came into this lifetime—to feel that essential oneness in the midst of our separate life challenges, our fears and our sorrows. We are here to love one another into wholeness—one whole human family, living unpredictable, uncontrollable, but always deeply connected lives.

*My heart’s deepest gratitude especially to Panache, James, and my partner Anne for their love and support.

The Silent Nature of All Things

Haleakala photograph © Peggy Kornegger
Haleakala photograph © Peggy Kornegger
“Allow nature to teach you stillness.”
—Eckhart Tolle

I spend countless hours outdoors in my yard every day in the spring- and summertime. It is a deep inner calling that brings me peace of mind, heart connection, and balance between being and doing. Nature in its silent presence teaches me stillness and reminds me of that same place inside myself. When I stand quietly within the natural world at my doorstep, I am a part of all that I see, and I feel the stillness at the heart of everything, whether stone, tree, bird, bee, butterfly, human, cloud, rain, wind, star, or planet.

Indeed, the universe itself is complete stillness at its core. I experienced this primordial silence in a very powerful and unforgettable way once when I was hiking into the dormant volcano Haleakala on Maui. If you walk a ways down the trail that winds gradually to the bottom of the crater and then pause to listen, you hear absolutely nothing. No sound at all—no wind, no birds, no human activity. Nothing. I felt as if I were present at the birth of the planet, before anything existed except sandy red lava fragments, ocean, and sky. I’ve never forgotten that profound sense of eternity in the silence, and now I recognize it within all things, everywhere—if I pause long enough to feel it within myself, in my own breath.

That inner stillness is the spirit of life, our soul’s home. It is what calms and soothes us on our human journey. In silence, the soul witnesses our actions, thoughts, experiences, and emotions; our challenges and celebrations; our pain and joy. When we become lost in stress or suffering, often some mysterious force leads us to turn inward, to seek the silent solace of the soul. The human soul or the soul of nature, one and the same. We live at a time in which an increasing number of us are hearing the call to connect with our innermost being, a part of All That Is. A shift in consciousness is occurring, an awareness that opens us to choosing harmony and balance in our lives. I find it a hopeful sign that people are evolving to the tipping point of remembering the being part of human being.

I sense that thread of hope and remembering within my own life. When I balance activity or action with timeless time in nature or meditation, then I begin to live a seamless oneness of being and doing that are not in opposition to each other but exist naturally side by side. Doing that arises from being, not imposed by the mind’s tendency to overthink and plan, but organically part of the creative flow of all life, within and without. I experience internal harmony when I include moments of silent connection and presence continually throughout my day.

In fact, continual (“intermittent”) is gradually becoming continuous (“ongoing”). As my awareness expands and evolves, along with everyone else’s, the separations and distinctions of a world based in polarity and duality are fading into the background. Life becomes a divinely inspired stream instead of an on/off spigot that we think we control. And the source of it all is a peaceful stillness that we can access in each moment of our lives just by taking a deep breath and observing the true nature of what is right in front of us.

Mind-Less, Time-Less

Photograph © 2013 Peggy Kornegger
Photograph © 2013 Peggy Kornegger
This past month I’ve been practicing what I call “mindlessness.” No, I don’t mean air-headed bumbling through life. Or vacuously staring into space with no connection to the world around you. It’s more like living moment to moment from the non-thinking center of your being. Your heart, your soul. Pure awareness without the overlay of language. The practice has involved breathing deeply and dropping down into my body’s core whenever I notice myself caught in thinking overdrive, my mind running from one thought to another like a mad marathoner. Taking a deep breath and becoming aware interrupts the mind’s busyness. I breathe, feel my physical body, and come into present-moment awareness of my immediate environment. Wherever I am, I look or listen without thinking about it. I consciously step into the now, perceiving without filtering. The mental concept of time ceases to exist.

Of course, this is not as simple as it sounds, or as long-lasting. The key is to practice doing it, again and again. Practicing lays down new behavioral cues, new perceptual impulses, which help me to be present with more ease and grace the more I do it. In truth, a silent center of pure thoughtless soul awareness lives within us all. That is what I’m connecting to with each conscious breath. It is a space that I frequently relax into while sitting in meditation or when I am outdoors walking in nature. The challenge is to “be here now”—not lost in thought—continuously, under all circumstances. That is the practice.

As the weeks pass, I am finding that both gardening and bird-watching center me effortlessly in “mindless” presence, again and again. The beauty of the natural world immediately opens my heart and awakens me to the present moment. When I look at a brilliantly colored bird or flower, I am not thinking; I am just being. My heart is directly connected to my soul, and together they quietly override the mind’s dominance, bringing me into complete immersion in Now. And that presence gradually spills over to other moments in my daily life….

Watching a middle-aged man gently holding his elderly father’s hand as they cross the street in front of me, I am present. Riding the bus as the sun rises and shines dazzling light on the distant city skyline and the nearby spring-green trees, I am present. Listening to a wood thrush’s ethereal flutelike call in the evening stillness, I am present. The smell of banana bread in my neighbor’s kitchen, the sound of a dog barking on the next street, the full moon casting shadows through the tree branches, the feel of soft flannel sheets on my body as I slide into bed—all of these are opportunities to experience life directly, separate from the mind’s interpretation. Each one of us has moments like these in our lives in which we can break through to full awareness and presence. The key is to take a deep breath and notice what is directly in front of us.

More and more frequently, I am realizing when my thoughts have taken me away, and I consciously breathe and bring myself back to the world around me, to the timeless present moment. Slowly but surely, my mind is letting go of the reins of control. I am relearning to see and hear without mental gymnastics, as a small child does. Breathing, I am connected to both my heart and my soul. Breathing, I am present for each second of my life. Breathing, I am fully alive, experiencing everything firsthand, seeing miracles everywhere. Breathing, I AM….

“The work of being is to inhabit our aliveness. In such moments, we become a conduit for the Oneness of life.—Mark Nepo

In Silence…

Photograph © 2014 Peggy Kornegger
Photograph © 2014 Peggy Kornegger
We humans express our selves and our lives in words, language, and sound. It is a learned process, reinforced with every generation. We talk our way through each day, sometimes clamoring to be heard above the general din of daily life that seems to have increased over time. Not only human voices but cars, buses, planes, media, and machinery (leaf blowers, snow blowers, etc.) add to the mix that becomes the “noise” we have learned to acclimate ourselves to—more or less. But at what cost? Today, stillness and complete silence often seem like the dream of a long-gone world. Yet, it is only in silence that we can hear the voice of spirit within, our own soul’s wisdom and guidance. Without that compass, we flounder through our lives, stumbling along the ego’s path of alternating attachment and avoidance in relation to all things. We are never at peace, always running toward or away from something. Only in stillness and soul connection can we find respite from that hamster wheel of striving and suffering.

Silence has always been important to me. As an only child, I spent long hours outside quietly playing alone or reading books high up in the branches of my favorite climbing tree. School was a place for friends and social connections; home was where I decompressed and communed with my self, although I was too young to even articulate it that way. As an adult, I found work to also be a “social” experience; when I came home, I needed large expanses of quiet time alone to rebalance myself. At some point, I began to meditate to more easily access that inner harmony. Gradually, I discovered that the longer I spent in silence, the more peaceful I became—and the more I carried that inner peace with me everywhere I went in my life.

My partner and I recently made an agreement to remain silent each morning until we finish breakfast. We finally figured out—after more than 30 years together—that this is the most peaceful way to begin the day for each of us. We both feel less distracted and more centered. When I am talking, I am not listening, period—whether to the subtle sounds of nature outside the window at dawn or to my soul’s voice within. Once I spend time in that inner/outer silent space, I can truly listen to others, and to life, with presence and without restless distraction. My partner and I start our days in a much happier, more harmonious frame of mind because we have given ourselves this gift. Even in the frequently noisy external world we all inhabit, it is possible to find ways to bring more quiet, stillness, and calm to our lives—and thus to the lives of others. In silence is the deepest truth, the most profound peace.

“…ours is not to make ourselves heard but to be still enough to hear.”—Mark Nepo