Wild Geese on a Winter’s Day

Often there are very subtle threads that hold us to life and to the belief that everything is ultimately worthwhile. They reveal themselves in sometimes overlooked daily details: the smell of freshly baked bread from the kitchen, the way the sun highlights the red amaryllis on the dining room table, a snatch of song from a neighbor’s apartment. All these make up life’s tapestry and fill us with delight if we are able to fully receive them. They balance out any sadness or dismay about how things are unfolding and uplift us at the most unexpected moments. This is the magic of allowing your life to carry you to the heart of all experience: Heavenly gifts are always arriving.

For me, one day last month, it was the sight and sound of wild Canada geese flying overhead against the blue winter sky as I stepped outside for my afternoon walk. And it was the unexpected sight of 8 to 10 robins in a bare tree, calling excitedly in the January air. Birds always open my heart and awaken me to full consciousness. Their place on this planet is one of such grace and beauty. So many beings and events hold this promise for each of us, in Nature or in our own homes. These are the threads; this is the tapestry of which we too are a part. The words you speak may give someone else hope or solace. Your very presence is a light in the lives of those who love you.

I remind myself of this when the gray days of winter seem endless and I can barely remember spring. Or perhaps it is God who reminds me, who shows me vibrant life (wild geese and cheery robins) even on a cold colorless day. It is the gift we carry with us always. As the French writer Albert Camus so beautifully expressed it, “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.” Beauty and meaning are etched into our souls. Divine vision skates along the surface of our lives, continuously available for our inspiration and sustenance. The very air we breathe awakens us to the day before us. Our senses greet the ordinary, making it extraordinary.

All this is waiting for you if you allow the doors and windows of your life to remain open, if you allow life to flow in and touch your awareness. In those moments, there is no question about whether life is worthwhile. You are so immersed in the wonders of the present moment that thinking recedes; full-hearted beingness carries you forward through life. This is the best of living, available to each of us, if we so choose. Poet Mary Oliver, wrote a perfect description of this:

“I look; morning to night I am never done with looking.
Looking I mean not standing around, but standing around
as though with your arms open.”

These moments await you and me. Each day is a new miracle to be experienced. The more engaged you become in this way of being, the more all inner queries about purpose, reasons, or outcome fall away. Disappointment disappears, and only celebration remains. This is the life of Spirit, fully embraced and expressed.

Dawn, Dusk, and Midday

Vacillations in how we feel are part of life, particularly now as the planet lives through a pandemic. We have unexpectedly come face to face with potential illness and mortality, as well as the relative shortness of one lifetime. It can shake our emotional foundations. Yet, wherever we are on the timeline of life, most of us gradually reach some kind of resolution. We come to terms with life and death. The wisdom of the ages reaches into our souls and awakens awareness. We realize time is an illusion and if we don’t fully immerse ourselves in “now,” we miss both the mundane and spiritual impacts of life. This is the soul’s journey, right now being played out on a world canvas, as we pass from dawn to dusk and finally see the full illumination of midday (or the “present moment”).

We may not entirely recognize what is happening yet, but the trajectory of the years ahead is the soul’s emergence in the world as full awareness. Within the mystery that is earthly life, each human being comes to that moment of awakening to, acceptance of, and engagement with life “as is.” This particular time in history is showcasing the personal journey on a global scale. In a pandemic, no one escapes or gets out untransformed; same with human life. It may seem dire and perhaps depressing on one level, but from the soul’s viewpoint, there is no real difference between life and death. It is all universal consciousness experiencing itself, beyond time and space. It may take a lifetime to realize this, but it arises within us eventually.

As someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, I have felt a multitude of reactions, from initial panic to inner peace. Peace being the most prevalent and sustaining. Primarily because it arises from my soul. The identity can get caught up in future fears or “what ifs.” The soul is embodied spirit vision; it knows that at the center of all life is a loving peace that transmutes all transitory fear. On the cancer path, through the ups and downs of treatment, I have at times felt weighed down or lost. Yet when another day dawns, my spirits rise again; I am re-centered in the peace at my core, the sun lighting up my solar plexus.

Nature has proven to be my greatest ally as I navigate life day to day. Nature is all-inclusive: dawn, dusk, and midday. When we embrace Nature in its entirety, we recognize that all three experiences are really one, and we are One with Nature. In every moment, beginnings and endings exist—a full spectrum of possibility. A perfect design is unfolding, of which we are part. As I open my eyes each morning, I can see this clearly; my sustaining inner peace makes this possible.

So I learn as I go, as I live the diverse experiences of my life. We all learn this way. And we all end up in the same place, because we all came from the same place: infinite consciousness or beingness. Whatever name you give it, it guides us every step of the way in our lives. It is who we are, and our life experiences teach us this. At the end of each day/night, we feel the full circle within us, the golden light of peace that is always bringing us Home.

Inside the Rainbow—Book Excerpt*

There are at least 7.8 billion ways of seeing a rainbow, each one perfect and true. A scientist sees refraction of light. A poet sees transcendent beauty. A child sees magic. A spiritual seeker sees the gateway to heaven. Someone who has suffered great loss—a loved one, a home, a job—may see a sign of hope in the midst of their pain. What if our individual experiences of the world, of Nature, are how we discover meaning in life, how we connect with our souls and find God, or Spirit? What if spiritual connection is not about struggling to understand mysteries but instead just opening our eyes to the extraordinary beauty before us? Step inside the rainbow itself, and a world of vibrant color and divine light opens up all around you.

In the film The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy imagines a distant place beyond the rainbow where dreams come true. When she actually travels there, she discovers that her dreams have already come true within the home of her own heart. This home that lives in each of us is our soul’s connection to all of life. When we come to know Nature as a reflection of that connection, we understand that Spirit is embodied in everything we see. Inside the rainbow is your soul’s home.

It is not really necessary to travel to Oz or across vast continents to ancient holy shrines to live your dreams or find God. Every time you walk out your door you have that opportunity. Nature herself is a sacred temple that encompasses the entire world. In every tree, flower, butterfly, or rainbow is Spirit’s essence, the source of all life everywhere. The experience of God can be as simple or as complicated as you make it. It can have many layers or just one. It can be ecstatically joyful or quietly peaceful. It can be all of these simultaneously. Because God is everything. There is nothing that we perceive or experience that is not God, including ourselves.

God lives within our souls, so all that we see outside us reflects this inner core of peaceful, loving awareness that encompasses the universe. It’s impossible to describe Spirit in one definition, or in language at all. The greatest sages have said that the truest experience of God is in silence. Words limit the magnificent splendor that is divine consciousness.

All my life, even as a small child, I found that Spirit lived in the stillness of the natural world. I didn’t have words for it then because I wasn’t raised in any religion, but my heart always recognized the beauty and wonder I saw all around me in the birds and trees and flowers. It was an experience I have carried with me and deepened throughout my life. And it is available to every single person on this planet.

You don’t need to attend a religious service or spiritual program to know your soul and God. You just have to open your mind and your heart to the possibility that God and Nature are the same thing. If you do, I promise you, the entire world will begin to shine with a light that defies description. And you will understand at the deepest level the sacredness of the natural world.

The miracles and wonders in Nature awaken our own sense of the miraculous and wondrous, which is the Spirit inside us. The God within you and the God in Nature have been with you all your life, just waiting for you to see them as part of the oneness that includes all of us on this planet.
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*My new book, Inside the Rainbow: Soul Connection in Nature, can be purchased online in print or digital form at Amazon: https://amzn.to/3vvBuLo.
Book Launch/Reading on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLV7VxUU47k.

The World Is a Garden

For many years I had a garden filled with a variety of flowers in our yard in Massachusetts. After we moved to Florida, I created a smaller “garden” of potted flowers on our lanai. Now, back home in the Boston area, the backyard we share with our downstairs neighbors really has no room for a garden like my previous one. Instead, I have begun taking long walks through the neighborhoods of our town to delight in other people’s gardens. I have found this to be an unexpected gift of my return to New England. I loved having my own garden, but now I am enjoying the entire town’s gardens, as well as those at nearby Mt. Auburn Cemetery. Suddenly, the whole world has become a garden—or I am realizing it always was.

What a beautiful truth that is. The Earth that is our home is a Garden of Eden available to all, if we could remember to see it that way. Mother Nature has no borders or boundaries, no “mine” and “yours.” Humans build fences, claim ownership, but trees, plants, and flowers have unlimited connections beneath the fenced land which we can’t even see. The strength of their living energy has a power beyond wire fences and concrete walls.  Vines can topple fences, and trees can break through sidewalks. Ultimately, life cannot be contained; it flowers everywhere.

In the 1960s we called this “flower power,” and it defined a generation’s consciousness and vision of the future. But you don’t have to call yourself a flower child to see the unity of life displayed in the gardens of the world (as well as the wilderness). Humans often think they are separate from Nature; yet all it takes is a shift in awareness to see the oneness from which we have all emerged and that links us together. And this is exactly what I experienced as I walked daily from winter to spring to summer to autumn. Every day was a blessing and a revelation. Each neighbor’s unique garden with its seasonal changes was a cause for celebration.

Beginning in March and April, I watched flower bulbs push up through the frozen ground and trees begin to bud. Crocuses, daffodils, tulips, hyacinths. Redbud, crabapple, dogwood. Forsythia and lilac bushes. What glorious colors everywhere! New growth each day. The tiny yellow-green leaves of the maple and oak trees silhouetted against the clear-blue spring sky took my breath away. In May, June, and July, the colors grew even more vivid. Rainbow reds and purples and yellows. Magentas and pinks. Azalea, rhododendron, hydrangea, rose of Sharon, columbine. Every yard I passed seemed to have different variations. I have never seen so many kinds and colors of irises and lilies as I have this past year on my walks through town.

I didn’t have to “own” these flowers to love them or to appreciate my neighbors’ creativity and imagination in the plantings. It was like looking at living versions of Monet’s paintings of the gardens at Giverny. The colors and life flowed together from yard to yard. Everything seemed to breathe and grow as one. And as I passed by, I too was a part of that living painting that Nature imagines into being each year when the seasons change. In September, the colors were still vibrant in the zinnias, black-eyed susans, marigolds, ageratum, and asters. The tree leaves turned in October to brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows, and soon the bare branches were once again silhouetted against the sky. As winter arrives with its white snows, red holly berries, and deep green pine trees, the seasonal cycles continue.

This is what I discovered in not having my own backyard garden: Everywhere I looked was Nature’s beauty, none of it “mine” but all of it a shared blessing. I was at times moved to tears by the simplest, most delicate flower or the splendor of a tree covered with blossoms, radiant in the sun. The Earth gives us these gifts every day. Open your heart and receive them. Even that small flower blooming in a crack in the sidewalk on a city street is a miraculous part of a greater whole that includes you and me.

Precious Moments

Whatever your current age or state of health, you have probably experienced moments when life feels exceedingly ephemeral, as if it could disappear in a split second. This is raw truth. We are here on Earth as human beings for a tiny moment in eternity, yet time itself is always relative—sometimes racing and sometimes “stopped.” As our lives move forward and evolve, we experience the various aspects of life and living and come to know both impermanence and loss. In doing so, our hearts may break, yet we grow wiser. And we begin to see beyond time to eternity itself.

When my mother and father were first married and living in Chicago, they went to see a show called Knickerbocker Holiday. In it, one piece of music, “September Song,” particularly touched them, and they carried it through their lives as their “favorite.” Every time someone sang it on TV or radio, they would pause, listen, and look across the room at each other meaningfully. The main lyric was “It’s a long, long while from May to December. But the days grow short when you reach September…. These precious days I’ll spend with you.” I have such a clear memory of this, which I’ve carried with me all my life. The songwriter, and my parents, had tapped into both the sweetness and the poignancy of life.

My parents were married 57 years when my mother passed away; my father died nine years later. I think I came to know why that song held such significance for them as I lived through their aging years and eventual deaths. Now, many years later, as I myself am aging, as well as facing breast cancer, it all takes on new meaning. In my heart, I feel strongly that I will survive this health challenge, yet you can’t live through such an unexpected and intense experience without being changed, without taking a hard look at your own mortality. Of course, my entire life I have been focused on the mystery of eternity and death, feeling both fear and fascination. (Maybe it runs in my family genes!) None of it coincidence, I suppose. This is my soul journey. Before birth, I chose the parents I had for exactly these reasons.

Over the years, my spiritual path has gradually led me to a “peace that passeth understanding” about it all. Particularly in the last few months, I have come to see an extraordinary beauty in eternity and the nature of the universe. Cancer can be both frightening and soulfully expansive. In recent weeks, I have experienced moments of timeless immersion in infinity, primarily in Nature, which defy description. The heart and soul cannot translate what transpires at those times. But you are transformed; the inner “enlightenment” you were born with rises to the surfaces and shines through your being. Fear no longer defines your days and nights; light does. And trust in something greater than the mind’s limited view. Your inner vision expands to encompass a magnificence and grace that spans all time and space.

Does every human soul eventually experience this as an incarnated being on planet Earth? I don’t know for certain. I can only express what I myself am living through. Still, the trust I carry within me whispers that this is the destiny of all human beings: to see the true nature of life and what appears to be mortality. In the calendar of life, the days we are given at first seem long, then short, then eventually become infinite, timeless—and “precious” beyond life, death, and meaning itself.

“You are infinity dancing in impermanence.”—Panache Desai