Bridging Worlds

Photograph © 2018 Peggy Kornegger
Recently, my initial excitement and the newness of moving to Florida began to ebb somewhat, and day-to-day life took on an unexpected, almost bipolar energy. I found myself ricocheting back and forth between two rather extreme reactions: joy, optimism, positivity, appreciation, gratitude, love, inspiration on the one hand and sadness, fear, heaviness, pessimism, lack of motivation on the other. This could occur within the space of one day or even one hour, seemingly unrelated to what was happening around me. At times I was thrilled with my new home and surroundings, and then at other times I felt trapped, out of place, and uncomfortable. It took me fully another month to realize that I was experiencing what it is like to bridge two worlds: old paradigm and new dimension.

For several months during and after our move, I was completely immersed in what I experienced as entering a new dimension. It was a powerful force that carried me forward with positive uplifting energy. When I suddenly began to feel doubts and sadness, holes began to appear in that view: Had I made a mistake, a wrong choice? But I absolutely knew that I hadn’t, that moving to Florida was part of my soul plan. So then what was going on?

It wasn’t until November 6, Election Day, that I was able to see more clearly. That day was heavy with strident, conflict-ridden energy. Everywhere in the U.S., but particularly in Florida. I could barely lift my head and feel any hope for the future. Then I realized that hopelessness and conflict is the energy of the old paradigm, and any time we tap into it, we will feel weighted down and lost. Transformative energy and harmony make up the new dimension, and when we tap into that, we are flowing with positive life force into the future.

At this time on Planet Earth, many of us feel both energies and can get lost in the polarity between them. We have to remember that we are here to be bridges, wherever we happen to live. We can’t lose faith in the existence of a new dimension even when we are feeling the heaviness of the old paradigm. The new is constantly being born as the old reforms and reshapes. The key is to understand that everything is occurring for our evolution and expansion, and ultimately resolution will emerge. A challenging path but one that has been walked by thousands of souls over thousands of years.

The idea of karma, or cosmic cause and effect, has been written of for centuries in many traditions. “What goes ’round, comes ’round” the saying goes, and many spiritual masters have carried more than their share of humanity’s past wounds to help shift the balance for the collective. The era in which we are now living has been described as one in which we all become our own spiritual masters. Perhaps in doing so, we each carry part of the collective wounding, which gets cleared more and more as we go through whatever we have to in order to reach the other side of human suffering—whether that is revealing hidden secrets of sexual abuse, standing in the truth of our racial/cultural diversity and gender fluidity, or steadfastly choosing peace over conflict, love over hatred.

If the external world is a reflection of our internal state, that means everything—past lives/karma included—affects our experience in the world. Are we now, at this juncture in the world’s collective evolution, clearing the past through all time so that the mirror reflection is clearing too? If so, then sometimes we are looking through the clear part of the mirror at the new dimension and sometimes we are looking through the murky part of the mirror at the old paradigm.

It is important to keep in mind that at any given moment we can consciously call ourselves back from the murkiness and center ourselves in the clarity just by remembering that the new dimension does exist. At some point, then, as we evolve into clear carriers of pure light, Earth will cease to be the cloudy planet of polarity and separation and become a shining star of oneness and golden light. The new dimension at its most clear and luminescent.


Upside Down and Backward

Photograph © 2018 Peggy Kornegger
When I was a child, I used to lie on the living room rug and gaze up at the ceiling, imagining it as the floor. I pictured how it would be to live in an upside down house and walk from room to room stepping over the doorway arches. My partner Anne used to do the same thing when she was little, even though she grew up in an entirely different part of the U.S. Is this something that all kids do, or just a coincidence? I found myself wondering if it is a genetic code within us for novelty and reinvention, which somehow gets lost as we grow older. How do we keep our vision of the world fresh in an adult world that teaches us that physical reality is solid, unchanging, and that facts and predictability are the basis for living a safe and orderly life?

At an early age, children often aren’t interested in order and rigid perceptual rules, unless they have had it already instilled in them via parental fears. What if, at heart, we aren’t either? What if our souls really want imagination, improvisation, and exploration? The element of surprise. After all, we came to this extraordinarily diverse and beautiful planet to live our human lives fully and completely. Who wants to live it in a box of repetitive, expected events and experiences? I’ve always intuitively felt this way. That’s why I’ve moved and traveled so much in my life, from coast to coast and continent to continent. Every time I went somewhere else, I saw the world with fresh eyes. I loved it. I still do.

This move to Florida has been particularly powerful. Literally everything has been tossed up into the air. Anne and I are beginning anew in a different state, a different home, and a different climate. North to South: upside down. I continually feel as if we have crossed into another dimension. Everything unknown. Each day I see something new. The flowers and birds are unique. Even the sky is different—dramatic and ever-changing weather patterns and clouds in an infinite number of shapes, sizes, and colors. We are acutely aware of the new world we are experiencing and what a gift it is to see every detail of life as if for the very first time.

I don’t want to lose that feeling. Last evening she and I reversed the direction of our walk on the nature trail around our community. We did it “backward,” and it felt like a completely different experience. Even in a month, our eyes and brains had acclimated to our surroundings. By changing direction, we flipped the “predictable” switch in favor of “unplanned.” It was exciting to spontaneously and consciously choose the new in a relatively familiar situation. I realized that I can do that at any given moment. A small shift in your inner vision can have a huge impact on your outer experience. Life is, after all, a reflection of your inner state of being.

This morning as I walked the trail by myself, I was very conscious of all that was new to me: the butterflies, lizards, dragonflies, purple beautyberries, orange canna lilies. It was thrilling just to be outdoors on this bright sunny morning. Halfway through my walk, I heard thunder in the distance and realized there might soon be another sudden Florida rainstorm. I watched one half of the skies darken and the other half stay sunny, as the thunder rumbled closer. Then, as I walked in the sparkling sunshine, it began to rain lightly. I stopped and stood there smiling, enjoying the experience of simultaneous rain and sun, the sky divided like a huge yin-yang circle of dark and light. Opposites and oneness at the same time. All my senses were awakened by that juxtaposition.

The exhilaration of opposites is available to us at all times, and we can hold them in our awareness—an inner yin-yang—in order to immerse ourselves in the full spectrum of life’s experiences. Upside down, backward, forward, inside out. Choose the opposite path, the new activity, the unheard-of option. Every single one is an easy-access restart button for your consciousness to keep you open and expansive, mindful and soulful. A fully alive human be-ing having an absolutely amazing experience here on planet Earth. Perhaps that’s the most wonder-full thing you could possibly do with what poet Mary Oliver has called “your one wild and precious life.”


“We’ve Been Waiting for You”

Photograph © 2011 Peggy Kornegger
These were former President Obama’s words last week after students across the U.S. walked out of their classes to attend demonstrations protesting guns and violence in this country. The Parkland, Florida, high school shootings on February 14, where 17 students and teachers were killed, was the most recent of over 200 other school shootings in the last six years. It appears to be the “last straw” for young people who have watched the escalation of lethal violence directed at their classmates and teachers.

Emma Gonzalez, senior at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, spoke fiercely and articulately at a gun control rally in Ft. Lauderdale: “The people in the government who were voted into power are lying to us….Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this….It’s time for victims to be the change that we need to see.” She speaks for countless others across this nation, of all ages, races, nationalities, and backgrounds. And she echoes Oprah Winfrey’s words, in a different context (sexual abuse) but also about the devaluing of human lives by those in power, “Their time is up!” We are reaching critical mass on so many fronts.

I had tears in my eyes when I listened to Oprah’s speech and Emma’s speech, and when I read Obama’s heartfelt reaction to the students taking a stand against the existence of guns and violence in their lives: “We’ve been waiting for you. And we’ve got your backs.” Those of us who have actively spoken out for nonviolence, peace, and the honoring of all human lives (“Black Lives Matter!”) for years see hope for the future in these angry but determined young faces. They are in great pain, but often great change comes from such pain. Pain that cuts through all the lies and gets to the heart of the matter: How do you want to live your one precious life? At war or at peace? In fear or in love?

We are at a crossroads in this country and on this planet. The culture of violence that is killing our children and breaking our hearts is also causing us to stand up and let our voices be heard for something different. Every single “ism” and “phobia”—racism, sexism, ageism, xenophobia, homophobia—that has dominated the collective consciousness for hundreds of years is starting to unravel and fall apart at the seams. It may look like hatred of all kinds is gaining strength, but what we are seeing is the desperation of those who sense “their time is up.” “Power over” is frantically trying to hang on, but “power together” (“Me too”) is gaining strength. The spirit of oneness is rising in people’s hearts, whether they are aware of it yet or not. The “otherness” and separation that we have been trained to believe in is losing its grip, and compassion and unity is coming to the fore.

That spirit is in those students whose courage and resolve inspire every one of us to stand with them, to “have their backs.” Because it’s not just about them. It’s about all of us. We are all immigrants on this Earth, and we came here for a purpose beyond our individual lifetimes: to embody peaceful coexistence and loving kindness on a planet that has never fully lived it. The waiting is over; our time is now. Each of us knows in our heart that love is stronger than fear and hatred, and global transformation occurs when we live that truth, shining it outward from the very core of our being so that it is reflected in the hearts of everyone, everywhere. To quote Oprah again, “A new day is on the horizon.” Let’s walk into it together.

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.

African Dreams

Photograph © 2016 Peggy Kornegger
Photograph © 2016 Peggy Kornegger
In October, I spent two weeks in South Africa. After I returned, I woke each morning disoriented, thinking I was still there—bird calls and animal sounds filling the air. My own bedroom seemed unfamiliar, and as I lay in a half-awake/half-asleep state, I dreamed of elephants walking slowly with majestic, graceful intent, just as they did when I saw them in the hot, dry African savanna. Gradually, when I awoke fully, I realized I was back home in Massachusetts, where it was cold and rainy, and autumn leaves covered the ground. Yet the elephants are still with me. Africa inhabits my consciousness now, never far way in memory or awareness. I close my eyes, and I see again the enduring, yet somehow fragile beauty of the land and the people and animals who live there.

It was one of my life’s greatest blessings to travel to South Africa, where the animals are like nowhere else on Earth. Elephants, giraffes, zebras, impala, kudu, sable, lions, wildebeests, wart hogs, buffalo, nyala, waterbuck, crocodile, hippopotamus, rhinoceros, baboons, monkeys, bush babies, honey badgers, and many more. The birds too are unique: bee-eaters, hornbills, storks, spoonbills, ostriches. The grey go-away bird and the Egyptian goose with bright pink legs and feet. All miraculous beings living in a world that has drastically changed because of human activities and population growth.

The wild animals of Africa can no longer survive outside of reserves, where they are protected, in theory, from game hunters, poachers, and those who see them as a threat to farms and villages. Still, poachers find ways to enter the reserves (by helicopter) to kill elephants for their tusks and rhinoceroses for their horns. There is a high price paid in various countries for them. The animals face food and water shortages because of drought and the fact that fences block them from following their age-old migration routes across Africa. The heartbreaking worldwide dilemma of humans and animals inhabiting the same areas and using the same scarce resources is nowhere as dramatically visible as in Africa. Foreign investors buy up land to raise rhinos for their horns; private game reserves offer hunting for those who can pay for the “pleasure” of killing exotic animals. Colonialism has not disappeared; it has just taken new forms. You can see it in the everywhere-visible electrified wire fences “protecting” houses, land, and supposedly animals.

Photograph © 2016 Anne Katzeff
Photograph © 2016 Anne Katzeff

I came to South Africa to volunteer at Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and Daktari Bush School and Wildlife Orphanage and then to see the magnificent animals in the wild. This was not a usual tourist trip, but one where we learned about the enormous challenges faced by the people as well as the animals. Daktari offers an intensive teaching curriculum for 10-11 underprivileged students a week (grade 8) from neighboring schools. They receive class instruction from volunteers (with special focus on the environment and wildlife) and learn firsthand about animals by helping to care for them (they are often afraid of them at first). They also learn about possible future jobs in Africa’s animal reserves.

The students arrive shy and reluctant to speak and usually leave with more self-confidence and a greater ability to express themselves. Still, when we visited the daycare centers and schools that they came from, we saw the uphill battles they face. Schools with hundreds of students and only a handful of teachers; many classrooms with no teachers at all. When they finish school, many encounter either unemployment or jobs that are mostly low income. Racism and poverty have not disappeared with the end of apartheid.* In spite of the odds stacked against them, however, the students we met wanted to make a difference in their communities.

Photograph © 2016 Peggy Kornegger
Photograph © 2016 Peggy Kornegger

We heard various stories about the animals in the reserves. Some of the staff at Moholoholo and Daktari told us that the two-year drought is drying up both food and water, and animals are dying. That there are far too many of some animals in the reserves (because they are prevented from migrating), and culling operations often kill off the “excess.” Still, many are starving, and some are driven to break through fences to get to food and water, where they are killed by farmers protecting their crops.** A tragic situation. Meanwhile, the rangers at Kruger National Park, one of Africa’s largest animal reserves (7,523 sq. mi.), told us that drought is normal, part of Africa’s savanna climate cycle, and that culling is infrequently necessary. Of course, this is the softer picture presented to tourists, so that they will continue to come to Africa.

So we as visitors who wanted to help, but also tourists in spite of ourselves, did what we could while we were there–offered our love and support to the children and animals and the people we met. A small gesture within a huge continent facing huge conflicts and challenges, within an even bigger world that often sees this unique land only in terms of the money that can be made by exploiting it and the people who live there. We who visit can only know a part of the larger picture, but even so, we can speak about what we have experienced—about the extraordinary beauty of the land, the animals, and the people, and about how precious they are in the greater landscape we all inhabit. Until we can see every part of this world as part of us, we cannot live in oneness. It begins with seeing other people as like ourselves, by seeing every living creature as a sentient being, and by honoring the Earth as sacred ground. To live with good heart upon this planet, wherever we are and whomever we meet. From the African word ubuntu: compassion, humanity, kindness for all. In so many ways, visible and invisible, we are all connected.


*Just as racism and poverty have not disappeared in the United States in spite of the civil rights laws passed in the 1960s

**Just as wolves are killed by ranchers in the western United States when they leave the protection of national parks