The Birds!

“This kind of spring day, with the beautiful myriads of colorful sprites just arrived from tropical shores, has to be one of the greatest gifts on Earth.”—Kenn Kaufman

Inevitably, people ask me why I moved from Florida back to Massachusetts after only two and a half years. I answer a little differently each time, usually something about missing friends/family and the change of seasons. However, as spring begins to flower in New England, there is one answer that rises to the top: the birds! Meaning the spring bird migration that brings thousands of birds from Central and South America northward through Massachusetts. And right down the street from me to Mt. Auburn Cemetery, which is heaven on Earth for birdwatchers from April to June, especially the first three weeks in May. With the exception of the last two years, this is where I could be found early in the morning to mid-afternoon on most spring days over the past 30 years.

More than anything else, I missed this exciting yearly event.  Even though Florida has incredible birds of its own (herons, egrets, ibises, gallinules, pelicans, parrots, woodpeckers), it was the excitement of seeing warblers, tanagers, orioles, grosbeaks, and thrushes passing through Massachusetts (some nesting here) annually that tugged at my heartstrings and called me home. The thrill of encountering these beautiful songbirds each spring is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. Through long snowy winters, northern birders anticipate their arrival.

When the male cardinal begins to rehearse his spring song in late January or early February, even with snow on the ground and freezing temperatures, it is the first hint that indeed spring is not far away. Soon I hear house finches, song sparrows, and mourning doves singing, as the days lengthen and the changing light cues the birds for their seasonal roles. For me, robins turn the tide. Some of them overwinter in Massachusetts, but it is the arrival of flocks of migrating robins in March that lift my heart: I know that spring is right on our doorstep now. The trees and lawns fill up with robins, and they can be heard calling and singing in the mornings and often throughout the day. This is what I missed most in Florida: robins, with their red breasts, bright eyes, and cheery songs. They sing spring into being, and soon all the other amazing migrating birds follow.

Mt. Auburn is a green gem of woodsy wildness in the midst of the busy streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts. When I walk through its gates, I step out of the city and into the country, or the closest thing to it in a metropolitan area. Tree elders of all kinds, as well as native plantings, flowers, ponds, hills, and dells, are a striking visual invitation to birds who have flown all night on their thousands-of-miles marathon journey from Central and South America. They drop down out of the sky at dawn into this oasis and begin to replenish their life force by eating the insects that come to the flowering spring trees. And we bird-lovers are there to welcome them.

In April, the first warblers appear: yellow-rumped, palm, pine. Then as May begins, the rest begin to fly in: black-throated blue, black-throated green, black-and-white, yellow, northern parula, magnolia, chestnut-sided, bay-breasted, common yellowthroat, ovenbird, American redstart, and so many others. I especially anticipate seeing the Blackburnian with its fiery orange iridescent throat and the Canada with its delicate black necklace. Each warbler has distinctive markings and color patterns that can evoke audible gasps among birders when the sun lights their feathers and their varied songs fill the air.

Around the same time, Baltimore orioles, scarlet tanagers, flycatchers, vireos, and rose-breasted grosbeaks arrive, and the rainbow of bird colors expands. There is nothing to compare to the sight of flashy orange-and-black orioles swirling through the trees chattering at one another and whistling melodically. The scarlet tanager is another showstopper, brilliant red and black among the green leaves, singing its hoarsely sweet song. Then there are the thrushes, whose songs are ethereal flute-like trills in the quiet woods. The veery and wood thrush, in particular, always fill my heart with joy and my eyes with tears as I listen in silence, motionless. Listening as much as watching is the delight of being with birds.

In its simplicity, birdwatching teaches silent presence as well as immersion in the moment. Within that is also surrender to a powerful invisible life force that flows through the universe and carries humans and birds alike. Great spiritual wisdom is embodied in the lives of these tiny feathered beings and awakened in our own hearts. As Kenn Kaufman writes, “They live the briefest of lives, but they are bound to eternal things.” So many birds, so many wonders that play out each spring in a passing parade of color and sound like no other. We are incredibly blessed to share the Earth with birds, who fly so far to light up our souls with their songs and presence. Living miracles each one of them. Who would want to miss this once-a-year magic show? Not me. And that’s why I moved back to Massachusetts.

Do You Remember?

Photograph © 2020 Peggy Kornegger

“God isn’t an attainment.
It’s a memory.”
—Panache Desai

When we yearn for God, we think we have to do or become something in order to find that connection, but that just isn’t true. God, or Spirit, was in the infinite energy that held your essence before you were born and in the emergence of your individual expression in this world. Spirit has never left you because there is no part of you that is not Spirit. No part of the universe is Godless. When you realize that completely, the arbitrary boundaries created to define human existence disappear, and you are at home in a Presence beyond time and space. You remember.

What does it take to open to that awareness? Not effort or searching; trying can in fact push it further away. Instead, remembering God is an experience of letting go and being fully present in your life exactly as it is in each moment. If you practice surrendering to life, that experience can become continuous, unbroken and limitless. And it awaits you everywhere. Spirit is in the sunrise and sunset, in the robin’s morning song and the thrush’s evening trill. In thunderstorms and rainbows, in the expanse of the plains and the height of the mountains. Spirit is present in the eyes of loved ones and strangers alike. Even on a busy city street, you can experience this Presence. Everywhere you look, God is, because divinity lives within you. You were born of Spirit, and Spirit lives through you. So when you remember, in a split second of full awareness, you are seeing the truth of all life everywhere, the multiverse we are part of. You are Presence.

I find that my most profound moments of remembering God occur in Nature. Silence engenders access to Spirit. In the stillness of my soul, the experience of Presence arises. When I wake at dawn and walk outside beneath the cypress trees as the mockingbirds sing and the red-bellied woodpeckers call, I feel a part of something beyond the physical boundaries of my body. In the silence beneath the sounds of Nature, I let go into formless being in which the birds and trees and I are one. Humans are taught to name what they see, but when I consciously drop that mental training, everything opens up. Without labels, the world flows seamlessly, and I flow with it. In the flowing, I remember.

I knew God fully before birth, floating in my mother’s womb, because words hadn’t defined and separated my world into parts yet. Once I entered life and language filtered my experiences, I was introduced to fragmented time and conditioned perception. Western culture doesn’t show us that we are one with all we see and that Spirit is the source of that oneness. God in some religions is viewed as an entity that lives outside us and subjects us to rigid rules, judgments, and constraints. The deeper truth is that God is a loving Presence in our souls, which we can access through present-moment awareness. Not through achievement or striving, but in letting go and surrendering. In each moment, the memory of God spans our consciousness and fills our hearts. A timeless memory within; eternal Presence. This is God.


When Opportunity Knocks

Photograph © 2020 Peggy Kornegger

One of my favorite board games when I was growing up was called Careers. It came with a small set of Opportunity cards, which you chose every time you landed on an “Opportunity Knocks” square on the board. Each card directed you to a different career adventure. For some reason, I remembered this game the other day and thought how we all could probably use Opportunity reminders in our lives. The deeper I dive into the wisdom of accepting all life events as part of my soul’s journey, the more I realize that each event is an opportunity to surrender.

Within that framework, even the most painful and challenging experience (such as living through a global pandemic) is a doorway to greater expansion and growth. When I look back at my life, I can see the flowering into something new that occurred on the other side of what seemed like disaster or tragedy. Life is always presenting us with these opportunities to remain open to change and rebirth, often accompanied by fear or discomfort. If we can remember that that uncomfortable feeling is the precursor to possibility, then we can answer the door with peace in our hearts when opportunity knocks. Birth is always uncomfortable, but untold miracles await us if we relax into the process. The emergence of a new consciousness, a new Earth, is part of that.

So my latest self-reminder is to see each experience, each event, each moment, as an opportunity to surrender ever more deeply into the flow of life. Life as it is unfolding on one planet in one dimension in the multiverse. I am part of something so much grander than my own limited perception of it, an infinite tapestry of beingness that spans all time and space. That thought can be either terrifying or inspiring depending on how open I can remain within my heart and mind. And how deeply connected I am to my soul. Because the surrender I am talking about is ultimately to my soul, to the Spirit within.

My soul knows the design of my life. It was in on the pre-birth planning with God (or Goddess, Source, Spirit). The cosmos is not an accident. Your life is not an accident. There is a greater design beyond the human mind’s ability to understand or explain. At a certain point, we have to let go of figuring things out and just experience the Mystery that is life. To witness it with awe and wonder, as our soul does. That is the sacred gift of life: just to be here, to be present within this extraordinary experience of life on Earth and fully appreciate it. Fully receive it.

I spent so many years trying, instead of just receiving. We are taught that. To try to achieve, to accomplish, to create a life that is perfect. The personality-self, or ego, thinks that in striving and trying we are actually controlling outcomes, forgetting that there is a greater divine orchestration going on that our souls are part of. The universe is very generous and loving. When we try so hard to control events, we are actually slowing down the natural process of giving and receiving that life is based on. When we remain open and surrender to each moment, life can flow through us with ease. The ego tries to control; the soul just receives.

So when you hear unexpected change knocking at your door, think of it as a meditation bell reminding you of another opportunity to let go and receive life at the deepest level. This is why we’re here in human bodies, to learn to soften into oneness, into loving-awareness, into a Presence that includes everything. We think life is a board game, but it’s really divine grace unfolding….


Welcoming Obstacles and Mystery

Photograph © 2019 Peggy Kornegger
Ganesha is one of the better-known and beloved deities in Hindu teachings: the remover of obstacles, the god of new beginnings as well as wisdom. I have always been fond of his representation with an elephant’s head. When I moved to Florida, I bought a small statue of his likeness to place near our front door. Following tradition, I rubbed his nose lovingly as I passed in or out of the condo. I felt connected to the energy of new beginnings, free of obstacles, trusting that all my dreams about this adventure would unfold perfectly.

Well, Ganesh can be a trickster as well as divine support. He can place obstacles in your path as well as remove them, all in service to your soul’s journey. This little bit of wisdom showed itself again and again as my expectations about sharing my life with a community of friends here manifested only temporarily, and things that had seemed certain began to dissolve all around me. Surrender was repeatedly the only wise response to unexpected change. I discovered that the real obstacles that Ganesh was dedicated to removing were those between me and God. All of them. And this was Ganesh’s wisdom: let go, let God.

Over the course of two years, I received this wisdom at deeper and deeper levels: through the events of my life, through a worldwide pandemic, through political upheaval—and through extraordinary moments of divine connection in Nature. The natural world here in Florida transports the soul. At any given moment, I can look up at the powder-blue sky and constantly changing cloud formations and feel as if I am in heaven, immersed in sacred energy. White ibises and snowy egrets flying overhead add to the mystery and beauty. Every morning, when I walk along a nearby nature trail, I am immediately in an altered state of receptive awareness. And this is where Ganesh delivered his summation statement to me a few weeks ago, visually and then aurally.

As I passed a group of cypress trees on the trail, I suddenly stepped into a cloud of long-winged zebra butterflies. Their black-and-white wings flashed in the morning light shining through the tree branches, creating an optical illusion of appearance and disappearance, as if they were moving from one dimension to another. I could feel my heart open into a profound soul connection to God, tears of love and gratitude in my eyes. Then, as I shifted my gaze to the beams of brilliant sunlight, I heard within me: “You did not come to Florida to live in a community. You came here to experience God.” Truth. Ganesh’s truth. My soul’s truth. And I immediately recognized it as such.

Photograph © 2020 Peggy Kornegger
So now I see, more clearly each day, why I was brought here. In the empty spaces outside of human life plans, you can hear wisdom, you can feel peace, and you can become one with your soul. And “community” is wider and deeper than one place, one time frame; it spans the globe and lives in the heart of humanity. I also understand more fully that planning the details doesn’t always lead to certainty of outcome. I can only open the door and welcome everything that appears, flowing with the mysteries of the universe. Every seeming obstacle is a guidepost to God. Thank you, Ganesha.

Nothing and Everything

Photograph © 2020 Peggy Kornegger
Sometimes the twists and turns of life on Earth can feel like loss or emptiness, especially now. Yet the greater significance of our experiences may not be completely understood when they occur. Time brings perspective. There are no mistakes, and we are never really lost. Everything we experience provides an opening into greater awareness and an opportunity to grow and trust in the trajectory of our own lives.

Two years ago I moved from Boston to Florida, primarily to live closer to several friends. Within a matter of months, the friends unexpectedly began to move to other states. The ostensible “reasons” for my divinely guided move (and it did feel that way) evaporated into thin air, and I searched for another reason to be here. Things that I tried just didn’t feel right. I spent more than a year watching parts of my life fall away to nothing all around me. What remained were my spiritual practice, my writing, my dear partner Anne, and my deep connection to Nature. The essence of my life really, and I appreciated them more than ever.

Still, I felt lost and “homesick” a lot of the time. By year’s end, I had become closed and cranky, feeling let down by friends, life, and God. Why was I brought here in order to lose so much? Ah, that was the key question that unlocked the closed door of my heart. Because as long as I saw only loss, letdown, and emptiness, that was my experience. As 2020 began, I intentionally “reset” my consciousness to accept all that had happened as part of my soul’s journey in this lifetime. I let go of expectation and disappointment and chose to trust that everything was unfolding perfectly, even if it didn’t look that way on the surface. Gradually I re-centered. Then came COVID-19.

What might have been yet another setback and reason to fall into despair actually became a catalyst for me to surrender at an even deeper level. I gave up every illusion of egoic control or planning in my life. As the world completely shut down in fear and uncertainty, I realized that something “greater” had put humanity in a timeout. There were divine forces at work on the planet that were more powerful than human “will power.” And my own life was part of the same cosmic flow. As I came to this awareness, a tremendous peace came over me. I settled into my soul’s perspective, my soul’s peace. And I have not left, even when I feel uncertainty or sadness about world events. Inner peace is always present in the midst of whatever else is occurring, and a broader understanding will eventually arise.

Over the past few months, as I’ve followed a daily meditation practice* and taken long walks in Nature, my feelings of peace and spiritual connection have deepened. I can see that these extraordinary global circumstances are part of an acceleration of planetary shifts in consciousness. It is time to let go of our mind-oriented, will-driven, egocentric ways and open to heart-centered, flowing cooperation and compassion. Our Earth home cannot survive unless we come back into harmony with our hearts and souls—and with one another, across differences in race, nationality, gender, age, and beliefs. We are being called to awaken to our own inner soul potential and create an entirely new paradigm of living on this planet.

The vast emptiness that many of us have been staring into in our lives is exactly like the infinite cosmos—full of possibility. Out of emptiness arises the entire universe, filled with energy and light. The mind fears infinity, but the soul is completely at home there. When we shift to soul vision, we see that within the “nothing” of infinity is a Presence that holds everything in loving awareness, and we too feel at home. Emptiness is full, ever-unfolding. We ourselves are ever-unfolding. Only when nothing opens up in our lives can we truly see that inside it is everything. And we begin to live from the infinite potential within us, which is our soul’s gift of love to the world.
*Gratitude to Panache Desai for his online morning meditations and to Deva Premal & Miten for their afternoon meditations/music during this time.