We are born with it—a core ability to recover from hardship or illness, to bounce back from misfortune and loss. Resilience is in our DNA; it’s a survival skill. We wouldn’t have made it as a species without it. Yet, at times of turmoil and challenge, as we are now experiencing on Earth, that inner wellspring can almost seem nonexistent, at the very least in need of replenishing. A global pandemic has exhausted us, and political conflict undermines our hopes for the future on a daily basis. How do we cope?

A year or so after COVID first appeared, I went through a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment (latest breast scans all clear!). I am an extremely grateful survivor, but those two events, taken together, have had quite an effect on my life. In each one, thoughts of illness and death arose, as well as feelings about aging and the number of years I have left in my life. We all consider these things from time to time, but perhaps never more intensely than when faced with a diagnosis and/or a worldwide health crisis.

Throughout my cancer treatment, I felt an abiding inner peace because my resilience wellspring was buoyed up continuously by my life partner Anne, friends, family, and spiritual connection. I accepted and trusted my soul’s journey. Still, there are always multiple aspects to life’s most profound experiences. Now a year after the end of treatment, I am even more aware of both the sweetness and impermanence of life. A variety of feelings come and go. I have tears in my eyes as I listen to a touching song that holds many memories, and I smile when I see spring crocuses in bloom or hear a robin calling. Life’s fleeting and poignant beauty touches my heart deeper with each passing year.

Recently a dear family member passed away. She was 92. My father died years ago at 94. They each had a long resilient life, though with some health challenges at the end. Whether or not we face illness in our lives, eventually, inevitably, we transition. I am not near 90, yet I am closer than I was at 20 (which is a bit shocking). When we are young, life seems endless. As we age and look back at our lives, it all seems to be passing quickly. In the last week of her life, Dodie said that everything was “happening so fast” now. We have an entire life ahead of us—and then we don’t.

Our experience of time is relative, sometimes passing slowly, sometimes quickly. Only in the moment does it cease movement. Now is timeless, and this is where resilience lives. When we live our lives centered in the present moment, human time disappears into beingness, which is eternal. Perhaps this is the way we cope—by bringing ourselves back to the present repeatedly. By remembering that the human spirit never really dies and is always evolving. It is part of a greater everlasting Spirit that fills the universe with light, beauty, and joy.

Even when the world and life seem engulfed in unrest, pain, and uncertainty, this beautiful light gives our lives resilience. Deep within us, our soul’s peace carries each of us through life’s many changes—and beyond. In the expanse of each moment, I silently remind myself of this truth.

The End of Time…

Photograph © 2020 Peggy Kornegger
“Who wants to live forever?
Who dares to love forever?”
—Brian May

In the Western world, time tells us when we are born and when we die. Based on calculated averages, we know approximately how long we’ll live. We go through our lives with a clock ticking away in the background, measuring out the years we have lived and those we have left. This “knowledge” influences everything we say or do, every decision we make. In fact, it permeates our entire culture: education, employment, medicine, insurance, religion, marriage, law, property. Our lives are shaped by time’s constraints. Yet physicists tell us that time and space are human inventions, a way to quantify something that is unquantifiable.

So if time is not “real,” but only a mental construct, do birth and death exist at all? And what about aging? In his book By Human Design, Gregg Braden describes meeting a monk in Tibet who could tell him what year he was born, but only after asking the current year could he give his age: 93. Time in terms of measuring one’s life passage does not exist for Tibetan monks and nuns. They live moment to moment, and each moment is eternal. Thus longevity and other measurements based on time have no meaning for them.

In the last few months, the world has faced death on a grand scale as the coronavirus has swept around the globe, taking life after life. Many of us have felt as if we were living on “borrowed time,” hanging precipitously on a cliff edge waiting for the latest statistics about the death tolls, country by country, state by state, city by city. “Longevity” was not on our minds; surviving the week, the month, and hopefully the year, were closer to what we were thinking. When everything in your life has been cleared out, and you stand alone staring into the emptiness, plans for the future have little meaning. Suddenly, your life becomes one precious breath after another, one moment after another. Because there is nothing else but living in the present, appreciating every second of life. Forever is now.

Perhaps we are being schooled in the highest Tibetan wisdom through the unlikely vehicle of a deadly virus. God moves in mysterious ways, as the saying goes. And humanity has certainly been in dire need of higher wisdom as it races headlong toward self-destruction in a multitude of areas, from systemic racism to environmental crisis. If each person stopped for a moment and looked at their life as if they only had five minutes to live, what kind of choices would they make? COVID-19 has put every one of us on the planet in that position. My guess is that most people would not run to the bank or the mall but to the loving presence of a family member or close friend. In my last moments on Earth, I would certainly choose love over anything else in the material world.

Do we become wiser when we are face to face with death, with eternity? When we realize how tenuous our hold is on life and living, do we begin to see that each moment is a gift and a blessing, each person a miracle? In the midst of this global pandemic, humanity has the chance to awaken at last to the collective wisdom of the ages: That time is an illusion, and there is only Now. That separation and otherness are also illusions, and there is only One. In this moment is the only forever we will ever know and the greatest love we will ever experience. When the entire world stops and takes a collective breath together, forever is revealed in the love we see in one another’s eyes. Timeless loving awareness. Maybe that is what an unstoppable virus came to teach us.