Phoenix Rising

On the day of my first radiation treatment for breast cancer, I had a sudden thought during my morning meditation: “This is the fire that will burn away the imprints of all that came before.” Meaning, what we each carry around with us from our past, whether pain, suffering, loss, or uncried tears. Every human being faces challenges in life that because of their intensity imprint us deep inside and thus affect how we live day to day, with hesitancy or fear perhaps. When the imprints come to the surface and are released, freedom and peace arise. Mostly my life has been filled with love and happiness, but I have also had difficult experiences, including breast cancer and a lifelong fear of death/eternity. Ironically, this current cancer path has opened up a deeply soothing and expansive soul connection. Now I am at the last fiery gate. The phoenix stands before me.

The legend of the phoenix, also associated with the sun, is one of rebirth and renewal, of letting go of the past and rising anew in the present. In various cultures, including Greek and Egyptian, the bird was said to live several hundred years and then die in flames, its successor arising from the ashes. The idea of resurrection and immortality is often connected with it. It is a universal human theme—life beyond death, reincarnation, and “fresh starts.” How we live these possibilities in our own lives is part of our individual design as a human soul. Personally, I have always found the phoenix legend fascinating. I read a children’s book about it when I was 9 or 10, and it has always stayed with me. Is this my time to personally live it, symbolically, so many decades later?

At the end of my first week of radiation, beloved Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh died at the age of 95. His teachings had had a profound impact on my spiritual growth. I knew there was some significance for me in the timing of his transition because the day before, I had prayed for further help in fully accepting infinity/death. Over the years, I had come to a deeper peace about it, primarily because of my work with Panache Desai, but I could feel a kernel of fear remaining.  That morning, a friend posted a link to one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s talks, “Overcoming the Fear of Death,” and in his daily online meditation, Panache spoke of releasing the past and living completely as your soul. On my morning walk, a vividly colorful rainbow stretched across the sky during a sudden shower. I felt my prayer being answered.

Insight and deepened awareness come to us in many ways—through wise teachers, through magical moments in Nature, and through inner epiphany. All of these touched my heart that day. In his talk, Thich Nhat Hanh spoke of “no-birth” and “no-death”—the continuity of all being in the cosmos, or “interbeing” as he called it. “It is possible for a wave to live its life as a wave, and to live its life as water at the same time.” We are waves that have arisen into form from infinite consciousness at birth, and we will return to formless “water” at death. Nothing is born or dies, in Thich Nhat Hanh’s view; there is only eternal Presence always. Panache too continually speaks of the infinite divine Presence beyond form.

This is the wisdom I have been repeatedly guided to on this breast cancer path. As I gradually released attachment to my body’s appearance and my past identity with it (form), I found myself becoming more and more fluid (formless) in my day-to-day life. Surrendering to that fluidity brought deeper trust and acceptance of all of life/death/eternity. I was experiencing the flow of interbeing in which there is no birth or death, just awareness. Loving awareness. It is something that can’t be explained through the mind but only experienced through the heart and soul. This is our life’s journey, every one of us. Each path unique, yet all connected in infinite consciousness. The waves and the water as One.

So in the ashes of what appears to be a life or an experience ending is only the phoenix rising continuously. And fear falls away in that rising and that continuity. Peace. Radiation begins and ends, and the grace of a rainbow appears suddenly in a gray sky. That multicolored light is always present. Our true nature is timeless, formless, eternal. We are the multiverse expressing magnificence in the world.
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Note: My last radiation treatment (surgery and chemo also complete) was on 1 Tijax in the Maya calendar. Tijax stands for healing and miracles. Who could ask for a more perfectly aligned synchronicity?

Shadows and Light

On August 9, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.* For two days I moved, stunned, beneath the dark shadow of those words, which I never had imagined would apply to me. I felt as if all joy and flow in my life had vanished. I couldn’t access the inner peace that had become so much a part of my daily experience. I couldn’t hear my soul’s voice. I was lost within the dramatic scenarios my mind was playing out, all of them shadowed and sad. I grieved the loss of my connection to spirit, to trust (and perhaps to life). Then a wise friend reminded me that I didn’t have to immediately be at peace, that it was okay to feel whatever I needed to, day by day. The light of peace would eventually return, as long as I remembered not to get caught in the mind drama, and just trust the divine process of it all. He was right.

Shadows and light come and go in our lives. They are the yin and yang of the Earth plane. One can’t exist without the other. We wouldn’t know happiness without sorrow, pleasure without pain. On a planet of polarities, we cannot expect the external world to be only one thing. We might be bored if it were. What we can do is find a place of calm acceptance within us to experience (or observe) all those seeming opposites that fill our lives. From that perspective, all is well, and there is purpose beneath the play of consciousness before us and within us at all times. Eventually, we learn that the opposites flow together into one. The diverse forms that make up our planetary experience arise from formlessness and eventually return to that oneness. This is the nature of the multiverse that we inhabit and that is also within us.

That is wisdom I carry in my soul. At times of crisis in my own life (cancer) or in the world (pandemic), it is easy to forget. Feelings of fear and sadness almost overwhelm me. At the last minute, something or someone appears to remind me. The light shines, and the shadows recede. If I can accept the existence of both shadows and light, I can move forward even in the face of fear, even with sadness in my heart. The human experience is complex and unpredictable. Only in deep inner surrender and trust can we find peace. I signed up for all these life experiences before birth; to resist them is to lose the greater wisdom and purpose of my unique life. I am expanding and evolving through each and every one of them. Our entire planet, our entire multiverse, is evolving through our individual and collective experiences.

I am still on this journey, still facing the unknowns of living with a cancer diagnosis (follow-up MRI yesterday; awaiting results; surgery next week). All this is perhaps a further emptying out within my life, which began in Florida. I know now, with everything in me, that that emptiness occurs so God awareness can fill it. I remind myself repeatedly to remain open to everything that appears to be a loss. More space for God, for divine connection, and for my own soul’s full flowering. There are no mistakes, no terrible errors or punishments. Every single thing, as Rumi wrote, “has been sent as a guide from beyond.”

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*NOTE: I found the lump in my breast myself, only two weeks after a “normal” mammogram. It couldn’t be seen because my breasts are very dense. A subsequent ultrasound picked it up, and I was sent for a biopsy. I am grateful for whatever divine impulse moved me to examine my breasts (which I rarely do) that day because the cancer was found at what appears to be an early stage. So please remember to do breast self-examination–it could save your life!

Living Peace, Allowing Grief

Photograph © 2020 Peggy Kornegger
Yesterday just before sunrise I was overwhelmed by feelings of sadness, grief, and mourning. Tears streamed down my face. The unfathomable loss of life around the world from the coronavirus hit me like an avalanche. The number of cases is continuing to rise here in Florida and throughout the U.S. My thoughts turned to Boston friends who had died of cancer in the last year and the trip home to Massachusetts in May that Anne and I had to cancel. My own and the world’s sorrow and pain rushed through my body in waves as I wept. Gradually, after a time, it subsided, tear by tear, and I sat quietly in the half-darkness, breathing in the silence. The sky began to lighten. Then, as if in answer to my heart’s call for comfort, a mockingbird began to sing its morning song, a medley of every possible birdcall it had ever heard. My heart lifted, as it always does when I hear a mockingbird.

This is how life works. You fall head first into grief, your heart cracks open, and through that crack, grace enters: a birdsong or a sunrise, the comforting words of a friend or the kindness of a stranger. Grace takes many forms, but it always brings us back to the peace at our core, our soul’s presence. I realized that even as I wept in pain and sadness, I had not lost the feeling of inner peace that has been with me since the beginning of the year, an ongoing connection to something greater. Growing awareness of the peace that lives within us will be our greatest strength in these times of huge planetary change. We are learning to let go of the known and trust in something beyond knowing.

My own years of spiritual exploration and questioning have at last settled into trust in a universal Presence (or God) that holds the Earth in its loving embrace. We—meaning humanity—are going through a tremendous shift and rebalancing on this planet. It is a release of inharmonious old patterns, an opening into greater awareness, and ultimately a coming together in oneness. It may not look like it on the surface, but I feel that is what is happening. All of my adult life I have believed in such a shift, foreseen by elders and masters in many traditions and cultures. That vision has inspired and sustained me through the years. Now it is occurring, more and more powerfully.

This paradigm shift is not pretty, a gift tied up with sparkly wrapping paper and bows. It is messy and painful, as all birth is. Fear and anger come up, as well as mourning the end of a familiar but worn-out way of life. In the midst of all those emotions, something new is being born on this planet, and we are all part of the process, midwives and newborns, angels and human beings. What appears to be chaos, conflict, and a shattered world weighed down by suffering is actually the shedding of an old skin and a restrictive structure that has been killing our spirits instead of uplifting them. In the ruins of the current paradigm based in top/down exclusion, a new one is arising that is centered in circular process and inclusion. Humanity is rediscovering its collective soul through the experiences and expanding consciousness of every single courageous one of us.

A cause for celebration, yes. Still, there is sadness, loss. Life on Earth, even in a new, more open and compassionate world, is never just one thing. A utopian vision must include the full spectrum of human emotion and being. We came to this planet, God incarnated in form through us, to experience it all. When we accept that—the sorrow and the gladness, the breaking and the healing of our hearts—we can then hold within us both grief and deep peace. The grief is human; the peace is divine. If we live life fully connected to our souls, peace and calm never leave us, even as the tears flow. In full acceptance of all that we feel and all of life as it is unfolding, we can experience that peace and live it in the world. It is who we are and why we are here.

The Heart of Peace

During challenging times, such as the one we are currently experiencing, it is often quite difficult to remain calm and centered. Fear and anxiety dominate the collective consciousness, and we start to slide into negative thinking and feelings of overwhelm. We forget that at our core is unshakable calm and peace. We were born with that inner essence. It lives within our hearts and souls, and we can access it at any time. Take a deep breath and join me in connecting to the calm within you: the heart of peace.

Love or Fear

Photograph © 2020 Peggy Kornegger
So here we are, a time like no other we have ever experienced. Humanity is living out the key choice point of our lifetimes: love or fear. Do we succumb to escalating apprehension about a global virus and slam the doors to our hearts? Or do we stand firm in the belief that love and trust are the defining energies of life on Earth and that keeping our hearts open is the most important choice we can make in our lives? Seems to me that is why we were born, why we all incarnated at this time in the history of our planet. To make that choice and live it completely. To come into full awareness of ourselves as love at our core.

Living love instead of fear, in terms of the coronavirus, doesn’t mean disregarding self-care and community health or choosing your own well-being over someone else’s. It means following practical precautions (e.g., washing hands; taking herbal supplements that boost immunity; staying home, except for necessities—completely if you have low immunity or any cold/flu symptoms), but also not living in daily terror that the apocalypse has arrived. Filter out fear-based news reports and choose to pay attention only to those that are responsibly informative. Remember that fear can be used as a control mechanism by those in power. Avoid the daily media drama. Whatever happens, this is your life: how do you want to live it? Reach out and help a neighbor, perhaps someone who is elderly or has a compromised immune system and can’t leave their home. Speak words of comfort, peace, and kindness to those in your life, friends and strangers alike.

In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, a good friend of Anne’s and mine passed away in Boston from cancer. We have lost several friends to this disease in the last year. It is heartbreaking. Nothing else seems to matter but the love you feel for them and the friendships you have shared over a lifetime. But the tears that continue to flow keep your heart open and connected to what is really important. Ultimately, you can shut down and try not to feel at all, or you can allow the salty tears of loss and grief to cleanse your being of anything that would keep you closed. You can live in fear of cancer and viruses and heartbreak, or you can live each day fully open to all of life, the pain and the beauty, the loss and the love.

Anne and I are doing our best to consciously choose the latter. It is not a one-time decision; it is a daily opening of the door to our hearts and living love over fear, again and again. You can spend a lifetime mourning the tragedies and “unfairness” of life, or you can fully feel your sadness or fear as it arises but then choose to remember the power of the love in your heart and soul. You were born in that love, and it is the guiding light within you. Don’t allow it to be blown out by circumstance or the waves of fear and unease that are rolling over the planet. At the deepest level, this is a time of tremendous transformation, change, and coming back into balance. You and I are here to make the difference. Reach out with love each day. Smile from your heart. Be kind; be grateful. That is your birthright and your destiny. Each time you do so, love rises and fear falls away. And the blessings of life are remembered and celebrated.