Losing Someone You Love

“Yesterday a child came out to wander…”
—Joni Mitchell, “Circle Game”

Last month, a friend I’ve known most of my life passed away after a recurrence of cancer. It was not entirely unexpected, but it happened suddenly and was deeply shocking. I thought she would always be there—an unspoken assumption many of us probably have about close friends or family. We never imagine that they won’t be in our lives. Yet she was gone. And even the most profound spiritual beliefs about life after death cannot entirely prevent the initial heart pain of losing someone you love.

Teddy and I met in college in San Diego in the late 1960s. We were “flower children” together, going to student demonstrations and be-ins and finding our way during a time of radical social change and personal transformation. After graduating, we lived together in San Francisco and then traveled around Europe for five months. We knew each other’s parents, boyfriends, and first jobs. Eventually I moved to the Boston area for graduate school in women’s literature, and Teddy got a degree in art therapy in SF. I returned to the West Coast after a few years but then moved once again back to Boston. Teddy moved to the East Bay and continued to live an alternative life as a dancer, poet, musician, and art therapist. In New England, I was active in the feminist movement, came out as a lesbian, and wrote for various publications.

No matter where we lived or what we were doing, we always remained close friends, “kindred spirits.” Our lives intertwined even from a distance. I met Ron, the man she married and who was by her side at the end of her life. And she met Anne, my life partner, when we visited California. I can still see Teddy’s face filled with such joy as she looked lovingly at the two of us together. In 2014, she flew to Massachusetts to play the flute at Anne’s and my wedding. Having her present was one of the most beautiful, touching parts of that day. Among other songs, she played Joni Mitchell’s “Circle Game,” which we had listened to many years before in college.

Everything does come full circle in life, and everything is ever-changing. If you embark on a spiritual path, as I did (and Teddy did, with her Buddhist practice), you learn impermanence and letting go. “Forever” is a truth, but only within the continuing soul consciousness beyond one lifetime. As a human being, you are born, and your parents love and launch you on your journey around the circle. Mine were the backbone of my life and so much a part of who I became. I feared their deaths all my life; yet when they passed (and I was with each of them), it became one of the deepest spiritual experiences of my life. And so with Teddy’s transition. I knew she was “gone” here in this dimension, but I also knew her spirit could never entirely vanish. On some level, I was comforted in knowing that she, and others I have loved who have died, are “on the other side” of a very transparent curtain. They have not disappeared into a void where I can never again reach them.

The week after she passed away, I could feel her presence unconnected to a physical form. Memories of our shared experiences flowed through my awareness in wave after wave. My human self couldn’t believe she was actually gone, but my soul knew she was still present. This is one of the ironies of life. We understand on some level that people we love are eventually going to die, but when it happens, it is so hard to assimilate. This is part of the soul’s experience in a human body: the appearance and seeming disappearance of life. Loss and grief are so real, so heart-breaking, but in the process we learn that nothing and no one is ever lost, including ourselves. Gradually, over the course of a lifetime, we grow in wisdom, until finally we accept all of life. We learn that death is an open not a closed door.

Or that is my belief, my trusting. That is what my soul, and God, show me is spiritual truth. And the longer I live, the more expansive that awareness becomes, the more I open to whatever comes, in this world and beyond. For ultimately, there is only love in this universe—divine love and human love. And they are one and the same. Indeed, that was Teddy’s last text to me from her hospital bed, just before she transitioned: LOVE. The essence of our friendship and the wisdom of a lifetime. I carry it with me in my heart, always.

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.

 

A Path with No Steps

Photograph © 2019 Peggy Kornegger
“There is no way to peace.
Peace is the way.
­—A.J. Muste

If you pick up a magazine or scroll through the internet these days, it’s likely you’ll encounter some kind of self-help article or program that features 4 Steps, 6 Ways, or 7 Secrets to magically make your life “work.” Instant wealth, health, peace of mind, and the perfect soul mate are yours if you just follow the streamlined advice provided. Even experiencing God can be reduced to a checklist of actions or strategies. Like this recent article I ran across online: “How to Find God: The Five Ways.” Really? God? Aren’t we losing something in this pared-down process?

The deepest experiences of life and God can’t be translated into short summation paragraphs. There is no Dummy’s Guide to the Cosmos (or if there is, there shouldn’t be). No fast lane to divine connection or a peaceful life. It is within awareness itself that God and peace are found. And awareness arises from slowing down and being present in each moment. The only action necessary is breathing consciously. When you pause and relax into the slow eternal rhythm of your own breath, you align perfectly with the center of your being, where peace and spirit always reside. And where the answer to every life question you could possibly ask resides.

It’s true that there are wise spiritual teachers who can share their insights and inspire and support you on your life journey. Ultimately, however, we ourselves hold the key to our enlightenment, our own magnificent and unique lives. The light of divine connection and truth shines in our hearts; we just haven’t opened to fully and continuously experiencing it yet. But that day is dawning. In fact, it is already here. We are more ready than we have ever been to recognize and honor our own inner guidance, flowing with infinite possibilities. You can sometimes jump-start your evolution and growth with a self-help agenda or teacher, but going forward, rely on yourself—your soul self—for the full expansive flowering of your life on Earth. Only you can realize and live that completely.

So don’t look outside yourself for ways or steps to find God, peace of mind, or fulfillment in your life. Look within. It can’t be found in a list of how-to tips. It’s encoded in your genes; it lives inside your soul. You have wisdom beyond your wildest dreams at your very core. You came into this life with a blueprint that wordlessly guides you even when you think you have no idea what is going on. It can even take you to self-help articles just to show you that ultimately you know better than anyone else how your life is meant to unfold and how to open your heart to God. Trust your intuition and the spirit that lives within you. That is the path with no steps.

You Were Born Shining!

Photograph © 2018 Peggy Kornegger
Claim your own life. Your soul knows what it wants from this lifetime. So does your heart. Your life plan is imprinted in every cell of your physical form. If you pause quietly for a moment or two, you can hear your inner wisdom speaking. It will guide you steadfastly to the destiny that awaits you.

Don’t think about it; just listen. Be silent and receive the download of God’s plan for you. You were born with it; it’s in your genes. You breathe it in and out every moment of your day. The key is to stop distracting yourself with the cacophony of other voices all around you, and pay attention to your own voice within. No one else knows you as well as you. When you align with the inner truth of your being, that truth lives through you into the world. You begin to sparkle and shine with authenticity.

Then you no longer need try to copy someone else’s lifestyle or follow the 10 quick steps to success in all those self-help books and articles. Success, in truth, is just being you. That’s why you’re here and why there is no one else exactly like you on Earth. Your soul knows this. You have a sacred responsibility to be your own true self, not a half-hearted imitation of someone else’s idea of what it means to be human.

We live in a culture that tells people they need an expert motivator or life coach to show them how to plan and live their best lives, but that just isn’t true. Times are changing. Towers and platforms are collapsing, and collaborative circles are forming in their place. Individually and together we are finding our own way to freedom of expression in the world. Within each of us is emerging wisdom that will guide us as we move out of the shadows and into the light.

Don’t unquestioningly follow anyone else’s well-intentioned advice, even that of a gifted spiritual teacher or advisor. Yes, there are individuals with great wisdom in the world, and they can remind and inspire us with their thoughts and presence. However, we don’t really need intermediaries between ourselves and our own lives, between ourselves and God. Because we are God, in human form, and we carry the wisdom of the universe within our consciousness, if we but open to it. The energy of transformation in the world is speeding up everything now, including our own evolution into highly aware, super-connected human-divine beings.

So take a deep breath and inhale the sweet fragrance of your own inner essence. You are so much more than you give yourself credit for. Every one of us is. The world around us often makes us feel smaller in our own eyes because of misguided societal ideas about how to live and ways to achieve worldly success. Many who follow this path are miserable because they are out of touch with their inner spirit. Don’t make the mistake of thinking superficial impermanent “achievements” are the real deal. To live your inner truth, your inner beauty, is the real achievement in life because that connects you to others and makes you one with the universal soul of humanity.

Look within yourself and discover your own uniqueness. Live the dream of infinite possibility that is you. No one else on Earth can do that for you. It’s why you were born. The entire universe is gently smiling on you and encouraging you to just be yourself. That is the gift that only you can give to everyone in your life and to the greater world as you pass through it with the light of inspiration shining in your eyes.

 

Life’s Essential Truth: Impermanence

Photograph © 2018 Peggy Kornegger
“Birth and death in every breath…”
—Deva Premal and Miten

Recently, a dear friend told me that he is moving back to California, which he had left two years before for Florida, where we both live now. (This, only a few months after I moved here myself from Massachusetts.) A week later, I received news that a long-time friend in Boston had died of cancer. Hellos and goodbyes fill my life these days. Friends and family passing to and fro in my experience and my memory like vivid but ephemeral spirits. And I myself am moving with the flow of my own life’s journey, loving and letting go again and again.

Through the years, as I live through cycles of beginnings and endings repeatedly, I am discovering that one of the deepest truths in life is impermanence. Everything is born, and everything dies: experiences, thoughts, emotions, flowers, trees, birds, stars—each breath we take and we ourselves. Humans embody impermanence within their very existence here on Earth. We are born and we die, just like everything else we experience within our lifetimes. That can feel like both a curse and a blessing, but it is the basis of our very humanity, our evolution as individual souls.

My own experiences of joy and connection followed by sorrow and seeming loss have over time shown me that it’s all in how you perceive it. And our perceptions are always changing. What remains unchanging is change. Kind of a paradox, but it will guide you to inner peace and acceptance at the deepest level if you allow it to. At least that’s what I am finding. It is what my passage through life has given me, and I am grateful. I am learning, gradually, to let go of attachment to outcomes of any kind. That is freedom; that is how your soul experiences your life.

The idea of impermanence can at first feel frightening, but over the space of a lifetime’s experiences, it begins to feel like the key to all wisdom. Let go of expectations, attachments, plans, wishes, wants, mental machinations and emotional grasping. Let go of everything and just BE in each precious moment, free of everything that holds you to one particular outcome. Experience what is unfolding before you with an open heart and soul. This is what it’s like to live limitless possibility, to “hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour” (William Blake). Many, like Blake, who have traveled this path before us have reached this moment of illumination that takes them beyond one lifetime into the timeless expanse of being, which is soul, which is God. We are here to do the same.

As I live my life, as I grow older year by year, I find that deepening awareness and wisdom rise from my soul like mist in an open field on a summer’s morning. And I see it happening to others all around me. I feel blessed to live at an extraordinary time of collective spiritual expansion and expression, foreseen for millennia. As we come to recognize that we ourselves are God in human form, we realize that we carry divine wisdom within us. When we see the transitory experiences of life as the gifts that they are and receive and release them without attachment, we begin to love each day and everyone in our lives completely and whole-heartedly. We are no longer held back by regret or fear. We are fully present, fully alive. We are living the wisdom of impermanence.