Woodstock and Its Legacy

Photograph © 2018 Peggy Kornegger
“By the time we got to Woodstock
We were half a million strong
And everywhere there was song
and celebration”
—Joni Mitchell

Fifty years ago, in August 1969, nearly a half million young people gathered on a farm in rural New York for “three days of peace and music.” Contrary to warnings about how it would all go wrong, peace and music are exactly what occurred. In spite of the huge crowds, rain, mud, and countless challenges, love and community prevailed. The impact of that peaceful spirit was felt across the country and around the world. Woodstock Nation, whether you were there in person or not, defined a generation. Its legacy continues today.

In California, where I had moved from the Midwest, I was living out my own flower-child dreams in the late 1960s. The counterculture’s vision of peace, love, and flower power was everywhere, and the energy of Woodstock and Haight-Asbury linked both coasts. The music events and peace demonstrations I went to in San Francisco had a very similar high vibration. When I look at film of the Woodstock festival now, I feel it all again. So many iconic moments: Joan Baez’s unmistakable voice ringing out over the hillside, “I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night…” Sly and the Family Stone singing “Wanna take you higher,” echoed by half a million people. And Richie Havens opening the festival with “Freedom”—a perfect description of the greater message of Woodstock.

In the many years since then, that message has been carried forward in the hearts of those who attended as well as those who read or heard about it. Woodstock showed that one generation’s dream of freedom, peace, love, and community is possible. It was made real at Woodstock. And it has continued to live in the consciousness of subsequent generations in spite of increasing challenges.

War, racism, and violence were predominant issues in the United States in the 1960s, and we continue to face them today. As racial hatred of immigrants, gun violence, and destruction of the environment escalate, the voices calling out for radical change also grow. More and more individuals and groups are speaking out for peace, social justice, diversity, and connection through community. Somewhere in the collective consciousness, we know it can be different. We remember Woodstock, despite many efforts over the years to dismiss it as a childish unrealistic dream that no longer exists.

The Woodstock legacy does exist. Every time someone speaks up for peace and freedom or acts with loving kindness, the dream is revived, and the memory is awakened. If complete strangers can love their neighbors—the people sitting right next to them in very crowded conditions—for several days, then we can love our local and global neighbors in the same way, for even longer periods of time. It takes open hearts and open minds to reach that critical mass. And that is the transformation that is now taking place beneath the turbulence of a world in transition.

If the Age of Aquarius first dawned in the 1960s, then its emergence continues today, and its full flowering is yet to come. At some point, the prophecy “peace will guide the planets, and love will stir the stars” will come to pass. You and I are here to assist in that birth. Woodstock was just the beginning. As Swami Satchidananda said in his opening address/prayer at Woodstock 1969: “The future of the whole world is in your hands.”

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You Can’t GPS God

Photograph © 2019 Peggy Kornegger
If you held a compass in your hand with the intention of locating God, you would see the needle spin in all directions. The GPS in your car could not come up with an exact position for God in its system either. That’s because (of course) God is everywhere at the same time. Its physical form in this dimension is us, our human bodies, as well as those of animals, plants, trees, birds, insects, fish, seashells, stones, etc.

From the nonphysical perspective, God is an experience not a visible object. On Earth, the experience of God is love. And love has no form, no language, no location. If you deepen your awareness of divine connection, you come to realize that you are always held in a love beyond any words to describe it. Peace fills your being and Presence fills your consciousness. I have been there. It’s a place to which I am always longing to return. But there is no compass or GPS to guide you to God. Only in the process of living and letting go do you suddenly turn up in that spaceless space that defies description.

Surrender, the message always reappears. As long as you hold on and try to make something happen and try with all your might to understand, you will spin in circles, like a malfunctioning compass. Control is an illusion that catches us all in its tangled web as we live our lives. Only when we open our hands and hearts completely, does the web disappear as if by magic. You and I have always been free. Our souls have always known the way back to God. The truth is that the soul is God, a living reminder from whence we came. So when we remember to align with it, we are already home.

Each morning, as soon as I get up, I take a 2-mile walk on a nearby nature trail. Some mornings I am immediately aware of God’s presence. A mockingbird singing its delightful medley of birdsongs. A snowy egret fishing along the edge of the lake. Red hibiscus flowers blooming. Love fills my heart. Other mornings, I am not fully awake—literally. I begin walking, only half-aware. Suddenly, beams of light radiate from the rising sun across my path. I am washed in a sea of golden light, and all my senses are wide-awake and smiling (if senses can smile, then mine definitely are!). I stop and stand in the sunlight, eyes closed, and the stillness at my core fills me. I am completely at peace, one with my soul.

Divine immersion. It can come upon you at any time. It can fill you for a moment, for an hour, for days, or for a lifetime. The secret, of course, is that it is always there, within you. When you surrender to the experience right in front of you, your awareness expands to include your soul’s presence. Sunlight or birdsong can open the door to this expansion. Consciously breathing and focusing on the peace that lives within you also opens the door. I find that if I pause, take a deep breath, and center myself in the inner stillness, everything around me becomes part of it. Even sound itself is one with that stillness. And therein is the experience of God, or the Divine. No “global position,” no form—just being itself.

 

Are Your Opinions Holding You Back?

Photograph ©2019 Peggy Kornegger
Do you consider your beliefs sacrosanct? Do you hang onto them at all costs, even at the loss of friendships or family ties? Historically, beliefs and opinions have split entire countries and started wars on this planet. People cling to them as if to a life raft in a sea of uncertainty and tumultuous change. We often are so identified with our beliefs that we can’t imagine life without them, exactly as they were first formed. Yet our minds are always in flux, whether we’re fully aware of it or not. Life on Earth is never just one thing, one set of rules for being human. And never more so than at this time of planetary transformation and human evolution.

If we step back from identification with our physical forms, it’s possible to see them as merely costumes we wear for this lifetime. Our thoughts and opinions are part of that costume. If we totally identify with our physicality and thoughts, we are frequently stopped from moving forward in our lives by how our minds view change. On the other hand, if we come to realize we are part of something much greater—universal consciousness—this awareness gives a wider perspective and ultimately greater freedom in our lives.

Opinions and beliefs, if held too tightly, can define the parameters of your life experience. On the other side of rigid and inflexible thought forms is the natural flow of life and of infinite possibility. This is wisdom I learn again and again, most recently when I was trying to decide whether to attend an annual event that I have been part of for years. This year, however, both the structure and content had changed radically, and I no longer felt aligned with the energy. Yet there were still parts of it that I loved and felt drawn to. What to do? Initially, I stood firmly in “no,” believing it would violate my principles if I went. Then I remembered an experience I had 14 years ago and what it taught me about having an open mind and heart.

In 2005, I had just met two Maya elders from Guatemala, Mercedes and Gerardo, who were sharing their traditional teachings at Rowe Center in Massachusetts. After a weekend of intense teaching including a 3-hour fire ceremony, they invited a few of us to travel to Guatemala with them to take part in ceremonies at sacred sites there. It was an opportunity of a lifetime. In their tradition, however, women always wear long skirts in the ceremonies, and I had not worn a skirt for 20 or 30 years (a symbol of women’s oppression, you know).

I had to decide whether to say yes and honor their traditions or say no and hang onto my own beliefs. The answer was very clear. In deciding to go (and wear a skirt), I let go of everything that had made up my Peggyness before and went to Guatemala “naked” and open. I thus stepped into an extraordinary spiritual expansiveness, which continued in subsequent trips to Guatemala with them and in countless other experiences, up to the present.

Now, in facing a similar dilemma, I once again chose not to be held back by my mind’s ideas about what I should or shouldn’t do. In stepping aside from my own opinions and allowing another choice, I was opening the door to a new possibility: re-envisioning my life without filters or frames. It seemed freer and much more spacious. I felt as if I were flowing with the current of life instead of trying to force the current to go my way.

So this is the new paradigm we are living into: recognizing our mental costumes for what they are and moving into something greater. If you can keep the doors in your mind completely open (and that is entirely possible if your decisions are heart-centered), then you are walking a path on which each step is new and undefined by previous beliefs or opinions. You are dreaming your life anew with each breath you take. And nothing can hold you back.

You Are Living Your Life Purpose Right Now!

You can spend years of your life searching for your purpose. It can be both daunting and confusing. What if it doesn’t have to be? What if the purpose you’re looking for already exists right under your nose? The simple truth is that there is no part of you or your experiences that is not perfectly integrated into your life’s purpose. And the Earth’s purpose. You don’t have to search for it—you are it! Each and every one of us is an evolving soul on an evolving planet….

Returning Home

Photgraph © 2019 Peggy Kornegger
What does “home” mean to you? A place? A group of people? A memory? Or is it a feeling deep inside that touches your heart and soul? All of these perhaps. Our own life experiences define what home means to each of us. I grew up in Illinois, later lived in California, and then settled in Massachusetts for more than 30 years. Massachusetts is where I met my life partner, Anne, and where we were married. I’ve always loved both coasts, but I didn’t realize how much the Northeast had become home for me until I moved away and then returned for a visit.

A year ago, in June, Anne and I moved to Florida, leaving behind many years of memories and starting anew in a different part of the country. This June, one year later, I traveled north for a five-day retreat at Omega in Rhinebeck, New York. I was totally unprepared for the emotions that welled up in me as I flew into JFK and then took a series of trains to Rhinebeck in rural New York.

The Amtrak train route follows the Hudson River. On one side is the wide expanse of the river, and on the other, rolling hills and open fields. It was the latter than grabbed my heart: the GREEN! Avalanches of vibrant early summer green everywhere I looked—green trees, bushes, grasses. Mother Earth bursting with renewed life. Green filled my eyes and my heart. Tears streamed down my face. It was all so profoundly beautiful and so familiar. It was “home” to me at a very deep level. Florida has its own stunning tropical beauty, but here was a beauty that had been part of my life since childhood: the change of seasons and the return of green after a long winter. And for me it was the return of summer green after being away from it for a year.

I was in absolute awe at how stunning and vibrant the colors were, both on the train route and then at Omega itself. The sun highlighted all the varying shades of green, and the play of color and light was breathtaking. I wrote to Anne: “How did we live here and not fall on our knees in gratitude every day at the miracle of these incredible greens each spring and summer?!” It’s not that we didn’t appreciate the beauty of the landscape then, but something about returning after months of absence made it all explode with radiance within my perception.

And the birds! I love birds, and the spring migration in Massachusetts was a highlight of the year for me. This past May I missed it tremendously. My bird friends were passing through on their northern route without me! The warblers and thrushes, the orioles and tanagers. Of all the birds, though, I think I missed the robins most. Their cheerful lilting songs fill the spring and summer air in the Northeast and Midwest. Although there are amazing and unique birds in Florida, particularly water birds, I missed the robins that I saw every day at my backyard birdbath in Massachusetts. So, when I arrived at Omega and heard robins singing everywhere, I was brought to tears once more.

These are the irreplaceable details that make up a feeling of home—at least for me. My heart opened wide in joy and gratitude. I felt like “myself” again in some indescribable way: cells of memory that live in the heart and never disappear. You can have many homes in a lifetime, but one or two may hold particular emotional meaning. For me, the green Earth is always home because it touches the deepest part of my being.

I had no idea I would react so strongly when I returned to the Northeast. It was a gift of unbroken connection with all of life. As I stood looking out at the hilly green Omega landscape, I was reminded of the e.e. cummings lines I used to repeat to myself each morning when I walked out the door to my garden:
“I thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes”