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.”


Undoing the Doing

Photograph © 2019 Peggy Kornegger
“In between the old and the new is an empty space.”
—Charles Eisenstein

Popular advice would tell you that when you feel stuck, lost, or unmotivated, then do something, anything, to get out of it, to move yourself forward. I have found that the exact opposite is true: If you don’t feel moved to act, then don’t. Allow for the pregnant pause in which something new can be born. Take a deep breath and relax into the present moment. The rest will take care of itself.

Doing is the backbone of American culture. Most of us live lives filled with activities, surrounded by voices that urge us to do even more. Working 24/7 is a badge of honor. “I’m so busy” is the daily mantra repeated by countless individuals. We often find ourselves caught up in a whirlwind of work and social activity that leaves us drained and exhausted. Motivational coaches enthusiastically tell us we can achieve fulfillment by becoming the entrepreneurs of our own lives. Success and empowerment await us if we just make that extra effort. Such promises distract us from our own inner truth.

Behind it all is a desperate attempt to shore up a status quo that is rapidly disintegrating. Every social, political, and economic framework around us is breaking apart. The old stories and rationales no longer convince us. Within us something new is awakening, a vision of a different way of being. The Old Earth ran on fragmented “us” vs. “them” energy, me outracing you. Separation, hierarchy. The New Earth, more and more visible on the horizon, is centered in connection and collaboration. The circle, not the tower. And that circle is formed not from frenetic activity but from quiet intention and shared focus.

This new way of life exists now as a possibility in our lives, but first we have to undo the doing. We have to step back and away into the empty space that opens into being without doing. There, creativity and new visions can be born. Nothing is forced, everything flows. All possibilities are welcomed, and eventually calm, centered action arises out of this empty space of allowing.

I am currently in such a transitional “empty space” in my life. I have left the past behind but as yet have no idea what comes next. My own lifelong spiritual journey has brought me to this pivotal point of wholeheartedly embracing the present moment, where there is no time. No noise, no hurrying. I immerse myself in the natural world around me and the timeless light-filled energy of birds and butterflies, trees and flowers.

Here is peace, respite from the busy world. Here is the centerpoint of stillness, within which the entire universe was born and continues to silently vibrate potential and possibility for each of us. Herein, the creative flow of all life emerges from being itself. Doing then unfolds as part of that beingness.

I am choosing this space. I trust it and hold it sacred in my heart. This is who I am at the soul level, and in aligning with my soul, I am aligning with the dynamic divine energy that sources everything. I am connecting with thousands of other souls on this planet who are experiencing the same energy. Out of this connection, an entirely new consciousness is arising. We are finally recognizing that we are human beings not human doings. The New Earth will re-form itself around this awareness.

The voices of the old paradigm will urge us to rush into the future, no time to waste. Instead, I say to myself: Wait a minute, take a deep breath, and keep taking them until all urgency drops away, and all you can feel is the peace at your core. It is from that place that my life and yours can recenter and redefine itself. I was not born to fill my life with nonstop doing; I was born to be my unique soul self, and all else will flow from that. In being is all of life. No separation, no “other.” This is the New Earth we are giving birth to and being born into simultaneously. A world in which you and I are no longer at odds, but instead work together and celebrate each other.

So allow the pause, the silence, the undoing. It will introduce you to being. It will save your life. It will save all of our lives. In fully being present in our lives, we will not face each day with worry and overwhelm but instead with joy and celebration that we are savoring every moment of what we came to this planet to experience. In the process, we will create a New Earth based in freedom of expression and commonality of purpose, one that recognizes the sacred marriage of being (divine soul) and doing (human form).

Are You Twins?

Photograph © 2019 Peggy Kornegger
My partner/wife Anne and I have been together 36 years, married 5 years. During that time, we have been present to many changes in consciousness about and reactions to LGBTQ people. It is a time of great expansion on this planet. At the moment, it can feel like everything is going backwards, but it’s really just the rising and falling of waves of change. Awareness is definitely continuing to open and flower, even in the most unexpected places.

As a couple, Anne and I have experienced one particularly humorous reaction/interaction over the years that has repeated itself in place after place, with slight variations. After looking at us curiously for a moment, complete strangers will ask either “Are you twins?” or “Are you sisters?” When we say “no,” their faces register disbelief. This was especially true 30 years ago when the general public had little awareness about same-sex couples.

On one occasion, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, two individuals came into a store just to ask if we were twins. We found this particularly funny because we were in the midst of a conversation with the storeowner who was asking the same thing! When this kind of inquiry first began to happen, we said little other than “no” (especially while traveling) because acts of hatred and violence against those in the LGBTQ community were not uncommon, and we knew we had to be cautious in what we revealed to strangers. Anne would often divert the conversation by saying that she had a twin brother.

As the gay/lesbian rights movement grew over the years and more and more people courageously came out in their lives, a dramatic shift in the collective consciousness began to occur. In May 2004, Massachusetts (where we lived at the time) became the first state to allow legal marriages of same-sex couples. State after state followed. In 2013, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was struck down, and it became legal at the federal level. Thousands joyfully flew rainbow flags throughout the nation, and rainbow lights even graced the White House. It became much more commonplace for people to recognize a same-sex couple when they saw one, particularly in Massachusetts.

Today, of course, negative opinions about LGBTQ individuals and anyone else considered “different” are re-surfacing, all fed by fear. But those on the receiving end of these attitudes are not turning back and becoming invisible, even in the face of threats, anger, and violence. Acceptance and love has entered the collective conversation at the national and international level, and that is a genie that cannot be returned to the bottle.

When Anne and I married in 2014, we were surrounded by those who loved us, and waves of love radiated out from all of those present in the most magical of ways. We continue to live in that radiance in spite of whatever divisiveness is playing out in the national media and in the underside of public consciousness. Our openness about being who we are has been tested recently as we moved from Massachusetts to Florida, a state historically not known for its support of LGBTQ rights. We didn’t know what to expect, but we have been pleasantly surprised so far.

Yes, there have been replays of the “twins” conversation, but sweet ones. In January, we were celebrating our 36th anniversary at the local botanical garden. As we stood waiting to enter, a woman next to us struck up a conversation, and soon that familiar series of questions began: “Are you twins?” “No.” “Sisters?” “No” “Oh, just really good friends then?” At this point, I said: “We’re married—5 years. And today we’re celebrating 36 years together.” The woman immediately responded, “That’s wonderful! Congratulations!” And the woman next to her echoed, “Congratulations!” with a big smile on her face. The man beside her wished us a “Happy Anniversary.” Smiles all around.

Assumptions, yours or mine, can separate us from each other. I’m finding that you can never assume anything about someone else’s beliefs or lifestyle. You just have to be willing to be yourself and to hold love in your heart. Generally, that is what you will receive in return. Just yesterday, we had a mini-replay of the above conversation, and when the woman heard we had been together 36 years, her face lit up and her eyes softened with tears as she looked back and forth at us. “That’s so wonderful and so unusual for anyone to stay together that long. You are blessed.” Yes, we are. And may such blessings as these multiply and circle the globe, filling every heart with limitless love.

A World Without Marketing

Photograph © 2019 Peggy Kornegger
“Imagine no possessions.
I wonder if you can…”
—John Lennon

Marketing drives our world today. Everything from political candidates to clothing to cars and cell phones is presented to us through a filter of manipulative images and languaging. True needs (supporting life) have been replaced with artificial needs (unnecessary, even detrimental, to our lives). What would the world be like without marketing? Some economists say it would fall apart, no longer driven by false monetary incentives. I don’t believe it.

In much of the Western world, possessions rule daily life. From the time we are born, toys and playthings are dangled endlessly in front of us. Artificially created cravings begin very early. And now that smartphones are often in the hands of very young children, this trend is intensifying. Yet alongside all these distractions is a movement for conscious awareness and simplicity that is becoming more wide-spread.

There is a new consciousness emerging on the planet, one that sees energy as the force behind every thought, interaction, and event in the universe. Positive energy uplifts and moves us forward in our lives with open hearts and open hands, centered in our own inner peace. Negative energy freezes us in place with closed hearts and closed hands, yet always anxiously longing for something else. Positive energy is dynamic and reciprocal; it brings people together in sharing and love. Negative energy pits people against one another and promotes material goods to fill the subsequent holes in their lives.

As people choose simpler lifestyles and are more mindful of global connections and interdependencies, this positive energy flows out to the collective and gradually shifts consciousness. Recycling, reuse, and repurposing are now in the public vocabulary. Many people make donations rather than buy physical presents at holidays. They volunteer at food banks, homeless shelters, or nature sanctuaries throughout the year. The circle of life and generosity extends energetically beyond a few to include the many.

The marketing mentality tells us that selling, whether objects or ourselves, is the baseline for survival in this world. Out of this approach arises written or spoken language that manipulates consciousness to “buy” what is being promoted, whether it’s a T-shirt, a pizza, a drug, or a person with a skill or service. Nothing is real in the world of marketing. It’s usually targeted to specific audiences to create a buying magnet that is irresistible. And often even when we know we are being manipulated, we buy into it anyway! That’s how powerful that particular kind of energy is.

It takes continuous awareness to resist the siren call of the marketers of the world and choose another path. One centered in authenticity, integrity, and the common good. It is entirely possible to present information about life-sustaining products and services with honesty and simple truth. We need to support those who do so and turn away from those who use false hyperbole to promote the accumulation of possessions.

All of us on this planet can live deeply fulfilling lives without poverty, deprivation, or suffering anywhere. We don’t really need houses full of the latest items trending in the popular media. Those things don’t bring lasting happiness and peace of mind anyway. So why not give up the illusory solo quest for “having it all” and choose instead sharing it all. And being it all. Meaning, being rich in spirit, in kindness, in caring. In friendship, in love, in sister/brotherhood. These are the true jewels in the treasure chest of life on Earth.


Women’s Voices: Speaking Truth to Power

Photograph © 2019 Peggy Kornegger
“We are a land of many colors,
and we are singing,
singing, for our lives.”
—Holly Near

In last fall’s elections, the U.S. Congress saw a refreshing new influx of those who have been left out of the legislative process far too long—specifically, women and people of color. African-American, Native-American, Latina, and Muslim women were elected from various states across the country. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York is one of them. Since her surprise unseating of the incumbent there, she has been relentlessly criticized by nervous politicians from both parties for her outspoken and uncensored comments about the President and all those in power. Many of those criticisms show just how much public opinion panders to “acceptable” behavior for political candidates, and women in particular.

This country was born out of a revolution. Rebellious and opinionated “forefathers” are a part of American history. Women and African enslaved people, however, were left out of this version of events, unless we look underground and behind the scenes for hidden truths. Power based on sex and race formed the backbone of the new government. Whatever equalities and rights exist today (and we have a long way to go) are because of courageous people who spoke up and fought back against those who would silence them.

Whether or not you agree with her, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is standing firm in a long line of strong women who spoke their minds, “speaking truth to power,” as she puts it. Suffragists in the early 1900s and feminists in the 1970s and 1980s (myself included) stood up for a woman’s right to do just that. Because of them (and those who continue speaking out today), women are taking their rightful place in this country’s social and political structures and, in many cases, turning them upside down with new approaches to getting things done. Specifically: inclusive, circular, nonhierarchical. And by not being “good girls.”

Rebellious women always make people nervous because they threaten the status quo. People of both sexes want them to tone it down, play nice, not offend anyone by being too radical or outspoken. Well, good behavior and playing by the rules, as defined by the patriarchy, has never gotten women anywhere, not even a seat at the table (or a Presidency). Historically, they’ve been relegated to the kitchen, the bedroom, and menial, subservient jobs. It’s only in refusing to be intimidated or silenced that women have together formed a powerful alliance of intent that has challenged the old boys’ clubs and broken through entrenched traditions. They have also challenged prevailing attitudes about acceptable and “good” behavior for women.

It’s time to throw out the old rulebook and create something visionary and inclusive instead of outdated and elitist. “Subvert the dominant paradigm,” as the saying goes. Many of the world’s greatest ideas have seemed impossibly radical and edgy until they slowly worked their way into the collective consciousness, and people began to see their brilliance. Recognizing truth can be a process of opening to a deeper awareness about everything, including one’s own life.

We in this country are at a tipping point: Will we hang onto the racist, sexist historical patterns that created an undemocratic, top-heavy power structure, or will we topple the kingpins and create an alternative that truly embodies equality and freedom for all? It seems to me that in the midst of conflicting and fear-based news reporting, people—and women especially—are finding their voices and raising them together to speak truth to power. Thus is transformative change begun…and continued to its full flowering.