Beyond Roles, Beyond Gender—Who Are You?

Photograph © 2016 Peggy Kornegger Gabriel Dawe, Plexus A1
Photograph © 2016 Peggy Kornegger
Gabriel Dawe, Plexus A1
We are alive at an amazing time on this planet. In spite of efforts by those desperately trying to patch them up, there are widening cracks in the old paradigms, and everything is shifting. Culturally constructed identities are dissolving, and infinite possibilities are opening up. Within the last few decades, movements for social change have shifted our very assumptions about what it means to be human. We have become aware of gender stereotypes and behavioral polarities that ultimately do not benefit anyone. Relationships between men and women have changed as men embrace their vulnerability and women embrace their strength. Narrow, constrictive definitions of gender roles and of gender itself have been called into question, and consequently we are all evolving into more expansive, more authentic whole human beings.

I grew up in the Midwest in the 1950s and 1960s, a “girl” as it was socially defined then. Yet, there have always been ways in which I did not exactly fit the mold of acceptability. I wore dresses and played with dolls, but I also wore jeans and climbed trees. I had crushes on boys, but girls were my best friends. In college in California, I embraced a flower-child/activist identity, wearing beads, bell-bottoms, and long Indian-print dresses as I took part in peace marches and student sit-ins. Once again, my love relationships were with men, but my closest friends were women. In my mid-20s, I became active in the feminist movement in the Boston area and eventually came out as a lesbian. I cut off my long “hippy” braids and wore colorful T-shirts, jeans, and artsy earrings. As a lesbian, I consciously chose relationships that were not defined by gender roles but by equality, balance, and celebration of each other’s uniqueness.

Today, I have been with my partner Anne for 34 years, married for the last 2. She and I have been able to share our lives and work through individual differences (and “imperfections”!) without the constraints of role expectations. Together we’ve seen the evolution of the LGBTQ community and the greater world around us over time. The wisdom and truth of “Love is love” has gradually entered the collective consciousness, and that has changed all of our lives. None of us are the same as we once were. Yes, homophobia, transphobia, and violence against those considered “different” still exists, but there has also been a shift to more acceptance of difference, of diversity. Minds are opening because of heart connections, because of a deeper recognition that we are all family on this planet. New possibilities for individual expression and equal relationships now exist for all people because of those who continue to shatter the old paradigm, just by being themselves.

To me, those individuals who consider themselves gender-fluid, gender-nonconforming, or non-binary are on the cutting edge of human evolution now. They stretch me the most in my own perceptions. By refusing to accept labels that perpetuate polarity (male, female), they inspire us all to ask: “Who am I beyond roles, beyond gender?” Indeed, who am I, as a human being, as a human soul? Really, the simple sacred truth “I Am” is the most accurate description of each of us on a soul level. The soul is infinite, eternal. Our human identities are temporary and not boxes that we have to fit into. The LGBTQ community has opened the door to life outside the boxes. We as human/divine beings are unboxable, indefinable, and infinitely expansive. And that is exactly why we all incarnated at this time: to embody limitless luminous rainbow consciousness as a species, as a planet. The entire global community of human souls is part of this extraordinary evolution of light within light. Every single shining one of us.

“I am not the color of my eyes.
I am not the skin on the outside…
I am not my age
I am not my race
My soul inside is all light…
I am light.”

Background Bliss

Photograph © 2016 Peggy Kornegger
Photograph © 2016 Peggy Kornegger
One of the most profound universal spiritual teachings is that we are divine at our core. The sacred soul self within us is made up of God’s essence, which is pure peace and love. When we are connected to that part of us, we feel a bliss that encompasses all of our life’s experiences, whether happy or sad, crisis or celebration. Bliss that is not ecstatic joy but instead a full embrace of the poignant beauty of life. Divine connection, once accessed, can never be lost or superseded. It is eternal, and it carries us through everything that we may face in our lives, including death. It is always in the background, like a soft comforting presence. Many years ago, I experienced my first taste of this kind of background bliss before I encountered that particular teaching. I lived its truth before I heard it articulated. This occurred at the deaths of each of my parents.

First, let me say that I am an only child who was always very close to my parents. I feared their future deaths for most of my life. I thought I would lose my mind when they died. The irony is that “losing your mind” is often the best thing that could happen. The spiritual quest I began several years prior to their deaths put me in touch with something beyond my mind. The dissolution of a solely mental framework in favor of a greater awareness was exactly what helped me through the experience of their deaths.

My mother died at the age of 81. She had a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital in Illinois. I received a call in Boston in the middle of the night and flew there the next day. I spent five days sitting by her hospital bed, slowly coming to terms with the fact that she wouldn’t recover. Because my father was 86, I also needed to look out for his physical and emotional needs, convincing him to go home to rest at night. The nurses, knowing I was an only child, were exceedingly kind. Two of them stayed with me by her bedside at the very end. My mother passed away as I held her hand, telling her I loved her. Her final goodbye was a spiked heartbeat on the monitor when I said her name—then she was gone. I was alone but surrounded by love—from the nurses, my friends, my parents’ friends. Long-distance calls kept coming to the house in support of me and my dad, who was devastated without her. My partner flew to Illinois to help us both. I was grieving but somehow okay because of everyone’s kindness. Something greater was being shared: my mother’s love had merged with God’s love, and I could feel it within and all around me.

My father died nine years later. During that time, I flew back and forth to the Midwest, caring for him long-distance. Once again, I received a late-night call: he had been taken to the hospital with pneumonia. It took me two days to reach him because I was at a retreat center in western Massachusetts. He managed to stay alive until I could get there, which was the greatest gift he ever gave me. He recognized me through his oxygen mask, and we exchanged “I love you’s” as I sat holding his hand. Within five hours of my arrival, he took his last breath and passed peacefully away. In that moment, I could feel my mother’s presence, my father’s presence, and also a greater Presence that encompassed us all. It manifested itself in the loving-kindness of everyone I encountered. The waitress in the hotel restaurant sat and told me about her own father’s passing; the shuttle driver gave me a “remembrance angel.” Close friends and family called to express sympathy and love. And as my plane back to Boston lifted into the skies, I looked down and saw a rainbow corona encircling the plane’s shadow on the clouds below. I was so clearly not alone.

When my parents died, I felt great loss, but I did not feel lost…or crazy. I actually felt blessed to have been present as each of them passed. It felt like a sacred gift of love, from them and from God. I was given the chance to see through the veil and to understand that death is transition not finality. To experience at a very deep level the magnificent ways in which spirit fills our lives and surrounds us all with love in every single moment. I knew firsthand what it was like to feel grief right alongside gratitude. My heart, opened by sorrow, knew the bliss of divine connection, of presence within absence. When we think we are most alone, we are actually part of something so much greater.

You Are Unique

Photograph © 2012 Peggy Kornegger
Photograph © 2012 Peggy Kornegger
There is no other being on this Earth, in this universe, who is just like you. You are entirely unique. Not only in your physical features—your face, hair color, and body shape—but also in your cells, your genes. No part of you is replicated anywhere in the cosmos. Think of that for a moment. Nowhere is there a duplicate of your specific body, mind, and spirit. Just like a snowflake, you are distinctly different from every other person on this planet. If you didn’t exist, your essence would be missing from the fabric of the created world.

Pause. Take that in. To be you is such a gift, an honor really. You came into this life for a reason. You were created to be the essence of who you are in your soul. The overlay of personality traits that you have developed to exist in a world that doesn’t always embrace your uniqueness is just that: a surface layer of coping mechanisms, of past history. Those things do not define you. At the deepest level, within your heart and soul, you are pure light expressing as loving presence in this world. You are a love song, a sonnet, an improvised dance, a spark of fire, here to ignite the collective consciousness of all humanity through the sheer power of your beingness. Each of us is that.

Sounds like a big responsibility, doesn’t it? Actually it’s so much more than that. It’s an entry point to the playground of possibility that is life on Earth. We who have incarnated at this time are here to live out the furthest reaches of expanded awareness and creative expression that human beings can embody. We are doing it together, each of us in our own lives but connected through an invisible network of human/divine energy that makes our planet, too, unique. Earth is a planet of polarities, true, but it is also a place where we can come into harmony and balance in the midst of everything as we create lives based in oneness, love, and ongoing transformation.

How do we do that? Well, it’s a little different for every one of us. For me, it means writing my soul self into the world: sharing my experiences, insights, and visions and expressing my vulnerability and my humanness. It also means being completely present to those who cross my path each day (people, animals, birds, everything). To love and appreciate it all. To make every step, every breath, a prayer or an offering to life. And to continue to be open to the expansion of who I am and who I can become in my lifetime. We are each here to live our unique gifts into the world and constantly stretch ourselves into more. And to remember it is a shared journey, always.

So, every morning, look in the mirror and smile at that beautiful unique reflection before you. There is not another like it anywhere, and you are here to show us all that special something that makes you you. Celebrate your unrepeatability! Express your soul self in the world, and soon you will be surrounded by others doing the same. In multi-part harmony, we will fill the planet with music and song.

“You are becoming
The song of your heart
How beautiful it is….”
—Snatam Kaur


Authenticity of the Heart

Photograph © 2015 Peggy Kornegger
Photograph © 2015 Peggy Kornegger
In the current political vernacular, the word authentic has crept into use to mean “speaking one’s mind,” whether or not that includes comments that are racist, sexist, elitist, or homophobic. Some people think that saying things that others are afraid to say is being authentic when actually it’s often just voicing acquired opinions and prejudices. If you listen to the speechmaking and off-the-cuff comments of those currently running for office in the U.S., you can hear a broad spectrum of harsh judgments and angry finger-pointing. All of which has the effect of creating separation and mistrust among people. How did “authenticity” get mixed up in this unpleasant and alienating scenario?

Some would say that that’s just the way politics is, full of name-calling and insults. However, labeling such behavior as “authentic” is completely misleading. Saying anything that comes into your head is not authenticity. The dictionary defines authentic as “genuine.” Genuine, to me, is tied to integrity and heartfelt expression. Authenticity arises from a connection to the heart and soul. Actually, to be one’s true soul self is to be authentic. Authenticity originates in the soul, and the soul is pure love. It does not hold judgments about others; nor is it angry, defensive, and accusatory. The personality may indulge in those attitudes and behaviors, but the soul is always peaceful and at one with all people and all situations.

Speaking your mind is not the same thing as speaking from your soul. The mind stores all sorts of accumulated detritus over a lifetime. It can’t be relied upon for loving-kindness or peaceful coexistence unless it is connected to the heart and soul. That deep connection opens the mind to harmony and balance. If you are confronted by someone who is “speaking their mind,” the wisest response might be to just hold a space of quiet presence. To listen and then speak from the heart calmly and peacefully. Argument just engages the polarity part of the brain and keeps the separation alive. To be your authentic self, stay connected to the soulful part of you that only sees oneness, not “otherness.”

So, in its truest sense, authenticity is of the heart and soul. If we are living as our souls in the world—the open, loving beings we were at birth—we are being authentic. Many highly polarized human beliefs are being expressed loudly and publicly these days. Yet I believe it is all part of a re-centering process that this planet and humankind are undergoing. The judgments, hatred, and separation we have carried so long within the collective consciousness will eventually be dissolved, and our authentic soul selves will come together at last in love, peace, and harmony on Earth.

“love is the voice under all silences,
the hope which has no opposite in fear;
the strength so strong mere force is feebleness:
the truth more first than sun more last than star”—e.e. cummings

Losing Your Self

Photograph © 2014 Peggy Kornegger
Photograph © 2014 Peggy Kornegger
What does it mean to lose your self? People talk about losing themselves in their work, or in music, or in a movie. This refers to a merging of the individual self with an experience that is completely absorbing. Another connotation is that of losing yourself in another, a kind of loss of identity, implying dependency or instability. What do these two have in common? Perhaps that they both refer to the personality self, as opposed to the soul self. The personality self is connected to the ego and can be in constant flux; the soul self, on the other hand, is always steadily present and can never be lost.

So what happens if the personality self loses itself within the soul self? Well, now we’re entering the realm of spirit, and the conversation can get really interesting. The personality is shaped by the struggle to live in the real world, to cope, to survive, to “rise above” life’s trials and tribulations. In many ways, the personality “just wants to have fun.” It seeks out pleasurable experiences and avoids unpleasant ones, not always successfully. Thus human suffering. Meanwhile, the soul is in the background, witnessing it all. When the personality suffers, the soul is at peace. Sounds like an impossible situation, but it isn’t really, because if the personality can connect to, or merge with, soulness, it too is at peace, no matter what experiences or emotions arise. That has been the quest of spiritual seekers through the ages.

In today’s world of rapidly accelerating change and radical shifts in beliefs and behavior, nothing is certain anymore. Certainly not a “personality.” People change overnight, or seemingly so. Beneath the surface, something greater is transpiring. We are living in a time of soul discovery, or perhaps soul recovery. Within the larger framework of changes in social consciousness, individuals are increasingly being drawn to the idea of authenticity, of living their true selves, not who society has always told them to be. And when the focus is authenticity, what’s really going on is soul connection. You can’t be your authentic self and be disconnected from your soul. This is the paradigm shift we are living into.

So are we all really losing our selves now, as the world also seems to be losing itself? That would actually be the best-case scenario. To lose your fabricated self within the wisdom and peace of your soul would probably be the most life-affirming thing that could happen to you, and to the world. Because as each person aligns with their authentic soul self (and in conjunction the love that resides in their heart), a connection to something greater also occurs. And in that greater connection is universal sisterhood and brotherhood, or oneness. A oneness that encompasses all beings and Mother Earth herself.

In losing our selves in this way, we are not really losing anything. The personality can live in harmony with the soul, and we can all live in harmony with one another. At the level of spirit, or soul, there is no separation. In truth, we came to this planet as souls for the extraordinarily diverse experience of being human—every poignantly sweet moment from birth to death. And within the trajectory that is life on Earth over the millennia, we have now reached the evolutionary point of complete soul immersion: living as conscious spirit in physical form. So celebrate the re-union of personality and soul. It is truly one of the greatest gifts you could possibly receive—or give to the world.

“I’m everything in everywhere.
Can you see me in your own reflection?”—Jason Mraz