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.

The End of Philanthropy: A Re-Vision

Photograph © 2019 Peggy Kornegger
In U.S. history books, well-known philanthropists such as Carnegie and Rockefeller are described as generous and charitable. They donated part of their great wealth to good causes such as building schools and libraries. However, what is often overlooked in this version of history is that the very basis of their philanthropy was inequality. Their fortunes were built on the backs of working people, whose labor and minimal wages allowed those at the top to accumulate large amounts of money, which they used to build mansions for themselves filled with extravagant possessions. They gave a portion of their money to good causes. Meanwhile, those who were the actual source of their wealth often could barely afford to feed themselves and their families. This scenario continues today.

The United States was created as a radical departure from the rigid hierarchy of kings, queens, and royalty, and the accompanying servant class. Democracy, an equal society based on individual freedom and shared resources, was an experiment that many thought would fail. It hasn’t failed, but it hasn’t fulfilled its promise either (perhaps because slavery was part of it). We still have hierarchies in place, not based in bloodlines but in fierce competition that pits individuals against each other to garner a place at the top of the economic and social pyramid. We don’t have kings, but we have billionaire entrepreneurs and entertainment moguls instead. And we have a collective consciousness, promulgated by those in power, which encourages the average person to admire the rich and famous and strive to be like them.

The cards, however, are stacked against ordinary citizens because of an unequal economic system that rewards individuals who climb to the top at the expense of others. These individuals (mostly white and male) build organizations that garner them profit and those who work there a minimum wage. They often have two or more homes and an excess of possessions while their employees struggle to make ends meet. This is not democracy. This is self-centeredness disguised as freedom: the “right” to make money—so-called free enterprise.

Some would argue that philanthropists have made major contributions to crucial causes that affect our lives, such as protecting the environment. Here in Southwest Florida, a vast expanse of coastal estuaries and mangroves was saved almost single-handedly by philanthropic contributions. Certainly a wonderful accomplishment, but these areas wouldn’t have needed to be saved in the absence of big business and land development. In an egalitarian social structure, the well-being of all, including plants, animals, and ecosystems, would be paramount in every decision that affects the collective. Isn’t it about time to flip the dominant paradigm?

How about a society based on sharing, reciprocity, and environmental awareness? One where people together build organizations, schools, libraries, and parks and then share them; where everyone has a part in creating the world they live in and everyone has equal access to its benefits. Collective social wealth in which each person has a place to live and enough to eat instead of individual wealth that gives a very few a life of privilege while many are homeless and hungry. This was the possibility that democracy promised, and finally we are evolving to the point of fulfilling it. The extremes of wealth and privilege are becoming glaringly visible, and people are beginning to see alternatives: the circle instead of the pyramid, an equal society in which philanthropy would be obsolete because everyone would have enough.

This transformation is what we are living into now, and it involves a shift in awareness—from self alone to self among others, from me to we. If people were truly compassionate and their hearts and minds were completely open, they couldn’t even imagine having an excess of anything while others had virtually nothing. The process of giving and receiving would be part of daily life. Generosity would be second nature, not an afterthought. And no one would be held back or forced into mediocrity. Each person would live their best life in close connection with others living their best lives, in alignment with the natural world.

Looking around, we see a huge division between the haves and have-nots and ruthless and calculated attempts to keep that division intact. However, these extremes are destined to die out. Underneath the surface of inequality and separation is a movement toward something different: a truly equal and shared life for all beings on this planet. It is a transformation in consciousness and an opening of the heart, which is the source of all love and generosity, engendering a total re-visioning of our world.

“We are a human kind of 7 billion
So many different races and religions
And it all comes down to One.”

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.”

The Universal Heart

Photograph © 2019 by Peggy Kornegger
The heart of the universe extends outward energetically through every dimension of Being in the cosmos. That heartbeat is the vibrational source of the manifest world. Every star, every birdsong, every blade of grass, every human emotion vibrates with a universal pulse of life energy, the expression of absolute love many call God. Our own human heartbeat mirrors this divine process. With every rhythmic beat, our hearts pulse the love at our core into the world around us. That pulse connects human hearts around the globe, whether we recognize it or not. The time has come to recognize it.

Each goosebump, teardrop, deep breath, note of music, cat’s purr, and firefly’s light embodies God’s essence. You couldn’t escape that immanent presence even if you tried. You can, however, live your life unconscious of it. Our life purpose, we humans on planet Earth at this transformational time, is to become fully aware of the sacred source energy within us and all around us. To know with every part of us that there is nothing and no one that is not God. This deeply spiritual (and deeply human) process encompasses every facet of life.

Huge leaps in consciousness are being asked of us. This is a time unlike any other that has come before. We are starseeds standing at the edge of the cosmos reaching into infinity. We are lifting curtains and clearing out past histories so that we can fully and consciously embody spirit in our human forms, something that has historically been achieved only by enlightened spiritual masters. Now we are all becoming masters and avatars and recognizing one another as such. The deeper we look into each other’s eyes, the more we see the entire cosmos reflected back to us in all its shining splendor.

So what does this mean in our frequently distracted daily lives? It means that we will increasingly have experiences of seeing whomever we are interacting with as an essential part of the human family, not unlike ourselves. In shared moments of great sorrow or great joy, we recognize our commonality. We see the gossamer thread of spirit that connects us at the soul level and the love that joins our hearts. In those moments, separation, division, and judgment fall away, and we relax into peaceful presence. Thus is peace on Earth initiated, one individual soul at a time. When we softly breathe into our similarities instead of tightly hanging onto our differences, the entire planet shifts. God recognizing God.

The universal heartbeat animates life on Earth and throughout the cosmos. That living pulse permeates every aspect of our lives. Our cells are made of the same stuff as the stars we gaze at in the night skies. The light of the sun is the light in our own eyes. We are all connected, in every possible way, because the entire universe is of a piece: a divine creation that allows spirit, or God, to experience itself in form. We are that form. As Joni Mitchell once wrote, “We are stardust, we are golden.” In moments of inspired connection, we can see this with such clarity that our awareness expands to include the farthest stretches of the universe, and we know it as ourselves. We see the One that became Many which is now recognizing itself as One. What a miraculous time to be alive.


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.