Wednesday, December 17, 2014

How a generation learned to “Let it Go” instead of “Turning On and Dropping Out”

Artwork-Marie Helena, 1969

I was 16-years-old when Woodstock “happened” in Bethel, NewYork in 1969, a music festival where 400,000 people converged for three days of unbridled joy, “free love,” and over 32 electrifying bands; that in retrospect was a pivotal moment in time, launching the counter-culture of the late 60s and 70s. But besides the “Tuning In” to such iconic greats as the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix, there was also a lot of “dropping out” with drugs such as heroin, marijuana and “Turning On” with LSD, mescaline, and I am sure many other substances of the psychedelic genre. In the ensuing 45 years since much has been written about Woodstock and its effects and meaning.

I saw reports of this wild event on the news and of course at my age, this seemed to be the ultimate adventure. I felt left out of the whole hippie generation, although I tried to dress the part. But living some 2,000 miles away in San Antonio my mother wasn’t about to let me anywhere near such goings on (thanks mom!). 

Me, age 14, full Hippie Stance
Not to gloss over the meaning of this event in history, but perhaps it was a means to protest the Vietnam War. No doubt, this was part and parcel to it, and was a time of great change in this country, rejection of the "Establishment" and a strong urge to break out of that 50s “perfect family” scenario that was being peddled as the ideals our parents should be striving for. Ideas such as commune living, going back to nature and living off the land, a questioning of religious traditions and incorporating into it new ones such as Hinduism,Sufism,  Buddhism, and Native American belief systems;  as well as a growing knowledge that we are all one, no matter the color of your skin, sex orientation, or religious or other creed were coming to the fore in the minds of many. 

Unfortunately what started out as a budding enlightenment that was poised to take us into the Aquarian age, it dissolved and degraded into discord, disharmony, violence, and rampant drug use. Its possible that people perhaps became lost in an ideology that was no longer true or the drug use and excesses clouded and obscured the original purpose and what could have been in essence the flowering of the golden age.

Photo-Marie Helena
But now that the smoke has cleared, all that psychedelic tripping is done and the buzz lifted, people discovered that all this served a purpose…. we had actually learned something from the melee…albeit taking 50 years to do it. We had learned to let go of old worn-out traditions and have no fear of exploring the unknown. We found new theologies, new philosophies, a new openness and willingness to explore the unknown, even if it is in the mind or attending to the mind and learning to “Let Go” of the past and live in the present.

And so we learned the concept of Mindfulness. This living in the present or mindfulness derived basically from the Buddhism teaching, called Sati or awareness. To put it in a nutshell, mindfulness is becoming aware of each moment and being aware of your surroundings or situations at the moment they are happening, to fully immerse yourself in them. While admittedly, mindfulness is not easy to achieve, it is worthwhile to work towards achieving some level of awareness in your life, for health reasons as well as a more fulfilling way of living. It has to remain as a sort of constant in your life. Intellectually the concept is relatively easy to grasp, practicing it is not, but is definitely enriching. My concept of mindfulness is living in the moment. No not like a beer commercial, but more as striving to be fully alive in the present, becoming aware of whatever your surroundings are, what your momentary situation is. The “tuning in” part is essential, “Turn On” your five senses, but leave off the dropping out part (turn off your cell phones, T.V., music, and really listen to that person you are talking to!) frequently. Immersing yourself in interacting with others and watching their body language can make one very much more aware of what the person is REALLY telling you. Another aspect of mindfulness is the “letting go” part. When the moment has passed, let it go. Learn from the experience but don’t dwell on the mistakes you have made in the past.
Photo-Andrea Lawmaster

In retrospect, mindfulness may not have come directly from the “hippie” generation, but the freedom of expression they were trying  to experience, the flower power ideology, definitely had an impact on the new millennium. So even if you were too young to experience the hippie generation, you're not too young to feel free enough to “tune in” to your senses and “let go” of negative things and remember to be in the moment, because the moment is all we have. 

This essay just touches on some of the vast aspects of the counter-culture revolution of the 60s-70s, for more information, check out some of the links within the text. Namaste! Marie

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