“Xmas, Santa, Christ, & Coke” – Hug Nation Nov 29, 2011

Yuletide ramblings about the consumer culture of Xmas and an attempt to refocus on Gifting & the birth of Christ Consciousness within us all.

“Giving Thanks” – Hug Nation 11.22.11

Thanksgiving Week Hug Nation! FULL episode this week, including opening meditation, belief buffet talk, hug, and all the post-hug discussion, too.
I normally only upload the talk & hug, but wanted to see if people prefer this.
Links mentioned:
Byron Katie www.TheWork.com
Rob Brezsny – http://freewillastrology.com/
Jacob Glass – www.JacobGlass.com
Occupy-Love video – http://youtu.be/BRtc-k6dhgs
Charles Eisenstein http://sacred-economics.com/

Pain vs. Suffering

Have you ever seen a toddler fall down?

A few things can happen.
1) The kid can bounce right back up and continue on their wobbly way.
2) The kid can become aware of the pain in the body part that they bumped and start crying.
3) The kid can fall and then look around to read people’s reaction. If they see concerned faces, they start wailing. If they see no signs of alarm from the adults, they pop-up and play.

In number 2, the kid feels pain and reacts to it.
In number 3, the child is in the process of learning a story about injury, obstacles, failure, & nurturing. He looks to the world to know how to react and learns a story of suffering.

I have seen parents pick up a stunned toddler who just SMACKED his head and greet the child with smiles and applause. The kid, trying to figure out what story to attach to the sensations, was confused but did not cry.

I can remember being a kid and being so caught up in the act of suffering that I forgot why I started crying. My pain was the momentary embarrassment of being scolded by my parents. My suffering was the elaborate story of unfair parenting and being misunderstood. The pain was momentary. The suffering indefinite.


People often use the terms “pain” and suffering” interchangeably. But there is a significant difference. Pain is the inevitable physical hurt caused by a situation. Suffering is the story we attach to it.

Pain is the aching & itching from a full leg cast. Suffering is the thought that we can’t play all summer.

Pain is the feeling of loss when our loved one is no longer next to us. Suffering is the story of how we will never get to watch a Dodger game together again.

Pain is the sensation on burned skin. Suffering is the thought, “I can’t believe I was so stupid to grab that hot pan.”

Pain is something experienced in the Now. Suffering is brought from the future or past into our Now.

One you have control over, the other you do not. Pain is something that must be managed, endured, and healed. A broken leg, the loss of loved one, a burnt hand. You cannot “positive-think” your way around the pain of those situations. But you can become aware of when you let your mind slip out of the pain and into suffering.
Am I dwelling on a story that makes me feel bad? Am I feeling guilty, stupid, hopeless, as I imagine the consequences or cause of this scenario? If so, pull back and analyze your thoughts. How much of this is inevitable pain, and how much is optional suffering?

It is never the circumstances that cause suffering – it is our thoughts about them. As Shakespeare says in Hamlet, “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

And what generally causes suffering is the thought that “things should be different than the are.”
I should not have a broken leg. Grandma should not be gone. I should not have a burnt hand.

Think about any frustration or suffering in your life. Can you see how your feelings are not caused by any physical situation, but by your thoughts that things should NOT be that way?

Byron Katie’s teaches that we must learn to love reality and question the thoughts that cause suffering.

“If you fight with reality,” she says, “You will loose. But only 100% of the time.”

You don’t suffer because you lost your job. You suffer because you wish you still had it.
We are trained through our socialization intricate stories of what is fair and what is unfair. What we should not stand for and what is cause for righteous indignation. What we deserve and what we don’t.

People will fight for years in courtrooms and cut off family ties because they feel so strongly that things should be different. Things are unfair. “I shouldn’t have to.”

There is a line in “A Course In Miracles” that says, “Would you rather be right? Or would you rather be happy?” How quickly this question can snap us out of rut of suffering.

Often times we drive ourselves crazy wishing things were different. Believing that things should not be as they are. But reality simply IS. And wishing things were different is the very definition of suffering.

On the contrary, seeing the perfection in the now is a surefire recipe for Joy and gratitude. How dramatic a shift that can be in one’s life without changing a single thing.

This is not to say that you don’t take action and work to affect the future. If it begins to rain, it would make sense to grab an umbrella. Loving reality doesn’t mean sitting in the rain and letting yourself get soaked. It just means you don’t curse the lousy weather. Weather cannot be “lousy.” It simply is. Our only choice is to accept it or suffer.

I have begin answering the benign question, “How’s it going?” with an enthusiastic, “Perfect!”
Often checkout clerks will light up and be surprised by my response. “Fine” or “good” is the accepted response. But “Perfect?”

My reply is usually something like, “What is the alternative? This moment is as it is. I can acknowledge that nothing in this moment is ‘wrong,’ or I can suffer wishing it was different.”

I couple corollaries to remember:

1) Accepting reality does not mean do nothing to change a situation. It means that you accept the reality of the Now and take your next step from a peaceful place. Grab an umbrella, take a painkiller, call an old friend, update your resume, pick up litter, or do nothing and be still. Be free from your story of suffering and act from a place of clarity.

2) All thoughts are not bad. You don’t need to question ALL thoughts. Only the ones that cause you suffering. Thoughts can be the source of Joy, contentment, and satisfaction. Focus on the thoughts that bring you pleasure, question the thoughts that make you suffer. Simple.

Whatever your Now looks like, practice seeing its perfection. Because, remember, what is the alternative?

-John Halcyon


The numbers on a clock only have meaning because we give them meaning.
There is no galactic timepiece that “clicks’ when a second passes or cosmic chime that sounds on the hour.
But these numbers are tools to help us measure.
So as our calendar displays this glorious string of elevens, it is a perfect moment to check on our internal stopwatch.
All special dates – birthdays, new years – and especially 11.11.11 – are lap markers on a track. Nothing changes in the terrain – we keep running around our endless cycles. But we can put a pin down during those times so we can check our progress.
”At this moment in my journey, where do things stand?”
“ Is the wind at my back?”
“ Am I headed in the right direction?”
“Do I need to recalibrate? Adjust my speed?”
“Am I too clumped up with the pack? Too far behind? Am I leading or following? If following, then who?”
And most importantly,”Am I chasing something? Or am I continuing around the track because I love to run?”

May your journey be even more gorgeous and filled with Love.
See you on the track.

“Paradox of Mankind” Hug Nation 01.8.11

Why must we bind ourselves so that we may be free?

Paradox of Humanity

The paradox of humanity is that we must be bound in order to be free.

We have unlimited options, but must limit them in order to function and make sense of the world.

For example, the human mouth can make an infinite number of sounds, but we must confine our voice to specific sounds in order to make words and communicate.

The social contract is all about this idea of taming the chaos. When we agree to certain “confining” ideas, we allow ourselves to grow in other ways. We agree to drive on the right side and stop at red lights so that we can vastly accelerate our motorized travel and remain safe.

The process of socialization teaches us the scripts of our culture. We learn to chew food with our mouths closed, lift the toilet seat to pee, and exchange paper currency for goods. We learn that the color of an apple is called “red” and the crisp, fist-sized fruit is called “apple.” We rapidly gain an intricate system of definitions, rules and patterns that become the story that we live in. We stop seeing these agreements as “rules” and just accept them as “the way the world is.”

Imagine seeing the world as toddler does. Without experiences and explanations of things, the child would experience shapes and colors and motion and sounds. Very quickly the human mind begins to learn what things mean, and so begins our shift to a symbol-based experienced of the world. We stop seeing white blobs on blue and instead see “clouds in the sky.” In truth, we actually still “see” white blobs on blue, but we immediately register it in our mind as the symbol we’ve been taught. Life as a mature human is usually experienced in this way – not really *seeing* an image, but instead immediately seeing the symbol we know that image to represent.
Alan Watts described meditation as the process of learning to experience the world again. Meaning that meditation is intended to help us practice getting back to that first-hand experience of sensation – before we convert it to a symbol. Try to hear the sound without defining what it is. Try to experience a sensation on the skin – without imagining the cause of it.

Introductory art classes are less about “how to draw” and more about “How to re-learn how to see.”

This symbol-based experience allows us to quickly make order from the sights and sounds of the world. Our brain can then take the symbols and process the meanings in exceptionally complex ways. We can take colors in the sky, temperatures on the skin and the numbers on thermostat and decide that “It may rain today, I will bring a jacket.” This conclusion could be from personal experience, or more likely, lessons taught by parents.

But the system of symbols and conclusions gets much, much more complicated. And much more esoteric. And much more disconnected from actual experience.

Take economics or politics for example. These systems are contructs of symbols of symbols of symbols FAR removed from actual experience. They fall more into the “social contract” realm than of any core truth.

The social contract “truths” are anything but absolute, yet they are presented as so. The status quo story of the day becomes our socialization and is reinforced by our parents and teachers.

This is not done with malice. Just like driving on the right side – these societal stories are passed on in order to make order of the world. When we bind ourselves, we can be free. With a system we understand, we can move within it much faster. We can take things “mundane” things for granted and not spend time deciphering every detail or symbol.

The challenge comes when we loose track of the fact that this story of “the way the world is” not an absolute. History shows us how the symbolic worldview changes with scientific and cultural shifts. And anthropology shows vastly diverse systems for making sense of the physical world.

One of the exciting things of the Occupy movement is that people are collectively becoming aware of the scripts and stories that we live under. More importantly they are learning that there are alternatives. How we get from here to there is another matter, but the becoming aware that there even are alternate scripts is huge.

People are questioning the electoral system, taxation fundamentals, and the monetary system. As Hollis Doherty said in her TedX talk, “Money is not the law of gravity.” It is merely system of rules that we collectively have accepted – whether knowingly or not.
When we start to question and understand ALL of the systems that we live within, we can begin to see who we really are. And begin to glimpse true liberation.

This is not to say we should shun or reject these systems, symbols or scripts. As stated, these binds allow us to be free. But we must question them so that we understand and consent to their intention.

What gets scary is when we begin to understand that elements of our current worldview are not a product of pure cultural evolution, but are the carefully crafted product of marketing and propaganda.

Diamonds were not a girls best friend until DeBeers told us they were.
Apples did not used to keep the doctor away.
Greed was once considered a sin and Socialism was not always an evil word.
The very concepts of ownership, family, death, and self identity are culturally symbolic agreements – not absolutes.

What we think of as “The World” is actually an exceptionally complex story. Intricate systems of symbols within symbols within symbols. This story can be thought of as a game. It has objectives and it has rules. And there is nothing wrong with playing the game, enjoying the struggles, and relishing the triumphs.

But there is massive freedom with the perspective that this is a consensual game. The rules are not absolute.

It may *feel* like we have to have a job, a home, good standing and good credit…but that is simply the rules of the dominant story.

Believing that the Western definition of financial success is the only way to happiness is as silly as believing that there is one true way to reach heaven.

That isn’t to say that the game of capitalism isn’t a great one. Or that you shouldn’t strive for success within that game. There is nothing wrong with getting sweaty and dirty as you drive for victory in your weekend soccer league. But if you forget that you are in the league for fun, you are missing the point.


There is a vast difference between the things you truly experience – and the things you experience via their symbols or story.

Love = experienced.
Freedom = story.

Doing what feels right = experience.
Doing what you think you should = story.

Living in a story via symbols is not wrong. In fact It is mandatory. It is part of the paradox of mankind that we must embrace. But understanding that you are choosing this story can make all the difference.


One of the core rewards of travel is stepping into scenarios that do not follow the story and symbols that you “know.” Being in a new situation that you can not take for granted forces you notice the reality of things. Your brain actually sees reality instead of just registering the symbols. Of course, this experience is short lived. Very quickly you “know” what the foreign sidewalk height is, how the coffee is served, and how to catch a taxi. But this window of true awareness is a precious gift – and one we can practice in our daily lives.

This is one of the reason why Burning Man is so transcendent for people. When you remove all of the existing patterns and expectations, you are left with raw reality. Every little detail becomes something you notice – and the world feels bright and new. Patterns that always felt like “the way things are” suddenly feel unnecessary. The symbols and scripts we settled into are absent, and we have the experience of a traveler in a strange world. Or a human experiencing reality without the symbol filter.

According to the scripts and patterns we are used to, having a beer for breakfast and then letting someone draw a mustache on your face with a sharpie is kinda crazy.

We hear often the importance of “stopping and smelling the flowers.” Why? We know what the flower smells like. And there lies the crux of it. There lies the point of life: Experience the universe.
It is so easy to get caught up stories. So easy to get caught up in the past and future. The what if’s and why not’s. But when we are caught up in future possibilities or past regrets, we are not present for the Now as it is happening. When we know the story, we stop actually watching it.

The challenge of human consciousness is staying in the game enough to appreciate the excitement of it, while staying connected to the deeper Truths of love, harmony and connection.

Love the player…and love the game. It is ALL a gift.

-john halcyon
nov 8, 2011