"Love Ripples & Help The Homeless"

Jason called me on Valentine’s Day from the Costco parking lot. “Hey, I just bought a crapload of stuff to give away to homeless people. Want to come with me to hand it out?”

He had skipped his monthly poker game. Instead he decided to use the time and money allocated for the day in a different way.

I had never done anything like that. It seemed like the perfect day to start.
“Um….Sure! Want to drive down in the Hugmobile?”

Homeless visit March

We didn’t know exactly where we were going, so headed to the area near the downtown library. We quickly found “skid row” near 15th and Island. There is a little sidewalk community with no shortage of people who could use a little help.
I’ll be honest…I was kinda scared. I have interacted with homeless people many times, but never on such a large scale. I have never worked a soup kitchen or volunteered at a shelter.
Jumping into a crowd of people who are clearly outside the Status Quo means you can’t expect that everyone is following the “rules.” Not that I am stickler for the Social Contract! I have no problem with people choosing not to follow the “rules” of business attire, facial tattoos, or even daily showering. But “rules” like “drive on the right side of the street” and “Don’t attack strangers” have served me nicely. Plus, the overlap between homelessness and mental illness could mean that “the rules” could be fuzzy and confusing in some cases.

We were warned that if we pull over for a “drive-by,” that we would be mobbed. (So many groups “drive-by” to give out food that they have a name for it.) After some consideration, we decided to hand things out from the doorway of the RV instead of setting up a table on the sidewalk.
Once we confirmed to the people on the sidewalk that we were, in fact, doing a “Drive-by,” an orderly line formed. What happened next was a blur, but wonderful.

With some minor exceptions, every person we encountered was friendly and gracious.
We worked frantically to throw our goodies into little care packs (Water, snacks, socks, razor, & sanitizer in a gallon Ziplock) and hand them out to the next person in line.
In minutes, we were covered in sweat and all of our loot was gone.

Care packs

Jason and I hung out for a few minutes afterward to hang out, but the crowd cleared quickly.
We were both buzzing. All of our worries were for naught. It was a wonderful experience and a love-filled way to spend Valentines day! Of course, we recognized that our outing impacted the two of us much more than it did anyone we gave a care pack to. But positive change is positive change.

I felt like a weight of fear had been lifted. A subconscious wall between myself and these street-living people had been knocked down. I never felt like I was giving charity. Instead it felt like I was simply gifting some excess material stuff to a fellow brother who needed it. It was no different than giving an extra dust mask to a fellow camper at Burning man. We met eyes, and interacted with respect. There was no power difference. Only connection.
Jason and I decided to make it a “First Saturday” monthly event.

I posted up a little video about our experience on Facebook and invited anyone to join us on our next trip. We invited people to join us physically in the Hugmobile or donate money & stuff.

That’s when the magic got visible.

Homeless visit March

By the time we gathered for our second outing, several people had dropped off clothes and half a dozen people around the country had sent in $ via Paypal. A crew of 8 showed up on the day of to help make care packs and hand them out downtown. Two amazing mothers even brought their sons to help. Not only that, but a number of people emailed to let me know of similar actions they were inspired to take in their communities.

Homeless visit March

We had more confidence and knowledge this time. Plus more resources. So we made AWESOME care packs this time. We had toiletry kits, clean socks, water and juice, and made sure the snacks were soft (Street living leads to bad teeth). We even made a last minute run to the 99cent store for rain ponchos since the forecast called for a downpour later in the day.
We headed back to the same area, but took our time. We set up tables and allowed ourselves more time to interact. But even with all the additional goodies, the packs went quickly.
I looked around and was struck by how visible the ripples of Love were:

Jason made a single decision.
His action affected me.
Our action affected the people who joined us the next time – with donations of money or time.
And then those actions affected the many people we were touching in the street .
One seemingly small decision can send untold ripples through the world.

The idea that “I can’t make a difference” sounds pretty silly when you look at the chain of events. A more realistic perspective is, “I can’t help but make a difference.”

The reality is that your entire life is impacting people. Every step you take and word you speak is part of your sermon to the world. And you never know who might be affected.
You don’t need to seek out opportunities to do good. You simply need to keep steering towards Love… and let the ripples flow naturally.
Now, who is free next Saturday? ☺

Want to join us in the Hugmobile? We are meeting on April 3 (day before Easter) at 11:00 to make up the care-packs and then head down. We should be done by 1.
Want to help make sure the care packs are with awesomeness? We could sure use some financial help. (*click to donate*)
Paypal (any amount is helpful. All $ goes directly to buying stuff. This is guerrilla-style charity – we are not a registered non-profit. Therefore donations are NOT tax deductible.)

-John
March 29, 2010

POST SCRIPT:
Someone commented on my first video that the homeless are just going to trade their care pack for drugs or booze. To which I replied, “So what?”
A gift is not a gift if it comes with obligation. Our goal in these first Saturday outings is not to “fix” anyone. We are not acting as parents or saviors. We are just fellow human beings who are extending a little love and compassion to brothers and sisters. We are not extending a hand to lift anyone out of the gutter. There are many wonderful programs working to rehabilitate people and get them off the streets. (Alpha Project is a wonderful one right across the street from our last Drive by.) Our intention is energetically more like a hug. There is no “goal” for a hug – It simply allows the walls between people dissolve for a moment.
((HUG))
Homeless visit March
(*click to donate*)

Help the Homeless

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"Fuente Community Eterno"

Sat sunset @ Fuente

This was the fifth annual Fuente Eterno gathering, but it was the first time I was able to attend. I was delighted to find that after 13 years of Burning Man-inspired counterculture, I am still being impacted in profound ways. And more than ever, I feel like I am part of a community.

There was something that hit me as I talked to people over the weekend. (Weekend being a loose term since most people were here Thurs-Mon.) I began to notice how many people in attendance were working to inspire others. Person after person had made a change in their life so that they were dedicating some of their energy towards “lighting people up.”
This community is so important because we encourage one another to do this.

The society at large *says* that they support people following their dreams. But I’m not sure that is really true. Maybe *certain* dreams. Do you want to start a retail business or pursue your dream career in Law or Social Services? Well then teachers and parents will pat you on the pack and help you with applications.

But what if you like making dangerous sculptures? Or being a circus performer? Or just studying topics that call to you? What if you like doing things without a real plan for how you make a living with it?
The society at large would most likely consider those pursuits a waste of time…or perhaps even selfish.
But in this community, people are encouraged to RUN in whatever direction they are called.
“Following your Bliss,” no matter what it looks like, is NOT a selfish act.
I believe in “Inner-Activism.” This means that working on yourself can be the most profound way to affect the world.

“The World Can Only Change From Within.”
~Eckhart Tolle

I believed this intellectually, but was challenged on this frequently. Many people would tell me, “If you really wanted to help, you’d get from behind the computer and work a soup kitchen.”
But I have heard from dozens of people who have made profound changes in their lives inspired either partially or dramatically by me.
Not by anything I said or did – but simply by me following my path.
I hear the societal voices mocking my arrogance even as I write that. But tears well in my eyes, because I feel it so strongly to be true.

This community encourages people to fan their own flames because we know that those flames ignite sparks in others. And then each fire fuels one another in a cumulative firestorm of mutual inspiration.

***

This weekend I talked to Chris.
Chris has been helping throw Fuente for 5 years and has plans forming for grander and more magical events. But Chris in not a party “promoter” filled with slick talk. He is more like a loving parent who works tirelessly to create a safe and loving playground for the kids to enjoy. (Maybe not physically safe – those rocks are harsh! But safe for inner exploration and artistic expression.) He spends his surplus energy.
Society might see throwing wild parties as a selfish act. But if you saw people’s eyes as they left the canyon, you would know his charity was the deepest sort.

This weekend I talked to Destin.
Destin spent years studying and learning about his own sexuality. There is perhaps nothing more selfish than navel-gazing…except maybe penis-gazing. But Destin now uses this energy to do workshops and coaching. By fanning his own fire he routinely helps people break out of their binds of repression and ignite themselves.

This weekend I talked to Karpo.
Karpo left his biotech job to pursue Life Coaching. His wife and children now how less financial resources to work with. Selfish? I doubt anyone who meets Karpo or attends his Happiness Workshops would deny that he spreads riches wherever he goes.

Everywhere I went, I was inspired.

T-Rex and her whirlwind fire circus life.
Jeremy and his piano enchantment.
Bass Mechanic and his relentless delivery of music.
Hoop Charmer and her near-blinding display of inner light.

The list goes on and on – People who realized that no reward is greater than inspiring others. And there is no better way to inspire than to follow your own dreams. These dreams do not need to be careers, either. They can be love-filled meals. Or massages. Or selfless assistance of any kind.

***

On Sunday, as the sunset over the Canyon, I found myself again teary eyed. I looked around the smiles and the styles. I saw the setting at the heard the songs. And I realized that when people around you are pursuing their passion to this degree, all the old rules disintegrate. I found myself re-defining “affluence.”

What white-picket fence would I trade for THIS?

None.

In fact, as the sun set for my final night in the Oasis, I realized that ambition, itself, seemed silly. THIS is what I aspire for. THIS is the life I dream of.
How did I get here? How did I get so lucky?

I suppose when you focus on yourself… when you continually correct your path towards Love, it leads you to places like this.
And lets you meet people like these.
And have moments like Now.
I looked skyward and became dizzy with the awareness.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

-john /Halcyon
March 17, 2010

“Fuente Community Eterno”

Sat sunset @ Fuente

This was the fifth annual Fuente Eterno gathering, but it was the first time I was able to attend. I was delighted to find that after 13 years of Burning Man-inspired counterculture, I am still being impacted in profound ways. And more than ever, I feel like I am part of a community.

There was something that hit me as I talked to people over the weekend. (Weekend being a loose term since most people were here Thurs-Mon.) I began to notice how many people in attendance were working to inspire others. Person after person had made a change in their life so that they were dedicating some of their energy towards “lighting people up.”
This community is so important because we encourage one another to do this.

The society at large *says* that they support people following their dreams. But I’m not sure that is really true. Maybe *certain* dreams. Do you want to start a retail business or pursue your dream career in Law or Social Services? Well then teachers and parents will pat you on the pack and help you with applications.

But what if you like making dangerous sculptures? Or being a circus performer? Or just studying topics that call to you? What if you like doing things without a real plan for how you make a living with it?
The society at large would most likely consider those pursuits a waste of time…or perhaps even selfish.
But in this community, people are encouraged to RUN in whatever direction they are called.
“Following your Bliss,” no matter what it looks like, is NOT a selfish act.
I believe in “Inner-Activism.” This means that working on yourself can be the most profound way to affect the world.

“The World Can Only Change From Within.”
~Eckhart Tolle

I believed this intellectually, but was challenged on this frequently. Many people would tell me, “If you really wanted to help, you’d get from behind the computer and work a soup kitchen.”
But I have heard from dozens of people who have made profound changes in their lives inspired either partially or dramatically by me.
Not by anything I said or did – but simply by me following my path.
I hear the societal voices mocking my arrogance even as I write that. But tears well in my eyes, because I feel it so strongly to be true.

This community encourages people to fan their own flames because we know that those flames ignite sparks in others. And then each fire fuels one another in a cumulative firestorm of mutual inspiration.

***

This weekend I talked to Chris.
Chris has been helping throw Fuente for 5 years and has plans forming for grander and more magical events. But Chris in not a party “promoter” filled with slick talk. He is more like a loving parent who works tirelessly to create a safe and loving playground for the kids to enjoy. (Maybe not physically safe – those rocks are harsh! But safe for inner exploration and artistic expression.) He spends his surplus energy.
Society might see throwing wild parties as a selfish act. But if you saw people’s eyes as they left the canyon, you would know his charity was the deepest sort.

This weekend I talked to Destin.
Destin spent years studying and learning about his own sexuality. There is perhaps nothing more selfish than navel-gazing…except maybe penis-gazing. But Destin now uses this energy to do workshops and coaching. By fanning his own fire he routinely helps people break out of their binds of repression and ignite themselves.

This weekend I talked to Karpo.
Karpo left his biotech job to pursue Life Coaching. His wife and children now how less financial resources to work with. Selfish? I doubt anyone who meets Karpo or attends his Happiness Workshops would deny that he spreads riches wherever he goes.

Everywhere I went, I was inspired.

T-Rex and her whirlwind fire circus life.
Jeremy and his piano enchantment.
Bass Mechanic and his relentless delivery of music.
Hoop Charmer and her near-blinding display of inner light.

The list goes on and on – People who realized that no reward is greater than inspiring others. And there is no better way to inspire than to follow your own dreams. These dreams do not need to be careers, either. They can be love-filled meals. Or massages. Or selfless assistance of any kind.

***

On Sunday, as the sunset over the Canyon, I found myself again teary eyed. I looked around the smiles and the styles. I saw the setting at the heard the songs. And I realized that when people around you are pursuing their passion to this degree, all the old rules disintegrate. I found myself re-defining “affluence.”

What white-picket fence would I trade for THIS?

None.

In fact, as the sun set for my final night in the Oasis, I realized that ambition, itself, seemed silly. THIS is what I aspire for. THIS is the life I dream of.
How did I get here? How did I get so lucky?

I suppose when you focus on yourself… when you continually correct your path towards Love, it leads you to places like this.
And lets you meet people like these.
And have moments like Now.
I looked skyward and became dizzy with the awareness.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

-john /Halcyon
March 17, 2010

Missing SXSW

"super hero pose!"

For the first time since I was a boy (12 years?), I am not attending SXSW. (why?)

I already miss the iron cactus conversations and the walks to and from. I miss the hugs from old friends and meeting so many amazing new people. I miss the Shiner Bocks. I miss the clever t-shirts. I miss Brad, too.
If you are heading to Austin, hug yourself from me. And have a blast.
I LOVE YOU.
Here’s a SXSW memory from way back when I hosted the Web awards:
The gag was instead of “switching” from a PC to a Mac, I was switching to a computer (from analog.) This one was about Blogs, but substitute the word “Tweet” and the gags work even better.

More Memories:
Continue reading Missing SXSW

Missing SXSW

"super hero pose!"

For the first time since I was a boy (12 years?), I am not attending SXSW. (why?)

I already miss the iron cactus conversations and the walks to and from. I miss the hugs from old friends and meeting so many amazing new people. I miss the Shiner Bocks. I miss the clever t-shirts. I miss Brad, too.
If you are heading to Austin, hug yourself from me. And have a blast.
I LOVE YOU.
Here’s a SXSW memory from way back when I hosted the Web awards:
The gag was instead of “switching” from a PC to a Mac, I was switching to a computer (from analog.) This one was about Blogs, but substitute the word “Tweet” and the gags work even better.

More Memories:
Continue reading Missing SXSW

"Attached to Outcome"

I received a comment asking for elaboration on what I mean by not being attached to an outcome. Now, Buddhist teachings have lots to say on the subject. But here are my thoughts.

There are two huge consequences to staying attached to outcome.
The first is that we feel intense frustration.
Frustration is caused by one thing: Wishing things were different than they are.
We tend to feel this frustration regardless of how much control we have over the situation. In situations where we have no control, the ridiculousness of attachment is easy to see.
Imagine a rainy day and you are stuck in traffic. (Just visualizing it makes my gut tense up.)

There are two places our thoughts can go: 1) Accept the reality of the situation. Or, 2) Wish it was different.
The physical situation does not change based on which place your thoughts go. Your commute is slowed, regardless. In both cases, you will have 45 minutes in your car. But the way you experience those 45 minutes can vary drastically.
And that experience is wholly dependent on your thoughts.
When we wish things we were different, it is because we are holding on to our expectations for the experience – even as Reality demonstrates something quite different.
We planned on being home 10 minutes ago. Now we will miss the beginning of our favorite TV show and our family will have to wait to start dinner. Our kids will get restless which will then cause our spouse more hardships.
It is easy to collect imaginary evidence of the injustice.
But it is important to recognize that these hardships are all imagined. You are comparing the Reality of the present moment to a fictional story you have in your head of how it “should” be. The fact that you are sitting and listening to your car stereo isn’t frustrating. What frustrates you is that you planned for something different. When we are unable to let go of our attachment to that outcome, all we can see is what went wrong.
One possible reaction to this awareness would be to stop making plans entirely. Someone recently told me that their mantra was “Expectation kills the joy.”
But the key is not to be without plans. The key is to have non-specific outcomes – and then be unattached to them working out exactly as you imagined them.

The second consequence to being attached to outcome is that we become blind to whatever gifts and experiences the world provides for us, because we are not looking for them.
Lets return to the traffic situation. Suppose instead of wanting to be home by 6:30, you shifted your goal to, “I want to have quality time with my family after work.” Because isn’t that really what you want? We create a specific plan to attain that goal, but when we stay overly attached to that plan, it is easy to fail.
The second, more vague, “plan” could work out in an infinite number of ways, whereas the “home by 6:30” plan was a frustrating failure the minute the roads got wet with rain.
With a less specific, unattached, goal, you can allow the present moment to be what it is AND allow the unknown future to still satisfy your aims.
Regardless of what time you get home, you can still have a wonderful experience with your family. In fact, I would argue that coming home frustrated from the drive and spending a full hour in a pissy mood would be much worse than coming home with a peaceful headspace and having a fraction of the time.
This is why it is important to seek things like, “a feeling of abundance” instead of “A Porche.”
It is ridiculous how confident we often are in our own plans – especially when life experience shows us time and time again that we are naïve.
How many times have you thought during transition, “Please God, don’t let them leave / help me keep this job / fix this situation for me!”
But when you look back years later have thought, “Thank GOD I’m not still with that person / at that job / down that path!”
“The Course in Miracles” teaches that we are in no position to know if we are in advance or retreat.
Reminding yourself that you often do not know what your best interests are can be a helpful tool in letting go of attachment.
There is an old saying that “When god shuts a door, he opens a window.” Unfortunately, if you exhaust yourself trying to pry open the closed door, you won’t ever see the window. Opportunity will be missed if your tunnel vision stays attached to an outcome no longer available.
So next time you are “stuck” in your car, try to be critical of your thoughts. With an unknown about of time to sit, listen to music and think, how will you spend those minutes?
You can stay stuck in a loop of “Things should be different!” Or you can look for the opportunities present in the reality. Maybe you focus on the music on your radio. Maybe you call an old friend. Maybe you spend some time thinking about and planning an outing for your family. Or maybe you just re-play happy memories in your head.

Will you fight the tide or ride the waves?
You will arrive home at the exact same time.
-John
march 10, 2010

“Attached to Outcome”

I received a comment asking for elaboration on what I mean by not being attached to an outcome. Now, Buddhist teachings have lots to say on the subject. But here are my thoughts.

There are two huge consequences to staying attached to outcome.
The first is that we feel intense frustration.
Frustration is caused by one thing: Wishing things were different than they are.
We tend to feel this frustration regardless of how much control we have over the situation. In situations where we have no control, the ridiculousness of attachment is easy to see.
Imagine a rainy day and you are stuck in traffic. (Just visualizing it makes my gut tense up.)

There are two places our thoughts can go: 1) Accept the reality of the situation. Or, 2) Wish it was different.
The physical situation does not change based on which place your thoughts go. Your commute is slowed, regardless. In both cases, you will have 45 minutes in your car. But the way you experience those 45 minutes can vary drastically.
And that experience is wholly dependent on your thoughts.
When we wish things we were different, it is because we are holding on to our expectations for the experience – even as Reality demonstrates something quite different.
We planned on being home 10 minutes ago. Now we will miss the beginning of our favorite TV show and our family will have to wait to start dinner. Our kids will get restless which will then cause our spouse more hardships.
It is easy to collect imaginary evidence of the injustice.
But it is important to recognize that these hardships are all imagined. You are comparing the Reality of the present moment to a fictional story you have in your head of how it “should” be. The fact that you are sitting and listening to your car stereo isn’t frustrating. What frustrates you is that you planned for something different. When we are unable to let go of our attachment to that outcome, all we can see is what went wrong.
One possible reaction to this awareness would be to stop making plans entirely. Someone recently told me that their mantra was “Expectation kills the joy.”
But the key is not to be without plans. The key is to have non-specific outcomes – and then be unattached to them working out exactly as you imagined them.

The second consequence to being attached to outcome is that we become blind to whatever gifts and experiences the world provides for us, because we are not looking for them.
Lets return to the traffic situation. Suppose instead of wanting to be home by 6:30, you shifted your goal to, “I want to have quality time with my family after work.” Because isn’t that really what you want? We create a specific plan to attain that goal, but when we stay overly attached to that plan, it is easy to fail.
The second, more vague, “plan” could work out in an infinite number of ways, whereas the “home by 6:30” plan was a frustrating failure the minute the roads got wet with rain.
With a less specific, unattached, goal, you can allow the present moment to be what it is AND allow the unknown future to still satisfy your aims.
Regardless of what time you get home, you can still have a wonderful experience with your family. In fact, I would argue that coming home frustrated from the drive and spending a full hour in a pissy mood would be much worse than coming home with a peaceful headspace and having a fraction of the time.
This is why it is important to seek things like, “a feeling of abundance” instead of “A Porche.”
It is ridiculous how confident we often are in our own plans – especially when life experience shows us time and time again that we are naïve.
How many times have you thought during transition, “Please God, don’t let them leave / help me keep this job / fix this situation for me!”
But when you look back years later have thought, “Thank GOD I’m not still with that person / at that job / down that path!”
“The Course in Miracles” teaches that we are in no position to know if we are in advance or retreat.
Reminding yourself that you often do not know what your best interests are can be a helpful tool in letting go of attachment.
There is an old saying that “When god shuts a door, he opens a window.” Unfortunately, if you exhaust yourself trying to pry open the closed door, you won’t ever see the window. Opportunity will be missed if your tunnel vision stays attached to an outcome no longer available.
So next time you are “stuck” in your car, try to be critical of your thoughts. With an unknown about of time to sit, listen to music and think, how will you spend those minutes?
You can stay stuck in a loop of “Things should be different!” Or you can look for the opportunities present in the reality. Maybe you focus on the music on your radio. Maybe you call an old friend. Maybe you spend some time thinking about and planning an outing for your family. Or maybe you just re-play happy memories in your head.

Will you fight the tide or ride the waves?
You will arrive home at the exact same time.
-John
march 10, 2010