I’m a hugger.

Four months into my first semester of law school, I made the following observation:

“Nobody hugs in law school”

Since then, it’s been a recurring obsession of mine. I frequently lament how we are a disconnected, unemotional group of people. We complain a lot(see above). We typically divide our time among three soul-draining activities: 1/3 studying, 1/3 complaining about stress, 1/3 drinking.

Law school is a spiritual wasteland.

It was clear early on, I didn’t much care for lawyering. I decided to use my three years of professional school to focus on personal growth and transformation (don’t tell my parents). I’ve been on a journey to be a better person ever since.

Most days it’s proved more challenging than case briefing, outlining and final exams.

Just this year I’ve: read three books on happiness, started a daily meditation practice and done more yoga than most people do in a lifetime. Still, every time I think about my “law school self” I feel disappointed in my spiritual progress.

But just last weekend something incredible happened. My best friend at the law school sent me this video.

It felt like a calling. Like a mandate from the universe: Eight hugs a day.

I told my friend, starting Monday, I was launching an all-out assault on the law school community. A hugolution. No one was safe.

I was convinced I could change the entire climate of the the law school(maybe law schools everywhere?), one embrace at a time.

As I walked to school Monday morning I felt anxious. What if people don’t want me to hug them? What if they think it’s weird? uncomfortable? inappropriate?

I shook off the self-doubt and re-committed to my resolution.

I hugged every single person I saw that morning. It felt extraordinary. By the time I saw my best friend at noon, I was up to seven hugs. By the time I left at 4p.m. I had made at least 30 beautiful connections.

The response was more than I could have ever imagined. The people I thought would be most resistant received my hugs with the greatest enthusiasm. Each time I hugged someone, I watched them brighten. I watched the people I hugged, hug others.  The glow of love and vulnerability followed me around
all day.

So simple. So powerful.

In just one day, I felt and witnessed how hugging dissolves the emotional walls between us. We spend so much time fearing judgment, masking insecurity and performing for each other, we rarely experience true connection with anyone but our most intimate family members and friends.

But each time I hugged someone that day, I felt like we were part of each other. There was an immediate sense of understanding, connection, oneness. It changed our entire interaction.

The hugolution came in the wake of some ugly things happening at other UC campuses. I could see immediately how the energy and magic of the hugolution represented an important opposing force to the type of senseless brutality taking place in the occupy movements.

We draw lines of separation between ourselves and others: value systems, religions, ethnicities, education, experience. The more we focus on defining our difference, the less we understand the ways in which we are intimately, undeniably connected. The less we understand our connection, the less inclined we are to treat each other with love and compassion. The absence of love and compassion is the root of violence. Re-cultivating love and compassion is the only way to combat it.

If we can connect with other people in a way that reveals them as reflections of ourselves, we can’t help but treat each other with care and consideration.

Anger disappears. Violence is impossible

This was my greatest lesson from the hugolution. It started as a way to bring a little more joy to my already abundant and beautiful life. Immediately, I could see how spreading love creates love and that we need to feel love to spread love.

It’s a small thing with a big purpose.

Hug it out ya’ll.

start here

Damn it, Ego, shut up.

Recently I was set up with a friend of a friend.

There was A LOT of anticipation.

“He’s your soulmate.” “You guys are going to be great together.”

The afternoon of our first date my friend said, “I call dibs on maid of honor.”

That night, before he picked me up, I got so flustered and anxious I had to meditate three times. I was listening to Krishna Das on repeat and still couldn’t calm down.

It was one of the best first dates ever.

Then two weeks later he didn’t want to see me anymore. He said some things about me that I didn’t agree with. I felt hurt. It got to me. And I’ve spent the last two weeks trying to figure out why.

I barely know the guy, and truthfully, I can totally see why we’re not a match. But I can’t stop thinking about it. The whole situation. I feel a little angry, even resentful. I keep having this impulse where I want to email him a list of wonderful things about me, like I have something to prove.

There’s a repetitive voice inside me: damn it, ego. SHUT UP.

My personal definition of “ego” is the part of myself that operates the “should” factory. How I should look, act, talk. What I should say, do, like, want.

For most of my adult life I let my ego run the show. Pretty much everything I did, said, thought, expressed and wanted was a reflection of, or service to, my ego. It got big and powerful and out of control. During my first year of law school I was able to observe my ego for the first time. It was a holy revelation. The observation gave me space to be vulnerable. It allowed me to let go. To let people in. To start the process of unraveling many years of acting and doing instead of being and feeling.

But two and a half years later, sometimes I still can’t silence the damn thing, even when I know it’s full of shit.

For one thing, I’m deeply embedded in a culture that worships the ego. We love a good: achievement, advancement,  promotion, “personal best.” We have less esteem for a good breakdown, resolution, breakthrough, “personal quest.”

For another thing, I hate being out of control. My ego comes in handy here because it gives me the illusion that I’m in charge. It can sometimes trick me into feeling like I have it all locked up, everything’s in place and that I’ve “got it together.”

But then something happens that I can’t control. Like rejection. The ego deceived me. All of those illusions dissolve. I’m left feeling disappointed and exposed. “I don’t get it, that should have worked out the way I thought it would.”

Right now my ego tells me, “this sucks,” “I’m humiliated.” and “what the fuck, I’m so confused?”

My ego thrives on the external. It takes information from the outside and transmits it to me as fact. In the case of rejection, it reveals the things the other person said about me as if they are truths about myself. For me, silencing my ego means turning away from the external and tuning into to what I know about myself. Harder than it sounds. Because what’s easiest to access are the things coming at me. The “you’re not ____ enough” experience of rejection. Counteracting the accessibility of the ego voice requires attention and effort. It requires 1) an observation of the experience and a 2) a  self-affirmation reminding me that, actually, I am ____ enough.

It’s a process. It requires repetition.

I take a deep breathe and think, phew, glad that’s over with.

And then two hours later, a feeling of loneliness, sadness or anger sets in and my pesky ego wants to talk again.

I judge too fast

I went to this yoga workshop once called “Slow Burn.” We started seated in a circle. The teacher said we would go around the circle and each person would say I ____ too fast. We were all supposed to fill in the blank according to where in our life we need to slow down. When my turn came, I proudly declared, without hesitation, “I drive too fast.”

The circle ended with the teacher (one of my all time favorite mentors) proclaiming, “I judge too fast.”

What? That’s an option?

I need to change my answer.

A couple of months ago, while mindlessly perusing Facebook, I had a memory of that moment. I spend more time on Facebook than I’d like to admit. It’s a weird anomaly in my otherwise non-digital life. I recognize how much of a life-waste it is, yet sometimes, after a long day, I spend more than thirty or forty minutes sifting through electronic pages of people’s lives. Nowhere in my life do I judge more quickly than on Facebook. In fact, if I’m not actually writing/responding to a friend, I spend my time passing judgments on people I barely know. “Damn that bridesmaid up-do is hideous, poor thing, I wonder if she realized?” “Wow, I can’t believe she’s dating that guy, she is way too good looking for him.” “I can’t believe that’s what that girl did with her life!”

They say, in yoga, “we resist what we need the most.” In five years of practicing yoga, I haven’t so much as scratched the surface of my judgmental behavior. I don’t even make excuses for avoiding it. I’ve never felt compelled to deal with judgment because I’d never really witnessed it come up on my mat.

Until recently when I made an important connection. I started to observe the way in which judgment interferes with what I’m trying to cultivate on my mat, the higher order stuff I want to take out of the studio and into the world. Specifically, I’ve noticed how judgment interferes with my desire to be a loving and compassionate person in my everyday life. As soon as I judge someone, I cut off the channel connecting us. I can no longer see their light and love, or, our similarities, or, the meaning of our interaction. All I experience is the judgment.

I’m a firm believer that as I am judging others, I am really judging myself. I am comparing myself either to an end of “at least I’m not like that” or “ugh, I wish I was more like that.” Either way, I am generating internal negativity. In the first instance, I have immediate guilt and shame for being compassionless and critical; in the second instance, I am denigrating my own value and failing to see the truth of my full beauty and wholeness. I’m undoing all the serenity and open-heartedness I sweat my butt off for.

It’s a lose, lose. Over and over again.

Once I could see how judgment blocked my other intentions, I started dedicating my yoga practice to non-judgment. Slowly, I could see the way in which my practice helped manifest my off-the-mat intentions.

I found myself judging about the same amount, but observing it more. The observation helped me slow down the process of disconnecting. Sometimes I’d recover just in time to balance out the judgment with a positive affirmation. “but damn that wedding is beautiful.” “He must make her so happy.” “Good for her for following her dreams.”

I’m still on Facebook and the judgments keep coming. But the awareness gives me the opportunity to witness the effects of judgment and resolve to do better.