We’re coming up on the holiday season, a time when many of us spend extended periods of time with family members and others whom we may not have seen for a while. We travel home, or family and friends come to visit us. Whatever the arrangement, our congregating with those who are closest to us fosters all the sami and joy of being with loved ones—and, if we are being truthful, it potentially may cause us to create hucha, too. After all, there may be good reasons why you only see your brother once a year or you avoid staying at your parents’ home for more than a day or two! As I think about the potential for us to create hucha during these holiday visits, despite our best intentions not to, I am reminded of something Ram Dass is reported to have said: If you want to see how far along you are on your spiritual path, visit your family for a weekend!
If we are going to use our qaway—if we allow ourselves to see reality as it really is, not as we wish it were—we can expect that over the holidays when we are in close proximity over extended periods with family and friends, they or we may create heavy emotional energy. This possibility may be especially heightened this year, because so many of us have been isolated from each other for nearly two years because of the pandemic and because there are so many in-our-face cultural and political divides.
So, while the holidays are occasions of cheer and celebration, let’s take a look at hucha again, with the intent that this reminder of what hucha is and its energy dynamics will (hopefully) help us to produce less of it. We’ll review several core aspects of hucha and consider some strategies for making our holiday visits with loved ones as sami-filled as possible.
Sami is the finest form of kawsay, which is the living energy. Sami is the light living energy, imparting the lightness of being. Sami is transformative. It helps us increase our karpay (personal power), refine our three human powers (yachay/thoughts, munay/love, and llank’ay/actions), and improve our ayni (the awareness of how we are interchanging energy with others and vice versa). Hucha is sami that has lost some of this transformative power. It is sami slowed down or blocked. It doesn’t hurt us and there is nothing to fear about it; rather, it reduces our self-awareness and the quality of our ayni. Over time, if we don’t deal with our hucha, it can degrade our overall well-being.
So, our first strategy for keeping the “happy” in Happy Holidays is to remember it’s all sami all the way down in the Pachamama, and hucha is just how we fallible human beings slow or block this life-force energy. Let’s expect sami in our relationships. That said, as practitioners of the Andean tradition, we know we can only be responsible for ourselves. We take care that we are not producing hucha (or are producing as little as possible) and we know that we don’t have to take on others’ hucha. So, let’s expect the best of ourselves and others. Let’s strive to act as hummingbirds, the bringers of sami, in our interactions. And, let’s act as condors, the great eaters of hucha, as needed by looking at our own thoughts, beliefs, words, body language, tone of voice, behaviors, and so on during our interactions. If necessary, let’s eat our own hucha when we see that we are producing it.
Hucha isn’t something “out there” that we come into contact with or that attacks us or even attaches itself to us. It is a quality of energy we create from the inside or that others produce and that we attach to, allowing others’ heaviness into our poq’pos consciously or unconsciously. We can identify something as hucha by sensitizing ourselves to the inner emotional, and usually physical, dissonance we feel when we are slowing down or blocking the life-force energy. We know when something feels “off”—when it is more than a transitory and superficial emotion, but is instead something that sets our energy buzzing from deep inside us. That buzzing can be subtle, mildly discernable, or teeth-chattering. It may express itself in myriad ways, from a defensive body posture to muscle contractions to avoidance of eye contact to a slow building of emotion or an almost instantaneous emotional outburst. When will feel where hucha is influencing or even controlling us, we will feel that attachment viscerally.
So, another strategy during our holiday visits is to pay attention to our bodies. When we feel the telltale signs that we are getting hooked in emotionally—that psychologically we are being triggered from our “shadow” (subconscious) self or that we are projecting out onto others—stop! It takes just a few seconds of self-awareness and self-inquiry to discern what is going on for us and to deal with it. Instead of deferring ownership and seeing the heaviness as coming toward us from others, we can check within to make sure we are not instead projecting our discomfort outward (but seeing the “cause” as coming at us from the situation or words or actions of the people around us). Technically speaking, other people can create hucha that we can take on ourselves, if we allow ourselves to. But we don’t have to make others’ hucha our own. If we do, it’s usually because the other person’s energy and emotional dynamics are so similar to, if not the same as, our own that there is an often unconscious “shadow” resonance between us, and the denial of ownership of the psychological sameness causes us to create hucha for ourselves.
The subconscious shadow self is where we banish parts of ourselves that we reject, deny, are ashamed of, or otherwise refuse to “own.” Our shadow is the repository of our banished resistances, prejudices, judgements, fears, and certain kinds of survival instincts (from “what must I do to be safe” to “how must I act to be loved”). Hucha, don Juan Nuñez del Prado says, is most often created when we “surrender to the lower aspects” of ourselves. Hucha, thus, must be understood as a consequence and not a cause. Hucha is not causing us to feel angry, resentful, or whatever emotion arises. It is a consequence of our already having those feelings either consciously or unconsciously. Our egos are super talented are making it someone else’s fault that we are feeling angry, dismissed, put down, misunderstood, envious, guilty, and so on. But the truth is that when we are in relationship, in ayni or energy exchanges with others, we are responsible for both the energy we put out and for how we deal with the energy we feel we are getting back.
Don Juan emphasizes that feeling hucha coming back to us is not a punishment; it is simply feedback. So, monitoring what we see and feel as the feedback from our interactions is another strategy to use during holiday visits. Don Ivan Nuñez del Prado, concurs, saying: “In our tradition you need to keep measuring the feedback all the time, be aware of it every day. If you are aware of ayni, then the things that happen to you and around you are not going to be just random things. You put it on yourself, because you know it’s a constant reaction, and then you are going to be able to steer and improve the quality at the time. As soon as you receive feedback, you can correct yourself.” Feedback, then, is information that can be used to help us course-correct our emotions, actions, thoughts, and words—all the aspects of our beingness. Dealing with our hucha—or, better yet, not producing it in the first place by monitoring our inner feelings and the outer feedback—helps us align with our Inka Seed. When we are coming from our Inka Seed—when this inner compass is pointing to the true north of ourselves—we will be able to be who we really are without difficulty. And, we will be better at allowing others to be who they really are (instead of who we would like them to be).
To live from our Inka Seed, however, means understanding the inner filters that cause us to produce hucha. Don Ivan spoke about the importance of learning to see (and ultimately to remove hucha from) our filters: “Your personal background, family background, all of that is a filter, in the way of the light of the Inka Seed. So, you have a source of light within you, [but] what comes out will go through your filters, and so what comes out is a projection of the filter [and so can create hucha] rather than of the light.”
We all have filters, especially when it comes to dealing with family. When we expect others to “understand” us, what we oftentimes are really looking for is to have our filters understood, overlooked, or even excused. Filters are in play when we hear or use phrases like: “But you know what I mean!” “You’re twisting what I am saying.” “You aren’t even trying to see things my way. You can’t get out of your own biased view.” “There you go again!” “You’re so damn predictable.” “Why don’t you just get over it!” “You’re so full of yourself.” A key clue that we are projecting through a particular filter is when we are communicating at a person instead of with a person. This dynamic often displays itself when we use “You” phrases instead of mediating our own inner dissonance or expressing our inner truth by using “I” phrases. An example is: “You are always complaining about that! But you don’t seem ready to do anything to change things!” Instead, we can speak through our own sami-producing filter instead of our own potentially hucha-producing filter: “I hear that you are really bothered by that. How about we try to brainstorm some solutions together?” When we consciously choose to see our own filters, we are better able to take responsibility for ourselves and amend our communication style to be “joiners” rather an “dividers.” And we can bring understanding, even compassion, to the situation and not be triggered by another person.
There’s a phrase that ends many Navajo prayers that I like to keep in mind in situations where I suspect tensions might rise or heavy emotions might be triggered: “It is finished. It is finished. It is finished in beauty.” If we remember this phrase, or a similar one, that reorients us to how we want a situation to conclude, we will be more mindful of how we start and move through the situation. We can consciously seek to reduce or prevent hucha at every point in the process of the interchange and, thus, increase the chances that not only the end result of the interchange, but the whole process of the interchange itself will be one of sami.
Always, always, always . . . personal responsibility means bringing greater conscious awareness to how we choose to be moment by moment. We can’t control others, but we are responsible for ourselves. We can choose not to become ensnared in time-worn family dynamics. We might succeed only partially, and perhaps maybe not at all, but we will definitely increase our chances for successfully creating sami if we take that task upon ourselves, and not leave it only or mostly to others. There’s a saying that in every moment—every single moment—the universe is giving us a new start. That’s a lot of “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” energy! So, even if we become ensnared at one point in our visit, we can shift our inner dynamic the next. Every moment is a moment when we can resolve to do better. And sometimes just “a little bit better” can make all the difference to the quality of our holiday visits and our family and friend dynamics.