I attended a large event last weekend, and as I sat in the audience, watching the speakers address the honoree of the evening, I began to observe the hugs that were exchanged after each person spoke, and before they returned to their seats. Each one talked about their special relationship to the woman who was being celebrated, and yet the hug exchanged, spoke of the real relationship, and the real affection, or lack thereof.
I like hugging. I love the connection of heart-to-heart that is made physically when I hug another human being.
I don’t however, like fake hugs; the kind where the person barely touches me. If this kind of hug were a present, it would be akin to those beautifully wrapped gifts under department store Christmas trees: all show, but nothing inside….very disappointing to open. These hugs really bother me, and so I try not to give them either. When someone hugs me like this, I feel like they are trying to keep their distance, and I receive less affection than I would have if there were no hug at all.
I had the same reaction to these half-hearted hugs when I observed them. They were not uplifting or happy to witness while the genuine hugs, even when I was just watching them, made me feel good too.
When my sons were little boys, they used to hug and kiss each other all of the time. There was no holding back, no fear about how the hug looked or would be received, there was simply a pure exchange of love.
I think that as adults we would benefit greatly by bringing back some of the enthusiasm and delight in each other that we had when we were children. Maybe we can begin by giving real hugs.
“Hugging is a beautiful Western custom, and we from the East would like to contribute the practice of conscious breathing to it. When you hold a child in your arms, or hug your mother, or your husband, or your friend, if you breathe in and out three times, your happiness will be multiplied at least tenfold. If you are distracted, thinking about other things, your hug will be distracted also, not very deep, and you may not enjoy hugging very much. ….If you feel a little hollow inside, you may want to slap your friend’s back while you hug him in order to prove that you are really there. But to be really there, you only need to breathe, and suddenly he becomes very real. The two of you really exist in that moment. It may be one of the best moments in your life.” pp 85-86 Hugging Meditation, from the book, Peace Is Every Step, by Thich Nhat Hanh