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October 9, 2016

How to make Every Embrace a Meditation for Love.

Flickr/Bruna Schenkel

“When we hug, our hearts connect and we know that we are not separate beings.” ~ Thich Nhât Hańh

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Lately I have felt slightly under-touched. As an incredibly tactual person, I find this disconcerting.

The realization blindsided me this morning when I was pondering what I had been so missing in my life.

Those with a cat-like disposition, known to purr or melt under even the slightest touch, notice it when that experience is lacking. After all, it is through contact that we show our appreciation for life and our gratitude for our loved ones.

Touch can bring many of us back into the moment, but often our world does not allow for it.

Recently, my life has seemed to wiz by, and I have forgotten this anchoring tool that is only found with another. I have been speeding this way and that. Zooming through meetings, rushing through doorways and hurrying each and every conversation. And hugs—have I actually gotten or given one in the last month? I don’t recall. I must have, because this is my typical salutation, but I have quickly forgotten them afterward.

A curious thing happens when we speed up; we become a little hard. Well, at least I do. It’s as if our forward momentum doesn’t allow the space or time for connection, for if we stopped for long enough to touch another, we might actually feel—and feelings take up time.

However, to maintain our well-being we all need to come to a place of stillness once in a while, responding to pure exhaustion, anxiety, pain or often just our soul shouting, “Slow down, I want to feel!”

I needed to feel again. I needed to remember what a body felt like in my arms and what the warmth of another did to the temperature of my own flesh. And I knew I didn’t have to rely on a partner for this; family and friends were around. I had just been ignoring the opportunity their presence provided—the chance to feel love and a shared appreciation for a shared moment.

Reading books by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhât Hańh has taught me a lot about making each moment count. He explains how when we are drinking a glass of water, we can drink that water 100 percent. When we are washing dishes, we can feel the heat of the water completely, the sensation of soap on our hands and the solidness of the dish. Experiencing things 100 percent means being fully present to whatever we are doing in life.

When we give something 100 percent of our attention, we connect to it as sacred. In his book, How to Love, Thich Nhât Hańh talks about doing this practice while we embrace. He calls it the hugging meditation, and I had an inkling I needed this practice in my life. I wanted to feel the sacred again in my experience of touch with others.

There is a great bravery in slowing down, because we suddenly can become vulnerable with each other—and it is in our vulnerability that lies our potential for real connection.

The next hug I gave was to my mother on her lunch break, and I practiced this meditation. The result? I remembered the feeling of love all day.

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Hugging Meditation.

We begin by taking three slow and mindful breathes. We notice the inhalation and exhalation and the length of each. Is our breath warm or cold? We start to come home to our own body first.

Next, when we look at the person we are going to embrace, we say to ourselves, this person is alive and real. We do this so we remember it is another precious human we are holding.

When we embrace, we try to do so for three full breaths. For our first inhalation and exhalation, we become conscious of ourselves in this moment and how happy we are to be here.

With our second full breath, we become conscious of the other person in our arms and how happy we still are to be here.

On the third breath, we bring our attention to the fact that we are here together, in this one moment and how special this truly is. And we give thanks.

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This meditation can be used not only for our own benefit, but also for healing relationships, other people, animals, trees and the common human illness, fear of love.

Hugging is a powerful practice that can help us remember how precious life is. We must appreciate something fully before we can truly feel it and take it in.

I like to remember that I can offer just as much gratitude with my body as with my words.

Because we are often so busy, we forget to honor what is valuable. So let’s slow down for a moment and make our next embrace a clear reflection of our beautiful love.

“I embrace you with all my heart.” ~ Albert Camus

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Author: Sarah Norrad

Image: Bruna Schenkel/Flickr

Editor: Toby Israel

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