Hugging stations


By now just about everybody who watches videos online has seen at least one “free hugs” video. This is where someone stands in a crowd with a “free hugs” sign and we the viewers watch as strangers approach.

It’s sometimes pretty emotional. I sometimes feel a lump form in my throat as I watch. I have a weakness for anything that shows people dropping out of the rigid rules of dispassionate, indifferent behavior toward each other to let some love shine, even in this baby step way.

If you really haven’t see one, let’s take care of that right now.

Here. And here.

One of my lingering, persistent fantasies over the years has been the establishment of hugging stations. This carries the free hugs idea to another level.

For my own creative enjoyment, I once invented a fictional character who would travel around the country for the purpose of hugging people. She did it as a way to re-create one of her near-death experience highlights. During her NDE, she was levitated around a circle of light beings, each one zapping her with love energy as she floated by. For her, the feelings were so intense, so amazing, that once she returned to physical life, she was inspired to give some of that feeling to people on earth.

As she went around hugging strangers, she discovered that each encounter built her energy a little more. She became like an energy collector, a human battery. Not only did she get energy from all that hugging, but each person she hugged received the benefit of all the love energy she had stored inside herself.

This is something like the hugging guru, Amma. It’s said that she has hugged over an estimated 36 million people in her life! Amma is so famous that people travel from around the globe to stand in line for hours and make the connection with her, the actual time of a hug being from ten or thirty seconds.


There have been times in my life when I have felt great affection and community. There have been other times in my life when I have felt intense loneliness and isolation. The difference is profound when I feel loved and connected. I am much more creative and outgoing. In isolation, I am more withdrawn, sometimes depressed.

More and more, I believe that others share a similar response. Feeling loved and connected gives us strength and self-confidence. Feeling deprived, we retreat.

From my afterlife research, I frequently encounter suggestions from the spirit dimensions that love flows much more easily there. Whereas people on earth are often conditioned to fear intimacy, to block themselves off from showing and expressing love, the other planes are like hug fiestas. There isn’t much focus on whatever bodies they have; it’s much more of a spiritual bonding experience.

I often wonder how certain things said to happen in spirit would play on physical earth. Would we, could we, create ways and means for increasing human connection in a positive, loving manner?


Temporarily setting aside those pesky issues of logistics, social acceptance, government interference, sexual exploitation, potential for ridicule, and all the rest, what would a hugging station be like? For a moment let’s just assume good intentions for all concerned.

First I envision attractive drop-in boutique centers, not pretentious but comfortable and with a pleasing ambiance. It would be a pleasure to hang out there for a little while. This could entail waiting for a turn, something which could be taken into account in the design of the center. Perhaps it could be adjoining a coffee bar or something similar.

I envision hugging specialists who may be something along the lines of qualified massage therapists or energy workers. In other words, trained. They would be heart-centered individuals who cared about people’s well-being. When hugging someone, they would intuitively send universal love energy.

Hugging is both a sensual and spiritual experience. It possesses feel-good comfort but delivers feel-good emotional satisfaction, too. I can easily remember times when I was feeling funky, nervous, or frustrated, and a long, nurturing embrace brought me out of it.  In some cases I could feel the energy streaming through me, lifting the gloom I had been in.

Someone who approaches this as an erotic diversion or romantic opportunity would send out an entirely different energy. This is also not a venue reserved for youth, beauty, wealth, or perfect health. It’s for everyone, recognizing that we are all spirits temporarily encased in flesh bodies, all equal despite cultural programming.

Qualified hugging specialists would know this and be able to respond to it. It would also be an opportunity to offer and to receive some compassionate communication. Often in our fast-paced world, having someone actually hear us, care about us, and be present with us is a rare treat. This is not intended as therapy, but a quick pick-me-up is welcome.

Meanwhile, not all embraces would be under the auspices of helping someone who’s having a tough day. It could just as easily be a celebration of being alive, a ritual of sharing joy with another human being who could be a complete stranger. Someone having a great day might like to boost that energy even higher with some hugging.


I’ve noticed something in just about every free hugging video I’ve seen. Many of the hugs are touch-and-go speedy. They’re often one-armed hugs, just about anything that avoids intimacy yet still counts (barely) as playing the game. I recognize that this is probably more than enough intimacy for the average person, but for me it feels like cheating, like being given half a potato chip with no access to others.

Hugging for me is both a sensual and a spiritual experience. I do feel it in my body, and it feels good. But my consciousness is often focused on being in a present, healing, and universally loving space. When I hold someone, I often think of our relationship to each other. We could be longtime friends or we could be virtual strangers such as at a workshop, church, or social gathering.

One term I like is the namaste hug. The holy part of me honors the holy part of you. It’s lovely to feel the comfort of someone’s body against mine when my mind is in the namaste space, feeling gratitude for the moment of inclusion. I also like the term soul embraces because it describes that consciousness is the essence of the hugging ritual.

So in my fantasies of hugging stations, I think more of connections that put life on pause for a little while. In my ideal world a soul embrace would be like mutual meditation, a five-minute (give or take) break to share some no-strings intimacy just because … because we are human, we need connection, we need more of a human family feeling, and speaking of feeling, it simply feels good.

Kissing strangers

Kissing strangersA Facebook friend posted this video where filmmaker Tatia Pilivea recorded twenty strangers in ten pairings sharing a first kiss. People who had never met were paired up and asked to kiss. It included two presumably gay pairings, one male and one female.

I noticed on YouTube that the video has amassed over 66 million views!

The black-and-white video was quietly inspirational in its tenderness and affection. It is a wonder to watch shyness and awkwardness melt into a genuine, if fleeting, connection.


Watching the film brought back memories of intimacy workshops I attended way back in the early 1980s. Hugging and kissing strangers happened back then. Often.

My heart happily soars over stuff like this. I love climbing out of the box in a safe, protected way to experience something that is normally not even considered doable because it’s far too different from the standards mass culture conforms to. We’ve probably all had fantasies of kissing attractive strangers, but actually doing it and having the pairing arranged for us makes it even more interesting.

Reading through some of the viewer comments, it becomes apparent that many people see the subject of this video as “making out.” Like make out with a stranger. A zipless kiss. A recreational pursuit. A thrill ride. My guess is that these commentators have never kissed strangers themselves, or if they have, they maintained a superficial perspective on its implication, like party game.

In the context of intimacy workshops, kissing total strangers was (for me at least) more of a unique spiritual experience. The physical ritual had a huge ripple effect in the deep pool of my consciousness. Granted that it was transient and instant intimacy, which freaks some people out to no end. Yet for me, kissing a stranger expressed and spread love in a surreal way, as if adding another dimension to love thy neighbor.

It is nearly ineffable to express how it felt — like in the womb of another universe showing (and receiving) non-possessive love for someone I did not know and probably would never see again. The experience stoked my fantasies about the world I would love to live in where people were much friendlier to one another than in the troubled world we have collectively created.


During intimacy workshops, sharing at a very uncommon depth occurred. Much of it was verbal. People would share their feelings about things. Often they would share their living nightmares, their painful memories or current struggles. The range of this sharing, much of it among strangers, was far more self-revealing than under normal social circumstances.

They told stories of being molested, raped, rejected, tormented, humiliated, excluded — things often considered too scary to mention or confess among friends. They bared their secrets in this safe place. They bared their souls.

People shared, and they were supported. They often got useful feedback. They got love.

Amid all this open-hearted sharing, often tearfully cathartic, people often hugged. Sometimes they kissed. Sometimes it occurred within the context of a facilitated exercise. Sometimes it was a spontaneous expression of affection during recess from workshop activities.


When I attended these workshops in the early 80s, I firmly believed that the joy that was happening there would gain momentum. It would grow and prosper. People would see that love was the answer. How could anything as wonderful as this not take root and grow into new social institutions?

Life had other plans. Even though those workshops (and others like them) are still alive and well today, it seems that the global village has gotten more violent and mean. We’re more guarded and suspicious.

I used to think while participating in these workshops that the so-called battle of the sexes would become a thing of the past. Healing was happening. Gender equality would reign supreme. Spiritual intimacy would save the day.

Ahem. So much for youthful idealism.


Even back then, even amid all my cosmic fantasizing, it still felt strange to kiss strangers. I kissed women; I kissed men. Often it was more like kissing whoever appeared there in front of you in an exercise. I kissed people I was attracted to and I kissed people I was not attracted to.

This was not kissing out of romantic feelings or sexual attraction. It was kissing in an entirely different mind set, more on a soul level. It was not always sensually pleasing. A few times it was borderline creepy, but I was still overcome with idealism that this was social progress, part of what then was called the human potential movement.

The idea of kissing just anybody causes teeth to gnash for many. I viewed it more like foreign travel and respecting other cultures. It’s a tendency of mine to try and fit in wherever I go, often at the price of surrendering my ego for awhile. Strange as some of it was, I never regretted having participated.

And while it did not feel oh, so courageous to me at the time, or even that bold, based on what life delivered later,  it was amazing in retrospect.


This may sound like something completely different, but I see a connection. I sometimes hear war stories about enemy soldiers who accidentally encounter one another. Through some quirky circumstance, they seem to step outside of the war for a few minutes. Though programmed to see each other as sworn enemies, sometimes they discovered people very much like themselves. Men who have feelings. Men who have families. Men who have hopes and dreams. Men who have struggles. Men who may not be convinced that war is justified but who feel coerced by their respective countries into participating as soldiers.

It’s too bad enemy troops cannot have pre-war sensitivity sessions. It’s hard to imagine war being a popular pastime if that happened.

Kissing strangers brings on a similar shift in perception. It removes normal social barriers people habitually erect between themselves and others. For a few precious seconds, all you need is love. More often than not, people leave intimacy workshops feeling better about the human race than before. For a little while, at least, they have more hope.

Looking back over the joys and heartbreaks of life, looking back to a few weekend workshops in my young thirties, I am still inspired by the experiences. I like to imagine how society would be if somehow in the tapestry of possibility, we created different rules for experiencing more love and cooperation. I like to imagine people feeling safer, supported, and more included.

Oh, I know all about the logistical nightmares and the legal, political, and health implications. I fast forward beyond all that just to feel how wonderful it would be if we really were free to pursue this happiness. I would so much rather take the risks to expand love consciousness than take the well-worn path to fear and exclusion.

As weird as kissing strangers can be, the memory of the experience warms me more than I can say.


I like to live my life and express myself in more simple terms. Sometimes they are so simple that I make up words to express myself. I think this is a great leftover skill from childhood.

Some people often perceive me as this mighty intellect, but I say nope to that. I do like to mull through complex thought puzzles at times, but I am not one to hang out too high on the abstraction ladder. Writer though I may be, I am not great at pontificating because I like to steer my ideas to simplicity.

Whoosh is a great example.

It’s a word I coined the other day to represent the sometimes intense blast of energy that I have felt while hugging people under special situations — and what they have felt when hugging me. It’s much more fun to call it whooshing then to strap it down for intellectual analysis of kundalini energy states and chakra alignment.

A couple of days ago I wrote this:

Sometimes words just won’t do.

Words are wonderful, full of zip, full of zap, but sometimes they just won’t do. Sometimes they don’t express what is going on deep inside.

Not like a whooshing hug does.

I am awakening from my year-long slumber like a bear from an extended hibernation holiday.

I want to hug someone and feel the force of it whooshing my heart out. (OMG, my whoosh feels like Yosemite Falls whooshing sideways!)

Then to feel the whoosh answered.

I want to feel her quiver in my arms, a whoosh generator like me.

We crave whooshing.

(What do you truly yearn for?)

When whoosh flows, all we feel is whoosh.

The outer world melts away — only whoosh is left.

Be here now.

Whoosh here now.

Hugging as souls would hug

Share-loveBy Joshua Bagby

Have you ever hugged someone for a whole minute? A whole, long, no-cheating, no-kidding sixty ticks?

That might sound like a piece of cake, especially if you envision or remember hugging the love of your life like that. Or perhaps your minute-long hugs were simply planned preludes to steamier activities and therefore dribbled out of the category hug and meandered into the category foreplay. But what about hugging a friend or relative or (gasp!) even a stranger for a whole minute?

Have you done it? Could you do it?

I’d love to see the changes that would occur in our society if we somehow made hugging more prominent and acceptable. I’m not referring to the fleeting body collisions many people in our culture produce (“give” would be an inaccurate term here) for the occasion. You know what I’m talking about — the A-frame, don’t blink or you’ll miss it phenomenon.

I’m talking about a true connection, a long pause at the traffic light of time to hold someone in your arms and be present with that person for a whole minute. Hug that person with reverence and respect and empathy. Hug as if it were a prayer and give thanks for our existence by taking the unusual step of holding a kindred soul close.

Oh, I know, embracing someone for ten seconds or longer almost automatically dropkicks hugging into the bugaboo briar patch of sexual suggestiveness. That’s because hugging is often associated as an on-ramp to steamy passion. Many people stalwartly keep hugs hand-in-flame short to sidestep any chance of sending unintended signals.


Nonetheless, I believe that we’re losing touch with each other. Take that literally or metaphorically. Materialism, technology, and competition are taking their toll. We fear the other guy more than ever. We’re being conditioned to be more defensive than intimate, more derisive than embracing, and I believe that’s making us lonelier and more isolated than ever.

When was the last time anyone paid close attention to you — really heard you, really felt who you are? When was the last time you devoted your attention to someone in the way you would love someone to pay attention to you?

In my ideal world, kindred souls would create more hugging opportunities. We would share our stories, our feelings, our quests — and we would hold each other as we conversed. (Don’t I live dangerously, though?) By regularly staying in touch, physically and emotionally, we would brighten our lives with love.


Hugging feels good because it gives energy. Longer embraces exchange more energy. They release oxytocin, the feel-good hormone, after about twenty seconds. When given with a pure heart, hugs are healing. It’s just plain harder to be as defensive, depressed, or frightened when you feel acknowledged, included, and loved.

Hugging is a simple act. Wrap your arms around someone who’s willing and just hold on. Hug as you would like to be hugged. What makes it difficult is the mental chatter that starts erupting as soon as your brain thinks this hug is already too long. A second in? Two seconds in? Five seconds in? Ten seconds in? Listen to that chatter. It’s filled with headlines (literally) about how you design your life.

When I am hugging people in this way, long and slow, I like to think about the idea of souls embracing. (That is obviously where the name of this site came from.) It puts hugging on a whole different consciousness plane than when bodies hug. I also think about how Jesus or other great healers would hug. What is the human potential for hugging if it is done as mindfully as a meditation?

I’ve learned that the world won’t change just because I think it should. I‘ll create my own paradise, one hugger at a time.


I look forward to hearing from those of you who like hugging and can relate to the special intimacy of the long ones.