Hugging stations

Free-hugs-72

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.

MY LIFE

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 In isolation, I am more withdrawn, sometimes depressed.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?

HUGGING STATION

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.

TAKING TIME DURING TIME OUT

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.

Inventing church anew

ChangeIf you could attend the church of your dreams built from scratch through your imagination, what would your church be like? What would you create?

I’m not talking about architecture here, although that may play a role in your vision. Rather, I am talking about inventing a church that you would find most inspirational to attend.

In my case, church services have often been uninspired — and uninspiring.. They have been way too canned, processed and sanitized. So for me, my new church would be a place that was totally authentic. You could come as you are and be who you are. You would not have to put on your “church face” for the occasion.

Church would be more of a gathering place where people share from the heart. It would be less of a place to pack people in to hear someone pontificate.

Church would involve intimate interaction like a support group. It would provide a vortex of unconditional love from within which people learn, grow, solve problems, and care for one another.

REAL LIFE SPOKEN HERE

It would be a place where real people could share their real selves, which includes the ugly parts as well as the mighty and lofty. That is, it would be a place of healing. People could say, “I feel empty. I feel bewildered. I feel lost. I feel overwhelmed. I feel angry. I feel repulsed.” Whatever it is they could come showing their true feelings and place them and themselves in the love vortex.

You could also “come as you are” to church if you were in a delicious state of bliss and wanted to share your good cheer with others. Church can be joyful. Laughter is allowed. The bright lights help others walk through the thick gray fog.

Or it would be a place where you could just come to be and not feel as if you had to do anything. You would not be forced or coerced to participate.  You could just soak it in, contemplate, and heal.

At the same time, church would also provide a stimulating and encouraging atmosphere for stepping outside one’s comfort zone. Church would be a place where you could accept the challenge of working through fears that keep people stuck in their ruts. Life often overwhelms us because we feel so alone, and this would be a place where one could feel included and supported in taking steps to create a stronger, more potent lifestyle.

I have heard the expression “thank you God” spoken a lot at churches. Sometimes that expression still triggers the idea that someone is instructing me to thank an entity who dwells outside of myself. (I grew up learning that God is a judgmental being, a loving yet demanding personality.) I want a church where I know that I thank God by all that I do there, whether it is meditating, gazing into someone’s eyes, hugging, singing, chanting, listening attentively, sharing from my experiences, whatever else.

I feel that we are each a droplet of the ocean that is God. I want a church where I enact “thank you God” by moving among people and interacting with them, by being love, by being light. As such, my church would not be a religion with a set of beliefs and a claim to any truth. Rather, it would be a place to walk the talk of love.

TALKING IN THE OPEN

I want a church where people can discuss things openly and honestly. That includes a bunch of real world problems and experiences.

  • Did you just lose someone important to you and are dealing with grief?
  • Are you bored in your marriage and are contemplating an affair or divorce or are already in the clutches of a new lust?
  • Are you searching for more meaning in your relationship — because there should be more than this?
  • Are you single and filled with the ache of loneliness or starved for human touch and intimate companionship?
  • Have you had a paranormal experience, such as a near-death experience, seen a vision, heard a voice, been visited by a spirit entity, and want some clarity?
  • Are you ill and are afraid of death or dealing with isolation or rejection?
  • Are you down on your luck or mired in depression? Are you plagued by a stalker or an arch-rival?
  • Are you having problems justifying the unethical things your employer wants you to do?
  • Is guilt from something you did (and maybe didn’t get caught doing) eating you alive?
  • Are you unsure how to find and identify the voice of God (that others feel so confident they’re hearing?)

Whatever it is, I would like to see church (or by extension the spiritual community that radiates from the church) be a place where I could find answers and contribute to others finding answers to life’s challenges. I would like church to be like the campfire where the tribe could gather around and help each other work through life issues through sharing and, listening.

EARTH SCHOOL

My personal spiritual beliefs hold that this is Earth School. We come here life after life to learn things. As such, we’re always being thrown curves and a few bean balls by some professor-in-spirit. Just when you think you have a handle on your life, something new happens to test your wisdom and flexibility. Church could provide a wonderful forum for helping us negotiate our lessons.

To that end, I would like to see church having a fluid structure. The use of church time could move as it had to move, not as some timed, predetermined flow chart dictated. People could come and go as they needed. Seating would be circular to facilitate more of a feeling of community.

If the flow triggered some “heavy stuff,” such as someone was working through a desperate situation, the structure could be fluid enough to assist healing. If the flow moved into “lightness of being,” people could surf the waves of delight without clock-watching.

In my church, there would be plenty of hugging and music and dance and other energy-enhancing activities that celebrate the spirit.

Church would facilitate love thy neighbor with inclusive, welcoming love. This would not be a polite yet shallow façade; it would be real. This kind of love welcomes diversity of all types. The spiritual community would be a safe harbor as well as a means to generate love; it would be a love power plant. It would be a place to blast through pain. It would be a place to share joy in all its forms.

None of what I have presented above is far from the mark of little highlights I have experienced in different venues over the years. I would like to make it less of a highlight and more of a norm.