imageIn the 1960’s Thich Nhat Hanh came to the US to speak out against the war raging in his country, Vietnam.  One of the people he influenced was Martin Luther King, who did go on to oppose the war.  Dr. King later nominated Thay (pronounced Tie, meaning teacher) for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Thay spent some time with Dr. King and his extended community, a warm group of affectionate people who liked to hug each other.  Being a Buddhist monk, Thay was not supposed to touch people, especially women, but kindness is also an important trait to cultivate, so he felt uncomfortable whether he hugged or not.

After the Peace Accords (which he attended) led to the end of the war, Thay went on extended retreat and contemplated what to do about this dilemma. He came up with Hugging Meditation!  There are several versions.  Here is a paraphrase of the one I learned:

Breathing in and out, I hold you in my arms; 

Breathing in and out, I feel you holding me;

Breathing in and out, we are here alive and together.

In the “advanced” form of hugging meditation, we share a fourth breath and remember that all things are impermanent, including both of us.image

While I only rarely practice formal hugging meditation these days, I am usually very conscious of the preciousness of the moment of hugging someone and the importance of bringing my whole presence to that person and feeling them holding me.

Photos: Thay’s senior student Sister Annabel practicing hugging meditation; Thich Nhat Hanh at his retreat center in France, Plum Village, 1989

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9 Responses to Hugging

  1. Frances says:

    A great way to hug when formal type is necessary! Of course for me I am fortunate to be able to hug with most people and relatives..they know me and have learned there are not many ways they can get out of it!

  2. Kim Bozarth says:

    This is a beautiful story. I live in a land now where hugging isn’t as common as it was when I was in Reno. You may not practice formal hugging meditation often but this friend would appreciate a hug from you that way. I’ll do the same for you now. With much love.

  3. Karen says:

    This makes me think of an event a week ago – on Monday my oldest granddaughter M went to her old preschool for the last time (graduation ceremony was June, but she stayed for ‘summer school ‘). On Tuesday she started transitional kindergarten at a new school.. It fell to me to pick up both my granddaughters at the end of the day on that Tuesday. I picked up M first, then we went over to her former preschool to pick up her baby sister, who still goes there. M ran onto the playground happily yelling to a former classmate who is still at the preschool, and next thing I knew they were hugging each other heartily. My first thought was of amusement: “well, no question about it, these little girls are obviously Californians!”
    But after reading your post, that’s not necessarily the only explanation. This preschool is a very warm and loving environment . . . and I’m grateful they’ve learned to embrace their friends so directly and so warmly.

  4. Shannon says:

    What a wonderful thing to ponder…I’ve always been a hugger! Touch can be so powerful, especially when it comes from a place of kindness. Love the hugging meditation–Thank You Kathy!

  5. Hey there says:

    “hugging meditation”!!!! Amazing 🙂

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