The Bliss Blog

The Bliss Blog

Hug It Forward

                                                Shining heart
Last Sunday, I attended an event called Raise The Vibration which was held at Independence Mall in Philadelphia. A month or so earlier, I had picked up a pastel colored postcard with an image of Kwan Yin who is known as The Goddess of Compassion, imprinted on it.  My friend Rod Schichtel who works in a store  on South Street, called Nangellini, gleefully handed me the card, knowing it would be my cup of tea and suggested that I get involved somehow. He told me that he planned on being there, creating art. He does that every day through the sweet simplicity of his being, but I knew he meant he would be using canvas and paint to splash beauty about.
I took the train from bucolic Bucks County to bustling Center City Philadelphia, intending to get off at a stop a mere few blocks from 6th and Market where I would be meeting up with friends Lydia and Catherine who planned to engage in one of my favorite activities…FREE HUGS! Unfortunately, having been a bit sleep deprived for the past week or so, I nodded off and missed my stop. As a result, I ended up walking 14 blocks to get to my destination. Well worth it, when it provided grist for the mill and words for this blog entry:)
As I was hustling to get there, I noticed that the energy seemed harsh and jagged. Car horns, people talking to themselves (I work in a psychiatric hospital, so that doesn’t normally phase me), shouting, many people smoking; one while pushing a baby stroller. Know that smoking is one of my pet peeves (I say that breathing is necessary/smoking is optional), I have an extremely strong opinion that smoking around children is tantamount to child abuse since it exposes them to toxins from which they can’t escape. All of these thoughts were rolling through my mind as I was heading to a peace/unity event. YIKES!  Not so peaceful state of mind at that point.
When I arrived and greeted Catherine and Lydia who were standing with their beautifully decorated FREE HUGS sign, I sighed with relief, since the energy felt softer; or maybe I was the one who had softened, since some of the folks there had lit cigarettes in their hands as well):  It was as if my vision had changed and all I could see was the radiance of each being there, as the heart chakra was illuminated.
The expanse of lawn was filled with people of all ages, socio-economic background; well dressed tourists and homeless folks mingling amidst the sounds of 60’s rock and reggae, drum beats, singing, dancing and twirling hippies and hippie wish-they-were’s on a cloudy but not quite rainy late Spring day. Convinced that it didn’t rain cuz I brought my red umbrella, tucked into my backpack. One of the first people I saw was my friend Rod who is a work of he(art) himself, and a graphic artist by inclination and talent. Sitting on the grass with home made easels propping up paint infused canvases, he moved from one to the other, creating images about love and unity.

I had come there to soak up the ‘good vibes’ and for the next few hours, walked around the area, holding up my own FREE HUGS sign. Feeling quite ‘go with the flow’, as a result of my training and experience as a Cuddle Party facilitator and having come freshly from one the day before, held at my friend Halina’s house , I felt totally fearless about it, regardless of who was a yes to a hug.  I lost count after awhile, but estimated that I had hugged at least 200 people from the time I got started at around 2 pm and finished about 4:30 and probably clocked more than 10 miles including  those extras from the train and then around and around and around the park and then back to a closer train station and then back to my car once I landed in Doylestown…didn’t need to go the gym that day.  Amazingly I only knew a handful of people there, contrary to what my friend Greg has often said… “You who know everyone….”  One of the men I hugged who was perched on a stone wall and smiled broadly when I approached with my sign, made a comment that it was like being back in the 60’s, except he had a cell phone in his pocket.

Wearing my anthropologist/sociologist hat, I made  some interesting observations about the hugging dynamics in terms of receptivity to what I was offering. There seemed to be no discernible difference between gender…men and women seemed equally willing to hug me. What I did notice was that if there were groups of  young women, most of them were eager to hug, while with groups of young men, a few in the group were, while others held back shyly. Older teens and early 20-somethings were more likely to come dancing/dashing over to engage in hugs, while those my age or slightly older would wait for me to come to them. People in their 70’s and beyond seemed less like to engage. Individual men of all ages, reached out.  A cultural divide took place as I noticed more often that folks of Indian and Asian origin seemed more reticent and some smiled but waved me off, while African American, Latino and Caucasian people seemed more comfortable and willing to ‘embrace’ the experience. I respected the boundaries of those who were a ‘no’ to hugging by simply smiling and waving.

Some took pictures…how cool to be a tourist attraction in The City of Brotherly Love (and Sisterly Affection) .

As I was winding down, I put out a silent wish for someone to join me for dinner before hopping back on the train. I turned around and shrieked with delight when I saw my friends Alan and Jim who had arrived a bit earlier and were actually ready to leave, were heading to dinner and then onto the very train I would be taking home…perfectly timed.

Enjoyed chopstick eaten lomein and veggies at the food court at Market East and conversation about all things esoteric and mundane. With a few minutes to catch the train, we scooted down the stairs and made it just in time and wonder of wonders, actually found 3 seats together. Alan and I have this simpatico connection, and at dinner, I was about to ask them how long they had been together. At that moment, he pipes up…”Jim and I will be celebrating our 27th anniversary next month; I know you were just going to ask.” Can’t keep anything to myself with such people around:)

After goodbye hugs, they got off a few stops before mine and I sat back, watching the lush greenery rush past my window, sighing with deep appreciation about how blessed I am. My vibration had indeed been raised and I would daresay, likely that of anyone who happened to meander through that magical grassy knoll.

My talented videographer friends Flora Nikki Zanfrisco and Rene Harris shot this film to honor the day…dance and sing and play along with us. 
  • John Williamson

    The Raise The Vibration event sounded quite good, Edie, and perhaps next year I’ll be able to be a happy and willing participant. But I was also interested to read your observations regarding the hugging dynamics in terms of receptivity to what you were offering. The cultural divide as you described isn’t surprising, but it’s certainly better in terms of receptivity than it might have been in our parents’ time, generally speaking.

    It sounds like you had a great time, and the other participants must have as well. Yes, you are truly blessed!

  • Edie Weinstein, MSW, LSW

    Yep! Hoping it will be an annual event since it seemed to achieve the purpose of bringing people together. Since I am a people watcher to begin with, I found the dynamics fascinating. In grad school, I did a paper on therapists using touch in healing practice with their clients and some of it involved researching touch in various cultures. <3

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