I was raised in a family in which nurturing touch was everpresent. Besides my parents and younger sister, our extended family included grandmothers, aunts, uncles and cousins, as well as those who I consider ‘family of choice’. I can be sure that I met the requirements described above. In my teens, I was in a youth group (USY-United Synagogue Youth) and at our weekend retreats, there were usually puppy piles of willing cuddlers. When I attended Glassboro State College (now Rowan University), I worked for a counseling center called Together, Inc which was an appropriately named organization, since affection was overflowing there too. For many, sadly, that isn’t the case. Most people live and work in low touch environments in which their healthy touch needs aren’t met. Babies who don’t receive hugs, cuddles and kisses, fail to thrive and many die. As a mental health social worker for many years, I have witnessed the outcome in terms of depression, anxiety, addiction, high risk behaviors and suicidal ideation among those who are touch starved or for whom touch was abusive or non-consentual.
As a single/widowed adult, I have many friends who are cuddle buddies, and on whom I can count to provide support and love in that form. I also facilitate a workshop called Cuddle Party which is about communication, boundary setting and safe, nurturing, consentual touch. As such, I have also seen the flip side…the miracles that occur when folks get to immerse themselves in this kind of nourishment. They lighten up emotionally and physically and I can literally see a shift in their appearance and demeanor. They have expressed verbally that it really does make a difference in the ways they view themselves and touch itself. Relationships heal, intimacy deepens, new friendships are forged. The world becomes a more welcoming place. As a hugger by genetics and choice (I always ask first, since becoming a CP facilitator:), I see it as some of the most potent medicine for what ails us. I know that hugging binds people together, when words aren’t enough.I’ve long had a fantasy of holding CP’s at the White House and the U.N. Anyone have connections?
A few weeks ago, I carried around my FREE HUGS sign for the Raise The Vibration Event in Philadelphia and was delighted to have shared heart-hugs with 100 + people on a day that carried with it rain, wind-gusts and then brilliant sunshine. I’m convinced that smiling, hugging people bring out the beams. What was cool was watching people I had hugged, ‘pay it forward’ by hugging others. Seeing that becoming a world wide phenom.
Speaking of world-wide; last night, I carried on a cyber conversation with a Cuddle Party facilitator in Capetown, Africa named Barry Du Plooy, who sounded enthusiastic about being a Cuddle ambassador in that region. What an amazing way to unite folks on a continent that has seen war and division, hatred and racism. Hugs speak in a common language. He is the 71st person who became certified since its creation by relationship coaches Reid Mihalko and Marcia Baczynski in 2004. I was #27. Adults from all walks of life and relationship status attend. A few weeks ago, I had the joy of co-facilitating with the effervescent, bubbling over with bliss Monique Darling who came to the East Coast from San Diego. Such a beautiful web of connectivity was woven amongst those gathered. I like to say that although the facilitator creates the safe container, the participants co-create the experience. We laughed, cried, hugged, snuggled, cuddled and spooned. Amazing conversations take place when the walls come down. Safe, nurturing touch really does have that kind of power.
So today, I invite you to embrace yourself, the beings in your life and and go out and throw your arms around the world.
One of my favorite songs about hugging written by Fred Small and performed here by Rabbi Yossi and Pastor Paul. The Hug Song http://youtu.be/0W0lMk70Y-8