Beliefnet
The Bliss Blog

As I was planning on writing this blog entry, my friend Joanna Chodorowska posed a question:  How’s Your HQ? (Hug Quality)  I responded that she knew how mine was, since I offer FREE HUGS any and everywhere I can. I know that Joanna can answer in the affirmative as well, since she too, is a consummate hugger and has joined me on a few occasions as a Hugmobster Armed With Love. In the interceding years since the group’s 2014  inception, I/we have shared hugs at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, in various places in Bucks County, at rallies and vigils, at the DNC, at parades, at fitness events, at my polling place on Election Day (and many places since then as a result of the outcome), in DC, and the Phoenix airport.

Yesterday, I hugged all sorts of colorfully garbed people at Pridefest in Philadelphia. The sweltering temps didn’t prevent folks from embracing me or each other. I knew it would be a welcoming place, as the purpose was to celebrate the freedom to love. Hugs reach across all kinds of culturally created and perpetrated stereotypes and divides.

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Quite simply, hugs heal. The words of  family therapist Virginia Satir could just as easily be written on a prescription pad: “We need four hugs a day for survival, eight hugs a day for maintenance, and 12 hugs a day for growth.”  Hugs meet skin hunger needs, which are just as vital for wellbeing as food hunger. Without nurturing, non-sexual touch, by consent, we fail to thrive. Touch need not be shared only or primarily between sexually intimate partners. It is not only possible but indeed, enjoyable to cuddle/hug with platonic friends. I have ‘cuddle buddies,’ of all genders who help meet those needs. I facilitate a workshop called Cuddle Party which teaches communication, boundary setting and offers that kind of touch. Even if people don’t know each other at the beginning of our time together, they may leave feeling like family of choice.

The truth is, even touchy feely folks like me don’t share that many hugs per day. Like many adults, I live alone and at the moment, am not in a consistent romantic relationship. I have wonderfully affectionate friends and family and when I see them, I fill up my hug tank. I am not with them on a daily basis. Sometimes I take a home writing break and go to my favorite coffee shop in my small town of Doylestown, PA; in part for the tea and for an even more important reason. The welcoming hugs from the owner and friends who frequent it (Think Cheers, where everybody knows your name) are even more nourishing.

When I take it to the streets to hug it out, I am filling a mutual need. At first, I thought the hug gigs I do were supposed to be purely altruistic until I realized that they fuel me as well. We can’t serve from an empty cup, so I fill mine up to overflowing. It is not selfish to need affection. It is self-sustaining and enlivening.

When I hug people, I slow down and breathe with them. I am fully present, if only for 20 seconds. Longer is preferable. I feel a mutual heartbeat. When we step away, we carry a piece of each other, a strand of love. Sometimes they cry. Sometimes I do. We each smile and often laugh.  We allow ourselves to be fully human. I have been asked how it feels to hug strangers. I respond that once we have hugged, we are no longer strangers. I also have been asked if I feel rejected if people turn down hugs. I don’t since I know that everyone’s touch needs are different. When they decline, for whatever reason, I encourage them to hug someone, or at least, themselves.

Last weekend, my friend Flora Zanfrisco followed me around the streets of Philadelphia as we spoke of all things huggy.

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