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
I saw this photo of a monumentous event. At a Gay Pride parade in Chicago, a group of Christians bravely stood up with/for their Gay and Lesbian brothers and sisters as they countered centuries of homophobia. Imagine the celebration that took place as those whose choice of who they love was disparaged at minimum, demonized at the extreme, read these signs. I got goosebumps at the possibility that all followers of Christ could choose to be Christ-like and refrain from judgement of those whose love-styles were different from their own. It in no way means that they all agree with the choices, just rising above condemnation. I wonder what the heart of someone who selects hate and fear over love and acceptance, looks like. Anger and bigotry poisons the one holding it even more than the one to whom it is directed.
I am not a big tv watcher; usually my viewing takes place at the gym while on the ellipitical or gazelle machines. There is a show called “What Would You Do?” which is of the values clarification Candid Camera genre, hosted by John Quiñones. One episode involved a woman trying on a wedding gown. She was a beautiful blonde (really an actor) who when wearing a gorgeous dress was being admired by the saleswoman (also an actor) who said something like “Oh, he’s just going to love seeing you come down the aisle. You look stunning.” The bride replied, “Not he….she. I’m marrying a woman.” At that, the (seemingly) shocked saleswoman told her that she couldn’t possibly allow her to buy the fabric confection since it was appalling to her that she was a Lesbian. This scene was repeated several times and at one point the tearful woman was being pulled at as the saleswoman attempted to get her to take off the gown. Each time, the other customers were disgusted at the saleswoman’s reaction and comforted the bride and a few guided her out of the store and refused to shop there themselves. The most poignant was an African American mother and daughter who cried when witnessing the altercation and one of them said that this was equivalent of the racism that multi-cultural or bi-racial couples have faced. How relieved they all were, when John waltzed in and it was revealed that it was staged for the camera. The sad part is how often this does happen in real life where same sex couples are not afforded the same right to marry. When I officiate at ceremonies, I consider them weddings; not commitment ceremonies as some refer to them. The only difference is that in most places, it is not yet state sanctioned.
Seeing this photo and watching that show have restored my sometimes wavering faith in humanity.
http://youtu.be/-z2LNsifEzg Love’s In Need of Love by Stevie Wonder
A quote from one of my favorite authors:
Fear is a funny thing….both ha-ha funny and strange funny. It sneaks up on me in ways that I had never expected and in circumstances I had never considered. I have been able to laugh in its false face, once I have been brave enough to pull off its seemingly sneering mask and perceive it for what it is…an attempt to allegedly keep me safe, while limiting my horizons. I use the acronyms False Evidence Appearing Real and Forgetting Everything (is) All Right when supporting others in leaping past their own trepidation and hesitation.
Yesterday, I was called on to face a fear that seems silly, but once I did it, there was a sense of triumph. I had taken my Jeep in to get serviced since I am going on a long road trip to Canada on Sunday to speak at The Grail Lady Faire at Grail Springs; my first international conference. After the usual oil change-check tires-fill fluids routine, the smiling man behind the counter asked when I was leaving and informed me that the ball joints were shot and needed replacement. He advised not even driving around locally, let alone an 800 mile trek. He knew the work would be complete in a day or so. Fortunately, my son was off work yesterday and I could borrow his car to get to my new job. Here’s where the ‘gulp’-y thoughts came in. Adam’s car is a manual transmission and I hadn’t driven a stick shift for at least 15 years. The monkey mind started in immediately…”What if you stall? What if there is traffic behind you honking at you? What if you grind the gears? What if you burn out the engine? Holy smokes, woman….get it together.” When I raised those fears to my son, he sagely (he’s getting so good at calling me on my stuff:) asked “Weren’t you nervous about leaving your full time job? Aren’t you nervous about speaking in Canada? Don’t you sometimes get nervous doing new things?” And so, yesterday, on a scorchingly hot Pennsylvania day, this 53 year old woman, was riding top down (his Nissan is a t-top), feeling the breeze on her face (I put on lots of sunscreen for the 20 minute ride to my part time job at a drug and alcohol counseling center), shifting gears like I had done it forever. Sense memory had kicked in and I actually found it easier to do than when we had our Jeep Wrangler in the 1990’s. I didn’t stall, I heard one grrrrriiiinnnd when it wasn’t fully in third gear, no one honked at me and I felt a sense of freedom that had me laughing with delight.
It may sound silly, but taking those kinds of leaps are my growing edge these days, as I am incorporating new experiences along the way to finding my freedom where lies everything I want.
Wishing you Strength, Courage and Wisdom http://youtu.be/u6P4jI8t-0I India.Arie