We often touch, but only sexually; we associate physical contact with an act. But touch is such an important aspect of human need. In today’s modern world, sex may be abundant but we are starved of pure human contact. Once, I knew a physically healthy individual with cold lumps on his body, who had plenty of loveless sex but not enough hugs, cuddling, stroking, loving massages, as a child and as an adult.
This is a beautiful article written by Thich Nhat Hahn, a spiritualist whose teachings that my partner and I follow since discovering his writings on a trip to Vietnam (you can find the articles here):
In 1966, a friend took me to the Atlanta Airport. When we were saying good-bye she asked, “Is it all right to hug a Buddhist monk?”
In my country, we’re not used to expressing ourselves that way, but I thought, “I’m a Zen teacher. It should be no problem for me to do that.”
So I said, “Why not?” and she hugged me, but I was quite stiff.
While on the plane, I decided that if I wanted to work with friends in the West, I would have to learn the culture of the West. So I invented hugging meditation. Hugging meditation is a combination of East and West.
According to the practice, you have to really hug the person you are holding. You have to make him or her very real in your arms, not just for the sake of appearances, patting him on the back to pretend you are there, but breathing consciously and hugging with all your body, spirit, and heart. Hugging meditation is a practice of mindfulness. “Breathing in, I know my dear one is in my arms, alive. Breathing out, she is so precious to me.” If you breathe deeply like that, holding the person you love, the energy of your care and appreciation will penetrate into that person and she will be nourished and bloom like a flower.
– Thich Nhat Hanh, in “How to Love”.
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