I can attest to the power of hugs. During the weekend when I had a low moment, I drove past a friend’s house and he was outdoors working. “Hey, how are you?” he said. “Ohh, you look low.” I nodded. “Come on in.” I parked the car and he invited me in for a big hug and a weep. Then he served me hot tea and made me laugh. I went away glowing and happy. What a change occurred in me in the space of only a few minutes! I felt light and content. From the smile on his face, I could see he felt good too at being able to be there and offer support.
I’m not the only one who knows about “hug power”. Scientific studies show that infants who grow up with little physical contact suffer in their development. But as adults we need hugs too. In the hugging Charleston, South Carolina culture where I most recently came from, I received a daily dose of hugs. Even the local coffee bar cashiers would dole out hugs on request! But in this chilly, French-Swiss environment, reserve and withold are the watch words…unless one pointedly asks for a big, bear hug. Then the response may be a reluctant, distant pat on the back.
Amma, also known as the hugging saint, is one of my favoirte Indian teachers. She’s a great example of tolerance, selfless service, and unconditional love. For those who don’t know her, she travels around the world and hugs people. This may seem like something that just anyone can do. At least this is what I thought when a group of friends first suggested we travel together to see her in Turin, Italy. But once we arrived at the hall where she sat, a thousand people were lined up waiting quietly for her to hug them for a few seconds. “So what’s the big deal?” my little mind thought. Then I stood along with the others and watched as Amma hugged every person and sometimes whole families together at the same time.
“So what’s the big deal?” The answer is that she embraces everyone. I watched her embrace people of all races, all ethnic backgrounds, all religions. The people who came to her included big, burly men, tiny old women, children, teens, babies, and adults from all kinds of backgrounds. Many of them – like me – probably didn’t even know why they were there. The more I watched, the more I saw an example of divinity. Who else could embrace absolutely everyone and turn no one away? Who else could have the energy to hug literally a thousand people and still look fresh and vibrant, and give a discourse on spiritual practice later that evening?
Amma says, “A continuous stream of love flows from me to all of creation. This is my inborn nature. The duty of a doctor is to treat patients. In the same way, my duty is to console those who are suffering.” Her watch words are about love and service, and Amma is often found with her devotees working to move bricks or clear garbage. For years she has served India’s poor and asked for nothing in return. When asked how she does it she says the energy to do the work comes from the Divine Source. Though she has been doing her work since childhood, she recently appeared in the New York Times, and I have written about her in my book, Awake in the World as well. As the world searches for extraordinary examples and meaning, people like Amma are being revealed in public for their powerful messages through example. It has been a few years since I was embraced by Amma, but it’s an experience that is not to be missed. Even just witnessing the gathering or hearing her speak is a treat. She tours North America and Europe, and you can find out more at amma.org.
In the meantime, don’t miss an opportunity to get or give a selfless, radiant hug today. Sending hugs to y’all!
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Copyright Debra Moffitt. No portion of this blog or posts may be reused or copied without prior written permission. See “About” page for contact form.
Bio: Debra Moffitt is the award-winning author of “Awake in the World”, “Garden of Bliss”, and “Riviera Stories.” She teaches workshops and leads retreats and has been on the faculty at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, and at the Sophia Institute in Charleston, South Carolina. She frequently leads workshops in France and Geneva, Switzerland.