The famous Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, and peace activist explains the undeniable power of a mindful hug. The Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh was nominated by Martin Luther King in 1967 for the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in reconciliation between North and South Vietnam. Now living in exile, he is a preacher of peace, conducting many mindfulness retreats in Europe and North America and helping thousands of individuals find peace in their soul.
“Every day we do things, we are things that have to do with peace. If we are aware of our life…, our way of looking at things, we will know how to make peace right in the moment, we are alive.” –Thich Nhat Hanh
In the ’60s, the legendary monk invented a practice called “hugging meditation” which is a practice of mindfulness, “hugging with all your body, spirit and heart.” At the heart of this method are the core Zen principles of interconnectedness and “interbeing”, with each other and with the universe also.
In the book “How to Love”, the Buddhist explores his meditation on “the art of “interbeing”.
“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.
When we hug, our hearts connect and we know that we are not separate beings. Hugging with mindfulness and concentration can bring reconciliation, healing, understanding, and much happiness. The practice of mindful hugging has helped so many people to reconcile with each other — fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, friends and friends, and so many others.
Hugging is a deep practice; you need to be totally present to do it correctly. When I drink a glass of water, I invest one hundred percent of myself in drinking it. You can train yourself to live every moment of your daily life like that.
Before hugging, stand facing each other as you follow your breathing and establish your true presence. Then open your arms and hug your loved one. During the first in-breath and out-breath, become aware that you and your beloved are both alive; with the second in-breath and out-breath, think of where you will both be three hundred years from now; and with the third in-breath and out-breath, be aware of how precious it is that you are both still alive.
When you hug this way, the other person becomes real and alive. You don’t need to wait until one of you is ready to depart for a trip; you may hug right now and receive the warmth and stability of your friend in the present moment.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh, in “How to Love”.
Never underestimate the power of a hug! Pass this on!