Last week I gave myself a gift. I took a mini-pilgrimage, of sorts, to Detroit. Detroit?!? Yes. Detroit. I went there because it was about 5 hours away, and it was the last stop on Amma’s North American tour. Who is Amma? Well, Amma is a living saint – though she hardly describes herself as such. She is also known as “the hugging saint” amongst her followers. In short, without labeling her – Amma is a gift. And she shares herself with the entire world. (www.amma.org)
Amma’s gift consists of love and compassion, expressed through a hug. That’s it. It’s the simplest, most profound, gift: a hug. Last week I touched on the importance of hugs and handshakes. Well, soon after writing that entry, I was off on my road trip to see Amma. And I’m not even sure that I had realized the depth of my own message, until I experienced one of Amma’s hugs. At first, it was nothing seemingly spectacular, and yet quietly it became everything all at once. Let me explain.
A hug is a hug – right? Wrong. You know it when you hug someone who doesn’t like to be hugged. Kind of like when you get a “dead fish” handshake. Well, there’s such a thing as a “dead fish” hug, too. The person isn’t entirely present with you. They’re hugging you out of obligation or some sense of societal code. They would rather be anywhere else than in that hug. Now, the reverse is true. When you hug someone who really means it – who feels it in their entire body – you know it. And you usually respond in kind.
This summer I had the opportunity to meet and work with a group of people who gave these types of hugs – and it was truly amazing. But there was one person in particular, Jack, whose hugs were more than just two humans sharing space and expressing themselves with kindness, love and compassion. His hugs transcended the human experience until your breath became synchronized, and you felt your souls meet and greet one another, all in a matter of a few seconds. I had never experienced something like that before. At first it took me out of my familiar zone, but by the second of such hugs, I found myself looking forward to seeing Jack again – just to get one of his amazing hugs! This is a person who touched my soul, and I can conjure up the feeling that hug created – the warmth, connectedness and love – anytime I want. What a gift.
With Amma, though the embrace is physically different, and (for me) didn’t have such an immediate affect as Jack’s hug did, I find myself reflecting on it still. It has a depth that I am only just beginning to experience. It was warm, full of light, compassion and love; and I will go so far as to say it was soul-altering. Amma’s gift is her presence, which stays with you long after she has let you go. How many people can you say that about in your life? Which brings me to my point:
When something as simple as a kind, loving and compassionate hug can alter your emotional psyche – can you imagine what else we are capable of? There is a simpler way for me to say this.
The next time you’re with someone and you share a hug, think of what you’re truly saying to that other person. Is it simply a “hello” – or is it more? We don’t need to hug everyone we meet with the same intensity or depth of emotion. But if ‘intention matters’ – then it will come across in your interactions. Always. So, if you’re not comfortable hugging people – then let them know. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s actually better to not hug someone, and be authentic, than it is to hug someone from a place of discomfort and lack of integrity.
As for my mini-pilgrimage, I continue to conjure up the myriad emotions I experienced during my time with Amma. I reflect with joy, gratitude and love for her many gifts, and I know that they will continue to unfold in my life, my soul, as I remember her embrace. Her loving, compassionate, caring embrace. What a gift.
Body – approach your interactions with intention and authenticity.
Mind – approach your thoughts and yourself with love, kindness and compassion.
Spirit – allow your soul to experience these gifts, without parameters or strings.
In Love and Light,
(photos: Amma photo reproduced from Amma’s website www.amma.org; Swan photo courtesy of Charlotte Rushton, www.charlotterushton.com)