Press interest in my work has been generous lately, and I’m very grateful. Last month it was a great article in vice.com. Today I was filmed in a hug session on camera by Telemundo. I have always believed that the world would one day know about this phenomenon of meditative holding (or” being held for a long time”).
My memory of the journalist’s questions and my responses are vague. I’m left wondering, did I represent what I do and the value of it in an effective, coherent way? Did he get it? What will be left when they have edited the piece down to 2 minutes? So my mind has been busy generating the “perfect” responses to questions that he asked and ones he didn’t. So I wanted to spend a bit of time here, where I can say what I really want to say in the way that I want. I am my own editor here! So here goes…
Question: What is so special about this hugging that you do?
Answer: Perhaps the most important aspect is that it lasts for an extended period of time. When people hug casually in our culture, the hug is usually quick and not a lot of contact is really made. What I discovered is that when we are held for an extended period of time, we connect to a deep sense of well being. We feel cared for and less alone in the world. The body is designed to benefit powerfully from this. Levels of the feel good hormones, oxytocin and serotonin, rise. My clients often report feeling a euphoria that lasts for hours after they leave their sessions. It is powerful medicine.
Q: Is this something people should be paying for?
A: Not everyone can or should have to pay for the kind of contact I provide. People have asked the same question about psychotherapy. Should you really have to pay to talk to someone? Obviously, millions of people find it a service worth paying for. Skilled therapists have a way of listening (what I like to call bearing witness) and of responding. I bring my own skill set to my work, which clients value and are willing to pay for. I hope that my clients will be enlightened by their work with me and then bring it into their lives in a meaningful way.
Q: What is your vision for what you are doing?
A: When I first discovered this practice, I couldn’t believe the whole world didn’t know about it already. So I envision a world where people, men and women, know the real value of holding one another for extended periods of time in an awake and non-sexual way. And I want people to know that this doesn’t need to be limited to contact between romantic partners. Yes, there are sexual concerns, and certain boundaries need to be clear between non-romantic hugging partners. But those hurdles can be negotiated. I would like people everywhere to be able to give and get all the nurturance they want and need. This is not a luxury, but a real need that wants to be fulfilled.
Q: Why do you think we’re not doing this already?
A: Our culture is very individualized. As adults we are taught to hide our vulnerability, especially men. And then there is the added mistrust around physical contact between adults who are not romantically involved, as if there is always a covert sexual agenda. We know the value of infants and children being held…it is actually critical for proper development. But we seem to have become disconnected from the need and possible benefits of being held as adults. What I have found through my work is that we actually do have a deep need, often unexpressed, to receive nurturance through generous sustained touch.
Q: Final thoughts?
A: So much conflict in the world is generated out of a perception that we are separate beings, that we have no innate relatedness. My work has shown me that we actually are not as separate as we think, and that is really good news! If we can learn at a cultural level that we are all a part of one another in some fundamental way…well that could be part of changing the world for the better. So learn to express your need and desire for more contact. Maybe that starts with simply asking your friend to hug you for one whole minute…you would feel such a difference.