“Perfection in love or non-possession will remain unattainable ideal as long as we are alive, but towards which we must ceaselessly strive.”
–Gandhi (My Religion 1935, p. 412)
Gandhi always wanted to bring together the best of the East and the West as he developed his nonviolence. Vietnamese monk, spiritual activist Thich Nhat Hanh has the same vision in mind: no one culture has the answers, and we can bring together the best practices from around the world to a very effective end. His answer (one of them, at least): Hugging Meditation. Say what?
It’s actually a practice that Thay (as Nhat Hanh is known) promotes. Sounds a bit strange to some at first, but think about it. When we embrace another, we can do so mindfully or with our minds “full.” When we hug, we can promote reconciliation and offer support. We need these qualities in our lives.
Here’s how he recommends practicing Hugging Meditation:
Before hugging your friend, look at him or her. Notice that this person is dear and precious to you. Here is my mother who gave me life and has made so many sacrifices for me, day in and day out. Take three mindful, conscious breaths. As you hug your friend, be fully present and truly embrace them in three more breaths. With the first breath, recognize that you are happy in this moment. In the second, that the other person is with you, and you are happy together. And in the third breath, recognize that you are here together, happy, and grateful for this moment.
In effect (I believe) he was offering through Hugging Meditation a path to loving with detachment (i.e.from personal needs and wants), which will ultimately enable us to, impossible as it sounds, “love our enemies” — the key to principled nonviolence.
Ready to hang out the Free Hugs sign? In the spirit of nonviolence and Thay’s teachings about it, we must always remember to hug others “in a way that makes them feel free.”
Experiment in Nonviolence:
Practice your Hugging Meditation.
Daily Metta 2015, a service of the Metta Center for Nonviolence, is a daily reflection on the strategic and spiritual insights of Mahatma Gandhi in thought, word and deed. As Gandhi called his life an “experiment in truth,” we have included an experiment in nonviolence to accompany each Daily Metta. Check in every day for new inspiration. Each year will be dedicated to another wisdom teacher.