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Lions Roar : May 2019
ILLUSTRATIONSBYCAROLEHÉNAFF IN MY HERMITAGE I have planted beautiful trees. When I do walking medi- tation, I often stop and hug one of the trees, breathing in and out. It’s very nour- ishing. The tree gives me strength, and it always seems to me that the tree responds to my hugging and breathing. A tree is always available, but I’m not so sure about a person! Often, we’re not really there with the people we love. We get caught up in other things, like our work or the news on TV. Hugging medi- tation is a practice of awareness. If we’re not available, how can we hug someone? We return to ourselves to become totally present and available for the other per- son. If hugging isn’t done in this spirit, it’s only a ritual without content. When HOW TO PRACTICE Hugging Meditation Nothing warms the heart like a loving hug. To make the experience even deeper and more healing, THICH NHAT HANH teaches us this practice of hugging meditation he created. we’re mindful and present, hugging has a deep power to heal, transform, and bring reconciliation. We may practice hugging medita- tion with a friend, our child, a parent, our partner, or a tree. The hugging can be very deep. Life is there. Happiness is there. Sometimes the hugging is not very deep and the hugger only pretends to be there, perhaps by patting you on the back—I have some experience of this! When someone hugs you with all their heart and presence, you feel it. When someone takes your hands in mindfulness, with their presence, their concern, you feel it. So hug like that— make life real and deep. It will heal both of you. Hugging meditation is something I invented. In 1966, a friend drove me to the Atlanta airport, and when we were saying goodbye, she asked, “Is it all right to hug a Buddhist monk?” In my country, we are not used to expressing ourselves this way in public. But I thought, “I am a Zen teacher. It shouldn’t be a problem for me to do this.” So, I said, “Why not?” and she hugged me, but I was rather stiff. Later, 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. That is why I invented hugging meditation. Hugging in public is a Western prac- tice. Meditation, conscious breathing, LION’S ROAR | MAY 2019 27 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE