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Day 9 | When You Want to Be Mindful, Hug it Out

Day 9 | When You Want to Be Mindful, Hug it Out

It’s Day 9, the second week of my 60-Day Journey through Mini-Mindfulness—& so far, so good on meeting my goal of trying one new tool a day to attain at least one mindful moment every day for two months. I’m already using multiple tools each day, getting a little mini-mindfulness more & more often. I’m noticing what I’m noticing, or getting truly mindful about the whole experience with meta-cognition. I’m doing research & even getting excited about test-driving new tools in the future.

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned hugging meditation. I first read about this over the summer while re-reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s book Anger. Yes, I was re-reading the book when the concept of hugging meditation jumped out at me. Apparently, 9 years ago or so during my first read, I glossed over this concept or took it for granted. But with this reading, it leapt out at me as interesting. And this week, I decided I really wanted to try it.

Last night was Date Night at our house. Date Night is a new-ish concept: Since we don’t have family on hand to help out at will, we’ve taken our time being choosy about babysitters. As new(er) parents, it’s been an effort & a lesson to let go & trust in this way.

A little dinner, a little shopping, it was a relaxing, grown-up evening. We noted with wonder about the simple pleasure of using one napkin apiece (versus trying to keep the desperation out of our voices as we ask our waitperson right after we order for extra napkins—“as soon as you get a chance, thanks”) or just leaving the condiments where they were instead of acting as a tactical assault team, one of us deploying distraction while the other maneuvers all the items out of eyesight but within adult reach. In a way, it was its own experience in mini-mindfulness, because while we were out, we were able to just be.

But it started with a hug; an intentional hug. As we changed quickly into “grown-up” dress (a nicer shirt for him; some added jewelry & a sassier pair of shoes for me), we plotted our escape & mapped out our plans.

“Wait,” I said. “Come here for a second.”

I positioned him facing me at the foot of our bed.

“What?” he smirked. “What are we doing?”

“I want to try something.”

I explained the steps of hugging meditation:

  1. Face your partner & bow with reverence
  2. Look into each other’s eyes
  3. Step together & hug
  4. Take 3 conscious breaths during your hug;
  5. Step apart, looking into the other’s eyes again, then bow once more.
    (Note: Separating out the eye contact was my personal addition.)

My husband is not into meditation. He’s never tried it in his life. But ever since our family vacation this summer, where we foolhardily decided to take our 2 littles to a one-room lakefront cabin—realizing only after the fact that we did not have a calm-down space for timeouts (for kids or adults!)—he’s been onboard with my quest for mini-mindfulness. Although it took us a month-plus to start calling it that, we are now both fascinated by these amazing & almost instantaneous calming techniques.

So, he willingly bowed when I said, “First we bow.” He looked into my eyes, grinning & gleaming; he stepped toward me & hugged me … & then he took 3 deep, slow, intentional breaths, eventually matching his breathing with mine. Heart-to-heart, we breathed, then stepped away, looked lovingly at each other again, & bowed with finality.

“That was hugging meditation!” I exclaimed. “What did you feel?”

“Tingly,” he replied.

“In a good way?” I asked hopefully.

“Yeah, in a good way. It felt … good.”

He told me he felt at peace. I agreed. We both decided that the deep breathing during contact was both centering & invigorating, as well as connecting between the 2 of us. There was a certain type of harmonic resonance that we’ve never personally attained in a simple 2-minute moment stolen away from the kids.

In Anger, Buddhist monk & teacher Hanh writes about how a mother & daughter with years of misunderstanding between them practiced an extended version of hugging meditation at his retreat center in France, called Plum Village. If 2 minutes of this practice can make hubby & me feel “tingly” with connection, I can only imagine how 30-plus minutes can melt away years of animosity.

Hugging meditation is an invention of Thich Nhat Hanh’s. Traditionally, Buddhist monks do not touch others. Read about his very intentional decision to join Eastern & Western cultural practices through this unique concept here. (Really, please read it. It’s a fascinating story.)

In its deepest form, hugging meditation encourages specific meditative contemplation during the 3 conscious breaths: first, awareness of being alive; second, thinking of where you will both be 300 years from now; & third, “being aware of how precious it is that you are both still alive.” What an amazing realization!

While my husband & I did not practice this aspect, we still got so much from the brief moment of connection we shared. It’s on my bucket list now to keep practicing hugging meditation—with my husband, my children, my family & my friends. I challenge you to practice it with your loved ones the moment that you can. Make that moment happen. Be here with your loved ones now. What does hugging meditation feel like to you?


Day 9 Mini-Mindfulness Tool:
Hugging Meditation
. Try it today! Are you already practicing hugging meditation or have you practiced it in the past? What revelations or experiences have you gotten from your own hugging meditation practice? Comment below & share!

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