Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Hugs are Healing

It is clear that safe, caring physical touch is as important to our health as food, air or water. It's been amply demonstrated that newborns deprival of nurturing touch can actually die, even if their other physical needs are met. Sadly, in our culture physical touch, particularly in the form of hugs, is often seen as unsafe. In particular, men are discouraged from hugging each other lest it be seen as somehow "gay." (As though there's anything wrong with being gay. There isn't). Men and boys can be ridiculed, hurt or even killed just for being affectionate, loving people. To me, this is heartbreaking.

Hugs are a healthy, genuine way to express affection, friendship and love. It should never be wrong to hug a friend of either sex, or your child, brother, sister, father or mother. I have been in dozens of Challenge Days and other workshops where healthy, safe hugging is taught. It's amazing to me that we have to teach how to hug in the first place. But since there's so much unsafe touch in our culture, someone has to model safe touch, so we do.

Challenge Day teaches that we need three hugs a day just to get by, and that with six hugs a day we are doing pretty well, and that 12 hugs a day help us to really thrive. Numerous studies bear this out. Our bodies respond immediately to loving touch. Our heart rate goes down, along with our blood pressure. Our breathing slows, our muscles relax, and our immune systems pick up. Anyone who has spent much time hugging knows exactly what I'm talking about.

You'd think I would have hugging down, and in some ways, I do. I'm considered a world-class hugger by many who know me. I love hugs, both giving and getting. A little over a month ago, after our most recent Challenge Days here in Ukiah, my beloved wife and life partner JoAnn suggested that we begin to actually count how many hugs we gave each other every day, and make a concerted effort to get at least 12.

What soon became apparent was that, even though JoAnn retired from teaching in June, and we live, work and play together 24/7, 12 hugs a day were way more than we had been getting. We realized that, quite unintentionally, we had often been getting by on no more than three hugs a day (if that). JoAnn and I have been together for over 11 years. We adore each other. We're happier together then we've ever been in our lives. And still, these last weeks of going for 12 hugs a day have been amazing! We deserve more! And so do you.

Try this: become fully present with someone you trust (perhaps by taking a deep centering breath or three), ask for a hug, then melt into it with another deep breath. Go ahead and try it right now. Find someone to hug. If you're alone, take a deep breath, relax, and imagine getting a wonderful hug from someone whose hugs you truly adore, and make a mental note to get a hug as soon as you can. I guarantee that one of the surest ways to become drunk with wonder is to get 12 hugs a day. I dare you!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

We Are Pure Energy

Quantum physics clearly demonstrates that energy, in one form or another, constitutes the most fundamental building blocks of the universe. To be even more precise, these building blocks, called quarks, or quanta, are actually the potential for a particular frequency, or state, or amount of energy. I use the word potential because we cannot measure the actual energy involved until we specifically observe it The universe, then, is a field of pure potential that is continually coalescing into the now moment. Click here for those interested in delving more deeply into this fascinating subject.

When we understand, or grok, this foundational truth, we can extrapolate this awareness to our own bodies and our moment to moment experience. Each of us is composed of trillions of cells. Each cell contains millions of molecules. Each molecule is made up of atoms (each water molecule contains two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom-- and up to 90% of our bodies are water). Hydrogen, the simplest and most abundant atom, contains a single proton surrounded by a single electron. An oxygen atom consists of a nucleus of eight protons surrounded by eight electrons. Each sub-atomic particle, such as a proton, are made up of quarks. Even though we think of ourselves as being composed of matter, the underlying truth is that at our core we're pure energy. In fact, if all of the energy stored in our countless trillions of atoms were simultaneously released, it would create an enormously powerful explosion rivaling a hydrogen bomb.

My point is that everything about us and the universe in which we live ultimately has to do with energy. Our thoughts are electrical impulses firing through the trillions of synapses in our brains. Our feelings, or emotions, are also, at their core, pure energy. Looked at one way, the pure, unconditional, infinitely precious love of God-As-Us beats our hearts and pours out into the world in unending waves of energy. These waves, like light, are refracted through our hearts into all the colors of the rainbow. The major energy centers of the body, sometimes called chakras, each have a color associated with them. Our first chakra, located near our genitals, is about survival, and is red. We associate red with anger, and in our culture anger is taught to be an inappropriate, or "bad" emotion. However, as we've seen, behind our stories and our labels this energy that we call anger is just energy. And like all energy, if it's blocked it creates problems.

It turns out that anger, like all of our emotions, is not bad. There are, of course, more and less appropriate ways to express anger. Many of us are most familiar with destructive choices such as violence against another, the environment, or even ourselves. Here's the magic: every feeling fully felt shifts! In order for there to be healing, there must be feeling. We must "move the energy" so that our chakras (energy centers) stay clear and free-flowing.

To sum up: feelings are energy. Blocking, or stuffing our feelings creates enormous short-circuits in our bodies. These short-circuits are the root cause of stress. Stress is the root of many of our most common diseases, including depression and addictions. To read an incredibly thorough account of how our environment, including our thoughts and feelings, impacts our bodies in a deeply physical way, read Bruce Lipton's The Biology of Belief. To read more about how our emotions create our experience and how the stories we tell ourselves create our emotions, read my book Drunk with Wonder.