Recently people have been saying to me, “Wow! How did you learn how to hug like that?” I didn’t realize that many people are hug-deprived. Even people with partners long to be held. So, here is my technique and philosophy behind a great hug.
Put your arms around the person so that your hands envelope his (or her) back. Full frontal contact. Don’t leave your hips out of the equation. That is akin to offering the tips of your fingers for a handshake. A weak handshake was totally unacceptable when I was growing up.
Show up with all of you as you reach out to the person. Do not shield yourself by pulling your hips back or offering the back of your head unless of course you do not want to get close to this person and, in that case, you shouldn’t be hugging in the first place. A handshake at arm’s length is fine in that instance. I used to have a friend who pulled me close with one hand and pushed me away with the other. It felt terrible! Resolve your conflicts somewhere else…not when hugging me.
Here is the juicy part. Hold on for one to three deep breaths. Can you tolerate being held while you breathe? This is the time when someone says how good it feels. Sometimes I start to let go after the first breath and the person keeps holding on. That is my cue to hold on, too. Breathing is the part that nourishes. So few people are ever held that way with no discussion or judgments. Quietly honoring being close and letting the person know that he or she is special to you.
Seriously, do not pat the person’s back. A pat on the back tells me that the hug is just about over. If I am feeling close, and it naturally happens, then I rub the person’s back. Everyone can use some nurturing especially in the midst of a day filled with tasks that deplete and feel nonsensical. I’m not sure who gets more out of the hug, the giver or receiver. Spiritual teacher, Thich Nat Han, says that when we touch the left hand with the right hand, both feel the nurturing touch and compassion. Giving and receiving meld into one.
That’s just about it. Go ahead and try it and let me know how it works for you.