Recently I facilitated a staff retreat for people who work with refugees on a daily basis.
One issue the staff discussed is how to be advocates for the refugees they serve in these times of political and social uncertainty. The refugees’ stories of struggles and fear break your heart but the staff is not giving into despair. Staff members spoke so lovingly and compassionately about the people they serve. They inspire each other with the firm belief that love and compassion will hold them together so they can be present to the needs of the refugees.
The refugees have many questions, some of which have no answers. Staff members shared that sometimes all they can offer is a compassionate hug.
One way to offer a hug is to engage in what is called “hugging meditation.”
Thich Nhat Hanh, a Zen Buddhist monk, describes hugging meditation as a practice to really hug the person you are holding. “You have to make the person very real in your arms, breathing consciously and hugging with all your body, spirit, and heart.” Sometimes that is all we can give each other is a hug, for us to know we are safe and loved.
Thich Nhat Hanh says, “When we hold a person in this manner, the energy of your care and appreciation will penetrate into that person and they will be nourished and bloom like a flower.”
When it is appropriate to do, follow Hanh’s approach for hugging meditation:
- Both of you take a slow, deep breath.
- Hug each other with all your body, spirit, and heart while breathing out knowing the person you hug is precious.
- Just deeply feel the presence of each other.
Is it time for you to practice hugging meditation in your personal life or at work?