My neighborhood book group met last night. Walking home in the dark, I heard rustling in the bushes. My flashlight revealed that a skunk was rummaging through grasses; he or she was intent. At first, I felt a bit of trepidation, oh, great, I might get sprayed, but then, there was such serenity in the encounter, each of us with a mission and destination, one for food, and one for home.
I continued on, honoring that we each have our niche, our paths, and our meeting in the night was simply awareness, one with nuzzling, and one with steps.
I’m with arriving. What it is to arrive and be with ourselves all along the way?
I’m reflecting on arriving because two friends and colleagues, Pamela Blunt and Francesca Khanna, are offering a monthly workshop on Presence and Sensitivity. One can be anywhere on the planet and call in or participate in a Zoom call.
Their invitation and introduction shares the words of Rumi from his poem “Bird Wings”.
Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced as birds’ wings.
Sinking into that invites a pause. I feel the beat of my heart, it’s transmission through arms to hands and fingers that touch this keyboard sending thoughts who knows where and who cares. Shoulder blades and neck wing, whisks stirring the lift in air. Spine responds, answers a call.
The Presence and Sensitivity invite offers the words of the Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh, “Don’t say I depart, I am arriving …”
A few years ago I participated in a Sensory Awareness workshop with Lee Klinger Lesser at Tassajara. Tassajara is a sacred place of enchantment, and after I’d checked in, I was standing in front of the office smiling, feeling gentle with peace, joy, and gratitude. Lee walked up to me smiling, and asked, “Have you arrived?”
“Yes,” I said. “I have arrived”, but after being there working with stones, lying on rocks in the creek, walking back and forth, aware of cleanliness being more than body and teeth, but also mind, a cleansing and flossing of mind and space and intertwining, I knew that with time and this space, I’d embodied a new understanding of arriving.
This moment, right here, enough.
Perhaps arriving is knowing enough – fullness and emptiness and all that is between. My head comes forward and rises, occiput soft to receive.
And now I introduce Crissy. The woman who hosted book group last night has a daughter with special needs. Crissy is in her 30’s, and unabashedly creative in what she wears. Yesterday when I walked up the stairs to their home, she saw me, and gave me a great big hug. She doesn’t know my name, but that didn’t matter. I was clearly there for a hug.
When we gathered in a circle outside, she went around and everyone received a hug, and not a touch of a hug. This was a full body hug that went on and on and on. What a way to begin each moment, with a full body and spiritual hug. It’s not always possible perhaps, but then, intention can be set.
In 1966, Thich Nhat Hanh learned the power of hugs when a woman friend took him to the airport, and asked if it was okay to hug a monk. He thought since he was a Zen teacher, that yes, it must be okay, but then he realized that he was stiff and uncomfortable with the hug. In response, he created hugging meditation. He teaches:
According to the practice, you have to really hug the person you are holding. You have to make him or her very real in your arms, not just for the sake of appearances, patting him on the back to pretend you are there, but breathing consciously and hugging with all your body, spirit, and heart. Hugging meditation is a practice of mindfulness. “Breathing in, I know my dear one is in my arms, alive. Breathing out, she is so precious to me.” If you breathe deeply like that, holding the person you love, the energy of your care and appreciation will penetrate into that person and she will be nourished and bloom like a flower.
That might be enough but he continues on.
Hugging is a deep practice; you need to be totally present to do it correctly. When I drink a glass of water, I invest one hundred percent of myself in drinking it. You can train yourself to live every moment of your daily life like that.
Before hugging, stand facing each other as you follow your breathing and establish your true presence. Then open your arms and hug your loved one. During the first in-breath and out-breath, become aware that you and your beloved are both alive; with the second in-breath and out-breath, think of where you will both be three hundred years from now; and with the third in-breath and out-breath, be aware of how precious it is that you are both still alive.
When you hug this way, the other person becomes real and alive. You don’t need to wait until one of you is ready to depart for a trip; you may hug right now and receive the warmth and stability of your friend in the present moment.
You won’t physically hug in Pam and Fran’s offering, but if you want more information, contact me, and meanwhile enjoy the continually expanding and contracting, the breathing hug of air we all share.