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If you're a hugger, the last few months have been tough. More than once we have found ourselves arms outstretched, frozen for a moment mid-step, and then retreating as we shake our head. One more bit of solace and assurance that the pandemic has removed from our repertoire of connection. We've got our pods, of course, and hugs are happening (I hope) in those close relationships with family friends and partners who we've carefully allowed in with our mutual said or unsaid agreements of safety requirements.  If you are familiar with my beliefs and teachings you are aware that I'm all about connection - physical, emotional and spiritual. Connection is one of the three known innate needs of mammals, which includes us of course. The others being safety and satisfaction. Without connection there is a longing, an ache. And if we're not aware, it's easy to miss what we're missing, but it's there - remember, innate need. Scientists and psychologists call this lack of physical contact hug deprivation,  touch starvation, skin hunger, or affection deprivation. It never ceases to amaze me how cold and clinical scholars can explain and define. My preference is something more like "deeply missed touch." I'm not talking about that brief shoulder to shoulder brush, eyes off to the side, and maybe even that pat on the back thing that guys do. I'm talking about that solid waist up connection with arms surrounding each other in a firm embrace, resting heads on shoulders and breathing deeply together for a few breaths. Now, that's a hug. That's a connection. Energy fields united; we can just clear our mind for a few seconds and allow ourselves to feel the emotions of the other, and share our emotions in return. If you've ever felt this bond you know exactly what I mean. If not, it's time for you to give it a go. Consider allowing yourself this gift and allowing others in your pod your gift to them. It's a great time to practice, and use this difficult time of being sequestered to hone this beautiful part of being together and knowing another - preparing yourself for life getting back to whatever normal will be - and connecting through hugs. Look out world!

And while we're at it, let's take this a step further. Imagine a group of people - all the people in your pod - uniting in a hug like this together - just spending a few moments in physical and emotional connection breathing together. If you've experienced this, you know how powerful it can be.  If not, once again, give it a go. You can set aside your inhibitions in your pod - I know you can. If you have teenagers they will probably think you're weird, but they already think that anyway, so just do it. And then, talk about it together - what it felt like.

You know, there is a way we can experience the benefits of a group hug outside our pods these days, but it requires a bit of imagination and maybe a stretch of our comfort zone. You'll be by yourself, though. What? A group hug by myself?

Let's just sit quietly somewhere for a few minutes - maybe right now, as you're reading this. Take a few breaths and relax. Turn your attention to your body as you relax, and notice what you feel. Settle in to you. The rest of the world gets to wait on hold for just a short time, you deserve this. After a few breaths, finding yourself in a calm place, visualize a large group of people in front of you and yes, they are all standing with their arms around each other. It's a mass of persons, fading off into the distance on all sides. Walk up and join, two members separate as you move into the opening as they open their arms to you. You feel the common breath and the energy of the group, and you join - sharing your breath and energy, holding on with a deep embrace, giving and receiving the emotion and elevating the group energy. Who are these people? Let it be every human on the planet - it's a large group - regardless of religious beliefs, or color of skin, or ethnicities, or gender, or political affiliation.  Include our brothers and sisters fighting disease, and on death row, and the mentally ill and addicted, and the front line workers, and the disabled, and the criminals, and the terrorists - everyone. Nothing matters for these few minutes except the embrace and the rise and fall of the common breath - knowing and feeling that we are all one in spirit. Let it be, shed a tear. This is connection, and its sorely needed.

As you take a last breath and move away, know that the group is always there waiting for you to join - again and again. Come to think of it, I remember one of the subscription options for joining this group to be "Permanent". This option doesn't cost any more, since there is no cost to begin with... I take that back. Permanent membership in this group does cost something - and that is giving up prejudices and judgments. Can you afford that? It's a very small price to pay for the benefits to you and all of humanity.

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