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Hug #9

August 31, 2010

Friday, August 27 12:10-1:10 pm
Chase Plaza (Madison and Dearborn)

“What you are doing is offensive.”

Hug #9

Hug #9

Today’s hug makes me feel like I have been pushed off my swing at the playground. I stand up, brush myself off and get back on–only to be pushed off again. I am not injured but my ego is bruised. I feel vulnerable and a bit pathetic.

This is the first week we have run into any trouble during a hug–the first week we have had to break our embrace.

A security guard from the Chase back first tells us we have to move our sign. She comes back 15 minutes later to tell us we have to move off the plaza completely. What we are doing is “offensive.”

For a moment I forget why we are doing what we are doing. It feels kind of dumb. The hug is quickly invalidated.

I have the impulse to implore her on the use of the word “offensive.” Offensive because she thinks we are making a statement about gay rights with which she doesn’t agree? Offensive because we are making her uncomfortable? Offensive because she can’t make sense of what we are doing?

Instead of starting an argument (as I have been known to do), I just bite my tongue. I try to breathe. I focus.

“It’s better here, anyway,” I tell Sara once we have found a new location. I can see people better as they walk by us on the sidewalk. I smile at people and they smile at me. “I’m getting  good energy from people,” I tell her. She says that in the direction she is facing people seem skeptical and unsure. I wonder if she is skeptical and unsure. I wonder if the interruption has something to do with our uncertainty.

It’s important that what we are doing makes sense to us so we don’t let one negative interaction push us off our (shared) swing.

Again I meditate on the reason we are doing what we are doing.

Several weeks ago when I was carrying our sign home after a hug, I had a conversation with a man while we were both waiting for the bus. He asked me about the sign and I described the hug project. He said, “Well, that’s something you will remember for the rest of your life.” I asked if he meant its something passersby will remember. “No, something you will remember,” he replied.  I think of his voice whenever i am meditating on the purpose of the hug.

I keep coming back to yoga. Today I tried to describe to my students (ages 4-6) what practicing yoga has to do with making art. I kind of rambled on as I tend to do, but eventually I said that yoga is a life practice, not just something you do for fifteen minutes a day. “It’s like being a vegetarian,” I said. “It’s a way of life. It’s a practice that helps us become more aware of ourselves and all the stuff around us.” I asked them what awareness means. “[Awareness is] being happy with what you are doing when you are doing it,” said Katie, age 6.

She should be teaching my class.

I keep thinking that the hug as yoga. Yoga as a hug.

Several weeks ago I took an intensive week-long workshop with yoga-guru Gary Kraftsow. He spent a great deal of time on yoga philosophy–purpose and application. I am certainly no expert on yoga nor do I pretend to have comprehended all the information Gary threw our way. But I did take a lot of notes. The title of the intensive was “Journey to Oneself,” and this was the theme he returned to each day. He described yoga as a way to journey inwards. Every day he drew this diagram onto the board to illustrate the journey from outside in. He says once you work through all the layers–cosmos, environment, society, family, anatomy, physiology, behavior, feelings, thoughts, and finally the true self–you can liberate yourself from all these things. By doing so you find what’s alive and authentic for you. You uncover your own path.

This is all to say that yoga is about going inwards. And it’s my belief (I wonder if G.K. would agree) that when you go inwards, brilliance emanates outwards–from the true self all the way to the cosmos. Who was it that said that if everyone practiced yoga the world would be full of peace?

Alright. Now I’m getting all mushy-gushy.

But I return to the hug as yoga. It’s a space to cultivate qualities that we want to extend to our everyday lives–compassion and lovingkindness for ourselves and others. Coincidentally, these are the things we are openly promoting during the act.

I know that if we stay grounded in what we are doing, if we continue to practice what we are preaching (I hate that word!), we will not easily be thrown off balance.

All the same, I am closing my accounts at Chase and joining a credit union.

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