Who Wants A Hug? Make Mine a Belly Hug!
Have you paid attention to the different ways you hug people, and your feelings as you do so? I’ve been thinking about this a lot ever since I read the book “Beyond Reason” by Gregg Korbon. In his book, he describes the way people reacted to him at the time of, and immediately after, the death of his young son, Brian. He takes note of the feelings generated within him by the handshake, the hand on the shoulder, and the variety of hugs he receives from friends, family and co-workers, but most particularly what happens when you receive a belly hug.
A belly hug is where you embrace another with both arms, and create contact with your bellies and your heart, holding on tight and with great feeling. It is a way of saying you care, and its effects are immediately felt by both people. Touch is one of the most important ingredients of attachment because it creates bonds between two people that develop into strong relationships. Belly hugs loosen you up, and break down the walls you have created throughout your life. Handshakes and the greeting of Namasté are designed to keep us apart rather than bring us together. In my mind, a belly hug is a tool of transformation. It is a transfer of personal energy, and the effect is so distinct that people feel the difference.
Hugs are part of our amalgamated American cultural upbringing. Some cultures don’t hug at all. Even within cultures, we greet each other differently depending upon familiarity, social status, ranking or respect level of the people who are acknowledging each other. As business people, it is important for us to know and understand the appropriate methods of greeting people from other cultures. It is also important to discover the significance of differences in those methods of greeting so we might approach the “belly hug” of the culture in order to deepen our relationships and become more connected in authentic ways.
In the United States, a firm handshake is a common greeting between males, sometimes accompanied by a smile. Often, when warm feelings are meant to be shared, there will be a touch on the shoulder at the same time, or you will see a “pound hug” where men shake hands with the right hands, and hug the left shoulder at the same time, bumping their bodies together in an A-frame. Women shake hands with men (less commonly than male to male), and tend to shake hands with another woman only if it is their first time meeting, or if it is a business situation. Female friends often greet with a hug (the depth of the hug often determines the depth of the relationship).
So, what does this have to do with belly hugs?
The miraculous way in which hugging works is described in a touching story titled ‘The Hugging Judge’ in Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. It is about Lee Shapiro, a retired judge, who realized that love is the greatest power there is and began offering everybody a hug.
Judge Shapiro created the Hugger Kit containing 30 little red embroidered hearts. Shapiro would take out his kit, go around to people and offer them a little red heart in exchange for a hug. Soon, he became a minor celebrity by spreading his message of unconditional love.
One such outing to a home for the terminally ill, severely retarded and quadriplegic unsettled Shapiro. Accompanied by a team of doctors and nurses, he went about his routine of hugging and handing out little red hearts till they reached a ward with the worst cases. The last person on the ward, a man named Leonard, was drooling on his big white bib. Shapiro didn’t think he was going to be able to get across to Leonard.
But finally he leaned down and gave Leonard a hug. This is what followed, in the authors’ words:
All of a sudden Leonard began to squeal: “Eeeeehh! Eeeeehh!”
Some of the other patients in the room began to clang things together. Shapiro turned to the staff for some sort of explanation, only to find that every doctor, nurse and orderly was crying.
Shapiro asked the head nurse: “What’s going on?”
Shapiro will never forget what she said: “This is the first time in 23 years we’ve ever seen Leonard smile.
It only takes a belly hug, a heartfelt and warm embrace, to change the lives of others. Try it, it works.
I started an experiment with a variety of people in my life since reading about belly hugs. I would like to share some of what I’m discovering. I’m hoping it will intrigue you enough to experiment and observe along with me.
- In a recent church board planning meeting, I made the observation that a group of people in a loving church were not being accountable to themselves and each other for holding each other in loving regard. Our hugs were A-frame hugs, if we hugged at all. Often our greetings were simply an exuberant ‘hi’, sometimes followed by a handshake, or a prayerful stance while communicating ‘Namaste’. I challenged everyone to exchanging a “belly hug” each time we greeted each other to determine if we would feel more loving and connected. Since that board meeting, within the church we are exchanging belly hugs individually, and as groups of three (and sometimes more). When we see each other outside of the church, we are moving away from the more traditional hug or handshake to a full belly hug at the beginning AND end of our encounter. Results: Other members of the church are starting to hug more fully. People around us outside of the church smile when they watch us hug.
- My husband is preparing to retire this year, with some trepidation. He is not sure how he wants to spend his time, other than knowing that he doesn’t want to sit in front of the television. He gets anxious when we talk about it. My response is a full belly hug, which seems to immediately calm him down. Results: He begins to plan his activities with more focus, without the fear of the unknown. He knows it will be all right, no matter what he chooses to do.
- I am working with a team of people to identify and define an organization’s core values. In order to get people to open up and authentically share their thoughts and ideas, I have been greeting them with belly hugs as they come in to the meeting. They are more relaxed, and eager to share throughout the meeting, knowing that they are loved unconditionally. Results: They have begun greeting each other in the same manner. They are losing their fear of greeting others within the organization in a like manner.
- I have been greeting clients, who have given me permission, with belly hugs. Again, they are more relaxed and focused on their vision, goals and action steps throughout our coaching sessions, and they are more appreciative of the positive forward momentum they are making between sessions.
- My children, who are recipients of belly hugs each time I see them, have told me “I feel so much closer to you, and energized by your presence every time we see each other. You ground me.”
Who are you willing to give a belly hug today?
I affirm the connectedness between us, and create the healing touch in ways that are meaningful to those around me.
Georgia Feiste, President of Collaborative Transitions Coaching, Inc., located in Lincoln, NE, is a personal growth and leadership coach, writer, and workshop facilitator. She is also a Usui Reiki Master and EFT practitioner. Her passion is success grounded in purpose and passion, standards of integrity and priorities in life. You can also find Georgia on her website, Collaborative Transitions, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Georgia may also be reached at (402) 304-1902 if you wish to schedule a 30 minute complementary consultation.