The decision people make, to enter into a hug with a stranger, is a decision to allow themselves to be held. Participation is made easier by the fact they will probably never see us again.
How do we hug? How often do we hug? We've nearly all been 'duty huggers' right?
Hands up if you haven't - but I bet there aren't too many hands up.
The top tip? Take a sign, or wear a Hugs for Peace or Free Hugs tee-shirt. It's just easier. Unless there is a really large crowd, 2 or 3 huggers are all you need.
1. Relax, breathe and don't do it if you're feeling grumpy because your hugs will suck.
2. You MUST let people have time to see you, weigh up the risk and decide that it works for them. You are helping them to walk through a comfort zone gap.
3. Honour comfort zones (don't walk along heckling them, that's not a Free Hug ) let them bring the zone to you.
You can quite often ‘sell' a hug to someone that is a little unsure with a great big smile, open arms and a "hey - it’s just non-alcoholic, calorie free goodness.” You can give a gentle second chance and say "are you sure?" to them if they smile and laugh when they say no.
4. A firm 'No', means no. Hugging anyone that doesn’t want a hug is counter productive and flips all your good energy over.
5. Hug the people who say YES. If they don't want a hug - they are not rejecting you - they are coming up against a wall of their own stuff. Your open heart may be the most threatening thing they have seen for days. But you might inspire them. And quite often people change their minds.
6. Some people will think you are nuts and go away growling. Let that roll off super fast - they are not your audience.
7. Some people will be a bit scared to hug you, but they will laugh and POW! the good vibes will have got them - just like that!
8. Be prepared for surprise huggers. Now and then people will jump into a hug. Some people will get out of their cars and run across the road to get to you for a hug. - Please DON'T go Hugging if you have a sore back.
9. A really healing hug lasts for moments longer than a 'see you later' hug - walls come down and people realise that there really are other people out there who care. It can be a deeply profound experience - wrapped in one magical moment of connection.
10. No Free Hug hug includes touching below the belly or on the butt! The only way is up Baby. Creepy - is creepy.
Smile from the tips of your toes to the top of your field. Arms out, fill your heart with love and greet that person with a full illumination of your energy field, seeing the light in them, regardless of whether they might believe it's present or not. You see them - as the beautiful soul they are.
That illumination brings deep clearing on so many levels. Let them go and bless them. Have fun.
You'll meet all sorts. I've hugged thousands of people and I can tell you, there are plenty of different huggers out there.
The rigid 'three pats on the back' hugger will probably pass you by - but the open arms 'come to Mama' hugger will say yes.
The 'surreptitious pelvis presser' hugger may have a go - yes it's yucky - no it doesn't happen often.
There is the 'I'll hug if you hug, but don't get carried away' hugger, those ones are generally doing it for points because their friends did.
The 'duty' hugger makes me a bit squeamish - Mothers often direct their kids to hug when the kids are not comfortable, we ALWAYS say to people who do this "no way - we respect boundaries and honour feelings - if you don't want to hug, don't hug."
The icing on your cake is the 'I love the world and everyone in it' hugger. (These ones are AWESOME.)
Your marriage proposals will come from the 'I haven't hugged a woman for years, would you come home and cook my dinner?' hugger. (These may also come with a quick pat near/on the bottom, but as they are mostly elderly men - I have not yet bopped one on the nose.)
Travellers are amazing, and so open to hugs, and there are a huge amount of people who just need a hug because nobody gives to them without expecting something. Ever. (These ones are often Mums.)
A Free Hug is just that - Free. If someone opens their arms to you and allows you to hug them, treat them as if they are offering you a most precious gift, because they are. An open heart is pure treasure.
It's not a PR exercise. You are giving - if you're really doing this properly, the Spirit of Free Hugs will stop you from speaking about your work unless you are directly asked by another person. Then it’s fine to talk about it and if they are genuinely resonant with it, let it grow organically into connection. Though I've hugged thousands of people, I've probably handed out only 6 or so business cards. This is not because I'm 'doing it wrong.'
Massive bonus: Many people will answer your free hug with a real hug of their own and give equally.
Most humbling and also very thought provoking: Some people will tell you they have not been hugged for years.
In this digital age we are embracing cyber space and losing touch with each other. We are more connected, and somehow, some of us are more alone then we have ever been. We just need to open our arms more.
In time I have hugged thousands of people. When I first started, I had to get a permit from the local council to do it.
I find it funny that I am, technically speaking - a licensed Free Hugger.
There have been so many highlights, but possibly the most poignant, were the elderly lady who initially said no, then said yes and had a really big hug, then told me she had not been hugged for ten years since her husband died… you read right - that's 10 years. How does that happen?
And the 12 or 13 year old boy who could not believe anyone would want to hug him (his Mum didn't want to - she didn't want him), he had a couple of hugs, then swapped shirts with his friends in an effort to go 'undercover' so he could come back and get more. We told him he could have as many as he liked.
Hugs can help throw people a lifeline when they've been hanging by a thread.
I hope you are inspired to share more, even if they are just at home.
And it's Mothers Day this weekend here in New Zealand - so you know where to start, don't you?