Affection – are we missing it?

A year back a kitten walked into my life. Rather she was almost dumped at my doorstep. I never knew myself to be a cat-lover. In fact my brother always remembered me saying that I hate cats all through my childhood. So it was shocking for him to see me crying one day, holding that abandoned kitten, outside our door because our parents refused to let the cat come in.

What had happened was the moment I noticed the kitten, a strong voice in me asked me to take her home with me. I obeyed this intuition. As I held her I noticed that she was extremely weak from the lack of food. I felt a wave of emotion wash over me that I couldn’t identify. It was a bit of tenderness, a bit of vulnerability, and yet something altogether different. She refused to accept the warm milk I tried to feed her with my fingers at first, and I was puzzled. Not knowing what else to do, I took her in my lap and gently rubbed her neck (having learnt this from my cat-lover friends). Instantly she purred, her eyes closed in bliss and she surrendered to my touch. After that she allowed me to feed her. It was a shock for me that inspite of “instincts”, even animals need love more than food. A cascade of humility came tumbling down in me and I started experiencing something which I couldn’t understand.

A few months later, I was at a gathering, a Sangha. There one of the older members uttered a line, “hold your thoughts with affection”. I felt hit like a bomb. “Affection? What is that?”, was the first thought in my mind. My mind immediately connected to that feeling as I nurtured the kitten with my touch. As I dived deeper, into my relationships, especially with men, I realised how, in this “young” world, jumps are made from a kiss to sex. We see it in our movies too. Suddenly though, I found myself doing time travel, as is evident from my earlier articles, for a time when love was “slow”. Slowly the pieces started falling into place.

As I looked into my relationships with men especially deeper, the first man I saw was of course my father. I remembered as a child holding his hand, trusting him completely, sitting on his shoulders, playing catch-catch and hide and seek with him, sitting in his lap and hugging him. A crashing realisation set in – I missed these things with the men in my life. Tracing it back to my childhood, I realised that I longed for a time when it was so easy to express love to the then man in my life. “Growing up” meant being dragged out of that “easiness”, effortlessness of expressing love. It is well known that a girl tries to find her father in the man of her life. Incredible it was to me at that point seeing this truth mirrored, that I was looking for that not just in a man, but also in my relationships, where holding hands did not turn into kissing, a hug did not mean sex, and intimacy simply meant a look that said, “I am here for you”.

I wondered to myself, how, inspite of having received so much affection did this need still remain? I regressed to that point in my childhood where it all stopped without warning – suddenly after hitting puberty, all forms of physical touch with my father was shunned. Unspeakingly, it was all interpreted sexual and dirty.

As I relived this point in time through Inner Child work where confusion had entered, I was stunned. However, what transpired as a result of this awareness was that finally I could hug my male friends, without them interpreting it as a sexual touch. It was suddenly clear in my mind. I started unhooking pleasure – pleasure is not a sexual experience, but a deeply spiritual experience. At the end of my Vipassana course I realised that pleasure too is just a sensation. A huge weight called “guilt” finally slid off. I was able to receive pleasure in mundane things – like holding someone’s hand, smelling a flower, watching horses graze quietly. “Ah…pleasure!”, my heart cried. Floodgates of affection had opened and the world was mirroring.

At this point I am still wondering if I can have an affectionate relationship with my thoughts.

But more so than that, there is a deeper question that bothers me – Why are we building our families like this? Why aren’t we, as sons and daughters kept open to affection without crossing lines between our mothers and fathers forever?

Through all the hype regarding homosexuality, seeing two men holding each other’s hands as they walk along the road attracts sniggers, inspite of it having been a common practice since ancient times to express physical affection. Why are we building an anti-affection society? This is painful to see.

Isn’t it our nature-given right as human beings to be able to hug someone guiltlessly? Or maybe we need to go back to our animal-brethren to re-learn what affection is.

It is my sincere intention that through this article, those who are parents, or would be, reflect on how deeply important affection is to your child. Also to those who feel awkward hugging, who feel strange holding hands as you cross the road, I urge you to look deeper and awaken to the fact that it is natural to feel affection. It is, after all, the salt of our relationships…

Inspired thanks to a client who expressed awkwardness in hugging. May you find your in-born affection. And also thanks to Anuja, of “Inner Light” πŸ™‚

PS: Since I only wanted to focus on affection, I have not explored hacking of the belief that “sex is dirty” and hence the guilt associated with sex. That is a very deep seated debilitating thought that needs thousands of articles in its very exploration perhaps.

Image
Courtesy Rumi’s page on Facebook

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31 Comments

  1. Zahabbiya Walbeek
    September 16, 2012
    Reply

    What you have said is true.. After my marriage i have realized when i go and hug my hubby in public or i feel shy n I try hiding in him, my touch is all related to affection, support n trust.. Its not intended to sex or just because we r married.
    Sex and affectionate touch r 2 completely different things that have been confused for the current generation and few past n future(maybe) by the Confused Society or lets say a Society thats scared of everything resulting in sex.
    I remember my mom’s father wouldnt let us hug or touch any male in the family saying it would ignite sexual feeling in the male. n thats so not true..
    Stopping my comment here :).. else i feel i can write alot.
    Thanks for the article.. Wish the message goes out to all as you and I intend.

    • September 16, 2012
      Reply

      Thank you Zaha! I hope this awareness makes us more affectionate parents πŸ™‚
      Love

  2. September 16, 2012
    Reply

    Beautifully written Deepti! I think an affectionate touch is perhaps the best gift a friend can gue another. I wish you many more hugs and love in your life.

    • September 17, 2012
      Reply

      Dear Deepti,
      Yes indeed…it is the sunshine of life! πŸ™‚
      Love and a warm hug to you.

  3. September 16, 2012
    Reply

    Beautiful article Deepti. You have raised an important subject and as before, I salute your candidness and vulnerability.

    love and light

    • September 17, 2012
      Reply

      Thank you very much Sangeeta. A deep pleasure it is to receive your acknowledgment! πŸ™‚
      Love

  4. ambika
    September 17, 2012
    Reply

    Thank you deepti….i find it so easy and natural to hug some one….is some thing i’ve been longing all my growing up years but never received it. It was an era that believed that affection ought not to be expressed. What i longed for all my life, i now give in generous dose thereby receiving it in return. With your article my flood gates of that longing were thrown open.

    • September 18, 2012
      Reply

      Dear Amma,
      Big hug to you firstly! And now you get my “big hugs” everytime I meet you πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚
      I wish you receive plenty more…
      Love

  5. January 15, 2013
    Reply

    I wrote about this very topic awhile back here http://cgrace4wellbeing.blogspot.co.nz/2012/10/tender-touch.html.
    You are so right touch and affection are what we need more of in our society and yet it is frowned upon. In fact many schools ban PDA or public displays of affection because they think of it as sexual.
    I am a very touchy person and often walk arm in arm with my girlfriends for no other reason thatn it feels nice and I love them. I have raised my sons to be the same way.

    • January 15, 2013
      Reply

      Dear Caitlin,
      As you mention too on your blog, we need to be touched. We crave for it. Something so simple is what we are deprived of, sexuality is far away. I am glad your sons have grown up with so much affection. Love and light. Thank you

  6. January 15, 2013
    Reply

    Really great article. Thank you for being so vunerable–regarding your own inner work.

    • January 15, 2013
      Reply

      Dear Jessica,
      I am so glad you resonated. Grateful. Love and light πŸ™‚

  7. January 15, 2013
    Reply

    Brilliantly written!!
    Affection and the power of a hug is beautifully reflected in this article.
    The power of a hug was beautifully reflected in the movie – Rockstar. I personally believe in the power of a hug and have seen miracles happening in people’s lives just because of a hug. Its high time we remove the barrier of sex / gender in India and start seeing the world with new eyes. Thanks Deepti for expressing your thoughts.

    • January 15, 2013
      Reply

      Thank you totalhealthevolution.
      Yes I was moved when one of my teachers, Nithya Shanti, showed us a video on the Free Hugs Campaign in his workshop. πŸ™‚ Since then I realised how beautiful it is to hug. You can check it out on Youtube.
      Love and light

  8. Dhivya Nagendran
    January 15, 2013
    Reply

    Nicely expressed thought, Deepti. I hug my two and a half year old son the same way as I did when he was born. We have have our bath together even today which my friends ask me to stop doing as he is growing up. Hearing that I always used to feel sad and wonder if I can be the same way with him when he grows up, but then I would settle down with the thought that as long as we both are comfortable nothing should be bothering us.

    Now i understand that it is we parents who create these confused thoughts in our child about touch, nudity and sex. But we say we are aware and the child is not aware.
    Wish to remain as a CHILD always.

    • January 15, 2013
      Reply

      Dear Dhivya,
      The connection between a mother and child especially until age 7 is so strong, that it is absolutely safe to go with your feelings on anything. My brother carries my mom’s old sari with him when he travels sometimes even though he is in his twenties so that he can smell her fragrance and feel close to her. Why would one want to deny something so natural and sweet? Does that make any sense at all? πŸ™‚ As Rumi says, “Submit to love without thinking”. Love and light. So grateful you shared this…

  9. akismet-2721e389e7ecd5a53a4809a8ffa3cdb1
    January 16, 2013
    Reply

    Beautifully written sentiment. I was just having the same conversation with my husband this evening about our pets. A year ago, we invited a cat into our lives with our 13 year old dog who at the time seemed to be beginning to fail in her age. It occurred to me today that perhaps the cat’s arrival coincided with our dog’s improved health. The two of them are quite fond of each other and I’m sure keep each other company during the day when we’re at work. I certainly can agree also with the acceptability of affection with children and with our parents. It’s an incredibly important topic. Thank you for sharing!

    • January 16, 2013
      Reply

      Dear wonderofallthings,
      Thank you for noticing this change in your dog. Affection is something I learnt from an animal and I think we are reverse-evolving at this point. πŸ™‚ Animals are profound teachers…
      Love and light

  10. May 11, 2013
    Reply

    Wow! Just what I needed to hear and read. Thanks Deepti.. you write from a place that is familiar to me and yet ever-fresh, known, yet unknown, vulnerable, yet strong. Above all very very real.
    Thanks for the many gifts you bring. The many songs you sing.

  11. […] connection with my father. Through a year of exploring vulnerability, becoming comfortable with my heart center, a Sunday session with GD that led to the uncovering of unspoken issues between us, I started […]

  12. September 12, 2013
    Reply

    Hey Deepti. Truly see the power of what you are saying. I see families where hugging is a way of life and i know those where even the husband and wife need to close the door just to say each other a goodbye for the day. I sincerely feel that if we can bring this power of touch and affection into our everyday life, it will have a huge impact on this planet. Keep showering these gems :-). Thank you

    • September 16, 2013
      Reply

      Thank you Vinit for reading through the whole article even if it didn’t how up in your Blackberry! πŸ™‚ Truly appreciate that.
      Yes it is so easy to spot the repercussions of this suppression isn’t it? Then the kids grow up thinking affection, touch, etc are all dirty and sexual and get carried away. πŸ™
      Much love

  13. anuradha ramesh
    September 13, 2013
    Reply

    Lovely! Very well written Deepti. A pertinent topic in today’s times that could be otherwise easily lost in the shadow of ‘unconditional love!’

    • September 16, 2013
      Reply

      Thanks dear Anuradha… glad you resonated. πŸ™‚ Love and Light

  14. Gagan
    September 21, 2013
    Reply

    Thanks Deepti,
    It was a lovely read. Like many Punjabi families our extended family hugs at the slightest pretext and I find it extremely endearing. At family dos at any point of time there is someone hugging someone…hellos, goodbyes…missed yous….et al. But I see at times the other invitees wondering what the hell were we upto. To each his own.
    While I was away at an hostel I missed the hugs as much, maybe even more than, the words.
    I try and consciously do a lot of hugging with my kids esp now that they are becoming old enough to fly away…every hug is precious!
    Thanks for reminding me once again the joy of affection.
    Love
    gagan

    • September 26, 2013
      Reply

      Ah! So cool to have a family like that Gagan! πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing… keep the hugs rolling…
      Love

  15. September 15, 2014
    Reply

    Very well written Deepti..:-) I love the honesty and candidness in your posts…:-)

    • September 15, 2014
      Reply

      Thank you for reading and letting me know dear Priya! πŸ™‚ love.

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