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” 🙂
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.