Monday, August 15, 2011


On Saturday, JZ and I were waiting in the car while GP ran into a store to get some pasta. The parking lot was busy with people. For a little while we watched in silence until JZ asked:” What are you thinking?” I chuckled at first noticing how dark my thoughts had been. I pointed to a few individuals and explained how some of their behaviours translated cultural or religious programming. I showed JZ how most of us wear our insecurities, our fears and our lack of self-confidence on our sleeves. He seemed fascinated as well as impressed with how much I could read from a facial expression and a simple demeanour or posture. Ironically what disappointed me the most was how little affection people showed each other.

In the city you can literally get lost in a crowd. It’s rare to see perfect strangers acknowledging each other. If you’ve ever eavesdropped on other people’s conversations you can easily validate the fact that people constantly repeat the same complaints and tell each other the same stories. If we don’t talk about our aches and pains; our doctor visits and hospital horror stories; we consistently share details about feuds or conflicts in the work place or at home. We like to gossip and most of all we cultivate drama. It’s all about reactions. I often wonder if that’s the way humans are or if it’s just what we’ve become through modern culture?

When our fifteen year old beagle, Lucky died last year I quickly noticed how empty my life felt. I missed the way she greeted me every morning and the way she gave presence to every thing I did and said. She consistently interacted with everyone with so much personal attention. It was through this loss that I became aware of what I often took for granted. She showed me how incredibly crucial “affection” was to my life.

We often talk about Shamanism by focusing on the concepts of cosmology and nature. We frequently discuss the use of drums (sound), dreaming and trance work to manifest phenomenon, spirit communication and healing. But rarely do we mention the long term impact these experiences have on our daily living and on us, as people. Last Thursday, SO came by for the afternoon. She had just returned from her two weeks vacation and hoped to share some of her story. It was wonderful to be in her presence because everything she did and said was filled with so much affection. She was contagious with playfulness and we giggled most of the day.

In the last two decades I’ve had the pleasure of meeting quite a few Medicine People, Shamans and Sorcerers. With each one it was always easy to tease and to giggle. No matter the suffering in their lives they always found a way to laugh about it and to laugh about themselves. Humour seemed to be a common characteristic. JZ who just recently showed up at our home mentioned how intimidated he felt before even arriving. He expected us to be “more serious and more sacred” he said -- as if saying “f….” every now and again, and taking the opportunity to poke fun at everyone and everything implied that we weren’t respectful and serious about our path and purpose. He finally relaxed once he noticed we were people like everyone else.

“The thing is though we aren’t people like everyone else,” confessed KT, my daughter when she told JZ that she had no trouble asking point blank the men in her life about sexually transmitting disease or personal sexual expectations. KT had us rolling on the ground with laughter as she repeated some of her conversations.
“We’re more open, more blunt and more daring than most,” she said recalling some of her actions and those of others around her, “but most all we’re not ashamed of our experience and of exploring reality with others.”

Affection is not only about physical touch. It’s about how we consider the world around us. It’s about presence and it’s about caring. If we explore shamanic principles and how they cater to the idea of “caring for Creation” it’s not surprising that shamanic people are naturally more affectionate than Westerners. Lots of KT’s friends find it strange that in our home we openly hug each other and not only as a matter of greeting one another. We convey affection through glances, words, playfulness, gifts and touch. Each day is filled with a moment where we tell one another how important we are to each other.

I think it’s important to cultivate affection in our lives. It’s important to communicate how we feel about each other. If more people practiced the art of affection I believe we could actually change the world and stop talking about coming into an age of awareness and actually manifest it. In fact, affection can be healing and empowering. I remember when my children were in elementary school. They would often tell me how "incredible it felt to have a teacher call out their name in praise." CT once said: "I never knew my name could make me feel so wonderful." Children know the power of affection and I find it incredibly sad how we slowly take this knowledge away from them as they grow up.

Whether it's through a phone call, a smile, or a touch affection somehow solves all of our problems. It takes being open to it and being generous with it. Don't be shy to show affection to the people around you. This month, I invite everyone to explore affection if not for a moment each day.

Affectionately YOURS.


Rose said...

I grew up with a very huggy mum. Because of her, my Dad hugs more than he probably would have done without her and we kids grew up huggy too. I don't think my Fiances family are huggy but he has grown into the huggy lifestyle well.... I even get hugs and kisses from my teen stepson who does not live with us. I can't imagine life without that touch - to be completely separate from people, even the ones you care deeply about.

Would I like more of it? yes! but I am cagey about who I let into my personal space and who I let touch me..... I hug the men I work with on special occasions, but day to day? They are all happily married.... It is odd really, that I can go through my entire work day without touching another person.

Bootie said...

I am a very affectionate person, but many of my close freinds wouldn't describe me as such. I show affection thru play - teasing and joking, poking fun. On rare occasions I find people that I feel comfortable enough to cuddle and hold. Generally this says more about them, as people, than it does about myself.

I think one of the reasons I love living in the southern US is that people here are generally freindly, warm and affectionate. Its nothing to see people sitting on their porches simply to wave at people on their commutes to and from work. We hold doors for one another, look into eachothers eyes, and smile genuinely when we cross paths.

I remember my mother-in-law, who is from the northern US, describing her experience when she moved south. She looked at the freindly, waving southerners with scepticism and distrust. She found them too personal and invasive.

I always felt a twinge of sadness that she would view the south's peoples in such a light, when my view was so far from hers.

Emily said...

I like the idea of exploring affection during this Moon of Surrender.. surrendering whatever may hold us back from being affectionate with another.
I wouldnt be described as being a typically affectionate person. I can be physically affectionate just with the people I love and Im comfortable with. However I express affection with others in different ways. Sometimes I like to express affection with a stranger in the street, for me its like an acknowledgement, for me Im saying to this person - 'I see you', and the exchange or expression can be just a smile, a non-verbal acknowledgement that we both shared a nice moment, or witnessed the same occurence in the street, or same sight, whatever it is that we both encounter along the same journey for a while. I like these little connections.
I like to tease and joke as a form of affection also. We did this a lot in my last apartment that I shared with my friends. I can get very serious in my head and need reminding to lighten up. I have a very funny silly side and I like to express it, and use this part to express affection with others.
While I dont express physical affection hugely with everyone in my life, I do see how I express it in other ways.. Im going to explore this for a while.

Michelle said...

I noticed when I worked with kids they would come and hug me, When I was working in schools th ekids would run to me and hug me I always took time to hug them back and smile I could see so many kids lack hugs. It was neat when my son was in grade 2 his friends would hug me and he would look at me smiling he would laugh and nodd saying my mom is a good hugger lol even today he's 15 and still loves a good hug I think that affection can come in many forms I received alot of affection from some Elders this week they looked into me with affection I felt very taken care of. I want to work on giving affection with my eyes to people around me when I smile I notice its really hard for people to have a scowl on their face lol! At work when I have tapped a co worker on the back or praised them I notice they almost do not know what to do. I think our society as a whole is lacking affection I see it as being a deep need in alot of people.

Anonymous said...

I experienced this today. My daughter and I were out on a bike ride. As we rode along we came across a man. I found myself thinking somewhat mistrustful thoughts as we came closer. I got my daughter to fall in line behind me. As we passed the man looked up and said "Hi Girls!" with a big smile. I said hello cheerfully and biked on with a huge smile on my face. Then I recalled my previous thoughts and thought... how sad.

Wheelkeeper said...

I love this post Lisa... affection is so important. Thanks for the reminder!!! My cat reminds me of this several times a day... often I am "too busy" to stop and pet her. Yet, when I do, I feel so much better.