My name is Natalie and I like to give Free Hugs.

Hi, Natalie.

The first time I gave Free Hugs was with a group of people whom I met for the first time on a trip to Bali, Indonesia—a group of people who I now consider my spiritual family, and who are probably reading this right now. Hi, family!

We took to the streets of Ubud, almost twenty of us, wielding huge signs that screamed FREE HUGS in big, bold letters. If they had said anything else they might have looked abrasive or demanding— Workers’ strike!, Fair Wages!, Stop This War!—but no, the harsh letters were softened by the message. FREE HUGS. What nicer words could there be?

We waved the signs in the air, clapped our hands, screamed, hooted, hollered, hurrahed—in short, we caused quite the raucous. See, we divided up into two groups—one on one street corner, the other on the opposite. And I’d be damned if my group didn’t win.

Let the hugging begin!

As the tourists and locals alike got into it (i.e. were no longer scared or “too cool,” and actually gave us hugs) I noticed a very subtle change happening in the group. It was no longer about how many hugs we could give; it was no longer about feeling good about stretching ourselves, or even feeling good about spreading positive energy. It was no longer about us at all.

As we hollered, hurrahed, hugged, and laughed (and laughed, and laughed, and laughed…) something shifted. There was no longer an us and them—we weren’t a group giving hugs to passersby. I wasn’t a person giving hugs to strangers. We were all just people. Tourists, locals, men, women, homeless, rich, young, old: it all faded away in those moments.

It was the most connected I’ve ever felt to humanity—and with that, with Life and God itself.

Whoa there, Natalie. I thought this post was just going to be about having some fun giving free hugs. Why’d you drop the G Bomb on us?

Well, dear reader, while this post is about having fun and giving hugs, it’s also about spirituality, remember? And what I’m telling you here is that giving free hugs—having fun, laughing, and letting down your guard—this is the spiritual experience. You want to experience God? Look into somebody’s eyes as you hug them and recognize the life within them that is the life within you. I don’t care if it is your mother, your lover, a stranger, or your dog. It’s the same.

So laugh as much as you can, surround yourself with people, smile, connect, and seriously, if you haven’t done it already, go out there with a sign and a friend and give some free hugs. Deepak Chopra pretty well sums it up in his book Why is God Laughing?

Commit yourself to the possibility that everything you see around you is far less real than God. You want to see the truth "with all your heart, with all you soul, and with all your mind," as Jesus says. This is actually a commitment to joy.

So yes, my name is Natalie and I like to give Free Hugs. Join me sometime, won’t you?

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