Our arms are wonderful limbs for making connections in our lives. Each day, we use them in our interactions with others: receiving a package from a delivery person, paying a cashier for a purchase. Arms are also important for intimate relationships. Consider all the times you have linked arms with a friend, regardless of gender. No problem. Touching other body parts is much more tricky.

Although my arms have always been skinny, I never was tempted to increase my arm strength with weights or doing lots of push-ups. I do include in my stretching routine doing arm circles; they seem to loosen things up in my shoulders and back.

I cherish that my arms have never given me any trouble and have always been cooperative in my spiritual practices of kindness such as holding a door open for strangers, helping someone who needs support walking, or reaching into my pocket to give money to a homeless person.

Reaching around someone with your arms and giving them a big hug is both spiritual and therapeutic. Amma, an Indian spiritual teacher, has brought her message of divine compassion to over 30 million people through giving hugs. Many people report that her tender embrace brings them a sense of peace and security.

Research on hugging has revealed that it reduces stress and high blood pressure, raises levels of oxytocin which alliviates feelings of isolation and anger, strengthens the immune system, and increases happiness.

Family therapist Virginia Satir once said: "We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth." If that number seems too high, I would suggest the substitution of a handful of cuddles every day. Here the arms again do their connection thing bringing two bodies close together in a tender reciprocity that warms the heart and works wonders.

* Read Thich Nhat Hanh's Hugging Meditation

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