Hugging

 

Coming out of a culture where hugging wasn’t commonplace, I had to learn to be comfortable with people frequently hugging and kissing when I moved to Belgium. But it didn’t take long before I enjoyed and loved this gracious and meaningful gesture, and I rapidly integrated it into my life. The amusing part was that when I visited my friends in Germany, they had a startled look on their faces when I hugged them and gave them three kisses. I hoped it brought them as much joy as it did for me.

Hugging has many positive aspects and is considered good medicine. Scientific research has shown that we need four hugs a day for survival, eight for maintenance, and twelve for growth. Hugs also allow us to communicate with others when we don’t know how to express our feelings in words. And the best part is that we usually cannot give a hug without receiving one in return.

What do I feel when someone hugs me? I feel accepted and loved, a warm feeling of gratitude flows through me, and I put my whole being into my response hug. When I have the privilege to hug someone, I am grateful and wish the person much joy and happiness. And sometimes, yes, I can communicate my feelings better with a hug than with words. Our little Romeo, our loving and sweet Yorkie, is smothered in hugs and thriving. Yes, hugs are therapeutic; so dispense them freely!

Why does being hugged and giving a hug feel so good, and why do hugs make us feel happier? Hugs can instantly boost oxytocin levels, a hormone released by the pituitary gland, which heals feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anger. Oxytocin is a chemical in our bodies that scientists sometimes call the “cuddle hormone.” It causes a reduction in blood pressure and of the stress hormone norepinephrine. In simple words: Hugging makes us feel better.

I know that the scarceness of hugging in my childhood was not because I wasn’t loved. I was. After meditating on this subject, I came to the conclusion that it was part of the culture and influenced by the consequences of two world wars. My mother was loving, but she had a difficult time expressing it. She lost her mother when she was 10, lived through WWI as a child, then WWII as a young wife, giving birth to a baby daughter and a son, but losing the son because of a lack of medication caused by the war. Then I came along, but shortly afterward, she lost her husband, my father. So, she struggled as a single working mother with two young children, and although she was loving and nurturing, hugging was not a priority – surviving was.

I am grateful that I was exposed in my early adult years to lots of hugging and kissing. I quickly learned to love it and have carried it through my whole adult life. One can never get too many hugs. If you haven’t hugged someone lately, try it and pay attention to how it makes you feel. Not only will it bring happiness to you, but it will also bring joy to the one you hugged.

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Founder and Author of NotJustCooking.com

Life Cycle

Becoming a senior or struggling with health doesn’t only mean that we have less energy, but because of it, our priorities and how we look at things change as well. We might think that our lives are less fulfilling, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We have more free time and can focus on relationships and relaxing activities. A phone call, email or text from a dear friend or loved one brightens the day, a simple dinner with some candlelight lifts our hearts, and a good book is always a faithful companion. Playing with grandchildren and our pets bring pure joy and spending time with loved ones, and dear friends are rewarding. Enjoying this new segment of our life is a gift. Gone are the big parties, exotic trips, and special dinners, and they didn’t leave regrets or nostalgic feelings, but fond memories.  I enjoyed them as long as I could, and then, one day, when entering the sunset of my life, I had to step back and regroup if I wanted to enjoy this last part of my life journey.

The cycle or circle of life starts with our birth, and it comes to a close with our sunset years. The last segment of this journey might come sooner than anticipated, like in my case. No matter when or how, it always requires change, adaptation, and our willingness to live a meaningful life in the remaining time. Having the opportunity to close the circle gently is a blessing. We can focus on the opportunities in front of us, enjoy them to the fullest, and bless every day. My morning walks with a dear friend bring me lots of happiness, and I am so grateful that I can still enjoy friendship and exercise. I also had to accept that hosting big dinner parties had to become a memory because of my lack of energy.  I always loved to cook and still do, but now I prepare simple meals focused on great nutrition. My love for cooking hasn’t changed; just my approach to it. I apply this to all activities I have to give up or adept, and I do it with an open mind and heart. I am still the same, and the only things changed are my rhythm and energy.

There are so many small things packed into every day starting when you open your eyes in the morning. Be mindful when you savor your first cup of coffee and open your heart so you can listen to the birds singing their morning songs. Go within and feel the blessing of another day.  Be kind to yourself. Don’t regret what has passed, but be grateful for all that is. You might have enjoyed the thrill of high-speed trains and jumbo jets, but traveling in a horse-drawn carriage has its charm as well!

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustcooking.com

 

Furry Blessings

Five little Yorkies have made my life special for over 40 years. I am so grateful that they decided to live with me, and now I enjoy my every moment with Romeo, the fifth sweetie.

I didn’t grow up with a pet because my mother couldn’t afford the additional cost. Postwar Germany was not easy, and she had her hands full to feed the three of us. So, I adopted our neighbor’s kittens, when possible, put them in my baby carriage with little bonnets on their heads, and proudly walked around with them. They must have felt my love because they stayed in the carriage and didn’t jump out.

Life went on, and when I lived in Brussels, I decided to get my first dog, a little Yorkie girl. I named her Sunny, and she became the sunshine of my life. She was tiny, full of personality, and I loved her deeply. It was a new experience, and we both learned together. I took her everywhere, and she participated in my yoga seminars, spiritual workshops, and traveled with me when possible. We emigrated to the States together and she adapted quickly to the different and more restrictive lifestyle, as well as to her new daddy, who adored her.

Sunny was followed by two Yorkie puppies, Gigi and Bijou. Traveling with pets was complicated in the US, and I always felt something was missing during my extensive travel years, not having my two sweeties with me. They were so adorable and brought lots of joy and love into our lives.

Mignonne was number four, a little girl again, and she conquered our heart the first time we saw her. She was such a sweet and loving little dog, and she made a big difference in Steve’s recovery from a heart attack and open-heart surgery.

Now we enjoy life with Romeo, our first boy, and it is a new experience. There is a difference between a girl and a boy, but then it is only logical! I tried to educate myself but wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming love this little boy shows us. All our puppies were loving, but Romeo is one of a kind. We named him when he was six weeks old and still living with the breeder. And he lives up to his name. He is a blessing, and I am so grateful that he decided to live with us. He fills the final stretch of my life journey with joy, love, happiness, and lots of laughter. I cannot thank him enough.

Living with a dog has taught me the meaning of unconditional love and to keep an open heart and mind. They do not need to get even or hold grudges. I am a better person for having spent over four decades with these incredible, noble creatures. I wouldn’t change it for anything, and I know I would have missed so much if I wouldn’t have had the courage to move out of my apartment in Brussels which didn’t allow pets, and move into another one just so I could welcome my first Yorkie. Dogs bring so much love and joy, and I bless every day I have the privilege to be with onr.

Thank you, my four little furry angels, and my loving boy Romeo. I wouldn’t be who I am without you!

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com

Life is a Gift

When I was told that my disease had progressed to its final stage, it was like a wakeup call for me and a time to reevaluate my priorities. It wasn’t so much that I became depressed and sad; instead, I had a desire to make the best out of the time I had left. Who knows how long that will be? I have no control over it, but I have total control over how I want to live and feel. A proverb came to mind:

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often
we look so long at the closed door that we do not see
the one which has been opened for us.”
Helen Keller

I didn’t want to miss the new door that was opening for me, although it would have been easy to stare at the closed door with regrets and longing. I could have stopped there and focused on what I have lost. Instead, I decided to fill my life with happiness and joy. I saw the open door, the infinite possibilities remaining for me, and I felt gratitude. Yes, there are things which will remain undone in my life, but they are in the past, and I have decided to live in the present.

Life is a gift we often take for granted and consider it as an entitlement. It feels like life is a given until it is snapped away. But nothing and no one can take away my joy for living and my desire to be happy. I will live the remainder of my life in joy, and every day will be filled with happiness and laughter.

I wanted to share this because I am repeatedly asked how I manage to remain so positive. How couldn’t I be? I have time left to enjoy my husband, Romeo our little Yorkie, my dear friends, and finishing my book. I have lived an exciting life, and now it is time to enjoy the smaller and simpler things. I still have much to live and to be grateful for, and there is no space in my mind for sadness.

When I saw the snow this week – yes, here in Tucson – I remembered when we lived in snow country with snow storms and such massive accumulations that we had to hire roof sweepers to save the roof. I recall snowmobiling in Yellowstone Park, skiing when I was younger, bringing food into the woods for deer, elk, and other animals, and I could go on. I am grateful for such adventures.

Life is a gift to be cherished and lived to the fullest. Remember the closing door and don’t hang on to it with memories and regrets. It will not open again, but a new one will, and you will have ample opportunities to live a joyful life. It is all up to you!

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com

 

 

 

Merry Christmas

In just over a week we will celebrate Christmas, and I would like to send my warmest wishes to you and your loved ones.

Christmas is a special holiday for me. Although we had very little, my mother always made it special, and I have kept precious memories of those holidays in Germany a long time ago. I will dedicate an ornament to her during my church visit this Christmas Eve, as I have done for the last few years. My gratitude for all she gave me is deep and sincere, and I accept the feeling of loss not having known her as an adult. I imagine a moment over coffee, chatting about her childhood and life during World War I and World War II, one as a child, one as a wife and mother. So much has been lost with her passing much too early. Do not miss your opportunity to talk with loved ones and explore their treasure chest with them. During the Christmas holiday, a vortex is open to mend broken links and to strengthen existing ones.

Christmas is a spiritual time for me with candles, lights, music, reaching out and going within. We all have our family and personal traditions, carried over from previous generations or the ones we created ourselves, and I hope and wish you will thoroughly enjoy yours.

I have celebrated Christmas in many different ways, sometimes in foreign countries respecting and enjoying their cultures and traditions. But one thing always stayed the same: There was love. In the present turbulent and divisive times, we need to light the candle of understanding and respect for others, extend our hands to embrace differences, and assist where we can. Having doesn’t mean being indifferent to wanting!

Wishing you a most enjoyable Christmas and may the spirit of Christmas stay with you the whole year.

Merry Christmas!

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com

 

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