Kissing, as a Mindfulness Practice?

Can you remember your first kiss?

Maybe it was a poster on your wall, or someone in your class at school?

Or maybe you’re thinking about your most recent kiss? Or your next one, given that the Pandemic has delayed many things, and dating has not exactly been easy for anyone…

Is there a significant kiss that springs to mind? A memorable one, such as the first one after proposing to your loved one, or just after marrying them? So significant, that we even make that part of a traditional wedding service.

Or that tender kiss on the forehead of a newborn baby? Or perhaps it was a gentle kiss on the forehead of someone seriously ill, and you gathered up all your love and meaning into that precious moment as you connected with them.

Anthropologists are about 90% sure that kissing is instinctive behaviour, but the other 10% (the unromantic ones) believe it to be learned behaviour.

But another way to look at kissing, is as a naturally mindfulness practice. Something we do with care and attention for the other person means being present in that moment without distraction. This is a perfect and pleasurable practice of mindfulness.

Mindful kissing. Wonder if that’s what the Prince song was really on about…

If you’re distracted by watching television, scrolling your phone or making breakfast, then it’s not the same. Still lovely to have a quick kiss when things are hectic, not complaining about those.

And we’re not just talking romantic kissing, but those affectionate kisses to beloved relatives of all ages. Maybe you’ve missed the slight bristle of stubble & aroma of freshly doused Lynx, as you greet teenage nephews or grandsons, or a hint of ginger biscuits mingled with aniseed balls from a great Aunt, as she pecks you on the cheek with such care.

But when you consider the memorable kisses in your life till now, they will be the ones where you’re fully in the moment. Maybe eyes closed. Yes, that’s a great way to focus the senses on a good kiss.

A wise Zen teacher, Frank Ostaseski talked about kissing as a way to explain mindfulness to teenagers in a school, and he’s right. Mindfulness isn’t just something to do for a set time each day, sitting cross legged on a meditation cushion, or on a retreat in the Himalayas.

And it doesn’t have to be practised with an incredibly serious look of concentration or frowning. A relaxed awareness is a good thing to aim for, while paying attention to the present moment.

So you might notice this when you kiss someone you love. Or it might be when you’re baking a Birthday cake, fully focused on weighing ingredients, & stirring it with love, or when tending your garden and gently weeding around thorny rose bushes. Or when taking your ageing dog for an evening walk and noticing how you’re both getting a little slower, but still relishing the fresh air and exercise.

A kiss may not last for hours, but with mindful attention, and hopefully with love, it lingers. Maybe even for years. Like a photograph, the memory can be conjured up years or decades later. Perhaps you can enjoy thinking back over an early kiss. Or three… Wondering where that other person is now, and remembering the details of that moment.

I remember once walking past a teenage couple on a canal towpath. They were engaged in full on snogging and one shouted out ‘sorry’, as if I’d be offended. I reassured them that it seemed like the most wonderful thing to be absorbed in on a grey Tuesday, and to go for it! I may also have mentioned that I was a teenager myself once, many years ago…

Do you remember your own teenage kisses? Late at night, with a salty tang from the shared bag of chips, on the night bus home? At the back of a gig by your favourite band, when they played that special song? Or at a train station or airport saying goodbye, or hello? Those Richard Curtis moments from ‘Love Actually.’

It might be a golden seal of protection that we feel we’re wrapping our loved ones in when we kiss them goodbye. Imprinting them with a homeopathic hint of our love to keep them safe and well until we see them again. That visceral sense of touching their skin and connecting our separate selves as one for a brief few seconds.

That’s something we’ve missed so much with Lockdown. Zooming, Skyping & Facetiming are the most amazing inventions that have kept us all feeling a sense of closeness despite the lengthy isolation.

But we can’t kiss or touch on a screen. Although many of us may have had to wipe lipstick or tears from a screen, having tried.

The isolation has added to the sense of loss for many who couldn’t be with loved ones when they died. It felt wrong or cruel, and unnatural. That primal longing to touch had to be denied, when countries, cities and hospitals all had lockdowns at various times recently.

Something we can never underestimate or forget.

So perhaps that’s the most precious freedom for many of us at the moment. Not the opening up or restaurants & bars, but that chance to get closer to our loved ones, gradually. Perhaps waiting to make sure we’ve been double jabbed to protect those most at risk, and then finally being able to get close and hug those we love. Before keeping a safe distance apart in the garden while sharing a cup of tea & a ginger biscuit.

Maybe a gentle kiss on the forehead, or cheek of relatives & friends we’ve not been able to touch for over a year.

Eyes closed, and paying attention with a relaxed awareness of gratitude. We’ve missed those Lynx or aniseed ball whiffs, and that connection to those we love.

Enjoy the precious chance to add a new memorable kiss to our list… happy Mindful kissing x

(Kiss sign photo thanks to Tim Mossholder on Unsplash.)

(Kissing Otters photo thanks to Ryan Hyde on Unsplash.)