Words and story by Yana Papaya.
Edited by Maryana Kirakovskaya.
Photography by Katherine Brook
We live in an era of consumption and money making, where the idea of getting material possessions is the key focus. At times this idea occupies people so much that it takes precedence over other more important, happy, living essentials and factors. It becomes a sad dominating force in people’s lives. Lots of people decide to be this or that profession, to take this or that step in their careers due to the desire to earn as much money as possible.
But have you ever questioned why some people go against the current and tend to do particularly good things in life rather than follow the crowd? Why do some celebrities decide to dedicate themselves to sick kids, human rights or environmental causes, while others prefer to stay in the norm and continue doing a regular job that gives them just money? What are these freedom, inspirational fighters, human rights leaders made of? Ingredients are unique and can vary. Personal dramas, life-changing situations, facing the death of your loved ones or dealing with people with disabilities can evoke the desire to help, rescue others or let yourself crumble destroying you completely from inside out. We always have a choice where to go and what direction to choose. You, as a human being, are given a choice to turn your life into a dream or a nightmare. We can be the best friends or the worst, even the most dangerous enemies to ourselves. Those people who are going against this internal ongoing battle, being constantly pushed away from the light of their soul by dark thoughts are real fighters. But it’s outrageously sad when they are losing this battle and see no excitement and joy in everyday life. Those people who keep on fighting, without giving up and finally reach the triumph become true champions, legends, true inspiration to millions of others who are still stuck in this battle with themselves.
Here comes a story about Sara Jasmin – a self-made fighter, rare soul, beautiful woman who touches your soul to its depth. Sara is an inspirational leader, founder of the “Hug it Out” initiative in New Zealand. She managed to change her self-perception from seeing herself as a victim of life to a strong, happy, determined person. She believes in everyday miracles, living life without stereotypes and judgements, empowering people, sharing love and being grateful on a daily basis. Open yourself up to enjoy her wisdom and philosophy that she kindly shared with Papaya Stories and let her seed of love be planted in your heart.
There is no such thing as perfect. Just think to yourself, what perfect means. This way is perfect for this person and that way is perfect for that person. One person’s idea of “perfect” isn’t necessarily another person’s idea of perfection. It’s just a choice.
The old me couldn’t take a compliment and just say “thank you.” It took a lot of time for me to learn how to graciously accept compliments. When I was little I was made fun of and taunted because of my skin colour and because I was so skinny. I was growing up thinking that I looked ugly. I thought I didn’t belong. When I got older people started to say “You should be a model!” which was totally confusing for me. Eventually, as the compliments and suggestions started adding up, I got to the point where I thought that maybe these compliments are genuine. I started trying to say “Thanks” and “Thank you” but the transition was awkward for me. Learning to say “thank you” was a great lesson for me; I felt like I really meant it when I said it and started feeling genuinely grateful for who I saw in the mirror.
People who follow ideologies just because that’s what everyone is doing, or those who don’t seem to have their own personal opinions just make me think of robots. Sometimes when I’m surrounded by such people I feel like I am in the wrong place, as though I’ve shown up to a masquerade ball in my pyjamas.
The simplest way to enlighten people is to not force them to follow you but to show the example of an enlightened way of being. People are fully capable of seeing and knowing what enlightenment can do for them through your example. A person’s journey to enlightenment has to be their decision; their choice to make as to which direction they choose for their life.
I don’t understand people who try to change each other. Women try to change men, men try to change women. They try to make them fit the image that they created of how the ideal person looks like or perfect relationship should be. But it doesn’t work that way. If you really want a change it’s better to show through the example what sort of change you are looking for, so they could see the example themselves and learn from it if they choose to. For example, if a person wanted someone to be a bit more open in their relationship (romantic or otherwise), they shouldn’t sit around complaining to everyone about that person, they should be open with them first and give them the opportunity to reciprocate.
I was always daddy’s little girl until my father left my family and I didn’t have him in my life for very a long time. It was very challenging to look at the issue. I looked at it with negative emotions I had towards him as I felt neglected. I was a child and I took it personally. As with many adults who fall into a serious trap of blaming parents, I kept holding onto that story and blaming him for years for the rift between us. But then I finally told myself “Grow up! Go and deal with this, because you can’t blame your parents for things that happened so many years ago.” It was one of the boldest things I did because growing up I was always scared of speaking up to my father. It took a lot of courage to speak to him so openly about our misunderstandings but I am so glad I did it because we are in a much better place now.
People generally don’t want to start with their family. The reason I started with family is because family is the first unit around you and if the interactions in this unit are good and positive, then you can build outside of this circle and create other positive interactions with other people. If you are unhappy with your family, you might want to escape to your happy place and spend some time with your friends instead, which I’ve done plenty of times, but then what about when you go home to your family? If you think ‘it’s time to go home and spend time with family members that I don’t want to see…’ How does that relate back to the person you are and the relationships you want in your life, if the first unit of your life has unresolved issues? If you want better relationships, you need to take responsibility and start resolving issues in the ones that matter the most first.
There was a point in time when I told myself that I would like to change my life as I wasn’t happy with myself. So I tried to do yoga, practice meditation and gratitude. I opened up more and more over time and let positivity rule my world. This change started to attract more positive people and positive opportunities into my life as well. The defining moment for me was being firm with myself and declaring my decision – not to anyone but myself – that enough is enough, it’s time to change. Then it’s all about consistent action.
When I think about role models in my life I think fondly of a beautiful woman named Waris Dirie. She played a crucial role for me during those years when I started transforming myself and changing my life. She went through a great deal of pain to survive; from being a nomad living in the desert to rape to female genital mutilation (FGM) and then becoming a successful model on the world stage and even becoming a UN Ambassador who speaks out against FGM. When I learned about this amazing person I thought ‘how did she survive through all that and come out the other end so successful?’ It’s amazing! Her story shows so much strength, determination and courage. She is definitely someone I would like to meet and thank her for being such an inspiration for me.
Every day I think of what I am grateful for – for who I am and what I have, and in my head I visualise everything I am expressing my gratitude for. I think the visual manifestation aspect of my practise keeps it alive and very real for me. A lot of people say they are grateful, but hardly practise gratitude, they hardly see in their mind what they are saying thanks for and because of that they don’t really see all they have to be grateful for in their physical reality.
If I am going to die tomorrow – it’s not such a bad thing because I am actually happy being who I am and with what I am doing in my life. I think this change in perception that came about from the changes I made in my life is my biggest sense of peace I have. It is such a contrast from my old way of life where I was constantly worrying about acquiring things and money in order to be happy and successful.
I am quite perceptive; I try to think about other people’s perspectives and not just my own. Before, my way of thinking was, ‘I am going to do this, I am going to do that, I’m going to do everything.’ It wasn’t just my goals and plans; it was others’ as well. I couldn’t say “No” to people. Instead, I was saying “Yes” to everyone and trying to do everything. Now, I am careful of my decisions and my integrity on what I agree to do because I understand that I don’t have to say “Yes” to everyone, and I can take on only the things that I feel in my heart is right for me to do.
This is not who I was! Back in the day I couldn’t imagine that I, Sara Jasmin, would go out on the street and hug strangers. I was an open-minded and approachable person but still quite selective. I was protecting myself from something I didn’t know would happen – living in fear and not taking many risks. I was afraid of putting myself out of there thinking people would take advantage of me and hurt me. I had huge trust issues and every time I dared myself to do something new I’d hear my mom’s voice in my head say “Don’t do it!” It’s a big deal for me to see what kind of person I am now.
“Work” to me is anything that is helping me reach some kind of success I want and success is not just in a job.
When I meditate I feel like hugging the world. I like to meditate sitting under big trees in the park. (hahaha) I even say “Hi” to the trees and thank them for their wisdom and beauty. Trees stand day after day, year by year, unwavering. Some of the trees in One Tree Hill have been there for hundreds of years. They go through storms and all sorts of crazy weather, winds push them and pull them and rustle their leaves on the branches but whatever the weather, they are still well-grounded. I take it as an analogy for myself; that things will always come and go, people will come and go, you need to be grounded in who you are and that will always give you the answers to handle anything. If you are not strong, you will allow life’s circumstances to carry you.
Everything you want to receive – you should be ready to give first. If I want somebody to trust me I have to trust them. If I want love, I give love. If I am being selective about who I am kind to then that’s not fair on others. Besides, doing that would only get a selection of kindness back to me. How can I hope for all kinds of positive things, people and experiences in my life if I don’t give that to everyone? So I keep on regenerating and re-empowering myself to be like a magnetic positive light for others, and the rewards I receive keep inspiring me to continue on this path.
I started doing “Hug It Out” by myself. Doing this gives me a feeling in my soul that I am making other people happy and that makes me very happy. It was such an easy thing to start; I didn’t need money or months of planning or to do a course. It is just a matter of simply doing it. During my first event when I realized the joy I was giving people by such a simple act, I decided to keep on doing it. I created the Facebook page and started reaching out and expanding. Now this project is not just mine or something about me, it’s growing and finally becoming what I am striving for – it’s something for everyone. I created something which became the opportunity for other people to get involved with and give them something to contribute towards. For those who are going on the street for the first time to give a hug is a great challenge as it was for me the first time with shaky hands and legs (hahaha) but everyone who has ever done it has given great feedback; that they loved the experience and couldn’t stop smiling. A number of volunteers have done it several times and some have even made a commitment to the initiative.
My idea is to inspire everyone to see how easy it is to make people happy. “Hug It Out” is all about sharing the love. What you give is what you get and it can come back in different ways by different people. It’s about spreading the positivity so people everywhere can receive the positive effects of being around happy people. This is seen at events sometimes when those people who don’t hug us look at each other and then they hug each other instead of hugging us. They don’t always realize, but that makes us very happy because we’re not out there to just get hugs for ourselves! It’s like without saying anything we’ve started the conversation.
The greatest challenge with “Hug It Out” is expansion. Initiatives like this don’t always get the support they need because a lot of people don’t believe such simple things can make such positive differences in the world. Negativity can derail and diffuse positive initiatives like Hug It Out because it’s not the norm. People much rather prefer “normal” and being in their comfort zone instead of trying new things because they don’t want to take the risk. I don’t want to stop doing this because everyone needs love every day and you can see many people are unhappy and a lot of them are pretending that they’re “fine” and carry on with their day… day after day after day. I want to remind people how easy it is share love and happiness; I want to remind them that they can be happy more often, not just on special occasions. “Hug It Out” is here to stay, that’s the bottom line and I want to franchise it around the country, so other countries might get inspired by it as well. This is my little thing that I am doing to make the world a better place.
Positivity Out – Positivity In. It’s like a domino – boomerang effect. You share a hug with somebody, guess what? They feel positive within themselves and without trying they then project this state of positivity into the world, into every situation they go into after the hug. We see that ourselves when we carry on with our day after events but it’s great to see it with the people we hug as well. I’ll give you a beautiful example of this. There was an old man who hugged each of the Huggables and he was so joyful when he walked away. About an hour later he came back with a bunch of flowers he’d picked – these gorgeous little flowers which I know wouldn’t have been very easy to find in the city. He shared his happiness with us and it was incredible to see that. It actually showed that during all the time after he had a hug, the joy he felt stayed with him and even inspired him to do something nice for us in return.
We stand for love. We don’t know the people we are hugging, we don’t know their qualities or background and we don’t need this information. Because the simple idea is that everyone needs love and it’s such a simple thing to do. There are no prejudices, stereotypes, racism or any negativity as a barrier between anyone who hugs. It’s simple; humans hugging humans. So why don’t we hug each other?
Watch Hug It Out video below to feel the vibes of happiness and love that we spread through this amazing social initiative. Please don’t hesitate to share it with your friends, loved ones and all the world. Peace!