31 Dec The Art of Touch

Life is full of so much texture. The abrasive brush of a five o’clock shadow, the powdery granules of white sand under your feet, the silkiness of ocean between your fingers, we experience this world through our sense of touch. The skin houses our sense of touch with thousands and thousands of sensory receptors and nerve endings that send information to the brain where we process our tactile experience, and we then respond to the sensation with a physical reaction or emotion. It is more than skin deep. It can foster the building of trust, a boost in vitality or a release of stress. That is the science. 

I spent over a decade touching people for a living as a spa therapist. I learned anatomy of the body, the biomechanics of movement, as well as the techniques that would best facilitate health and wellness. However it wasn’t until I spent hours each day with my hands scrubbing and massaging a variety of bodies with a variety of energies and boundaries that I understood the art of touching. It was through my experience that I refined my own sense and comfort level with touch, which required an understanding that everyone has different preferences and needs to be met uniquely. I learned to stay grounded and honour my own space, to yield gradually, transition smoothly. And to always be sensitive and receptive to energetic feedback. I learned that the act of touching is relational.

The art of touch is a partnership where there is a continuous dance of giving and receiving, touching and being touched. There are two active participants, however sometimes one person is leading the dance and one person is following. 

Naturally you might be a person that is very comfortable with physical touch. There are many factors that determine our boundaries including our genetic make-up, the culture we have grown up in, and the experiences we have been through. To be non-intrusive and respectful of our space and well being, we must be mindful when making physical contact. 

One of my Embodied Flow™ teachers, Scott Lyons articulated some guidelines for leading this duet with intention, respect and sensitivity:

*Honour yourself and honour your partner in your wholeness. Clarify your breath and ground yourself.

*Approach your partner with humility. Enter with the knowledge that you can’t fix or change anyone.

*Establish a point of contact with clarity and yield in gradually with your pressure.

*Approach with a sense of curiosity – never assume that you know the outcome. 

*Respect and be compassionate to their boundaries and let your partner know that they can stop at any time.

*Allow for your partner to request a different pressure or quality of touch.

*Have a clear ending while avoiding abrupt disconnections. On the flip side there is a responsibility for the one being touched to hold their own space. 

*Honour yourself and your partner in your wholeness. Clarify your breath and ground yourself.

*Know that you don’t need to be fixed and that you are responsible for your own change.

*Yield to the information that is being offered to you through your partners touch.

*If you are uncomfortable or do not want to be touched, let your partner know.

*If you would like a different pressure or quality of touch, request it.

I find these guidelines essential for the tangible experience of physical touch and when I widen the scope and see the bigger picture it’s apparent to me how these are also positive and healthy ways that we can approach our relationships.

Whether we are assisting or attending a yoga class, giving or receiving a massage, mingling at a party or simply just walking into a room, we are energetically dancing with one another in the ways we communicate with our body language, our words and our vibrational frequency. We have the potential to calm or stimulate, invoke pleasure or harm, or to move and inspire each other.

I encourage you to look over those guidelines once again through the lens of your relationships and interactions with those around you. Do we honour the people that share the space of an elevator ride? Do we yield as we enter into a dinner party? Do we respect the sensitivities and boundaries that others might have about our opinions? Do we give our loved ones space when they say enough is enough? Can we remain open and curious to the idea that nothing is absolute and that every moment is unique? Can we celebrate our individual boundaries and still dance with one another in our oneness?