‘Touch is the landscape of what is possible,’ Kate Green.
As strange hands pull you from the dark, cosy realm of the soul into the cold, harsh light of day, your sense of touch guides your first few conscious moments. After the security and warmth of the womb, frigid air assaults your fragile, naked body. Now wonder you let out a big wail! Life seems terrifying. Only after you’re safely cradled in your mother’s arms does your sense of touch provide a glimpse of its essensual purpose – bliss.
Touch is usually the last sense we experience as we depart this world, hopefully the squeeze of a loved one’s hands. Sight, sound, scent and taste have gone before us. ‘The first sense to ignite, touch is often the last to burn out,’ the science writer Frederich Sachs tells us, ‘long after our eyes betray us, our hands remain faithful to the world.’
Unfortunately, first impressions are lasting, especially primal ones, which goes a long way towards explaining the reason many women get uncomfortable when they think about touchy matters, whether the topic is their skin or what’ got under it. Perhaps this is why the word touch is such a popular metaphor – only at a distance does this most intimate sense feel safe.
We describe our mod swings as ‘feelings,’ and when something strikes a deep, sentimental chord in us, we say that we’ve been ‘touched.’ When we are scattered, alienated and adrift we describe our isolation as ‘losing touch with reality.’ Car bumper stickers have the slogan, ‘Did you hug your child today?’ What I want to know is when was the last time you were (((hugged)))? Because we all need to be hugged and touched. Teeny, tiny premature babies need touch therapy if they’re going to survive. Grown-ups need to delight in their sense of touch if they want to thrive – and there are so many ways to that as there are weeks in the year! From the feel of freshly washed sheets against your bare skin to a warm, fragrant foot-soak after you’ve come in from the cold, each day holds its own sensory secrets waiting to be discovered.
During the years I was a trolley dolly, I often flew Stateside. There is a telephone company called AT&T and they once ran an ad-campaign that said, ‘Reach out and touch someone…’ What a powerful, spiritual gift touch is – one that is so oft disregarded and mistrusted because it’s misunderstood. ‘We are forever in the dark about what touch means to another,‘ Jessamyn West wrote in her memoir Love is not what you think, written in 1959…
We must accept that we can’t always know the effect of our touch on another. But, to be numb to your own sense of touch is ‘unfeeling’ in the true sense of the word.
As a certified Forrest Yoga teacher, a big part of what I do is ‘hands-on assisting.’ These are not ‘corrections’ or ‘adjustments’ – they give the wrong idea. When my hands give an assist, it is something that is compassionate, co-created, respectful to the person receiving my assist and is designed to support and enhance a pose, to help heal and to let someone go deeper into the pose. Hands-on assists, touch – our hands are powerful healers; tools that guide, assist and deepen…