October 26th, 2013
Autumn is arriving in the Northern Hemisphere. Wet leaves are falling here in Ireland, and the smell of decaying vegetation and the wan light that filters through the clouds all confirm it. Halloween is just around the corner, also known as Hallowmas, and if you live in certain Latin countries, it is time for the three day celebration of the ‘Day of the Dead’. Time to dig the woolly jumpers and Wellington boots out of the trunks or closets, and make sure our heating systems and chimney flues are ready. After all, to quote a now popular meme, “…winter is coming.”
Another response to the cool and damper conditions is the sense of needing to feel cosy and warm, so if we are in a relationship, the desire for closeness is accentuated. Besides the obvious thermal advantages, it is the feeling of connection and protection that we crave. When we’re drawn closer to others of our own kind, whether it is one person or an extended family, everything can feel brighter and better. Even the growing number of people who prefer the single life and do not have a live-in companion will also feel this, and I am sure that they will seek to engage in more social activities, and take advantage of any opportunity to snuggle up with someone. Cuddle parties are becoming more popular. Not surprising…and no matter which hemisphere on Mother Earth you reside in, there’s more than just a change of the seasons behind it.
Human beings are highly social creatures, and even though the sense of being an individual has been part of the development of the human experience for thousands of years, in our pre-conscious state that existed long before the invention of agriculture, economies, city states, countries and nations, we were pretty much living symbiotically with the natural surroundings and within the context of a clan or tribal community. Our sense of ‘self’ was inexorably connected to the sense of ‘us’, and we shared a mutual concern for food, shelter, health, companionship and safety in uncertain conditions. Since the advent of our brief sojourn into an industrial-technological society, the rise of individualism has given way to an artificial tribal identity via the global communications network. Corporate identities carry more weight in our consciousness than thinking that we are related to flesh and blood counterparts. This artificial sense of ‘us’ is replicated continually in social media, sports and entertainment archetypes (reality television shows, major sports teams, serialized dramas, etc.), and is constantly spun by politicians to reinforce and intellectual and emotional dominance nationally, regionally and even globally (i.e. ‘…a coalition of civilized nations’)
However we view our virtual interconnectedness, we still are denied one thing through our electronic mediums. The innate human need to give and receive touch remains an elusive factor in cyberspace, and in fact, it will never be simulated there successfully. Even if it is technologically feasible to create the simulation of kinetic contact, there is no circuit or programming that can replicate the consciousness that is behind the touch. This power of tactile communication is something our species is now yearning for, and indeed, if we are to survive as a species, we must satisfy in some way. We’ve been starving for it, while wondering through the digital desert landscape.
The growing popularity of tantric workshops, massage and somatic therapies, and the relative newcomer on the scene – the cuddle party, is evidence of how many are seeking to re-establish the neural connections that respond to touch. I first experienced non-demanding touch while attending a weekend workshop called ‘Naka Ima’, which translated from Japanese means “inside the now.” All of the support staff cuddled with the attendees almost all weekend. It was incredibly supportive when we were going through our rough bits.
There are many kinds of touch, and many kinds of physical manipulation, that can offer us a sense of connection or even provide healing from mental, emotional or physical traumas. Some may feel that touch cannot do what it’s being advertised to do, that is, replace traditional therapies or reinforce the standard societal bonding systems. Touch is discouraged in the clinical environment to avoid the possibility of transference of affections from a client to the therapist. Incidental touch, touch that is not part of a typical routine in the course of a therapeutic massage is routinely discouraged, for much the same reasons, though I feel it is more a part of the social taboos we’ve erected to respect boundaries. After I moved to Scotland, I discovered the ‘towel dance’ in which the massage practitioner was constantly readjusting and repositioning the towels covering parts of the body not being massaged. Not wanting to see too much flesh, and be tempted by it, was probably the rationale. This kind of massage was, as you can imagine, not as enjoyable as what I was used to in the more laid-back environs of Eugene, Oregon.
Out of our five physical senses, the sense of touch possesses some unique characteristics. The many reported and purported cases of spontaneous healing conferred from human being to another usually happened through the medium of touch. Religious and spiritual ceremonies and initiations almost always involve touch at some point in the process. This includes Reiki initiations, baptisms, the gifting of Shaktipat, and other forms of activating an aspirant’s inner spiritual awakening. Touch combined with an understanding of energy and sensitivity, and administered with love, can literally erase many traumas, especially those traumas that remain from sexual abuse.
In the realm of sacred (conscious) sexuality, of which Tantra is but a part, the power of touch to open and heal a human being from the main conditioned responses that have been learned through shame, guilt and judgment. Some of the forms that have come forward for dealing with these deeply held patterns are designed to heal people of ‘genital armoring’, which prevents someone from freely expressing and enjoying their natural sexuality. Most of these forms focus on finding the resistance or pain, and working with that to help the individual release the blockages. However, my own personal experience has shown me that nurturing touch, touch that goes slowly, gently and lovingly, not only removes the physical and emotional blockages, but also dissolves the charge on the original wound. The power of touch is discovered in how much heart and presence you can express through it. The ability to heal is inherently in the individual seeking healing…the touch of grace signals the person seeking wholeness to allow themselves to let go…to trust in Life once again.
It will be risky, and it will take some measure of courage, but to reacquaint ourselves with the depth of our being – and everyone else’s beingness, we must become more attuned to touch as a vehicle of awakening and transformation. Body-centered therapies and practices usually encourage the individual to focus on what one does and experiences within our own body and space, or as something you only ‘get’ from another. To feel interactive touch, it is necessary to fully receive with the need to give, and to fully give without the need to receive. We are probably more habitually comfortable with giving than receiving, so I will recommend focusing on the receiving first, until you don’t feel resistance or the compulsion to ‘give something in return.’ It’s not easy!
If you are wondering how going for touch in a more proactive and intimate way will begin to have positive effects on your life, and possibly everyone else’s life, then all I can say to that is “what do we have to lose?” If you’re afraid you might lose your sense of individuality, well, that can’t really happen. Besides, how most Westerners have been conducting themselves for a few millennia hasn’t really contributed much to engendering more trust towards each other, so it may be time to add loving and graceful touch so that we may actually recreate the experience of egalitarian interdependence that our primordial ancestors enjoyed.
We aren’t really individuals, for we haven’t fully individuated yet. That is to say, we are not yet fully knowing who we are and expressing it without censorship or judgment. To be fully individual is to be one with all of Life…naturally. This is true enlightenment, for it doesn’t make value judgments about the body or the consciousness that creates and maintains it. It sees that they are completely the same thing. This is what we learn through the magic of touch, for it ends our false perception of separation and isolation, of being an ‘I’ in the midst of ‘they’.
The grace of touch can create bonding without bondage, unity without destroying the experience of the Self, and cooperation instead of competition. Sharing becomes innately more natural and sensible when we lose the idea that we might lose something of our integrity through when we feel drawn to wanting to touch someone who is in pain, or someone who longs to know that they are loved and not cast adrift and alone in the world. Touch heals. Touch helps us regain our humanity, which in turn opens us to the touch of something invisible in our hearts.
Sexuality is an inherent part of our spiritual homecoming, and I don’t mean nicey-nicey, hearts and flowers romance. Connecting with our earthiness, with the Earth herself, will transform our biology and bring it back in harmony with Nature and the Cosmos. In the last issue, in my essay “The Longest War on Earth”, I encouraged readers to get the book “Sex at Dawn” by Christopher Ryan Ph.D. and Cacilda Jethá, MD. The title is a play on words, but the content, and our understanding and embracing of it, may just be essential to our survival as a species. Sharing, egalitarianism, and non-possessive intimate relationships existed in the primordial utopia that came before the Earth cataclysms of 12,000 years ago, which propelled us out of foraging societies, and into the invention or agriculture, hoarding, scarcity, competition, patriarchy, war, disease and death. Such is progress.
The roots of this are much, much older, but suffice it to say that there was one thing that these cultures understood: the chances for surviving and thriving were enhanced because of mutual sharing and cooperation. This also included touch and sexuality. After finishing the book, I now recognize why I had such a difficult time acclimating back into human society in 2003 after spending three weeks of deep communion with the dolphins (and the wild environment ) of the Big Island of Hawaii. The abrasiveness of that contact after living ‘in the raw’ during that time was illuminating…and extremely difficult.
Humanity will not solve all of its problems and challenges just by going to a cuddle party. But for those brief moments that you and the person you are cuddling with experience, you will cease feeling alone, separate, isolated. As you focus on the pleasure of being embraced and embracing, just imagine yourself as this Earth. The Earth holds us all in her embrace in each moment we are drawing breath, and shares everything it offers without hesitation. If we are the children of a loving Earth and a Benevolent Source Consciousness, then we cannot lose anything by opening to touch, except our fear and loneliness.
As we travel through this era of an ever-changing and uncertain world, the encouragement to ‘love one another’ will take on a deeper significance. Perhaps the sheer desire for connection, companionship, and touch will transcend the realm of a need born out of fear, to a fulfilment born out of compassion and the sure knowing that we are all that we have. Then, the touch of grace may just inspire us to see the truth of our predicament, and open to channel something through that propels back into the Garden…back to innocence. It won’t happen without work, but sure as heck won’t happen without play and trust.
Enough with the sad stories…let’s create a new script. Go gracefully…and touch with love.