Monday, June 04, 2007

Some Thoughts About Touch

I'm coming up on my one-year anniversary of being a massage therapist (and fifth year of practicing Reiki). I've been reflecting quite a bit about how I made this journey to the healing arts and I've been thinking about the simple yet deep power of touch.

In Diane Ackerman's A Natural History of the Senses, she explores the scientific, cultural, artistic, and philosophical aspects of the human senses. In her chapter "Touch," Ackerman describes the skin as having eyes, as if it were its own being encountering the world. She also writes about the nature of "subliminal touch," or touch that may be "so subtle as to be overlooked," but "doesn't go unnoticed by the subterranean mind." She sites several "touch studies," and I found this one particularly interesting:

"At Purdue University Library, a woman librarian goes about her business, checking out people's books. She is part of an experiment in subliminal touch, and knows that half the time s
he is to do nothing special, the other half to touch people as insignificantly as possible. She brushes a student's hand lightly as she returns a library card. Then the student is followed outside and asked to fill out a questionnaire about the library that day. Among other questions, the student is asked if the librarian smiled, and if she touched him. In fact, the librarian had not smiled, but the student reports that she did, although he says she did not touch him. This experiment lasts all day, and soon a pattern becomes clear: those students who have been subconsciously touched report much more satisfaction with the library and life in general."

This power of touch also touches us emotionally in ways mysterious, yet deep. Here is one of my favorite poems by Naomi Shihab Nye:


A teacher asked Paul

what he would remember

from third grade, and he sat

a long time before writing

"this year sumbody tutched me

on the sholder"

and turned his paper in.
Later she showed it to me

as an example of a wasted life.

The words he wrote were large
as houses in a landscape.

He wanted to go inside them

and live, he could fill in
the windows of "o" and "d"
and be safe while outside
birds building nests in drainpipes
knew nothing of the coming rain.

--Naomi Shihab Nye,
Words Under the Words

We remember how we've been touched in life, and sometimes being touched positively impacts us more than others realize. I feel blessed to be able to provide touch as part of my life work. Thank you to my clients who have touched me in countless ways: thank you for your openness to healing, for your willingness to let your stress and worry leave your body and mind, and for your encouragement and support for my work.

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