the magic of touch – a workshop experience

Touch. It’s a subject that has always fascinated me. I also find it to be one of the most difficult, complicated and even haunting subjects – one of the core issues in my life (in many people’s lives I guess, but I feel I’m more than just a little bit more challenged in this field than most people around me).
Physical touch has never come naturally to me, and that has always led to a feeling of missing out. Like something has been missing all the time.

At the same time, all the people I admire, the people I see as role models are, without exeption, people who posess the ability to touch others in some way. That can be through art – touching people emotionally. But mostly it’s people who work with and heal others through physical touch. Massage therapists, healers, yoga therapists. Osteopaths, bodyworkers of all kind.

It is probably both because of and in spite of this ambivalent relationship to the subject of touch that one of my medium-term goals is to become a bodyworker myself.

So, when one of the yoga studios I go to announced a workshop titled „the magic of touch“, there was no way I would miss it.

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In the beginning of the workshop, we learned that there are three essential requirements for meaningful touch:

Silence. Mindfulness. And an open heart.

So much for the theory. Then came the exercises.

Silence

At first, we meditated. Everyone on their own mat. So far, so good.
Then, things got a little more physical. We lay in a circle, feet pointing towards the center of the circle, heads to the outside. We put one hand on our heart, one on the stomach and tried to find a connection with ourselves. Then we were instructed to leave our left hands on our own hearts and move the right to the stomach of the person lying on our right. Half of the time, we were then supposed to focus on the sensation of our neighbour’s hand on our stomach. The other half was spent trying to focus on our own hand touching the person next to us. In the end, we tried to feel the energy flowing through the whole circle we had created.

After this exercise, I felt sick. Actually. Physically. Sick. And while a tiny part of me still hopes that it’s because something was „wrong“ with the energy that circled through all of these people and my body just reacted a little too hypersensitively to that, my concern is that this reaction mainly came from the fact that at this point, I just can’t stand this level of intimacy, this kind of focus on physical touch without the possibility to pull away quickly.

Mindfulness

Enough with the sitting and lying around. For this next exercise at least.
Blindfolded, we slowly walked through the room with the task of deciding if we wanted to make physical contact with whoever crossed our path. Or should I say „with whomever we clumsily stumbled into“. And then to try and feel what is comfortable for ourselves and the other person. Maybe break the contact immediately. Maybe go as far as hug the other person. Not being able to use our eyes was supposed to make it easier to listen to your inner voice, and also to avoid shame or embarassment.
This exercise was meant to let us make mindful body contact and to (not only physically) connect to the other people in the room, but what actually happened was that all I could feel was an enormous amount of loneliness. And even as we all ended up in several small clusters of people who were all hugging and holding each other close, I felt like the loneliest, most disconnected person in the world.
I felt like I lacked to most basic skills of communication, like I’m terribly out of touch with my intuition.

Being the perfectionist that I am, I of course expected to float through this exercise gracefully, completely in touch with my own wants and needs and super sensitive to the energies and boundaries of everyone around me. And these expectations alone probably blocked every chance I had of connecting with anybody. Seems like I am creating my own feeling of loneliness because I’m too afraid to make mistakes.

But let’s move on to the third of our essential requirements:

An open heart

The last two exercises consisted of massaging a partner. One of them was supposed to be a totally improvised foot massage (or hand massage, for the podophobic participants :D) with a focus on touching the other person from the heart. For the other one we got a little more input in terms of thai yoga massage technique… while still focusing on letting our movements, our touch to be guided from deep within.

This last part was a little easier for me because I had a friend as a partner for both massages, and her being someone I had gone through professional dance training (and as a part of that, through a lot or partner work) with, having inhibitions was not an issue with her. Besides, I think it’s a lot easier for me if there are is a certain guideline I can follow rather than having to improvise. Which, like with the blindfolding exercise, is probably not only an issue with touch itself but also with a fear of failure and wanting to be perfect the first time around. Which can never be guaranteed anyway, but which is so much harder so achieve when you improvise. Or is it?

In the end I have to say that as much as this experience frustrated and also kind of scared me – it was also very inspiring. And it reminded me AGAIN of the fact that the ability to touch someone on a physical and emotional level at the same time is something I reeeeeally really wish I could master. Which makes it something that is ever so important for me to work on, and to work with ultimately.
So – what does that mean for me now? Where do I go, what do I do with this realization?
I guess I’ll have to start from scratch again. Go find the silence. Listen. Meditate. (This is probably a great time to start over with my meditation challenge – I have to admit I have kind of let it slide).
And: Practice, practice, practice. And don’t be afraid of making mistakes!
Something tells me it’s going to be worth it. Because if there is one thing I truly believe in, it is the power, and the magic, of touch.

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2 Comments

  1. Beautiful post Melanie. I think I’d find it really difficult as well – I always find it hard when one has to establish what feels to me like „forced connection“ in workshops and stuff. I’d love to be one of those touchy-feely people but I’m just not.

    • melanie

      thank you helen <3
      I still do hope these are skills one can actually learn...

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