“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. Touching deeply is an important practice. We touch with our hands, our eyes, our ears, and also with our mindfulness.”
— Thich Nhat Hanh
by Carl Johns, LMT, Director, ASIS Massage Education-Flagstaff
We have spent the majority of the past year living in a world of separation and barriers.
Certainly we have noticed how different it is not to be able to see facial expressions or to hear the full expression of another’s voice behind a mask. How awkward it is to meet someone — friend or stranger — and not be able to shake hands, hug, touch.
There is a hint of fear in the distancing — the halting, side-stepping, and space-making for every masked person around us. We are losing the depth of human experience that Thich Nhat Hanh describes so beautifully.
Without touch there is a growing sense of fear and hopelessness that starts to invade our minds and collective consciousness.
We are evolutionarily geared for closeness. Friends and lovers sitting side-by-side sharing experiences. Athletes on the field drawn into a huddle of celebration. Even two people in an intense argument, about to come to blows, are nose-to-nose.
We suffer psychologically and physically when deprived of touch.
One shining example of people touching each other safely in the midst of all this is the world of massage therapy.
Every day people give and receive touch while taking the standard precautions of hand washing and sanitation that have always been part of the massage and bodywork profession. Touch between healthy people is safe, and you can seek it out as a welcome remedy for the fear, anxiety, and distancing of our current lives.
With a little training from an experienced teacher, you can learn to give this gift of educated touch to friends and family — safely and effectively. We can become part of the solution in a world that needs to move away from fear and anxiety toward health.
That is a worthwhile goal and an opportunity worth taking as we move into the new year.