View Skin as the Surface of the Brain

by Carl Johns, LMT, Mountain Medicine Integrative Wellness Center

“To touch the surface is to stir the depths.”
—Deane Juhan, Job’s Body: A Handbook for Bodywork

The headline of this article and the quote from Deane Juhan are concepts he eloquently describes in Job’s Body that I have always taken to heart from the beginning of my time in bodywork over 25 years ago.

In massage therapy, we learn and teach so much about the muscles and connective tissue. We look at the function of skin and then quickly move underneath.

But what we are talking about is the barrier between self and other, between the inside and outside — the entry point of touch. Touch is our most necessary sense, and it is so ingrained in our sense of ourselves that we take it for granted.

We can close our eyes, plug our ears or hold our nose, but our sense of touch is always with us, and cannot be turned off without serious injury or disease. Our most primary sense of existence, from single cell organisms to the complexity of the human body-mind, is in the information gathered by rubbing up against the world around us with our outer surface.

Touch can take on many forms, but in its best forms it brings us pleasure, nurturance, calming and a sense of safety and comfort in our own skin.

It is so important to have human touch in our lives that when we are deprived of touch, it certainly takes a toll. Babies deprived of touch do not thrive, and elders deprived of touch lose their sense of worth and connection. Everyone benefits from conscious, safe, nurturing touch.

This is the great responsibility of people in the massage and bodywork profession — to provide this space for all who would benefit from it. So as we touch the surface, we stir the depths, and we ignite positive cascades in the body that can be very healing for body, mind and spirit.

Therapists, be conscious of the power of touch; clients, seek out conscientious therapists. Together we might find our world coming back into balance as we settle into our minds and bodies in a more healthy way.