Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Healing Power of Touch

(BeWellBuzz)Can the simple power of touch reduce stress and improve our overall sense of well-being while connecting us with our spirit? Can touch really transport us into a state of relaxation and centeredness, while bringing us more in touch with our bodies and the way we feel? Can healthy touch cause us to slow down our incessant mental dialogue and become more focused on the present? Can we really be healed by touch, even if the person providing the touch is not a trained healer? And, is it true that you can lower your blood pressure by simply delivering touch?

I have one answer to all the above: absolutely.

Touch is an extremely powerful way to heal and connect with yourself and your loved ones. Yet most of us take touch—that seemingly simple act of flesh-to-flesh contact—for granted, perhaps because most forms of touch are readily available to us at no cost. Some rarely even engage in touch. How often do we make physical contact with our friends and family? How would we feel if we would converge a bit more on a physical level? How would it affect our daily lives, our stress levels and our emotional balance?

Try this out. Next time you get into an argument with someone, try and hold their hand as you speak to them. You may notice that it’s difficult to hold hands with someone while having a heated argument with them at the same time. What does this tell us about touch?

The common statement: “Giving is receiving,” is extremely accurate in regards to touch. This is because with touch, giving equates to receiving. Even something as simple as placing your hand on someone’s shoulder while you speak to them can cause your own blood pressure to go down. As a massage therapist I’ve always noticed that when I’m practicing bodywork, I seldom feel stressed, anxious, or out of balance.

Consider the first thing we do when meeting someone for the first time: We shake hands to make an introduction. In doing so, not only do we introduce ourselves, but also present our touch to a person once considered a stranger. By allowing this new acquaintance into our lives, we are forming a new connection, opening up our private space and letting someone new into our world.

Recently, after meeting a new friend, I found it interesting to read what she wrote on my Facebook wall. “Welcome to my world,” she commented. After reading her comment, I couldn’t help but ponder the concept of how converging with one another allows us to essentially experience “their world.” We’re tapping into their energy, their frequency, or, as it’s also known, their quantum field. This is similar to how spending time with someone who is consumed with negative thoughts can slowly infect us with this mind pattern that is ineffective and can really affect our entire lives.

In Chinese Medicine, the heart and its corresponding meridians, or channels of energy, pass through the palm. When we shake hands with someone, we are basically connecting with that person on a deep level because it’s almost as if our hearts are in contact with one another. This is similar to the way a hug brings two peoples’ hearts close together—not just literally but also figuratively.

Touch is also a form of communication or simply a way to understand body language. The way in which someone grasps your hand in a handshake, for example, may betray such personal characteristics as openness, self-confidence and comfort level.

When shaking someone’s hand, notice how long they actually hold onto your hand. Take note of the type of grip they have —whether it’s feeble or firm. When you let go first, you are subconsciously communicating that you are not comfortable having that person in your space for a prolonged period of time—at least not at that actual moment. I encourage you to pay attention to that and to see if you can look deeper within you to understand why you feel this way and whether or not it serves you to feel this way. Is it fear-based?

While taking a self-discovery workshop, I was instructed to perform a series of exercises as part of the exploration process. One of these influential exercises was walking up to each and every person in the room, look at them in the eyes and then choose to introduce yourself with either a hand shake or an embracing hug. Even though I chose to hug all of these strangers instead of giving them a regular shake, the act of embracing a stranger for an extended period of time was a bit uncomfortable at first but letting go of this fear was a real breakthrough for me. Confronting this fear and letting it go gave me a glimpse of how it would be to be more willing to give others the gift of touch without worry.

This experience not only taught me to be more open, loving and non-judgmental towards others, but it also served as a gateway to come to the realization that we are all yearning for love and we could use more of it.
Do you form any judgments about others and possess a fear when connecting with them through the medium of touch? If so, what would be possible for you if you were to let go of this fear and allow yourself to fully embrace someone, in whatever way feels right for you. This could simply mean giving a nurturing hug to a friend when they need one or just to let them know how you feel about them. Think about the unlimited possibilities of expressing your love for others in a way that words cannot describe. Touch is communicative and it communicates our spirit. It’s the language of love. I believe our spirit is filled with love yet often it’s covered up with the thick layers of a protective shield that has formed to guard us from being hurt again as we have in the past.

When we are born, we come from a comfortable place where we are engulfed and shielded by our mother in the womb, as if we are wrapped in a blanket of her touch. Once we are physically disconnected from her, it seems as though we’re always seeking some form of connection with other beings, especially one where touch is involved. This is probably because we were so accustomed to it. Without it we feel alone.

Additionally, it’s interesting to notice how, when we are babies, we cry when we are away from our mothers for long periods of time. Essentially, being disconnected from other people and being alone for long periods of time even affects us as adults.

There is much research regarding theories of touch, notably a popular study done by Tiffany Field at the Touch Research Institute who came to the conclusion that touch therapy has many positive effects including alleviating depressive symptoms, reducing pain and stress hormones, improving immune function and even enhancing attentiveness.

I’ve often been told that I was born with the gift of touch. This was part of the reason why I chose to be a massage therapist. Additionally, I was fortunate enough to be raised with lots of warmth and affection demonstrated by touch.

However, anyone can heal someone else using the simple but powerful sense of touch—that is, touch coupled with intention to heal. It all comes down to the biophysics of healing through touch. As much as this sounds magical or mystical, it is closely connected to the quantum field and the fact that we really are all connected.

Throughout my years of education in bodywork, I would often learn about how the body heals itself and touch simply facilitates and expedites the healing process. Knowing this gives us all the power to heal with touch, we just need to make sure that we hold others with the intention of allowing their body with the space to heal itself.

In the movie “Avatar,” the Na’vi (the protagonists) would lock their hair together and feel the bonding among their fellow Na’vi, or between them and a beast through the tips of their hair locks. I believe this is symbolic to how we as humans and animals connect through touch. In the movie, the first time the Na’vi lock their hair with another being, they experience a sense of discomfort, distress, and even anxiety. This is similar to how touch can sometimes bring emotional baggage to the surface. Touch really taps into that part of our minds that we try not to think about. Our fears can easily come to the surface and we feel exposed. It gets us in touch with our body and our feelings. Since touch usually involves our body, it makes us more attentive to it and less on our thoughts.

Healthy touch is not only healing but it is also warming. It warms our spirit. It’s reassuring. It reassures us that everything will be okay and that we are not alone in this world. We are all connected and we share a bond with other humans and living beings. Besides for being connected in the quantum field, we are also connected because of our commonalities. We all have blood running through our veins. We all need to breathe in order to survive. We are one and when we are alone, lacking touch, ultimately, we turn to food, sex, alcohol, drugs, gambling, or even knowledge and power to fill the emptiness inside of us. Lacking touch in our lives can lead us to a sense of lack within us which can cause us to having addictive behaviors such as overuse of any of the aforementioned things. Incorporating healthier, nurturing and healing touch in our lives may just bring us one step closer to living in a peaceful and loving world where harmony is at the forefront and everyone matters. So touch on and spread the love!

About Edan Harari

Edan Harari is a licensed massage therapist (LMT) and massage instructor in New York City. He is the founder of Kinetic Massage Therapy - www.KineticMassage.com and in his free time he is an inspirational speaker who shares his story of how his life changed dramatically as a result of learning the wisdom of mindfulness and living each day with passion and purpose. Follow him on Twitter @ TrueLifeWisdom to stay connected and find out when his latest book comes out.