It was two in the morning and I was awake again, tossing and turning under the quilt with a restless yearning. My body had been used to being held, loved, stroked and pleasured, and it was suffering withdrawal symptoms.
I’d been separated—and celibate—for almost a year and was badly missing intimate physical contact. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I couldn’t find a massage therapist or a casual partner. I’d had plenty of massages, but none of them quite hit the spot. And casual partners weren’t exactly abundant at the time, for some reason. It wasn’t sex I was after, anyway—it was loving touch. The kind of touch a new lover naturally showers on their beloved in the early days of exploration and wonder.
I knew what I needed and was willing to ask, but finding it was another story. Luckily the dry period didn’t last long, though, and pretty soon my body was again feeling that happy glow that comes with being touched with love.
In the years since, when I take time off writing to see clients for healing, I’ve noticed how common it is to see people whose whole energy is begging, ‘touch me—please!’ Not that they’re necessarily aware of it, or looking for me to touch them. It’s just that they may not have had intimate contact with another person in years, and may have even forgotten how to allow themselves to be touched. Even if they’re in a relationship and sexually active, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are experiencing true intimacy and loving touch. Sex and intimacy don’t always go together. I wonder how many people go through adult life without being properly touched?
Our bodies are built for connection. Not just a casual hug or hand on the shoulder.
We’re built to thrive on love, and intimate touch is a natural physical manifestation of love. And by intimate touch I mean the kind that says ‘I’m right here, fully present with you, in this moment,’ rather than intimacy which is just about genital contact. It’s an intimacy which can be shared with anyone we love, not just sexual partners. Studies have shown that the cells in our bodies expand when they feel love and contract when they feel its opposite, and our ability to use our touch to transmit that energy to another is an innate gift which we all carry.
Modern society is moving further and further away from touch as a natural, integrated part of everyday life.
To fill the gap, we have created services that people buy and sell, but it’s not that same and we’re losing touch with our own natural ability to bring healing and pleasure to those close to us.
“Massage is needed in the world because love has disappeared. Once the very touch of lovers was enough. A mother touched the child, played with his body, and it was massage. The husband played with the body of his woman and it was massage; it was enough, more than enough. It was deep relaxation and part of love. But that has disappeared from the world. By and by we have forgotten where to touch, how to touch, how deep to touch. In fact touch is one of the most forgotten languages.” ~ Osho from ‘Hammer on the Rock’
Reawakening that ability for loving touch can be one of the simplest and most beautiful gifts to ourselves and our loved ones. At its most basic, just showing up and being willing to touch someone with the intention of bringing healing or love can be a comforting experience for another. And sometimes it’s as easy as that. We may shy away from placing soothing hands on an aching back or stroking a tense head, thinking drugs or a doctor are more efficient, or not wanting to spend the time. Surprisingly, though, it can be all that’s needed to shift a mood, lighten discomfort, or unlock a deeper emotional layer that’s ready to be cleared. More importantly, touch connects people and increases that sense of trust and love in the world in a way that doctors and drugs struggle to do.
In essence, reclaiming our ability to lovingly touch another—whether child, friend or lover—can be as straightforward as practicing the following four qualities. The more often we practice them, the deeper our touch can go.
Clear intention. Be clear about why you want to touch another and stay focused on that intention. Are you intending to create a sense of well-being? Or pleasure? Or comfort? Whatever it is, be clear in your mind about it before you start. As an experiment, ask a friend to close their eyes and try two variations of the same touch—stroke their arm once while thinking of your favorite movie and then a second time while intending that they feel your love. Then ask if they noticed any difference.
Love. It sounds simple to say ‘love the one you’re with’ but it’s not always that easy to access a feeling of love for someone at the drop of a hat. So find another way in to the energy—twiddle that internal dial until you find that feeling of love somewhere inside (try music, or the face of a lover, or the memory of a warm summer’s day). Use your mind or senses to find a catalyst that can bring you back to a deep feeling of love, then refocus the energy on the person you’re with.
Presence. You can’t hear what another’s body is trying to say to you if your mind is busy, so bring that mind fully into the moment! Focus on the sensation of touch, or on synchronizing your breathing with the person you’re touching, if you need to have something to keep the mind busy with. Being present brings a stillness, and intuition reaches us through that stillness.
Trust. Trust that you can bring a sense of well-being and love to another by touching them. Trust that somewhere deep inside, you know how and where to touch them. Then follow your instincts, get on with it and see where it leads you.
Feelings of pleasure and well-being aren’t just for the lucky one who’s being touched, either.
The beauty of feeling another opening under your touch and discovering the depths that can be hidden in the body brings with it a deeper connection to the mysteries of life as well as a sense of profound gratitude for this simple gift. So find a partner and get touching! Then teach your kids.
(Originally published on Elephant Journal)