Engaging the Senses: The Sense of Touch

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Part 3 of 5
The Sense of Touch

Of all of the senses, Touch is one that all human beings crave. We use touch as a way of exploring our world and our surroundings. Through the action of connecting physically with an object or person, we gain information about that person or thing; albeit, this information is often processed at a subtle level. Nonetheless it sets an imprint upon our consciousness and sets up a formulary of opinion about that experience. Those who are not routinely touched in a gentle and caring way often fail to thrive and become withdrawn and impeded in their social interactions. And, those whose scope of touch is only that of hurtful and abusive receipt often repeat these behaviors in their encounters with others, setting up a path of abuse and mistrust.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, touch is:

1. To cause or permit a part of the body, especially the hand or fingers, to come in contact with so as to feel.

I especially like this definition as it includes the resultant action of being touched; that of Feeling. The experience of touching or being touched evokes an emotion within each of the participants. It engages more than just the mental response that analyzes the motivation behind this gesture, and forces the inclusion of the feeling nature. In this way, the reaction has been processed through both heart and mind.

2. The physiological sense by which external objects or forces are perceived through contact with the body.

This definition gives clarity with the emphasis on “perception”. Perception implies awareness. When we are aware of what surrounds us, what intrudes upon our energetic space or what is willingly invited into that space we become more aware of our place within that space. We become more aware of our impact on that space and how our engagement or lack of can cause different responses.

Touch coupled with the sensation of taste can bring the greatest pleasure to a connoisseur’s palate. Touch coupled with sight can stimulate the sensual and erotic urges. Touch coupled with hearing can produce the symphonies and great music that endures lifetimes. And, it is the gentle and loving touch of a mother that is the baby’s first experience.

Anatomy of Touch

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The nerve endings that are comprised at the very tips of our fingers are primed to receive the information that something has been connected to and signals the brain to either withdraw, as in the case of pain or to explore more fully as in a non-threatening connection. There is an immediate response and reaction to what we touch and in the case of another human being an immediate response and reaction is stirred in the one being touched.

Where and how you touch can produce pleasure or pain. There is the shared feeling of sensitivity where the nerve endings on the skin lay and a heightened awareness poised in the direction of where the touch is coming from. Insects and other animals use antennae as feelings to navigate through their worlds. And the lightest touch sends vibrations that alert a spider to the fact that dinner or an intruder may be at hand.

The Art of Touch

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Creation of Adam (Detail) by Michelangelo

Nothing conveys emotion or sentiment like the sense of touch. When we reach out to another we are opening the energetic pathways from one body to another. Imbued within that energy is meaning that often words cannot adequately express. How we touch another can say we love you- move out of my way- or I am someone who cares. We often take for granted how much impact touching someone has. There is a common philosophy of parenting that we can never kiss and hug our children enough. Having had five children I believe this to be true and now in looking back I wish I had made better use of those random times when a simple hug would have added to the moment.

The true art of touch is in the fact that it can be planned or simply occur spontaneously. This also is a bit different from the other senses. We have no choice but to use sight, when we look at something. We cannot help but hear the surrounding noises. We cannot turn off our sense of smell. And, even though we have selectivity about what we ingest, there is always some sort of taste in our mouths that is residual from what we have eaten.

Touch can be withheld (Etherically, we are engaging our subtle sense of touch all of the time. More on this in Sensing the Subtleties Post next week) if we so desire. And, although the sensation of touch is required given the science of gravity and the contact of our footing on the earth, we still have ultimate control over how we actively engage this sense otherwise.

Healing and Therapeutic Modalities

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Touch is used in most of the healing and therapeutic modalities. Reiki and Therapeutic massage are just two of the ways in which touch is used to promote health and well-being. A massage can be just what is needed to relax or to energize you in a more productive manner.

Within the practice of Nursing, Therapeutic Touch has become a process of intervention for more than 30 years. Although its roots are in mysticism, the medical community is now looking at various alternative and holistic practices, including the premise that specific forms of touch can engage the energetic body of the patient and be changed to promote healing. Reiki and other related healing modalities are now incorporated in the treatment of Cancer patients as part of their regular regimen. Doctors of Osteopathic medicine are trained in Osteopathic Manipulation techniques that relieve patient pain and realign the skeletal and muscular system with care provided by a licensed physician who can address the related medical needs of their patients.

Let’s Get Physical Practice: 

Reach Out!

For this exercise, you will need to actively reach out. During the course of the day make a point to reach out and touch someone. This may take the form of a handshake or a reassuring hand on a shoulder. If it is someone you know well, a hug or gentle caress may be in order. Take your cues from the person as to what their level of comfort is in being touched. Did they respond by reaching back? Did you notice a change in the dynamics of your interaction that may not have occurred had you not employed touch in some way?

Companion Post: Next Week
The Sacred Vessel
The Subtleties of the Senses: Touch

Resources:

The Book of Touch (Sensory Formations) by Constance Classen
Healing Touch Guidebook, Practicing the Art and Science of Human Caring by Dorothea Hover-Kramer, Healing Touch Program
To Touch Is to Live: The Need for Genuine Affection in an Impersonal World by Mariana Caplan
Essential Reiki: A Complete Guide to an Ancient Healing Art by Diane Stein
Reiki: A Comprehensive Guide by Pamela Miles
Reiki, the Healing Touch by William Rand
Mosby’s Fundamentals of Therapeutic Massage by Sandy Fritz
The Book Of Massage: The Complete Stepbystep Guide To Eastern And Western Technique by Lucinda Lidell, Carola Beresford Cooke, Anthony Porter, and Sara Thomas

 

Next Post: “Engaging the Senses”
Part 4: The Sense of Taste

Child-Tasting-Food

 

About This Series:

This five-part posting will take a closer look at each of the senses that are part of our greater learning and growing experience. Each of the five senses plays a significant role in how we process the information of our human experience and these lessons serve as the foundations of our use of sensation in ephemeral and spiritual experience. Each contributes a specific energy and working collaboratively they offer the keys to memory, expansion of consciousness, engagement in the physical world and doorways to the inner planes of wisdom.

There are collaborative posts speaking to the Spiritual overlays of each of the senses in the Sacred Vessel Blog that may be accessed the week after this posting.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Sensing the Subtleties: Part Three | The Sacred Vessel Mysteries

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