The Risk Of Touch

About a week ago I got together for a quick business meeting with a colleague and because it was brief she brought along her two kids. The two children were young, and full of life. They busied themselves around the room playing, while we discussed details. After about 10 minutes in my presence, mind you I had just met the two, one of the children walked over and gently pushed my bag off of my legs and climbed up into my lap.  The mother made a loving joke about how her child liked to try out all laps, as if a connoisseur.  The little one stayed a moment or two and leaned back against my chest and then at exactly the right moment jumped down and went back to playing.  Not to be outdone, the other child almost immediately came over to try out my lap. It was all I could do to remain composed and present while my mind raced.

When did we lose the courage to act upon our desire to touch? At what age did we have it brainwashed from us. As children we knew how important, how crucial touch is to make us feel safe and connected to the world and we searched for it anywhere, anytime there was desire. As adults we contemplate touch, sometimes even wanting and refusing ourselves that touch, because we are afraid. We are afraid of doing something childish.

Which brings me to my experience this morning in the City Clerk’s office. I was filing for a business permit for my new acupuncture and yoga business and two women were seated filling out a form for a marriage license. I recognized the form and the nervous laughter immediately as I sat at that exact table 14 months ago. The entire time I was in the City Clerk’s office, I wanted to say congratulations to them. I didn’t want to go and sit in one of their laps for goodness sake. I wasn’t going to give either of them a hug—though the child in me did want to.  I just wanted to take a tiny emotional risk and brighten their already very bright day. I wanted to connect with two strangers on an intimate level.  And I didn’t. I went about my business and then left, politely. I did the “appropriate” thing.

Now, at home, I am embarrassed and disappointed in myself. I am a person who studies people’s feet and asks about bowel movements for a living. I palpate abdomens and listen to the pulse for long moments gathering a person’s most inner workings. I am, in some circumstances, terribly comfortable with the intimate. But this morning I was afraid to reach out and touch someone. Because that is what emotional language is and that is why we shy away from it. I was afraid to take the risk of touching and because of it there is now a slight heaviness in my heart. Like any unfilled desire these little moments must add up and cause some negative reaction in the body. Yet we never think about the tiny, microscopic, subtle ways that avoiding touch has on our body, our mind and our own emotions.

Just notice today as you go about your life how often you feel a pull to do something, whether it is pick up something someone has dropped, hold a door open longer, complement someone, or offer someone a hug who looks like they need it. Even if you don’t act on the pull, start to notice the desire. Eventually, maybe, we might get back the courage to act on it again.

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