Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Contact and connection

What is it about the touch of another that can bring satisfaction?
What is the difference between a skilled touch, and that of a friend or loved one?
Why does modern medicine ignore our need for touch?

We are a social species, and touch is an integral part of our basic needs. Babies know when they are being held, and when they are deprived of touch - actually grow up with brain damage. Touch is a universal language. We shake hands to greet, hug good friends, request back rubs (well some of us do ;-)), and pet animals to befriend them. Though the language of caring is conveyed through touch, I believe there is more to it. We become more connected to ourselves (and the other person) when physical contact happens. Touch brings a sense of relief and happiness, and also a sense of being known that cannot be captured by simple conversation. What would you rather have when you come home from a hard days work? An empathetic conversation or a shoulder and hand massage?

Though pills can do wondrous things for our physiology, I know of no pill that can bring the relief and connectedness found in a simple backrub. Why does modern medicine ignore this, and why is the insurance industry lax to cover any skilled touch? I'm not sure, but it has to do with our culture's desire to lead with our heads rather than our whole organic understanding.

Through my work as a nurse in several hospitals, I have seen that medicine is delivered primarily through pharmaceutical and surgical solutions. Cutting it off, open, or direct control of the bodies fluids and chemicals is the mainstay of Western medicine. You'll be lucky to get any other touch in the hospital besides a needle stick, IV line, bandage change, or repositioning in bed. Obviously our culture needs some help accepting the value, and fundamental NEED for this other part of health called skilled touch.

And why must touch be skilled? Well would you like to have a trained surgeon or layperson digging around for your inflamed appendix? Skill brings satisfying results. And if the primary goal is connection, integration, and relaxation you better call the best in the industry. Of course, once you are sold on an alternative route deciphering which alternative to take can be another ball of wax. I'll save that for another entry. Thanks for reading, now go touch somebody!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


... a sense mediated by receptors located in muscles, tendons, and joints and stimulated by bodily movements and tensions; also : sensory experience derived from this sense. (Webster's Dictionary)

This is your 6th sense. How can you close your eyes and still touch your nose? Your body feels it. Just like any other body sense or system, it can work well or be dis-eased. Unfortunately we cannot yet do laser corrective surgery to repair disrupted kinesthesia.

This is where somatic therapies come in... Rolfing, Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais Method, Chiropractic, certain Physical Therapy techniques, Yoga Asanas, Dance, Breathwork... and a host of other body-therapies can help to re-program your body's sense of itself.

Often the problems start with your mental state; your response to stress, your ingrained habits, and your physical responses/guardings to emotions.
So mental and stress reduction therapies also can play a role here. Meditation, biofeedback, psychotherapy, guided imagery, and simply being attentive to your body state/reaction/alignment can all be helpful in regaining and maintaining your proprioceptive balance.

Just as when you don a pair of glasses and a new field of vision opens up, using these physical and mental therapies toward correcting the kinesthetic sense enlivens us, and allows us to be more at ease. Unlike the sense of vision, we can become active participants in growing and correcting this sense. Unfortunately this also means we can ignore the signs of incorrect proprioception to our detriment. I encourage you to address and prevent the inevitable imbalances to live well in your own body!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Blog Opening Day

Dear Readers, Rolfers, RN's, Reiki Masters, Reichian Therapits, and Republicans,

Let's get this blog started by enjoying a

Cup of Tea, with Nan-in

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. "It is overfull. No more will go in!"

"Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"

Lest we forget, we cannot retrieve health. It is innate, homeostatic, and visits us when we are still, kind, and buoyant. From the prodding of Western medical minds to the hands of holistic care-ers the layout of a mind and soul are mapped in divergent realms for Northernamericans.

How do we solve the clamoring desires for youth, beauty, balance, painlessness and health if we cannot first learn to be still and accept life?