For human beings, being touched by another is essential and it is a gift. To offer a compassionate touch might be the greatest gift you can give to another.
The experience of being touched is at the roots of our well-being.
Touch is an incredible non-verbal way of listening, creating safety, soothing and expressing empathy. It communicates a quality of being-with.
When we are affected emotionally by say a beautiful piece of music or a story we hear, we are “touched” by what we hear - or we might experience it as “touching”. It connects us with the landscape of ourselves sometimes suddenly, and always undeniably.
The quality of touch we receive when we emerge into the world after the journey of birth has long-lasting effects on us. This first contact teaches our developing nervous systems we are safe and welcomed into this world and into loving arms. Touch is fundamental to how we grow to experience the world.
Research also shows that skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby helps to relax both and aids the baby in particular to regulate its heartbeat and other autonomic functions.
At this stage touch is our primary sense, before the other sensory systems are fully developed. Although this balance shifts while we unfold and grow into our capacities, touch continues to be our first language.
Yet it is not only in this entering into the world when touch is needed. We require it throughout our lives till the very last breath. We often communicate emotions and compassion through touch in a much more potent way than we do with words.
When we receive the right kind of touch, it can help us reduce anxiety, pain and deepen into our experience of ourselves. It calms our nervous system down and reduces the amount of stress hormones.
The right kind of touch is not about magic, but can do wonders. A gentle hand on your shoulder says, essentially, “I am here, I am with you, I see you”. But it does so much more as well. It is immediate and through this immediacy you are welcomed to face what is present.
This kind of touch is an invitation to simply be here and be ok with whatever it is we are experiencing. It asks or demands nothing of you and welcomes all of you into an uncomplicated presence.
This can already be a huge relief. To be invited to be; not to do, not to achieve, not to be in a particular way. The whole landscape of you may enter into a breathing presence, in touch with another.