Photo by Wesley-Mclachlan on Unsplash
Social Distancing is the term used to describe staying away from people and microbial residue (or as our Prime Minister called it, “moist breath”) that people leave behind when touching objects. Pre-pandemic, MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research conducted an experiment with forty people who sat in a windowless room alone for ten hours. In another experiment this group was constrained to a ten-hour day of fasting. In the first experiment, they reported a craving for social contact; in the second, a craving for food. In both experiments, their brain images showed a similar “craving signal” after both the social and nutritional deprivation experiences. We are all in this life experiment, managing our cravings one way or another.
The pandemic is shining a harsh light on privilege in a way that we don’t sometimes look at – the haves and the have nots in terms of social isolation. In Canada, the number of people living alone has more than doubled to 4 million people in 2016 and has grown fastest for adults aged 35-64. So, this post is speaking to people without the privilege of touch as a regular part of your healthy life style. (A big nod to everyone living and working in a family bubble – working, parenting and schooling from home is mega-challenging too!)
Coping with a craving, an itch that we can’t really scratch to satisfaction is a life constraint. One of the things I am coming to apply more broadly from my Feldenkrais practice is how to get curious and creative when facing a constraint in how I move through life. To cope with my own physical isolation, I have turned to touch as a way to not feel alone. The difference that makes a difference to feel connected through touch is conscious touch – where I both am consciously contacting the cat or the coffee mug and where I am filled with awareness. It is an inside/outside affair of awareness.
- To get a sense of what I mean, try this movement experiment.
- Reach for an object, like a cup. As you touch it, do you notice when you could feel the first point of contact? Can you slow down and try it again?
- This time, put your awareness into remembering what you had for breakfast and reach for the cup. How is that different?
Finally, reach for the cup as if it contains the most delicious cup of coffee, your first cup of coffee. Does your desire for the contents enhance or diminish your sense of touching the cup?
In my life experiment to find a sense of connection through touch, I notice that I self-isolate daily, when I touch without awareness. Conscious touch is a gateway to know how interdependent we are with others and with our environment. When we bring ourselves more wholly into what and who we touch, we have an opportunity to feel ourselves at the center of everything. The connections are already there, we just have to find them.
There is no substitute for physical touch, connection with others. There is a wholeness we can tap into when we shift from absent-minded touch to present-minded touch.
If this learning expedition appeals to you, consider joining me for my upcoming In Touch Series. This 6-session series will explore using our senses to functionally connect with ourselves (our internal sensitivity to sensations and feelings or interoception), with our environments (our ability to perceive our position in space or proprioception) and with each other (listening through touch). Unconscious touch internally can create habits that keep us separate from our own experience (have you ever moved from one room to another with no conscious idea of how you got there?) and can keep us self-isolated from our world. We will contrast the state of being “absent-minded” in movement with being “present-minded”, learning about your own unique habits of mind that take you out of the moment now.
You can register for the series or drop-in for each class.
Learn more: https://www.kindpower.ca/book/