“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. ” – Leo Buscaglia
You probably know this as well as I: all humans are born with the capacity to heal with our hands. We use our hands to create healing foods, healing music, and healing spaces, and we also use our hands to provide healing touch to each other.
The healing power of nurturing touch has been well studied and documented for decades: it decreases anxiety, lowers blood pressure, increases immunity and endorphin levels, and it helps you sleep better. This comes as no surprise, considering our skin is our largest organ – and one of our primary pathways to the mind-body connection.
You have likely used physical contact very instinctively to help a family member, friend, pet, or community member feel better in times of sickness, sadness, or other stress. It is a beautiful thing, when you are able to reach out to another – your warmth and presence help to soften the edges of a world that receives less and less human contact, especially as technology becomes the primary way many people now connect. Nothing can replace healthy and informed human touch . . .let it continue with you! Read on to to learn a few guiding principles that professionals in the healing arts use when working hands-on with clients.
Five Steps to Cultivate a Healer’s Touch:
Prior to making a physical connection with the family member or friend you have been asked to care for, I invite you to first make a connection with yourself. Place your hands on your heart or belly and sense your own body. Then, bring your mind into the present moment and focus on receiving three or four breaths using a natural rhythm – there’s no rush. Ride the waves of your breath, and bring all of your awareness into your body. Center, steady and ground yourself – this will be the steady foundation upon which you build with #2.
2. Find neutral
Now that you are grounded and centered in your body in the present moment, it is time to check in with your mind and heart. Your client / friend has come to you for a reason (or perhaps you’ve gone to them), and it’s natural that you want to “help.” However, I invite you to shift your intention to one of compassionate neutrality, which focuses less on performance or outcome, and much more on cultivating sacred space. Your recipient’s body will recognize this type of presence as a breath of fresh air – trust me – since it does not have an agenda. A healer’s compassionately neutral presence, combined with informed touch, creates a container within which a client’s inner physician and body wisdom are able to arise.
Allow your hands to make contact with your recipient’s body, calmly and naturally. My craniosacral therapy professors used this analogy: “sink like a dry sponge into a basin of water.” Try this right now on your own thigh – when it feels like the tissues of your hands can’t quite discern where your hands end and your thigh begins, you are melded. Now practice this touch on a friend or family member – again, practice becoming aware of the sensation of the melding of tissues together. Keep in mind that only a warm, grounded and neutral touch can truly meld – there is often only a subtle difference between melded touch and pressing on a body, or riding it too lightly. It makes ALL the difference in the world; the receiver’s body and nervous system will feel the difference immediately. My students truly enjoy practicing “melded, neutral touch” during their Reiki training, or Craniosacral therapy training. Try it with a friend or colleague, and receive feedback!
4. Do Nothing, Be Everything
This was one of the best pieces of advice given to me by a mentor in the healing arts, and is something I teach all of my students. When you are able to be grounded, neutral, and melded with a recipient’s body, their natural relaxation response begins to arise. Your cultivated healer’s touch becomes a sacred container – one in which you invite your clients into a deeper connection with themselves. In this space, their bodies begin to move toward homeostasis, restoring their innate capacity for balance. Resist the urge to DO anything – I invite you to practice keen witnessing with your hands while maintaing a compassionate and steady presence with your melded touch. Try this with a friend or family member for 5 – 10 minutes and see what happens!
In order to cultivate your healer’s touch, it is essential to switch roles and be a recipient – not just a giver! As a part of your self-care practice, I encourage you to receive therapeutic and holistic bodywork therapies across a variety of disciplines in order to give your body the opportunity to recognize what a healer’s touch can feel like from the inside. If you find you are interested in expanding your experience with light-touch based therapies, I invite you to consider Reiki or Craniosacral therapy training – these learning opportunities provide new students and experienced professionals a beautiful blend of giving and receiving, and will allow you take your healer’s touch to a whole new level!
Peace and pura vida,