What is touch?

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

What is touch? What are the various ways that I can experience touch? These are the questions I’m reflecting on in this period of social distancing and being in lock-down on my own. What I’m missing the most is being able to touch another human body and being touched in return. Be it a handshake, shoulder brush, gentle touch on the arm or a hug. It has been more than a month since I’ve been in physical contact with another body, even a pet (dog or cat) that I could stroke to get that felt sense of another breathing being. Communication around the coronavirus has made touch a very “risky” act.

During my reflection I realised that my underlying assumptions of what it meant to touch and be touched was limited. I was holding on to a specific way and in doing that I closed down possibilities for myself to be touched by life. So, how do I view touch now? Touch is a meeting point. A place and space where two organisms connect, even if it is for a brief second. In that connection the energy of both are in contact and through the interaction a new energy is brought forth leaving both changed (consciously or unconsciously).

With this broader perspective in mind and knowing that only I can change how missing touch impacted me, I started to open myself up to other ways of experiencing the felt sense of touch. I started to realise that throughout my daily chores I’m being touched and am touching. Every moment provides a meeting point with life. Every moment is an opportunity be touched and transformed by life. However, the choice is ours to show up to the meeting and be present in the moment.

I started to feel the nurturing sensation of touch as the water streamed down on my skin when I showered. I played with putting my attention on the various parts of my body where the water touches my skin. Really sensing into the meeting point of the waterdrop – its warmth, texture and soft energy. I became aware how the touch of water running from the tap in the bathroom basin differ from the tap in the kitchen basin on my hands. The temperature of the water also creates different sensations.

The practice became being present in every moment – presence in practice. Allowing presence to do rather than disconnecting and getting lost in thoughts. As I was rubbing cream in my body I realised I can do this from an autopilot way or I can be in my hands as it touches the various parts of my body. I can give myself permission to feel how it feels to touch every part of my body. To touch and be touched by me and the presence that lives inside me. Realising that in touching myself two entities are present. It is not just me – I’m not alone. As my physical body is touching, the deeper part of me (call it spirit, soul, presence, consciousness, God within, Chi, life force, etc.) witness the touching and are in the touch.

I started to explore touch more from the viewpoint that all in life is connected and everything has energy. I became aware how touching the apple and cutting it in pieces can be an intimate process. How in being present to the act of peeling the sweet potato, I’m simultaneously peeling layers deep inside of me. Through the process of chopping the onion, it forms tears as its energy touch my eyes. In eating my breakfast oats, it fills my whole body with warmth.

In opening up to nature I allowed it to feed all of me. The various tones of the birds sinning touches my ears in different ways. I became aware how the sound of their wings flapping touches a specific area in my heart, that fly away with them as the sound softens that meeting place. The colours of the flowers, trees and plants outside my window touch my eyes. The breeze blowing through the window tinkle my lips. All around me abundance of touch. From the texture of clothes and duvet cover on my skin; the holding of the hairdryer and feeling the hot air drying my hair; the pen in my hand as I’m writing; the damp touch of the clothes as I hang them out; to the broomstick in my hand as I’m sweeping.

Realising more and more that every moment I have a choice to keep on practicing opening up to life in the moment. To let go of the assumptions of how I want touch to be. To not to putt conditions on it and thereby limiting my experience of being touched or radiating touch to others. Also, becoming aware of the deeper underlying fears that feed the yearning to be touched. Do I still exist if I’m not touched? Am I still loved if I’m not touched?

Then I remind myself that like a mother gorilla touches her baby in order for the baby to get a felt sense of its body. I need to learn to do that to myself and allow life to touch me. Only in taking up the responsibility will I be able to receive, give and in the process be transformed by life as it touches me in the meeting point of the moment. Learning that when I’m present in the moment all my needs are lovingly met. Life exist through me and I am touch.

Love is space

At the end of 2016 I wrote a blog to focus on the space. In the current context of social distancing I was reminded again of the importance of space. That space in itself is a gift. Even if it feels like distancing or disconnecting from the people we love. The following words came to me as I sat with space this morning.

Love is space

The soul need space to be cared for.
The unconscious need space to surface and be fully seen.
The mind need space to calm down and become aware.
Emotions need space to be felt completely and to flow through.
The body need space to release tension and heal.

Relationships require space for trust to grow.
Knowledge require space to turn into wisdom.
Unhealthy habits require space to be changed.
Sorrow and regret require space to be mourned.
Death require space to be buried.

Nature need space to grow and be.
The in-breath need space before the out-breath.
Dreams and goals need space to reach for.
Imagination need space to create.
Lovers need space to yearn for.

Space is necessary.
Space is consciousness.
Space is companionship.
Space is life.
Space is love.

Healing question: How can you allow the space to love you and the ones you care deeply for?

You don’t need eyes to see

Photo by Larm Rmah on Unsplash

Have you ever experienced life with closed eyes?
I recently undergone surgery on my right eye which meant that I had to keep the eye closed with an eye patch for 48-hours. This resulted in two-days of experiencing life with minimal vision as my left eye only has 20% visibility. Before the procedure I became aware of a subtle sense of fear. I knew it had something to do with the eye procedure but I also knew it was not that I was scared about the procedure itself. On deeper reflection I realised I was scared to not be able to rely on sight as a way of engaging with life, work and relationships. In essence I was scared to be vulnerable.

At the end the procedure was a success and I was pleasantly surprised by the richness of living life with closed minimum sight. Reflecting back, I see a pattern that usually the magic waits for me on the other end of fear. However, I need to be willing to face the fear, open myself up to the process and allow it (not my head or eyes in this case) to show me the way, even if it means being vulnerable.

With the opening of both my eyes at dawn of day three, three poem were revealed before my eyes. It was as if it had waited for me to go through the process. I would like to share one of them with you.

To see

What a gift to see the unveiling of the morning,
as the protea bush softly changes into yellow-green
as the ocean breeze gently sway with the innocent white curtains by the open window.

The dove takes flight from the tree after a good night’s nest
The bees eagerly start to work at the openhearted pink flowers by your window
The light starts to slowly creep into the room unveiling what have been hidden in the night.

And you meet yourself anew on this day,
as you look into the bathroom mirror
as you see the eyes that are looking back at you.

There is a familiarity and a knowing that you’ve changed during the night.
The face that reflects back at you is not the same
as the one you saw in the same mirror the night before.

As the forgiving dawn-light of the morning draws across your unwashed face
It unveils the secret of life –
you don’t need eyes to see.

– Gretha Cronje

Questions to reflect on: What different way of being can you embody, in your personal and professional life, to enable you to see others and yourself in a new way?

Create space for life to surprise you in 2020

Gorilla naming ceremony site in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

The past few months I learned that the real work is not about trying to control life or creating a “perfect” plan or clear vision for your future. The real work is about apprenticing yourself to create spaces for life to surprise you. Whatever shape or form the space needs to take on in order for you to be able to tune into your inner wisdom and deeper undercurrents of life that is always there to support you. Practically speaking it may mean that you create an external environment where your soul can rest and then to commit to a practice such as meditating or creative exercises to cultivate the silent space within.

Tending to the space is not passive, it requires energy, focus and a daily commitment to be present to life. It asks of us to face our fears and the avoidance behaviour around it. As well as to be accountable, take responsibility for our decisions and to stop projecting our insecurities onto others. As James Hollis said “ When we show up as best we can, then on any given day, we are a grown-up and contribute to carrying the world’s burden, rather than adding to it.”

Creating a space for life to surprise you means to grow up and out of the tendency to want to control life from the fear of not being good enough. In doing that you start to trust that whatever life may throw at you, you will be able to meet amidst your brokenness. Because you know that life is not about striving for the illusion of perfection but about the mystery of love. You realise that your fear-based plan is too small for you and that only when you surrender to love will you step into the bigger contribution that life is eagerly waiting for you to make.

Life is full of surprises (some life-giving and others courageously challenging) – the question is -are you paying attention? How can you create space in 2020 to allow life to surprise you?

Set yourself free

photo: unsplash.com

Do you have an ideal picture of your life, partner, job, children or even how you want your body to look like? It is exactly these ideal images that can create suffering if it blinds other ways of looking and experiencing the world for us.  I recently learned the hard way how I was still holding on too tightly to an old belief of how my CV must look like for me to get the ideal job. In doing that I created my own straight jacket.  When I realised that I was creating my own suffering by my way of thinking, I also realised that I have the power to loosen the buckles of the straight jacket. I can set myself free in letting go of the picture I had in my mind.

This reminded me of what Mary Parker Follet wrote about purpose in the 1920’s in a business management book:

“Last summer I noticed a strange plant in our pasture. I did not know what it was, I had no picture in my mind of what flower or fruit it would bear, but I freed it. That is, I dug around it and opened the soil that the rain might fall on its roots, I cleared out the thistles with which it was entangled so that it might have room to spread, I cut down the undergrowth of small maples near so that it could get the sun. In other words, I simply freed it. Every friendship which is not treated in this way will surely suffer; no human relation should serve an anticipatory purpose. Every relation should be a freeing relation with the “purpose” evolving.”

What pictures, that serve an anticipatory purpose, are causing suffering in your relationships or life?

Let go of the pictures, unbuckle yourself and set yourself free to evolve into more than you can imagine.

Touched by a gorilla

Photo by Porco Rosso on Unsplash

I can’t remember when my fascination with Gorillas started but the movie “Gorillas in the Mist” definitely contributed to that.  I only recently read the book (with the same name) by Dian Fossey on which the move was based. In the book she shares 13 years of research of the mountain gorillas in the Virunga mountains in Africa.

A few times in the book I was really touched by what she did and how the gorillas engaged with each other as well as with her. The one was when she and a gorilla (that she called “Peanut”) shared eye connection for the first time.  In that moment she felt that she has “crossed an intangible barrier between human and ape” and “finally been accepted by a gorilla”.  She writes

“The expression in his eyes was unfathomable. Spellbound, I returned his gaze – a gaze that seemed to combine elements of inquiry and of acceptance. Peanut ended this unforgettable moment by sighing deeply, and slowly resumed feeding.”

The combination of inquiry and of acceptance is so powerful. Through my coaching work I came to realise that those two elements (inquiry and acceptance) are vital in the process of becoming. How can you gaze upon yourself with inquiry and acceptance and also do that in your interactions with others?

There was another beautiful incident with Peanut that Dian described in the book. When they touched hands for the first time. After the incident they named the place “Fasi Ya Mkoni” meaning “the Place of the Hands”. The words moved me. It reminded me that, just like the gorillas, we too have a yearning for connection and to be touched. What or who do you need to touch today to deepen your connection with life?

Connecting to your inner wildness

DSCN1941

We all have an inner wild woman or man living inside of us. That part of us that wants to be free, spend time in nature and connect with animals. Yet, in the busyness of life we tend to neglect that aspect of ourselves. Instead of running or meandering freely in the mountains we run around from one meeting to another chasing deadlines. Leaving us exhausted and disconnected at the end of the day.

Ian McCuallum write in his book Ecological Intelligence
“ To be wild is to be alert to the needs of the flesh and the warning calls of distress. It is to be spontaneous – to live one’s Earthiness and one’s notions of God independent of outside approval. It is to dance, to work and to play with passion…”

I get a sense that we assume that if we allow ourselves to be wild it will lead to irresponsible behaviour. To prevent that, we put our inner wildness on a leash and hand it over to our inner critic to hold. In trying to protect ourselves from the possibility of getting hurt by being spontaneous and passionate we are sabotaging our creativity. By always trying to be in control, do the responsible or the “right” thing we limit ourselves, lose our sense of self and authenticity.

When we unleash the wildness inside we open ourselves to the natural flow of life. In doing that we start to breathe more deeply and our capacity to live with an open-heart increase. We are more able to feel and take in all aspects of life (the joy, ecstasy, intimacy, sadness, disappointments, etc.) without trying to control it. We become more aware of the impact of our behaviour on others and the environment. Which open up new possibilities to engage in a more sustainable authentic way. From being more connected with ourselves and others we can make valuable contributions on a personal and professional level.

You may ask so how do I start to connect with my inner wild woman or man? There are endless possibilities of doing this. You can start with making time to just be with yourself and notice what wants to emerge. Take off your shoes and walk barefoot on the grass. Spend time in nature -go for a hike in the mountain or walk along the beach and allow your inner self to connect with nature. Do something spontaneous, dance, play with your children, read poetry. Do whatever will make you feel free.

I would like to end with a poem by Ian McCuallum that beautifully capture that inner wildness.

The rising
One day
your soul will call to you
with a holy rage.
“Rise up!” it will say …
Stand up inside your own skin.
Unmask your unlived life …
feast on your animal heart.
Unfasten your fist …
let loose the medicine
in your own hand.
Show me the lines …
I will show you the spoor
of the ancestors.
Show me the creases …
I will show you
the way to water.
Show me the folds …
I will show you the furrows
for your healing.
“Look!” it will say …
the line of life has four paths –
one with a mirror
one with a mask,
one with a fist,
one with a heart.
One day,
your soul will call to you
with a holy rage.