When my wife Barbara was pregnant with our only child, we decided that I was to be the “birth coach.”
I began to learn Trager Bodywork in an effort to prepare.
At the time I was not very heart-centered at all, and in fact many thought that I suffered from Asperger Syndrome, a type of autism that affects social interactions.
Learning Trager Bodywork proved to be an excellent skill for birth coaching. I ended up continuing my studies and becoming a licensed practitioner. As my skills in bodywork improved, the apparent symptoms of Asperger faded, and I felt my heart opening.
I learned that through developing a dramatically improved sense of touch, mothers and fathers can become more effective at tending to their children’s needs. Trager helped me with this, but massage, cranio-sacral work, reiki, and other manual practices can also help in this capacity.
But the thing that really awakened the connection between my heart and my hands was a later discovery: “tactile meditation.” This is a simple touch enhancing exercise specifically for the hands that was invented by Dr. Betty Martin, a retired Chiropractor from Seattle. It makes use of neuroplasticity to improve the sense of touch—and, in retrospect, I believe it would have helped me to be a better father!
Dr. Martin calls it the “hands exercise,” and through building more neural connections to the fingers, it improves our sense of touch. This has the potential to make parents, bodywork therapists, and other caregivers more effective. The exercise involves simply spending five minutes a day feeling objects such as pillows, stones, shells, or anything with an unusual texture, with the emphasis being on how exactly we sit and touch the objects.
This first video describes the exercise with detail and precision:
This second video explains the neurology of why it works:
Within just a few days, we can notice the sensitivity and quality of our touch improving; within a month, that improvement will be drastic! Many people experience tears of joy at discovering how pleasurable a truly developed sense of touch feels. It opens the heart to touch people with such a heightened and empathetic touch—an excellent skill for parenting.
Please share with friends who are parents or caregivers of any kind. It can improve tactile communication through the hands in any context. Don’t be fooled by how simple it looks. The effects of the above exercise are truly magical!
Author: Ian Faulkner
Image: Alexa Mazzarello/Unsplash
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Travis May