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With the extended “shelter in place” and limited physical touch with others, many are facing a monumental issue of touch deprivation.
The side effects are many, including depression, agitation, aggression, loneliness. When we lack connection with others, our nervous system ramps up and the side effects can be heightened.
Over an extended period of time, some may find that coming back into physical connection with others will have it’s own challenges. Developing a practice of connecting to your own body will hopefully smooth the transition when we begin to re-emerge into social circles.
Here are a few ideas for finding comfort with your own body, as well as preparing your system for meeting others. We can reconfigure the neurological connections in our brains with practice. Just like when a baby learns a new thing—they practice it over and over again. We can do the same with perception of touch and pleasure.
Our skin is the largest organ of our body, and the brain plays a key role in our perception of touch and pleasure. There is actually an unlimited potential for our bodies to see, hear, feel, taste, and smell. Rarely do we tap into the depth of what is possible with our brains and bodies working together.
For now, consider that our brain does this amazing job of making neurological connections for pleasure and touch. We can actually create new neural pathways for the perception of touch from another with an amazing tool.
I teach intimacy and tools for connection through intimacy coaching as well as events. During events known as Tantric Puja Celebrations, we use this exercise:
>> Get comfortable, close eyes, breathe in and out through the nose.
>> Have one hand gently resting on a table or your leg.
>> Begin to imagine another person’s hand touching the top of your hand.
>> Guided by the breath, notice the memories of this person’s hand.
>> Next, notice the temperature and pressure of the hand touching your hand.
>> Using your own breathing pattern, begin to imagine the feeling of this hand connecting to yours, using the inhalation to gently “move” the energy you have identified up toward your wrist.
>> On the exhalation, be still and simply notice the sensations, memories, and thoughts about the image of the other person’s hand on your hand.
>> Keep imagining moving the sensation of touch from the hand on the inhale, using stillness to notice your own bodily sensations with the exhale.
>> There will be a point where the energy, the perceived sensation, no longer moves. For some, it happens at a joint, like the elbow or shoulder. Some will feel the sensation to their chest, the heart center.
>> When the sensation no longer moves, slowly begin to use the exhale to move the sensation back down. Keep eyes closed and breathing slowly and deeply through the nose.
>> When you have the perception of touch back at your own hand, take the next cycle of breath to release it and slowly open your eyes.
Notice what you feel, physically and emotionally. Practice with this tool will create more awareness of what is being processed in your body. There is no magical goal, or place to arrive. Simply noticing.
With mindfulness and intention, you might be surprised at how your body responds. I have experimented with giving virtual hugs with some friends in our community.
If you have ever tried phone sex, this would also fall into this category. In fact, when someone asks me where the erogenous zones are, my reply is, “Anywhere you desire them to be!” With the unlimited potential of our sensual bodies and the brain, you can create pleasurable feelings in your pinky finger or you elbow, if you so desire.
This is a virtual platonic hug narrative that I shared with someone over Zoom recently. The person had their eyes closed while I spoke of the sensations in my own body. When it was complete, and eyes opened, there was a huge smile on the person’s face. The individual felt like he had received a hug.
Hug narrative experience:
>> I look up and see you as you enter the room, and I keep my gaze on you until you feel me and meet my gaze. My smile precedes yours by just a second, and I feel the warmth spreading across my face and down my shoulders. I stand by the table and watch as you make your way across the crowded room of our framily (family + friends = framily), eventually standing in front of me.
>> Your large frame causes me to lean back a bit to see your face clearly, opening my arms to request a hug. Your eyes twinkle, and I feel the expansiveness as your arms open to wrap me up in the embrace. I stand on my toes until your body relaxes and bends more, and my bare feet touch the cool floor. Every place your arms touch my body, I feel the warmth that reminds me of a towel just from the dryer. One of your hands is placed between my shoulder blades, at the back of my heart chakra, and the other hand is resting lightly at the small of my back. Your hands have more warmth, almost a tingling feeling against my body, that I feel even through my T-shirt.
>> The sounds of others greeting, sharing, and connecting goes on around us. For these few seconds, I feel the melting of postures as our breathing syncs, eventually inhaling and exhaling together. I turn my face slightly toward your neck, feeling the soft, velvety warmth of the skin against my cheek. There is an almost inaudible sigh that escapes from my throat, and then we separate, slowly pulling away. The final eye contact feels playful and almost giddy as we turn to greet and hug others.
Another way to energize or soothe your system is to notice lots of little ways to create pleasure in your body. There are lots of choices in our everyday lives that go unnoticed or rushed over. What a perfect opportunity to slow down and take notes of pleasure for yourself.
Is there a particular mug for your morning drink that makes you smile, or holds your coffee exceptionally well? Notice what kind of clothing your body would prefer to feel against the skin. Is it the the soft, worn T-shirt, or the loosely woven top that allows more air to reach you? Do you step outside to feel the breeze or the sun or the rain on your skin? Have you warmed the oil or lotion to massage into your skin?
There are so many ways that we can slow down, notice, and follow the path to more pleasurable touch in our lives, even without another human around. And these tools can help to keep our brains and bodies regulated so that when we are able to meet and greet again, we will have an expanded repertoire of touch points in our bodies.
Are you ready to emerge from this pandemic with a body that has more pleasurable connection?