What is "The Language of Touch"?
Remember the last time you touched someone who needed healing, and your hands seemingly "knew" where to go and what to do? Or perhaps it was that hug you gave to someone you were attracted to, and instead of completely releasing, your hands remained connected while you talked and stared into each other's eyes. And in those moments you felt -- perhaps fleetingly - that your voice wasn't the only part of you in conversation with this other being. That your heart and soul were communicating as well, through contact...This is what we call the language of touch.
The language of touch is quite different than body language -- or perhaps it is a subset of it. What most people mean by body language is postures and other visual signs that the body gives to other beings. The language of touch, on the other hand, happens only in the realm of touch and contact with others. It is the subtle conversation that the body has with the world around it. What "words" does your body understand and communicate? Are you *aware* of what is being communicated when your body is in contact with its surroundings, and especially living beings? What would it mean to be more conscious and skilled in speaking this language?
This is what "The Language of Touch" is about.
This class will focus on touch as a language that can be learned and understood. In a society that focuses so much on verbal language, people are often confused by or even sometimes completely unaware of the subtle conversation that their bodies are constantly having with the environment around them -- and more specifically, with the people they connect with on the rare occasions that touch occurs.
This class will first focus on our awareness of touch, and then move to exploring the subtle messages carried through touch between people, and eventually move to creating specific intentions and messages with touch. From there will open up for you conversations on topics such as relationships, intimacy, sensuality and sexuality, as touch is deeply involved in each of those areas, either as a communication tool or a source of fulfillment.
6 Sensational Steps to Awaken your Sensuality
There is a sensual animal in all of us, waiting to be awakened. Quite often this totemic intelligence becomes inhibited from expressing itself through us, because we can grow up with very mixed signals about touch. Touch is always a sensation, and yet often, our experiences can lead us to developing mixed signals about the inherent pleasure of touch and touching. Sometimes we need practices to rewrite our relationship to touch, so that we can expand the fluency of our ability to communicate with it, and thus, to expand the quality of our social and intimate interactions.
Touch is one of the very first of the five senses that we ever experience in the womb. And for that reason, it is one of the earliest ways we explore and communicate with the world and with our parents. If touch is a language, it is simple and direct and only uses the present tense. You cannot touch in past tense or future tense. This is why touch always brings us to the present and grounds us. This is why being held and hugged feels so good. It is a reminder that the space we occupy in this world is seen and cared for by another human being. It reminds us of the time we were held by our mother and father. It reminds us that we are loved.
I like to tell people that everything I learned about touch, I learned from my very picky Persian kitty Grisabelle. Indeed, early on she would let me pet her a few seconds, then seemingly out of nowhere she would swat my hand with her paw and hiss at me. But over a period of years, I paid attention and learned her body, her movements, her touch, her sensitivity, her pace, her mood, and learned to touch her perfectly every time. Of course she never said a word: she taught me everything about touch through touch. Now it’s your turn.
In this class, you will learn to experience touch as a (pleasurable) sensation in the body. This is the first part of what is normally a 3 part class or a single class where you will eventually learn to speak with your touch so that others can feel you and feel more connected to you.
Here are the steps for the first part: Touch as a sensation in the body:
- Find someone to touch. It can be a pet, a lover, a partner (perhaps not a total stranger unless you are at a cuddle party :D). If you can’t find a pet or person, just do steps 1-3.
- Start by lightly and *slowly* caressing a particular place (with your hand) that feels good to both you and the other person/pet (you might have to negotiate first). The back, an arm, a leg is a good start.
- As you caress, first touch for your own pleasure. Explore the sensations in your hand and try to maximize how pleasurable it feels to you by changing how you touch, the speed, the pressure, the location, the side of the hand, etc. Notice what works, what doesn’t, note the best variations.
- Then, while you caress for your own pleasure, get feedback from the other person about what feels good. Ask them whether you should go faster or slower, lighter and harder, or where/how they most prefer to be touched. Notice that in this conversation you are able to find things that feel great for both of you. If this is a pet or the other person prefers to be quiet, notice their sound and how their body responds. If your person isn’t “loud” enough in sounds/body, ask them to turn it up or act more like they would imagine a cat would. It’s quite common for many people — who share very little touch with anyone all day long — to not have a very developed language of touch.
- Explore different locations on your partner’s body (that you are both okay with), explore asking for feedback (and receive it as a gift of how you can do better), explore telling your partner how you enjoy touching them (how pleasurable it feels to you and your body), and explore touching with different parts of your body (after all, your skin is the largest organ and it can both “speak” and “listen” at the same time).
- Explore both touching and being touched at once, giving feedback, speaking about your own pleasure. See if you can do only this while keeping things completely platonic (so that this touch can be for its own sake)
Story: When I first taught my son (then 2 years old) how to touch, I showed him only two variations to begin with: “slow gentle” and “fast tickle”. Then when we played, I would ask him which one he wants (either with my fingers or with a feather). I think it’s important to teach children how to touch and that their choice around touch matter. I believe this is the foundation for consent. If a child learns from a very early age that they can choose whether or not to be touched and how, they will automatically do the same with others. Can you imagine a society where everyone does this? I believe it is a society where rape and sexual assault is greatly reduced.
5 Sensual Steps to Unlock the Meaning of Touch
For many of us, touch is both something we seek, and something which, perhaps due to unpleasant experiences, we avoid. Unravelling the hidden meanings we associate both with our touching others and with our being touched by others can open us to new possibilities in our enjoyment of social situations, and our feelings of safety and trust in intimate ones.
As the sensual animal in us awakens to the power of sensation, the more evolved part of our brain begins to make sense of this touch to give it meaning. This is how communication is born: an experience/thought/idea/feeling exists in our mind/body/heart, and even without trying it is expressed in our whole being such that touching another person communicates it subtly. Combine this communication with our current experience and the synergy of the two is then communicated back, and so on and so forth as a dance of meaning emerges.
What does it mean when you lean on someone, or hug them, or kiss them? What is communicated by your body to the outside world, to the living beings around it, when you touch them? It has been said that babies will fail to thrive or even die when not receiving enough touch (there’s a good thread here on that), and while no proof has been found that this is the case, it is clear that touch is important in the ways we subtly connect and communicate with each other — and, as parents/guardians, how we connect with the babies, toddlers and children in our lives. It’s no surprise that sex is both so taboo and (one of) the biggest industries on the planet: with our bodies, with our skin, with our sex, we speak thing that are so deep and poignant and important to us. So how about starting to be more conscious about the meaning that arises in the touch you receive from all living beings around you? You might discover not only a world rich in conversations and meaning spoken to you each time someone touches you, but also an inner world where you attach meaning to the same.
And the truth is, how you experience the meaning of all touch is somewhere in-between where the physical sensation and the meaning you attach to it overlap.
As part two, we shift our attention from touch as a sensation in the body and place our inquiry into the meaning of touch, (while maintaining our awareness of what we learned in the last class). This is the second part of a three part class where you will eventually learn to speak with your touch so that others can feel you and feel more connected to you.
Here are the steps for the second part: The Meaning of Touch
- Find someone to touch. It can be a pet, a lover, a partner (perhaps not a total stranger unless you are at a cuddle party :D).
- Agree on a location where it’s okay to touch them, then ask the other person to close their eyes.
- Offer them touch for about a minute. Keep it simple. It could be anything from a caress, to a hug, to putting your head in their lap. Don’t think about it too much, just allow your body to touch them in a way that feels right.
- When you are done, have a conversation about the meaning/qualities/feelings that seemed to arise from your touch, such as caring, sweetness, fear, hesitation, surprise, etc. This is not about being *right*, this is about discovering the meaning we attach to touch. Make sure that you both get to speak about your touch.
- Switch so that now you have your eyes closed and the other person is touching you for a minute (or more), and the have a similar conversation.
Note: As you learn how your touch is perceived (by both you and the other person), it will change how you touch. And your touch will also change depending on who the person is in front of you, how you feel about them, their sex, their gender, their sexual orientation, their attractiveness (to you), their attraction (to you), their height, their weight, their style, etc. All of these things (and much more) will influence how you touch and how they touch you. The deeper and more subtle the conversation you have with them about the meaning of touch, the greater your understanding will be about this language I call “The Language of Touch“. As we get clearer on what touch means to us, and what we mean by touch, we can step more clearly into the world as our intended selves. Next class, we’ll take it one step further into the practice of “speaking touch.”
6 Sensuous Steps to Speak With Your Touch
We’ve all seen it or imagined it: the man or woman who is supremely confident in their ability to embrace their lover and see them immediately surrender and open. It’s as if they were able to silently communicate their desires so powerfully that their lover was instantly seduced, as if under a spell. In many ways, you are right: this person is in fact able to speak to their lover in a way that is much deeper than with any words: they are speaking with their body.
You may remember a few the previous class when I spoke about my picky Persian cat Grisabelle and how she taught me everything I know about touch, all without saying a single word. How did she do it then? She, of course, spoke with her touch (and a few meows and purrs too). Somehow, her body spoke to mine, and as I listened I learned to touch her better and better. I learned to read her moods, I learned to know her sensations as if by telepathy. But in fact, I simply learned to feel what she feels as she told me — with her body — how it felt. There is a name for this kind of communication we’ve been practicing for the last two classes, it’s called Haptic Communication.
So what will it look like to develop your ability to speak in touch? If you’re like me, you’ll slowly start to notice how more and more receptive people are to your touch, and you will also notice that you can begin to get a sense of what’s going on for them as your body connects with theirs. In effect, you’re learning a new language by practicing speaking in touch and listening for it too.
What do bodies say when they speak? The research I have done over the years tells me that the communication is mainly in the present tense and relatively simple — exactly what you would expect from us as animals. At least at first.
The 4 Core Communications of Touch
- simple feelings/emotions (happy/sad/angry/excited/tired/etc),
- simple pace or pace changes (faster/slower/more/less/harder/lighter/etc),
- simple desires (I like this/I don’t like that/I want more/I want less/Here/There/Yes/No/etc), and
- simple boundaries (enough/no/no more/stop/not here/ouch/etc)
Now can you think of each of the examples above spoken through the touch and body language of a cat? If you’re a cat person, I’m sure you’ve already been nodding your head since the beginning of this paragraph, and perhaps even before.
In this class you will practice speaking (in touch) the simple feelings/paces/desires/boundaries mentioned above. For a more advanced practice, try more complex messages to see how well you can communicate them to a partner. Remember that this is all about practice and that the body can speak and listen simultaneously. When in doubt, speak to your partner (in touch) as if they are a cat. Why do I recommend this? Because I suspect that people generally have a lot more practice speaking in the language of touch with cats than they do speaking the language of touch with humans. Besides, both cats and humans are intelligent mammals and both are particular about the way they like to be touched.
Here are the steps for the third part: Learning to Speak in Touch:
- Find someone to touch. It can be a pet, a lover, a partner (perhaps not a total stranger unless you are at a cuddle party :D).
- Sit facing each other, close your eyes (both of you), and lightly hold hands.
- Pick a particular feeling/pace/desire/boundary from the example above. Keep it simple. Then purposefully try to express this in touch. But instead of using your head to figure out what touching should look like, allow yourself to *feel* the state/pace/desire/boundary and then allow your body to naturally move in response. Yes, this will likely take practice.
- Now allow your partner to respond with their own state/pace/desire/boundary by feeling it and then allowing their body to speak back.
- Open your eyes and allow your partner to share what they “heard” in touch. Then share what you heard in response. Then share what you *meant* to say in the first place and then have your partner tell you what they meant in response. Notice if you got it right or if you were off in your noticing. Notice specific ways that your partner expresses these feelings/paces/desires/boundaries that might be different than other people (or cats). Or ways that they might be the same.
- Do another few rounds of steps 3-5. Discuss with your partner. Notice what you learned. Thank your partner for sharing these moments with you.
Whoa! Three classes of condensed exploration, learning & discovery about touch. And this was barely scratching the surface! Would you like to learn more, at your own pace, from and with someone who has been learning the language of touch for over 15 years? Contact me or book a free session here!