Touch is a tremendous symbol of connection and intimacy, a delicate reminder you are not alone. No matter how much you hurt, through life’s mosaic of vanishing dreams, the terrible loss of a loved one, or the common exhaustion of daily existence, one of the few things with any power to heal is the intuition to touch and be touched. When the heart breaks, it is the physical we find ourselves often needing the most, quietly holding the hand of a loved one, receiving the warmth and pressure of another’s body nestled closely to your own, or the tender strength of an embrace with no words spoken at all. When touched, the gulf of grief separating you from others begins ever so slightly to recede. This small gift of relief in your body can feel surprising and surreal. When no one appears to offer this consolation, you might find yourself going for a walk alone, or a drive with no destination. The soul in suffering craves the comfort of the kinesthetic. Wandering the woods, hills, or streets, you can feel the earth touching you, pressing back against each and every step you take. Roaming the roads, the hum of the wind caressing your car, the subtle vibrations of your vehicle offer a kind of cradling, a temporary release from the weariness of your broken thoughts. In extreme moments of loss, some find themselves holding themselves, or rocking back and forth, an instinct of return to the reassuring rhythms of the world of the womb, the ebb and flow of a long forgotten amniotic ocean resurfacing in a moment of crisis when there is nowhere else to turn. Movement settles: the heart, the mind, the soul. The kinesiology of grief gently draws your attention closer in to the body, what it needs, and what it does not. You might even feel a strange allure to touch your environment by putting your hands to work: cleaning, gardening, caregiving, repairing some external of hearth and home, precisely because you are at a loss for how to do as much for the hull of your heart.
Touch paradoxically soothes and excites. In the very beginnings of life, there is an animalistic need for touch. Touch in coitus brings life, and life once born without touch will surely die. At the end of a person’s life, too, it is the touch of another that can mean so much. Homo sapiens tend to celebrate their capacity for reason, a tradition dating back as far as the ancient Greeks, and receiving renewed enthusiasm during the Age of Enlightenment. Yet what a human being requires most essentially involves not the mind but the body, not logic but love incarnational, carnal, tactile. It is the raw power of touch that likewise lends it to violence, as when one is sexually abused, wounding physically and psychologically. The ability to heal or hurt lies literally in everyone’s hands.