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The Language of Compassion

Are you familiar with the 5 Languages of Love? It breaks down how we like to give and receive love into five categories: words of affirmation, personal touch, gifts, service and quality time. I have found it to be such a great tool in learning about myself and the people I am in relationship with.

Based on the test my Language of Love is an even tie between Personal Touch and Words of Affirmation with Quality Time coming in at a close second. I scored mid-range on Service and zero on Gifts. It makes sense, as I am much more interested in connection than things.

I have been thinking a lot about touch. I come from a family of touchers. There was a lot of hugging, hair-playing and hand-holding in my house. If I am talking to you one-on-one, I am most likely touching you.

When I became a teacher I had to train myself not to touch, because not everyone is OK with it. Not touching feels restrictive to me, like my hands are bound.

Recently, I have been freer with touch in my classroom, because I now believe students are attracted to teachers that are like them, which means I most likely attract touchers and us touchers need to be touched!

To touchers, not having touch can feel like malnutrition. It can lead to depression. It can feel like the body is constricted and tight.

The other day I read an article about a study done at Berkeley claiming that Americans are touch-deprived. The article states that non-human primates spend 10-20% of their waking hours grooming each other, which would be considered a baseline for need of human touch.

The researchers conducted a study where they observed friends at a cafe in different countries over a period of an hour to see how much they touch each other. In England the observers noticed friends touching 0 times. In the United States they counted 2 touches and only in bursts of enthusiasm. In France touch happened 110 times and Puerto Rico they recorded 180 touches between friends. (Whoa!)

The article referred to touch as the felt “language of compassion”. That means Puerto Ricans receive about 180 felt expressions of compassion in one conversation. Imagine what that would do to a nervous system!

The study also stated that preterm newborns who received just three, 15-minute sessions of touch therapy each day for 5-10 days gained 47 percent more weight than premature infants who’d received standard medical treatment without touch.

As adults that need is still present, but unless you are in an intimate relationship with a lot of touch–which the majority are probably not–where are you getting touch from?

This is why I started the Inviting the Moon class. Inviting the Moon is a restorative yoga class where you lay on the floor in comfortable propped up positions while massage therapists come around and offer hands-on-massage. During which my friend, Jeanne, sings soft sweet mantra. People refer to this class as wonderfully self-indulgent, but it’s more than that. It is about addressing a basic need as humans that is not readily available to all of us.

We have a lot on our plates. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to “do more” and “be better”. We don’t find it easy to admit when we are at capacity. We can get so used to living at capacity that we might not even realize the stress our body is holding for us. Not often do we have the opportunity to melt into the loving safe touch of another person who doesn’t need anything in return.

Inviting the Moon spawn from the desire to address the need of touch and sound by providing an intentionally safe and quiet container to receive it.

When I approached Jeanne and massage therapists, Jessi, Sean and Elise to join me in this class, our conversation wasn’t about logistics, it was about the intention of addressing the need for touch. Without hesitation they agreed to it. They see nurturing touch as a need that is not being met and they wanted to provide a space for it to exist…for you. I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity. Each of us are excited (and slightly jealous) to bring this class to you.

Inviting the Moon happens the first Sunday of every month from 5:30-7:30 p.m. We would love for you to join us. e-mail: moon@liminalspace.net for questions or to register.

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