As a massage therapist, my life is pretty much immersed in touch. I have come to find that when I go on vacation, I begin to feel out of sorts after a few days of not working because the act of touching another person is so grounding to me. I am also the mother of a small child and we constantly touch and hold one another. My son is always in my lap or in my arms. Funny, then how easy it can be to lose track of making sure my husband and I touch each other enough. I hug him all the time and we kiss and the like, he gets regular massage from me (though not as regular as he’d like, to be sure) but it can be hard in the bustle of taking care of everyday business to carve out time to snuggle, to just be close for a prolonged period.
Touch: A Mode of Communication
Touch is such an important mode of communication, such a quick, easy way to say more than words ever could. It is a fundamental method of reconnection and yet, our culture is very uneasy about the simple, animal grace of it. Many people confuse the sensual with the sexual and therefore expect reconnecting touch to amount to an erotic invitation. While that has its own virtues, to be sure, touching someone you love in a way that demands nothing in return, simply touching them for the pleasure and the closeness that it brings has a deeply grounding and rejuvenating effect on the relationship and the people in it.
The Art of Touch
Now, that said, there is an art to touching well. The mysterious quality that we seek has been called by some “essential touch”. This is a way of putting your attention and intention into the point of contact so that the person receiving the touch feels well and fully met. Essential touch is also listening touch. The person giving the contact is receptive and open to the person being touched. This establishes a non-verbal line of communication between the two people through which volumes of information can flow in seconds, information that may be so subtle as to imbue a feeling rather than a conscious thought.
Massage is essential touch with a purpose. In addition to the simple pleasure of meeting well, skin to skin, the person giving a massage is attempting to alleviate tension or pain in the receiver. This adds another dimension of complexity to the contact. If there’s one complaint I hear the most about receiving uneducated touch from a loved one, it basically boils down to a lack of that listening quality to the contact. People complain that someone’s touch is “poky”, too hard or even too light. Understanding how to bring a listening quality into your hands when exploring the areas of tension in another body is something that can be taught. I find that when I teach Couple’s Massage, that is really what people are looking for.
How can I touch my loved one like they want to be touched and how can I do it without hurting my body? This question is probably the best reason to take a couple’s massage class. When you create the space and time for it, it is easy to be extremely creative in how you choose to massage a loved one. Doing this in a way that is consistently pleasurable, understanding how to change your contact if requested and understanding how to take care of your own body as you do this all require professional guidance for most of us.
Setting aside time for essential touch with your loved one is one of the great joys in life. As we move into this Valentine’s season, consider treating your sweetheart to a massage from you. A Couples Massage class is a great way to get started on the ritual of sharing essential, sensual, giving touch. More importantly, remember that showing your partner how much you love them is best done daily and needn’t require a holiday for an excuse. Remember to steal some moments every day for that closeness that essential touch brings. Touch each other often and well!
Would you like to learn more? Sign up for Lauterstein Conway’s Couples Massage, February 10 at 2pm.