Touch and presence

by Alice Dommert
June 4, 2018
Mindfulness, Yoga

I write to you from a place aside a roaring river high up in one of the cloud forests of Costa Rica as my own wholebeing journey here continues. As usual this country has provided the unexpected on so many levels and reminded me of the true power of nature to rule.

This is why I gather my courage and keep coming back here–to be stretched for the purpose of growth. I head to the humid jungle tomorrow and will be home safe in my warm, dry, critter-free home by the time I sit to write for you next week.

As our Wholebeing Journey week in Costa Rica concluded, Meg Towsend and I had shared rich conversations with our group. Our day that focused on touch was especially interesting. Unlike the other senses, touch does not have a dedicated organ.

Smell has the nose, sight has the eyes, sound has the ears. Your capacity to feel through touch happens mostly as a physical sensation when an outside stimulus touches or puts pressure on your skin.

It was the feeling of sun warmed wood deck under my hands this morning when I was practicing yoga or the rocky ocean bottom under my feet. Physical sensations also arise within our bodies; the pressure of a headache, the pangs of hunger or the pain of an upset stomach.

Touch is also interesting in the way we speak about it. The language we use every day reflects the idea that what we can touch and feel, what is tangible, what is real. As functioning humans when we are engaged with life we say we are ” in touch” with reality compared to saying someone close to death is “losing touch.”

We also often may say that we are “touched” by something deeply emotional. The joy of the birth your first child, the sadness of the loss of a friend, or the shame of harsh words spoken in anger to someone you love. We feel these experiences as powerfully as the physical sensations.

Those life experiences that feel good, when we feel strong and supported, successful and of service, connected and loved can lift us up to fly high over many of life’s mundane bumps and create a physical sense of well being.

The opposite can also happen. When I’m disappointed about an unmet expectation of someone or some experiences and my mood begins to drop it’s as if I get caught in a tornado in my head that then can easily begin to whiplash my body into physically feeling bad also.

When I look back on when this has happened I can remember a split second when I got caught up in that head storm and lost my footing. It’s a delicate dance I keep practicing to understand; it’s the ability to feel those things, sadness or anger and allow them but not lose my sense of presence.

When I can keep my awareness about what is happening, what I am feeling, if I can be authentic and real and not surrender my hope or become completely overwhelmed, I can stand in the presence of what is real and navigate the bumps. I may be bruised on the other side as the storms pass, but I will still be standing, and a bit stronger because of that care I was able to provide for myself.

This thing called presence, is hard to exactly describe, but most of us know how presence feels. It’s being aware, awake, connected, courageous right in that moment, and the next one and then the next one.

Presence is an anchor to this moment that shows me I am okay, I am here, I am safe. I am connected into a whole that is bigger than me.

Presence reminds me of how much I have to be grateful for and that I have people who love and support me that I can lean on.

Presence makes the space and stillness for me to discern what I need, to stop and sit and rest, or cry or call a friend to process what has happened. Presence allows me to stay steady and know I will take the next step and then the next one and weather life’s storms. I can feel what is happening right now in my body and in my heart and keep leaning toward, clarity, connection, and love.

This week in your practice I invite you to explore these inquiries related to touch and feeling. In your yoga or mindfulness practice, are you feeling any physical sensations outside or inside your body? What is the emotion you are feeling right now? (It may take a few times with this question as the feelings may be a foreign, unfamiliar and maybe even scary landscape for you.)

Can you stay with the feelings of both heart and body and let all the sensations just flow through you?

Just keep asking the questions…there is much to be revealed.

Alice Dommert

Alice Dommert

Founder, Wholebeing Architect

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