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Touch Junkie: On Blossoming, Trolling and Cultural Conditioning
“Why did I come into this life with this body? What is it designed to do?”
Exploring these questions, I think about flowers, look at them, touch them, and ponder their peculiar attraction to the pollinators that come around. I imagine being a bug, landing on the petals, slipping inside for a delicious treat. Every time, I wish I were small enough to experience the full body sensation of crawling and wriggling in petal tunnels.
I apply the metaphor of flowers to this mammal body that is me. It too has petals and scent, and I observe that, like those beautiful blossoms in the garden, these attract pollinators as well. Could it be that they too want to wriggle into the flower’s soft center, like that ecstatic insect? Zounds! I have a body that loves to touch and be touched. I learn to touch by listening to my body’s subtle speech. Each one of us is a flower and my work in the world is touching flowers.
When I desire to feel better, my body says, “Gimme some of that juice!” So I go find some. I start by trolling through gardens. I follow my nose. I follow my fingers. I follow light. I follow silence. I follow colors. I bury my nose in luscious delicacy. I use my lips to touch and part petals, inhale gently through my mouth, savoring the subtle taste present in fragrance. I walk through gardens in acknowledgement of the living, breathing, creating organisms surrounding me. They are not anonymous. They see and know and feel just as much as I do. Each plant radiates energy, overflows, offers. I accept their gifts, recognize their presence, participate in their community. I seek and include them. I converse with them. I exchange with them.
Often, juicing up in gardens is all I need. But sometimes I want more. Sometimes I want to be the blossom I dance with. So, I seek dancers. A practiced troll, I bring along a lure and some bait, my toolkit, my bag of magic tricks. I present myself as a flower. Flowers invite engagement. What I like so much about flowers is what I strive to become.
There are cultural obstacles, however. These cause many people to construct personal space bubbles that do not allow or invite touch. Such personal space bubbles, though well established and often impenetrable, are social constructions, and so questions arise: why does our culture shape us in the ways that it does, and do these mechanisms serve us well?
My own answer is that, in this regard, contemporary culture doesn’t serve us well at all. It prevents us from embracing interaction that is readily available, and makes us feel good. On individual and cultural levels, we would all feel better if we felt better, through touch. But practice and observation have taught me that most people can’t move from a place of desire to a place of administering touch because that skips too many steps, and they’re afraid. To this, my advice is, “Get your touch on!”
Probing more deeply, the problem becomes not touch itself, but what starts to happen when touch makes you feel good. At some point in the touch journey, a sexual charge can begin. That charge may occur immediately or it may take some time. When and where it happens is different for everyone. Paying attention to and respecting this electricity in other people requires vigilanceno small task. Culture, in its simplistic way, makes the rules of engagement easy: touch is sexualtherefore use a personal space bubble for protection. And, like a condom, those personal space bubbles are always a thin layer between people and intimate connection. Granted, we don’t want to catch a disease, but that’s what establishing our own set of boundaries or discriminating factors is for. If you’re intentional about the flower-Self you project, a specific set of pollinators will find you attractive.
To challenge cultural conditioning, consider this: All sex is touch; however, not all touch is sex. With each person you interact with, you can journey to where sexual charge develops, and in that place, communicate, negotiate, find agreement. Since everyone is different, communication is imperative. It can be talk, but it’s not all talk. Tune your awareness to subtle energies, body language. Use your senses to gather information. If you want more touch in your life, if you want to touch more people, you have to drop that cultural assumption that all touch is sex. Learn to protect yourself and others in a way that isn’t a barrier method. Barriers prevent intimacy. Be prepared, you might talk about sex.
Heidi Beierle lives in Eugene, Oregon. She specializes in writing, painting, human relating, non-verbal communication, body arts, performance, astrology, and constructed environments. This winter, she teaches “Intimacy and Ecology: Lessons in Primary Sensation,” a workshop that connects our creative natures to our social and physical milieux. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Site updated Fall 09