Being Held: The Power of Touch in the Covid Era with Tricia Bowler and Michael Haines
Touch is central to our mental health, feeling connected and building community with others. Even though we are told by experts that social distancing doesn’t mean emotional distancing, the fear of touching others and being in close proximity during the pandemic was real.
In this episode of Awake In Relationship we talk about creating safety for platonic and intimate touch in the post Covid era with Tricia Bowler and Michael Haines from Being Held, a monthly community gathering focused on conscious touch in Duncan BC.
Being Held Safety Pillars Short Summary
How we create trust in the way we come into connection.
Meeting equally is the practice of coming into connection (energetic, the eyes, physical touch, etc) with another, no matter what gender, in a way that does not “push in” or “pull away”. It is the quality of being fully present and centered in ourselves, while at the same time accepting or sensing the full presence and centering of another. From this place we can learn how to dance with others.
THANKING THE “NO”
Building trust by honouring our use of voice with thankfulness.
Our tendency when confronted with a “no” (which we commonly take as rejection) or even a suggestion that we should do something differently (which we commonly take as criticism or that “we got it wrong”) is to break the flow of connection with that person. Thanking the “no” is the practice of responding to a direct or implied “no”, or what we call a “redirection”, with thanks. The “thank you” encourages the one who has voiced a “no” to more confidently voice their boundaries and desires in the future. They feel more trust, more freedom to explore, and discover their “yes” can now be truer and more enthusiastic, because their “no” has been welcomed and affirmed. Similarly, the one who voices the “thank you for your no”, also experiences more belief in another’s “yes”, as they can be assured that the other has the confidence to voice a “no” when they choose to.
For trust, there is nothing to fix, but there is always something to hold.
We are taught early in life that we are flawed (think of a parent scolding a child, or saying don’t cry, or saying it’s okay when it isn’t), and so starts the endless cycle of trying to change what we assume is wrong with us. In Being Held we
practice easing the relentless, tiring quest to fix something we don’t
like or find shameful about ourselves. So we practice refraining from the urge to say something to help
make a feeling go away, or to recommend a book, or to love our selves more, etc, etc. In place of fixing,
we encourage the practice of lovingly “being with” the heightened or uncomfortable
feelings/emotions/thoughts in our self, or in others, holding these sensations/ parts in loving ways that
are safe. As we acknowledge and lovingly accept these parts, our true wholeness can be experienced.
ACCOUNTABILITY FOR OUR PARTS
Trust is enhanced when we take accountability for the parts of us that may want to blame others for our experience.
In Being Held we find it very helpful to practice seeing ourselves as a composite of different parts
(protector parts, wounded parts, child parts, soul part, etc). When we feel a safety threat of some kind,
parts of us will rise up and temporarily “take over”. Our culture promotes that it is other people in our
environment that are responsible for our feelings, thoughts and actions. As adults, we encourage a
personal stand of accountability for our parts (even though they were created through impacts from
others). We encourage seeing and acknowledging that parts of us are not feeling safe, and to see that
our parts do not need fixing but can be valued and held by another, even our messy parts.
We encourage the deeper meaning of meaninglessness to build trust for touch.
Our culture makes meaning out of a lot of things. Especially touch! Especially any connection or sensations that could be labeled “intimate”. Meaninglessness is the practice of putting our cultural stories aside. Our goal is to have people come into connection with safe-enough platonic touch to allow our neurology to feel loving acknowledgment of whatever is going on inside us. From this place of no meaning touch, we expand into loving connection with all that is.
When we practice different ways of touching and holding each other we use a framework for creating safe enough connection. In general, this includes having a time frame for the “hold”, stated intentions, a co-created physical arrangement for the hold that respects boundaries and comfort, proceeding with the hold with shifts in arrangement, touch, etc, as desired, a time for each participant to verbally share their experience and a pause to refresh before moving on to another hold.
Within a structure that allows the mind, body, heart and soul to open and feel safe enough, trust can begin to flow.