Since transitioning from a 1400 sq. ft. bungalow to a 29 sq. ft. Thor Freedom Elite RV, I’ve noticed a small, almost barely discernible change in the morning routine of my dog, Haven. Even though we are now into our third week of living the RV life, I only observed this change on the morning following the weekend when we were away from one another as I was in Wilmington NC for the first signing event of my book, Bridging the Gap.
That morning, as the alarm rang at 6 am over the racket of the RV air condition, I tried to awaken from a deep night’s sleep to a new morning. This is when I detected a difference in Haven’s behavior for the first time. Usually, as soon as I wake up and start shifting in my bed, Haven slowly makes her way to the head of the bed. She lays her head on my chest and nudges my hands as if asking me to rub her. Although this has been our morning routine for a while, I only just started to fully understand the meaning behind her intention. I realized that it is the touch Haven desires, not actually the rub. This made me begin to realize the healing power of such a simple act of LOVE. Haven and I have created our own mode of communication which does not include the exchange of a single word. As I touch her, I find something healing and comforting about this simple act. We are both vulnerable in our half-awake state of mind, we are both present in the moment, and we are both acting out of the love and bond we share with each other. And for some reason, I just noticed it this morning as I begin the true prep for a journey into the unknown where I find myself feeling uncomfortable, excited and in awe of how life conspired the events that HAD to occur in order for me to take a leap of faith beyond my own comprehension.
What is so powerful about a touch that it can heal the soul?
In today’s world, we are so frightened to let anyone see our real selves because the fear of being hurt outweighs the hope of true connection. I know this because I find myself doing the exact same thing. On the one hand, I desire and want to be touched, yet, on the other hand, I hold a stiff straight arm in hopes to avoid being seen, truly seen with all my imperfections, in order to protect myself from being hurt. There have been several studies on newborns, comparing those newborns that are held and comforted more often to those that are touched less. According to an article in the journal Pediatric Child Health, a parent’s caress is more than simple comfort to an infant. Scientists have known for decades that touch is critically important for a child’s healthy development and, even now, a new study shows that the number of times a baby is touched can leave lasting, measurable effects not just on the baby’s behavior and growth, but it affects all the way down to the DNA level.
Are there lasting effects of touch even beyond our infant stages that affect our development into our older years? It would make sense that touch can affect all stages of a person’s development even for those living out their last days of life. How important is the language of touch to those transitioning from life to death? I believe it is the last language we learn as adults because we are left to ponder and wonder if those on their death beds can hear us. We keep thinking: Do they know I’m here? Yet, the one thing we do know is that when we touch another human being, we feel it and, I believe, so do they.
I love the words of Mark Nepo: “Sometimes we would be better to admit the heart works best in mime. For beneath the worries and fears of being hurt or rejected or taken advantage of, beneath the avalanche of excuses and explanations, there waits a deep and simple pulse that we need from each other in order to be whole.”
It is the healing power of touch that connects all that lives inside of us with all that lives outside of us. It is the healing power of touch that can bridge the gap between religions, politics, and even life and death. The question is, how do I take the lessons from Haven and apply it to my everyday life? And the simplest answer was given to me by Haven: To show up, not say a word, reach out, and touch. With this simple act of connection, together we can change the world one touch at a time.
Don’t forget to hug someone today!