Touch me, touch me, touch me, I wanna be healthy

 Im sitting on a low brick wall just outside an up market dress shop in Berry, chatting on my mobile to my daughter, extolling the virtues of living in community. The benefits include an increase in wellness on many levels. Individual wellness, economic wellness, and social wellness. Community is a natural way for humans to live and yet we have drifted away from this to embrace separation, competition, and that harsh aspect of capitalism, every man for himself. Communal living guides us towards true cooperation and ideally a healthy appreciation of diversity and difference. So here I am chatting about this idea and imagining how wonderful it would be to be part of such a community when I am distracted by a long line of ants scurrying along the crack between the wall and the pavement.

What struck me was the way the ants stopped to greet each other walking in the opposite direction. They would turn, touch and take off. As I watched I saw them do this over and over again they seemed to be saying, ‘Good morning, G’day, How are you? What’s up? How’s it going? See ya.’

I watched the ants meet and greet each other long after I finished talking to my daughter. It seemed to me that they were showing me what real community living could be like. None of the ants appeared to be living in any other ant’s pocket, or demanding more from their fellow ants than they could give. They each had a direction, a purpose, a job to do but were never too busy to stop greet, touch, and move on. None of the ants seems the least concerned about the appropriateness or inappropriateness of touching. When we live in a world where teachers are not allowed to touch their students kindly on the shoulder, or lift a child up who has fallen down, God help us.  Oh that’s right, we are already living in that kind of world.

Good heavens!

Have we really banned touching? If we don’t touch each other are we not likely to forget how it feels to be touched? When was the last time someone placed their hands on your shoulders and gently massaged away a little tension? How will our children reach out and touch each other, a petal, a flower, a puppy, a tree, if we don’t touch them? What happens when someone is no longer touched? We shrivel up like a dry leaf. Our skin shrivels, our spirit shrivels and we become disconnected from the world. The largest organ in the human body craves touch. Our skin yearns to be touched. Touch soothes, touch softens, touch eases our lives.

In the 1950s, a psychologist named Harry Harlow conducted a very dramatic (and likely unethical by today’s standards) experiment with baby rhesus monkeys. He took the baby monkeys away from their mothers and put them into cages with 2 fake “mother monkeys” made of wire mesh, one bare and the other covered with terry cloth. The wire mother monkeys each had a bottle pushed through the wire so that the baby monkeys could feed. At the time, scientists thought that babies bonded with their mothers solely because mothers were a source of food. It was a surprise when all of the monkeys spent as little time near the bare wire monkey as possible and all their time clinging to the terry cloth covered mother monkey. Harlow revolutionized child care at the time, concluding that babies needed more than something to eat, they also need soft familiar touch.

It is not only babies however that needs touch. Children, adults and old people all need touch for good health.

When I touch my very old mother, especially at the side of her eyes she melts into the sensation of being loved. Although my sister and I often hug our 94 year old father he very wisely also has a massage every two weeks. Through touch we communicate more than we can through words.

Can you imagine, going about our day acknowledging everyone we passed by looking straight at them, reaching out, touching finger tips and exchanging loving energy?

When was the last time you watched ants? They reminded me how powerful and beneficial it is to live in community. They remind all of us who live in the western world to keep active, to work with a communal focus, to share unstintingly, to carry a little more than you believe you can, and to stop, meet, greet and most importantly touch each other every day.

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Learn to Forgive- and create a true miracle

Fred Luskin knows about Forgivness. He is Director of the Stanford Forgiveness Projects.The forgiveness project has successfully explored forgiveness therapy with people who suffered from the violence in Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone as well as the attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11. In addition his work has been successfully applied and researched in corporate, medical, legal and religious settings. He currently serves as a Senior Consultant in Health Promotion at Stanford University and is a Professor at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology.

These are his 9 Steps to Forgiveness

1. Know exactly how you feel about what happened and be able to articulate what about the situation is not OK. Then, tell a trusted couple of people about your experience.

2. Make a commitment to yourself to do what you have to do to feel better. Forgiveness is for you and not for anyone else.
3. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation with the person that hurt you, or condoning of their action. What you are after is to find peace. Forgiveness can be defined as the “peace and understanding that come from blaming that which has hurt you less, taking the life experience less personally, and changing your grievance story.”
4. Get the right perspective on what is happening. Recognize that your primary distress is coming from the hurt feelings, thoughts and physical upset you are suffering now, not what offended you or hurt you two minutes – or ten years – ago. Forgiveness helps to heal those hurt feelings.
5. At the moment you feel upset practice a simple stress management technique to soothe your body’s flight or fight response.
6. Give up expecting things from other people, or your life, that they do not choose to give you. Recognize the “unenforceable rules” you have for your health or how you or other people must behave. Remind yourself that you can hope for health, love, peace and prosperity and work hard to get them.
7. Put your energy into looking for another way to get your positive goals met than through the experience that has hurt you. Instead of mentally replaying your hurt seek out new ways to get what you want.
8. Remember that a life well lived is your best revenge. Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving the person who caused you pain power over you, learn to look for the love, beauty and kindness around you. Forgiveness is about personal power.
9. Amend your grievance story to remind you of the heroic choice to forgive.
The practice of forgiveness has been shown to reduce anger, hurt depression and stress and leads to greater feelings of hope, peace, compassion and self confidence. Practicing forgiveness leads to healthy relationships as well as physical health. It also influences our attitude which opens the heart to kindness, beauty, and love.

Click here to buy The Little Book of Everyday Miracles. Let me know your name if you want a personalised inscription.

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