Touch is central to the basic human need for connection and belonging. Thankfully, our bodies have specific neurological sensory cells and wiring to facilitate this inner knowing, whether we received affirming touch as a child, or not.
Unfortunately, we live in a largely touch-phobic society. Touch is so entangled with sex that it is only deemed appropriate in narrowly-defined, clinical, practitioner settings or in intimate relationships. Hugs, which can be fleeting and awkward, are one of the few socially acceptable forms of touch.. Most children do not consistently receive cherishing, graceful touch from their parents and other caregivers/teachers/etc when disregulated by pain or emotion. They learn instead that behaviour change is what earns love. They have to separate from (deny, stuff away) their discomforts, and in doing so cause a conscious or unconscious separation from inner sensations. This inevitably compounds into separation from others.. Who doesn't have parts of themselves they have tried to banish, to fix... or let go of? The good news is that we never lose the neurology in our body specifically designed for feeling accepted and connected and whole. Our sensory system is alive and well, simply waiting to be activated, so that inner well-being (our relationship with our self) and outer well-being (relationship with others) can be enhanced. Our glabrous (hairy) skin, which covers almost our entire body surface, has C-cells, or C-fibers, which only respond to slow, gentle touch. They will not activate otherwise. C-cell touch is most commonly seen in the gentle way a parent caresses a newborn. Or in the way some lovers gently caress each other. Studies have shown that C-cells are wired specifically to parts of the brain that give us a sense of bonding and belonging. When a child encounters fear, or pain, or confusion, or loss, etc, the gentle touch of a parent, when ready to be received, will eventually regulate the discomfort and jarred nervous system. Without touch, the nervous system stays wary, never fully regulated. So when we are ready and safe-enough to receive graceful touch, it can help us be with and bring home (into wholeness) our most scared, messy and unregulated parts. And it can also affirm and regulate our excited and passionate parts. How do we integrate ecstatic or painful/difficult experiences? Through graceful touch. This is where community comes in. We can’t do this alone. We need people who are willing to gracefully hold and touch us even when we are filled with our most unregulated and uncomfortable sensations. It is not just about loving ourselves more, or holding ourselves more, or being more kind to ourselves. The confirming, grounding, accepting touch of others helps shift our inner neurological acceptance, the being with, the knowing of ourselves. It is how we bring our unwanted and messy parts (that cause negative impact on others) back home into wholeness and a deep knowing that we are okay even if we don't think we deserve love. That is grace. So we need a community to gracefully hold us... to bring our scattered, inner community of capable, not-so-capable and downright unregulated parts together as one. And the miracle is, that when others help us bring our inner community together, our capacity to be with and accept the members of our outward social community (with all their regulated and unregulated parts) is enhanced as well, deepening graceful connection and unity. Where is this community of people who are committed to coming together to lovingly hold and gently touch each other, you ask? Where is this group of people who can exchange loving, slow, gentle, platonic touch, that soothes and pleases the core of our being, without it meaning we must jump on the societal escalator to intimacy and sexual relationship? This is what the Being Held Community website is all about. Partners Tricia Bowler and Michael Haines began holding Being Held Gatherings to explore how to create containers where graceful touch is possible in 2016. There have been many discoveries on this path, along with valuable input from many esteemed mentors. Creating these graceful spaces is not easy. Opportunities for graceful touch often engage our deepest fears, including unconscious ones that lie hidden in our neurology. Our protector parts, usually pushing for independence and invulnerability, sound the alarm, saying it is not safe. Why take the risk of becoming so vulnerable and open? For people to gather as a graceful, holding community, we discovered that key principles and agreements have to be in place for our protectors to feel safe enough to enter the space. In general, Being Held Gatherings incorporate the following Grace Principles:
Welcoming What Exists: all sensations/emotions are okay. Key Practices: not trying to fix discomfort of self or other, staying curious.
Giving Presence: staying connected with honouring presence. Key Practice: meeting equally, with attunement.
Noticing Meaning: how has our past influenced what we see, hear, feel? Key Practices: using story language, returning focus to body sensations.
Encouraging Voice: it’s okay to express exactly what you want. Key Practice: thanking the no.
Embracing Wholeness: all parts of me are acting for my well-being. Key Practices: using parts language to enable accountability, finding the gifts of messy parts.
Creating Structures for Flow: gracefully including everyone in connection experiences. Key Practices: co-creation, timing, intentions and check-ins.
Freeing love in this way, within ourselves and within community, is cultural activism. We are working to shift our paradigm of fighting for worthiness to a culture of grace. Do you want to join us on this adventure? If so, create a membership on this website/app and begin to interact with other community members. Read more of the materials on this site (info guide here) to gain a deeper understanding of the Being Held philosophies and principles and the applicable physiology of touch. As time goes on, you will discover opportunities for Being Held Gatherings facilitated by experienced members (events found here). Attending your first one will take some bravery (vulnerability is very brave), but we are certain your soul will find benefit in the practices.
And feel free to take what you learn back to the community you are part of and create holding opportunities with your cherished others.
You are welcome to join in the Community Shares. For those tired of the mainstream social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, etc, this offers a wonderful community-oriented addition or alternative. Your posts can be about anything, but please use the Grace Principles above as guidelines for content.
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