Holding Each Other

I recently experienced a powerful little event that informed my body and psyche about the power of physically holding someone. It was metaphoric, but I got the message keenly.

The joint at the base of my right thumb went out somehow and the pain was unbelievable. All up my arm and straight into my brain pain shot like fire and needles, relentlessly. I gently tried to adjust, rub, push, wait, figure out how to resolve it. Finally after a horrible night and hours of relentless pain, I remembered there was a little hand brace in a bottom drawer, something from years ago. I put it on my hand, holding the thumb in place. The tightness and the pressure instantly soothed and helped the situation. I wondered if I would have to wear the brace for days, or weeks, or months, or forever. A few hours later I needed to remove it to wash dishes. The pain was gone, and has been gone since then. Some initial tenderness remained for awhile, but even that is gone.

It made me think again, as I often do, about the incalculable power of touch and holding. We are phobic in this culture about that, sternly maintaining what I believe is a warped idea of the necessity for personal space and physical distances. I believe that the shadow of this ridiculous idea creates the ubiquitous abuses of intimacy, cravings for it that then become satisfied through perversions. As Rilke says, “A repressed angel becomes a demon.” We need more holding to heal these problems, not more distance – holding in organic and natural ways among humans. I’m not referring to sexuality.

When I visited the villages in Kenya back in the 90’s one of the images that stood out the most to me when I came home was that of watching the people there walk and sit together in little piles, like puppies, touching everywhere. When the women helped me with anything their bodies were all crushed against mine. It felt so right and so good, not invasive in the least. On the contrary, I experienced it as joyful, loving and completely natural.

After returning I was teaching in a classroom situation and asked everyone to sit on the floor. They did, with probably 2-4 feet distance between each body. That really hit me. I thought – in Africa this would never happen! They would be all crushed together. There’s something so right about that! There are healing, healthy chemicals released into our cells and brains from the simple act of touch. The deprivation of those chemicals creates illness at every level, I completely believe this.

Mothers – hold your babies! You can never hold them enough! Forget about the idea of spoiling in such ways, it will all be over soon enough. Continue to hold, hold, hold and touch your children in loving ways as often as possible, all their lives.

Lovers, hold each other. Friends, hug each other. People – touch each other!

One of the sweetest love songs I have ever heard is Paul McCartney’s Calico Skies. It contains these lyrics: “I will hold you, for as long as you like I’ll hold you, for the rest of my, for the rest of my, for the rest of my life.”

When we can’t hold each other physically, we can do so spiritually. This weekend a group of ten people are coming to my house to conduct a sweat lodge for the sole purpose of holding a dear friend who is undergoing aggressive treatment for pancreatic cancer. He won’t be with us physically, but I strongly feel that the energy of our effort together will do something for him like that brace did for my thumb – hold him tightly in our love so that healing energy can flow through.

A dear friend of mine, author and professor of depth psychology Lionel Corbett once said these words to me that I have never forgotten: “Caring, just the act of caring, is very psychotropic.” So often we are too distracted, or too absorbed in other things, or too… whatever… to really care, care, care for each other, and notify each other about that care. Caring is holding, spiritually holding. Aloofness, not caring, has become cool, culturally. Caring makes you vulnerable, and vulnerability surely is not considered cool.

To be vulnerable is to be human, and to live in the dignity of our humanity. We, as individuals and as a culture, have some re-thinking to do, some serious adjustments to make in these ways.

I feel an urgency to say this now, not exactly sure why. Want to scream it. Care. Hold. Care. Hold. Care. Hold. Hold each other. Care about each other. Hold. Care.

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5 Responses to “Holding Each Other”

  1. Joy Parker Says:

    This is one of the best blogs you’ve ever written. I will hold forever in my heart the image of the people in Africa all squished together in loving activity and rest.

    I remember how good it felt when I took workshops with Malidoma Some and Frances Weller and after a ritual, we’d all get into a puppy pile and stroke and hold each other.

    Yes, this is a important idea for us to take into our bodies and hearts. Yes, yes, yes.

    Thank you.

  2. Carolyn Lewellen Says:

    Tayria, I agree with what you have written about touch. Our culture sexualizes human contact, and does not easily allow for human physical warmth to exist in other ways. friends cannot hold hands for, as I was told when about 12, that looks “Queer”. Did not really know what it meant, but got the message. I think that one of the reasons there is so much depression in our society is because people are touch deprived. Going to the doctor is a legitimate touch, but not really the warmth needed in daily doses. At least we now have massage as a touch, but that is usually another commercial relationship.
    I have seen FB post with the younger generation having people piles and other non sexual contact –I should ask for more information about this because I realize I just made some general assumptions and don’t really have good information. I will be holding you and your friend and your companions in the light this weekend. Carolyn

    • Tayria Ward Says:

      Thanks so much for your responses, Carolyn. My daughters talked about those “people pile” kind of things with their friends when they were in college and it just made my heart sing. Thank you very much for holding us all in the light this weekend. His name is Allen, I know all of our prayers will reach him.

  3. daritarose Says:

    I love this and agree so much. I remember that you said that you liked learning about Re-evaluation Counseling from me back in the day. This is huge in RC. They really get it. i remember being at a week-long workshop, where we sat close, held hands, hugged often, etc. I was living with my parents at the time, and when I got back, I wanted to sit real close to my dad on the couch, but clearly he was a little freaked. Damien talks about the “cuddle puddles” they have in his dance community. I am so envious!

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