Transcending Touch

September 2nd, 2013


“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite.

For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”

–        William Blake


Light reflection table


Touch is a form of communication. It is not a monologue however. It listens as much as it transmits information and intention. It has within it the capacity to transcend the duality of giver and receiver. If we are paying attention we will notice (and be able to work with) openings in energy that allow us to transcend touch while working with it.

But we are getting a little ahead of ourselves. Let us first look at the main schools of thought and practice in regard to working with therapeutic touch.


Therapeutic touch can generally be divided into two main schools.


  1. Physical or remedial touch
  2. Transformative or transcendent touch.


They are defined by the medical model on which they are based.  A medical model is collection of concepts forming the logic framework from which we may diagnose, prognose and treat. To put it rather less kindly:


A medical model is a set of self-justifying assumptions about reality and how they are applied to human health


The Anatomical Model


This model defines us as a structural being. We are seen in physical terms only. Due to this understanding the application of touch is defined by its effect on physical structures and sometimes biochemical processes. In this form touch can be used to massage tight muscles, work with soft-tissue injuries, increase our flexibility and range of movement or increase lymph drainage and blood circulation.


Swedish researcher Prof. Kerstin Uvnäs Möberg has shown that it can increase levels of oxytocin in the body – which explains its relaxing effect at the biochemical level at least. Because the body and mind are connected we can appreciate why it would have this effect on our well-being.


Methods like traditional and remedial massage, chiropractic and physiotherapy are all examples of those methods that employ touch using this anatomical model.


The primary goal of this type of touch is to modify physical functioning.


The Energy/Consciousness model




This model defines us through our state of being. That is, how we are feeling in terms of our connection to our physical, emotional, mental, psychological and even spiritual state. Its primary function is to improve the awareness of that connection and in so doing help resolve the core issue. Again, because the body and mind are connected, it will also produce a physically therapeutic effect.


Examples of therapies using this model of touch include healing, zen shiatsu and the Rosen method.


Transcendence and Touch


One potential effect of conscious touch is a feeling of transcendence in both the client and therapist. That is a switch happens at some point in the treatment – like a door opening –  where we transcend our waking consciousness and enter into a highly receptive state. Some key features of this state may include the following:


Changes in our relationship with our physical body


–        A feeling of lightness or hovering slightly above our body

–        A feeling of heaviness so that we could not easily move or get up

–        A feeling of the boundaries of our physical form disappearing.


Changes in our thought patterns


–        We enter into a dream-like state where we find ourselves watching our thought flows rather than thinking them

–        We encounter symbolic images, scenery or journeys.

–        We experiences ‘aha’ moments of self-insight and connection.


Emotional shifts


–        We may spontaneously laugh or cry – or even both in the same session

–        We become aware of a particular emotion associated with a body area

–        We become detached and observant of worries and problems as we relax deeply


Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of being worked on with touch in this way is the feeling of transformation. That is:


Clients experience a tangible shift in how they experience themselves and their body.


transcended touch


The therapist perspective in conscious touch


The therapist working in this way can also experience periods of transcendence in touch. Here are some possible outcomes:


–        A feeling of melting and merging with the client through touch

–        An awareness of a third but related energy responding to the connection between client and therapist

–        A connection and response to the environment of the treatment space (and beyond) during a session. The sense that the space/energy around us is connecting into the treatment.

–        A change in our thought process and its connection to the client’s responses. The arising of charged thoughts that appear to elicit a physical response in the client as we work with conscious touch. Charged thoughts relate to the quality of energy surrounding the thought more than the contents of the thought itself. Think of it more as a ‘thought-energy packet’

–        Experiencing the client transform or connect us to symbolic imagery or landscapes


Mindfulness and Touch


To some this way of working may sound like something from shamanism but we are all capable of this level of connection. It can be taught and learnt. Mostly it requires allowance and trust that we can relax the controlling interface of our waking mind (the one that is always trying to do – or stop doing – something) and allow the dormant watcher-being in us to come forward and play a more aware role.


Practices like mindfulness meditation emphasize this part of our being. We are just applying it to the conscious connection of therapeutic touch.


Shiats practice 1


 Touch, let go, stay connected


This coming weekend represents the beginning of a new term in shiatsu touch education here in Stockholm.[1] The initial focus will of course be on technical competence in things like posture and technique,  a knowledge of energy pathways and so on. The real goal however is to be sufficiently aware of the connection of physical touch so that, for periods during a treatment at least, we (and our clients) can transcend it all together while maintaining our connection to our Self and each other.


Till we are all touched by another Monday



[1] For details click here



© Jeremy Halpin all rights reserved. All images are the author’s own apart from the ‘transcendant treatment outdoors’ photo © Graeme Docherty and the ‘trancendant being’ artwork (unknown source). You can subscribe to this blog by clicking the button in the bottom right hand corner of the page – or share it on the social media of your choice. If you have any wishes or questions regarding subjects to be discussed on this blog use the contact information below. Jeremy is also available for seminars, lectures and personal consultation:


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