The Layers of Touch
Touch occurs at multiple levels and in multiple ways. There are 3 broad categories: physical touch, emotional touch and metaphysical (spiritual) touch. Each of these categories can further be divided into different layers if you consider the word touch in its broadest sense.
The common interpretation of physical touch is often to lay a hand or hands upon another, or having a body part come into contact with another’s body. This is a very limiting definition. Consider that eating well is a form of touch. When we nourish our bodies with high quality whole plant based foods we are providing our bodies with the necessary nutrients it needs to function optimally. The amount of nutritional impact directly affects our physical health. Movement is another layer. This is one of the most important because it strengthens our connection to the earth. As we move through the spaces around us, some part of our body is always in connection with the ground beneath us. This holds true for most if not all activities. Though not as obvious, breath is also a layer of physical touch. When we breathe with awareness, we notice how that impacts our physical well-being; by focusing on breath we nourish the physical body with the oxygen it needs and release muscle tension. Physical touch involves establishing contact with another, the Earth or our self.
Emotional touch occurs through acknowledgement of the human experience. We connect with or touch another person emotionally through engaged active listening and empathy with a heart-centered intention, such as compassion or love. There is also passive listening. Each of these areas influences the perception of touch differently through sound vibration. Being actively engaged in listening creates connection. Passive listening is a more indirect way to be touched or connect, as it is connection with the varying inflections in the voice that influence the emotion perceived, rather than with a person. This brings us to intention, which is very powerful. Intention alone has the ability to shift perception because it directly influences the perceived emotional vibrations that influence our connection with others. A sense of community and belonging comes from emotional touch, which helps us to establish relationships with others.
There is overlap amongst the various layers of touch, and this is most clearly demonstrated with the metaphysical or spiritual aspect. Intention is powerful in all 3 categories of touch, but particularly here, where it is based upon devotion and belief in God or a higher power. This is also where our energetic connection with self and God influences our connection with others. In Ayurvedic philosophy, there are 5 kosas, or energy sheaths that encompass the body. Each layer is interwoven with the one beside it. Like a ripple in a pond, when one layer is affected, it extends to the other 4 layers. These layers are from innermost to outermost layer: anandamya kosa (bliss body), vijñanamaya kosa (intelligence body), manomaya kosa (psycho-emotional body), pranamaya kosa (energy body), annamaya kosa (food body).
Energetically, when we touch, and thus connect, with another, we are influencing all 5 kosas to some degree. We connect with others from the energy sheath we are currently residing in, the level we are aware of, whether it is the physical body or the bliss body. As awareness of each of the kosas is developed we develop the ability to connect with others at a more authentic level. This is the deepest layer of touch: accessing anandamya kosa, the bliss body. When you have this connection, you have all that touch provides: emotional connection, community, nourishment, love, compassion and overall sense of vitality.