During one of the final modules of the IBMT studies, a beloved teacher within the IBMT community, Jane Okondo, said that it is very rare to find a man, a male therapist – practitioner, who would explore the conscious touch. It is rare to find a man who touches consciously. Gediminas Kordušas is such an exception. Gediminas accompanies men and women in explorations and discoveries of their own vulnerability, helps to safely dive in their emotional oceans and explores the conscious touch and the riches that it can bring. So today we talk to him about why it is important for us to touch and be touched, what kind of touch is conscious.
Gediminas, we are talking in the presence of the pandemic, when our movement is restricted, the possibility to physically meet people is restricted and if we do not have close people living in the same space, we realize that physical contact is very important to us and that we lack it. I want to ask you, Gediminas, what do you think the touch provides us with, that cannot be provided through words, music, images, smells? Why do we need it so much?
It is one of those things that you can speak a lot about but the very essence of it will still remain unexpressed. Maybe it would be wise just to leave it without trying to verbalize it. I have such a feeling. And still, the touch is very important to me. I can feel when I lack it. I simply have this feeling in my body, when I long to be touched by the other. Why is that? What does it mean? Well, we can simply say that we are biological beings who require contact with others. If we don't receive it, we suffer. That's just the way we are made. But it is not everything. A touch is an encounter with the other. With someone, who is not you. And that encounter somehow reflects you, awakens you, maybe it shows or reveals something that you were not able to see in yourself. Probably, that is where the therapeutic potential of touch lies. And the purer this touch, the more it is able to reflect another. And I would say that this quality of purity is related to the quality of being conscious.
You mentioned the quality of being conscious. I am curious, what is the difference between the conscious touch and the one that we use in our daily lives?
While I was listening to your question, a memory came back to me about Jane telling me (aut. Jane Okondo), I don't remember in what context, how once she was asked, what she would wish for herself and her answer was that she wishes for a light touch. I'm not sure what she meant by that, but this phrase stuck with me. What is this light touch? Well, at least how I see it, the touch is light, when it is not charged with my own stuff, with things that I am not conscious of. What we are not conscious of, we transfer to others. When I don't project my wounds onto others, my touch is light. We could put it this way.
And, so, our touch is not something different from us. Yes, there are ways to meet with deeper, more attentive states, to invite the inner witness while we attend to another human being, while we touch them. We have practiced that during our seminars in the IBMT studies. But, fundamentally, there are no tricks. We will not invent anything new, we will not be able to pretend to be somebody whom we are not. The quality of consciousness will not grow in the few months of attending seminars. It grows through the lifetime, it cannot be separated from other areas of our lives. In this regard, the touch is not separate from the way you are. We cannot escape it. So, it means that, how conscious you are, how much of yourself you have witnessed, how well you understand yourself, what you know about yourself – all that will determine the quality of your touch. The touch is inseparable from where we are in our journey.
Yes, my touch reflects everything, who I am – how conscious I am, that much conscious will be my touch. At the same time, I understand that the touch has a myriad of nuances and colors. In our society the touch is closely associated with sexuality and sensuality. We encounter these aspects in our therapeutic work too. I am very curious, if the touch that awakens sensuality can be conscious.
Of course. When speaking about touch, it is important to understand that it is a contact between two people. Even if, let's say, it happens in a therapeutic context, where one of them has the role of a client and another has the role of a practitioner, the touch still happens between two people. So here we come back to the same theme of being conscious. The touch or any other sufficiently intense contact will awaken, respond to what possibly still lays beyond the consciousness of these two individuals. That's how I see it.
Sexuality or sensuality is truly a very complicated topic. Very few people in our culture have a good, balanced relationship with sexuality. All of this is very sensitive and very powerful. The sensitivity and power - they exist, they affect us, they rule us to the extent that they are hidden from our conscious gaze. I don't think that there is a practitioner who has an absolutely light touch in all areas, especially in sexuality. And for me it is absolutely natural or even important to recognize that it is part of therapeutic work. At the same time, we need clear boundaries respective to our roles as a client and a practitioner, to be mindful of the therapeutic context and its goals. A part of our craft is to learn how to contain the areas in which we feel weight or tension. And, by the way, if the tension happened, if one encountered it in a conscious way, it could and, maybe, should be, within an appropriate frame, an opportunity for healing or growth. Maybe, IBMT is more suitable for that than any other method.
And, yes, I dwell quite a lot in and around these topics. Partly, because during the three year studies I was, for the most part, the only guy among twenty or so women. These topics were very alive in me, I sensed what was triggered in me and others. I could not help but to encounter it and tried to tame this topic. But it is, after all, just one of many aspects of touch. Just another color. And it is as conscious as you are in it.
People who in their lives, especially in their childhood, have experienced complicated, wounding situations related to the touch, avoid being touched. The experience of being touched becomes unpleasant because of the memories. At the same time we are people, we are created to give and receive touch. It is important to us. I want to ask you if it is possible to experience the touch in other ways? Do other ways exist? Or rather one has to gather courage and meet what is happening when I experience touch?
I think the first step is to acknowledge what is my truth at this moment. And if the truth is that I don't want to be touched, let's respect that. At the same time we can try to sense that it is not the full truth about me. Yes, a good part of me does not want it, but it is not all that I am. There absolutely is another part of me who really wishes for that touch. And here the dialogue between those two parts is important. Between one part that avoids touching and another that longs for it. This dialogue could be expressed in different forms. One of those could be that the person himself or herself could try to touch himself or herself – carefully, respectfully with a very mindful presence – and see what happens. Then if we felt ready for a more intense contact, the other form could be, for example, a gaze. A gaze of another which, also, is a form of touch, only on the far more subtle level. In a certain sense, to be seen is to be touched. So, a conscious, light, quality gaze could truly help here.
In any case this journey is big emotional work. We often avoid touch because it means pain. It awakens stories in our bodies that cause us to start avoiding contact. So, in essence, this is a journey towards pain. We will not be able to avoid it in our lives one way or another. But we might be able - and it is important - to choose the pace and the rhythm that suits us. We take a step that is bearable at that moment. However, there is value in experimentation, in exploring forms that work, that have the optimal intensity. Some of them will start losing the intensity over time. It might mean that the time has come for other, more powerful forms. Maybe at some point one will be ready to receive touch. So the keywords would be respect and experimentation. Respectful experimentation.
Yes, thank you for your words about the gaze and its power. It is very nice to hear it and to remember moments, when I felt seen and deeply touched at the same time. Moving towards the end, I wanted to ask you about your own explorations and discoveries related to the touch during the studies and in life. What do you notice and what do you meet?
At the moment I remember the magic of touch that I have discovered during the IBMT studies, for example, while touching or witnessing the other, I could suddenly feel what is happening in his or her body. That remains miraculous for me to this day. It is inexhaustibly interesting. At the same time we practitioners sort of got used to this, it became a part of the routine at some level. I have noticed that.
Anyway, it is part of my practice and it is important for me that the practice would be closely connected to life. The touch itself is about life for me, about being alive, about connection to the people that are around me and about people that are further away. I have a need to touch people and at the same time I feel how it frightens me. I explore this tension between need and fear. I feel how other people, also, want it and are afraid of it. I understand quite well what power carries touch and why it can be frightening. It is very powerful.
Yes, I also witness this fear. Could it be that it is just part of our mentality as a nation? At the same time, I see the change – the emerging habit to hug among young people. I don't see it among older people.
Yes. I think it is a good thing. In my opinion, any context with a lot of body contact, where touch is not too overwhelming, is always good. I see it as an absolutely positive thing. Maybe it is our role in society as bodywork practitioners to introduce the conscious approach and spread understanding how much might, mystery and power one can find in even a simple touch.
Might, mystery and power. Thank you for the conversation, Gediminas.
Gediminas was interviewed by Ingrida – a practitioner of Integrative Bodywork and Movement practice in EMBODIED PRACTICE. Ingrida works with people who are experiencing a heightened sense of vulnerability, fear, anxiety, struggling with insomnia or other disruptions of bodily processes and with those having a wish to discover body wisdom and awaken intuition. Read more about Ingrida