This is free-write from a year ago. I have been thinking about these words a lot lately and wanted to repost it. At the retreat this past month, it was interesting to see people’s postures on the morning of Day 1. Some were open, others were closed off with no idea what to expect. You can not ask someone to break down their walls. You yourself have to just be vulnerable. This takes courage and practice. There are plenty of hard asses out there, but you would be surprised how gracious and caring they can be if they are allowed to feel safe and accepted. Today perform a random act of kindness. Smile at a stranger. Send someone a note in the mail. Pay an expired parking meter. Congratulate a friend with a warm embrace.
Throughout my entire childhood my mother was always touching my friends. Not in a weird way, but in a very motherly way: a warm embrace, brushing someone’s shoulder when they first met, she would even rest her head on people, very content, always smiling. I wanted to punch her. One day I was yelling at her, “MOM, don’t touch my friends or anyone else. Ever!!!” She just smiled and said, “Ben, some people go through the whole day never being touched by another human being. This is not ok. We all need contact with others. We need to feel safe and loved” Of course in my adolescent mind everything was related to sex and thus I likely yelled, “No one cares. It’s weird. Stop it!”
Keep in mind I grew up in the top 5 most murderous cities in America. For most of my friends things were far from regular at home. Shootings, guns, drugs, robberies, and the objectification of women were seen and talked about on a daily maybe even hourly basis. But it didn’t matter who it was, everybody got the same treatment from my mother, whether it be her loving homosexual music friends or my friend Lavantay who was deathly afraid of cats and had never had pancakes.
How important is touch?
It is so pivotal that an infant who is deprived of human touch is unlikely to survive.
I think about how this practice has come full circle, the gift my mother gave all of us, and how courageous she was to constantly show love and openness in an environment that was the anything but.
At this point you might be thinking good story bro, but what does this have to do with the gym?
As a Strength Coach/Personal Trainer, whatever the hell you want to call me, I touch my clients every time they walk on the rubber, it is one of the quickest ways I have to break down their walls. The gym may be some people’s only social outreach. Their only place to let go. The gym must be a place where people feel motivated, but also safe. I have multiple soft tissue certifications and apprenticed under the Master Splinter of body work, Dave Lemke, who is nicknamed the muscle whisperer and far better than I. Yet, touch for me is necessity and also a tool. We must use it to heal, to calm, to relate, and to connect with others.
If you are reading this you probably go to a gym, you also hopefully see others throughout the day. You may not have fancy letters after your name, it doesn’t matter you are human. You can put rest your palm on someone’s shoulder when you meet. You can give someone a warm embrace after a workout and tell them they did well. You can be the brightest spot in someone’s day or you can’t. It’s up to you.