On touch

Much of our life is impacted not by solid, discrete, discernible things, but by a diffuse change in our environment. Melbourne has been muggy for two days. I have a sore throat and a slight headache. I feel irritated. There is no visible cause.

The air that surrounds us is not a void. It has a certain quality – temperature, humidity, smell. This can be measured and perceived, but not through senses that we trust. We believe in our eyes, our ears maybe, not our noses, mouths or skins.

Among a set of people, things can change that are not visible. When, later, behaviour starts deviating strongly from a previous norm, we rarely distinguish a clear chain of causality. Our careless language calls ‘intuition’ the art of perceiving such a shift early. Wishy washy stuff. Yet, by closing our eyes and focusing on our inner sense of rhythm, we may notice that something is off. Feet are no longer tapping the same beat. Gestures are a millisecond longer. The chemical transformations inside our nose or on the surface of our skin are subtly different.

Last year, my favourite trainer within the THNK program ran body/mind sessions. She’s a dancer, choreographer, and martial artist. She uses movement and bodily perceptions to train self-awareness. When you stand, where is your weight located? Can you shift it? How does it feel? Now if somebody rushes towards you, where does your weight go? Do you retreat, block, or anticipate a clash and move forward?

So much of our brain is busy processing our movements and bodily perceptions. We make so little of it. What would it take to start consciously building a language where touch, not sight, is the dominant sense?

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