Touching Care

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Touching Care

The purpose of this discussion is to distinguish the nature and practices of embodied touch. Without touch care cannot be expressed. Even further, without meaningful touch meaningful care cannot be expressed. As leaders we are very interested in how we can engage our care in the world in the most meaningful and effective ways we can. Embodying what we care about is the path to adoption of innovation. This being so, an embodied understanding of what touch and care are is required if we are to be effective at introducing our innovations and having them adopted.


Touch is commonly defined as coming into contact, or the sensation of contact. We want to distinguish this definition of touch from another, deeper meaning. The “touch” we are looking at focuses on the point at which we meet, join, and converge in connection. The act of this touch is one of opening to connection, of attentively exploring the meeting where we come together. Without this touch our care cannot be fully expressed.

Touching involves a willingness –

  • to open to possibilities,
  • to explore what is alive,
  • to suspend preconception,
  • to turn towards,
  • to learn,
  • to be compassionate,
  • to express your care.

Touching involves exploring the space between us and at our own boundaries:

  • What is in between us is where the act of touching starts.
  • What is in between us is the bridge to innovation.
  • What is in between us is the conversation of care.
  • What is in between us has content and edges.
  • What is in between us is waiting to be discovered.
  • What is in between us is where the treasure of possibility lies.
  • What is in between us is enticing to explore.
  • What is in between us is where our cares meet.
  • What is in between us is where conversations of shared futures germinate, flourish, and come to fruition.

An Aikido Perspective on Embodied Touch:

The practices of Aikido are presencing practices. One aspect of the practice of aikido is to maintain a relationship with gravity where we are in accord with the force flowing through us. The sensation of compression is how we track our alignment with gravity, and we are grounded when we are tracking this sensation. When our awareness moves away from tracking compression we are moving away from the earth which is continuously supporting us. When our awareness moves away from the earth we are also moving away from our center which is continuously calmly nurturing our being. When our awareness moves in this way we are attempting to move away from the present, and away from our body, and this surly isn’t healthful or appropriate in the practice of Aikido, or in the role of leadership.

The beginner in Aikido practice loses sight of the experience of compression quite readily and awareness becomes consumed within the coping strategy of simulating, seeking a sense of safety. Simulation is imagining in our mind what we can or should do. It is what we think the world we live in is up to. We simulate so we can formulate our response. The simulation response is often clunky and behind the beat of the world we occupy, and therefore disconnected from the rhythm of flow occurring. When we become occupied by simulating it is challenging to see that we are occupied by it. We remain preoccupied with our imagination of the world until/unless we commit to practices that are presencing (non-simulating).

Let’s look closer at simulation and safety.

Simulation is a conversation within ourselves about how we imagine things to be. One’s attention is contained in our mind, and not touching our environment. Our mind is communicating to ourself how we should act. The resulting act is a conversation with self, to self, in a bubble of imagination, which is not touching the environment, and acting on the environment as though it is. When simulating we are in the act of touching only what is contained in our simulating bubble. We act on our internal imagination conversation as though it is what is occurring in the world around us. We are missing the opportunity to act on the content alive in the world because we are immersed in our own personal and private conversation. In essence we are occupied touching the space we make in our imagination and not the world we live in. The result of this simulation is we are forever disembodied and struggling with constructing an artifice resembling safety.

With that said, then what is embodied Aikido practice?

We can put effort into attempting to push, pull and hold ourselves away from our environment but it’s all to no avail. We are connected to this living moment. One experience of connection to our environment is via gravity. Every celestial body in our universe moves by falling to where it is drawn, it is efficient. While we are contained within the atmosphere of earth we are always falling directly to the core of the planet with absolute precision. We experience gravity as compression at the point of contact where we are supported. When our structure is in alignment with the force of gravity, in such a way that our musculature is essentially engaged only as needed to maintain alignment, we experience our balance as a neutral sensation (between pleasure and pain). As a sensation, neutralness is effortlessness and it is very permeable, in mood, in awareness, and in inclusiveness. Embodied Aikido practice is participating in the experience of the permeable neutral sensation wherein the essence of embodied caring touch manifests from our core.

Leadership reflections on the Aikido perspective of touch:


  • is experienced in our head
  • is a layer inserted between us and the world
  • is what we act on when we are not physically in accord
  • is captivated by the concept of time
  • is theory applied to a living flowing environment
  • is an intellectual endeavor at building a theory of safety
  • is how we embody I-It


  • How am I moving towards everything I am engaging; towards my center of mass, towards the earth; towards my relations; towards the present moment (gravity, center, connection, effortlessness, precision, and flow)?


  • How am I in accord with this flowing precision occurring in, around, and though me when I am engaging?


  • Can I identify how am I simulating these phenomenon and calling that simulation reality?



When I am moving towards, I am in accord and I can know this in the very real tacit sensations that are evident in gravity, center, connection, effortlessness, precision, and flow. Each of those natural phenomenon are always in the state of “moving towards” with absolute precision. In this community of practice we practice moving towards by extending, sensing, and connecting from center to center, embodied I-Thou. It is in these practices of being in accord with nature that our leadership skills and care story can flourish. As a leader you are participating with nature. As a leader you are practicing being in accord with what is occurring in your environment by touching your world with care from your core.

For example, when an employee approaches with a crisis of some sort, if you are operating with care from your core, you will be able to clearly perceive all the elements of the problem, and see solutions that will likely be unavailable otherwise. You’ll also perceive the care that is affecting your employee, and discern how to direct his or her energy in a useful way.

Exploring Touch:

Whatever form of communication or relating we are engaged in, we are involved in touching. Be that internal communication (our own self-talk), language to a peer or loved one, physical contact to console or sooth, or the way we push or pull to achieve our agenda or goals, we are always touching. What is being exchanged in our touch is what makes this topic so powerful. We can participate in touch that is attentive and aware of touching or we can be unaware and inattentive that touch is occurring. The former is what we are exploring. Attentive and aware touch is speaking to what is alive in your heart: How are you connecting your heart from center to what your attention is engaging? Your mood is what is alive in your heart and it colors your touch.

An embodied nervous system is interactively involved in the participatory and unfolding present, it is turning towards and touching the present. Our moods are modifiers of our touching, or rather, the flavor of our touching is colored by our mood. Because opening moods are all forms of turning towards, you could safely say that the origin of touch is an opening mood. With this definition, a touch does not occur simply by the fact of physical contact. To touch is to be present with and interactively sensing from center what is occurring at that edge or transition. Opening moods are the vehicle by which nurturing connection occurs and they are responsible for the wellbeing occurring in our touch.

An embodied touch initiates with the sensation of permeability which has a felt sense of an opening in our self to perception beyond our physical self. When we open, we sense and participate with what is occurring in the space we open to. We can hug a loved one, but it is not until we sense permeability  that embrace will have meaning and express the potential of nurturing. Reaching through what is opening in us is how we touch. The practice of opening and touching is nurturing to our being.

So the act of embodied touching initiates from center with a sense of permeability, an opening in ourselves. This act of touching continues with our reach. Followed by, reaching through our reach, to sense. It is at this point when this act qualifies as embodied touching. When we are opening, reaching and reaching through our reach, we are then attentively capable of sensing and discovering the content, edges, transitions and boundaries through this touch.

We are practicing reaching – extending through our reach – sensing through those edges, transitions, and boundaries to touch bigger possibilities, bigger perspectives. It is in this touching where innovation thrives. When you practice touching those bigger possibilities and perspectives you will see effortless pathways to express your care. Touching is not confined to a single direction or dimension. Touch is occurring through the permeability of our physical senses. Touch is the vehicle of, and expression of care. Simply put, our care is only and ever expressed by touch.

The combined actions of our mood, the extending or reaching of our awareness to a sensed edge or transition, and the sensing what is occurring therein are all affecting the content of our touch. In other words, what is alive in our awareness is profoundly affecting our experience of touch, as well as, our ability to touch. When we extend our awareness to an edge or transition our mood is coloring or shaping how we experience that edge and what we sense about that edge. Exploring our world with opening moods and understanding and acting from within the boundary of embodied balance is how care is powerfully expressed.

Shifting to Sovereignty – Touching Boundaries:

As individuals we have total rights to our thoughts, our moods, our actions and our deeds. We have absolute choice with our rights, however we do not have any rights to the thoughts, moods, actions or deeds of anyone else. The distinction being made here is between what we have rights to as a sovereign individual and what we don’t have rights to. What we have the right to is innate, and CANNOT be taken away, we will call this a boundary. We thrive and flourish within this boundary. What we don’t have rights to, that which can be trespassed upon by other, we will call a fence. We do not thrive and flourish anywhere near our fullest potential with fence making.

A boundary is the area we maintain our wellbeing within. A fence is an area we are attempting to keep other away from in an attempt at maintaining wellbeing. We have absolute rights to our boundary and how we stay within the boundary we are experiencing. We can safely lead, blend and flow with whatever is engaging our boundary. We do not have these abilities with fences. We have no rights to the boundary of others or how they manage their boundaries. We cannot stop other from crashing through our fences. We do have absolute authority to our boundary wherein we can act with effortless flowing precision. This is the way of an embodied felt-sensed boundary.

We have unobstructed rights to the 7 immutable facts.

What we are looking at here is a shift in the paradigm of how boundaries are defined within our culture. Healthy boundaries:

“are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify for him- or herself what are reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave around him or her and how he or she will respond when someone steps outside those limits.” ! –Wikipedia

The shift in this paradigm is from reactive rules towards others behavior towards us, to one of, managing the area we maintain our wellbeing within while sensing/touching the world; in-which we have spontaneous freedom of choice and mobility.

Our touch can be from the perspective of I-It which lends itself to turning against or away. I-It is a form if fence making. I-It organization is concerned with protecting our vulnerabilities. It is beneficial to distinguish that no matter what our machinations are, we are always interconnected in this world. No matter how much we turn against or turn away with pushing or pulling we are still connected. It is through this thread of connection we are always touching. No matter how much we withdraw from the world into our head and build fences we are still an interconnected part of this world. All our efforts at fence building to prevent connection is to no avail as connection is nonnegotiable. Connection is indivisible from life.

There are many kinds of fences we build and many reasons for the fences that we build. What is vital to consider with fences or our embodied boundary is what is informing the making of them. The vital distinction is; fences are based on horizontal relationships and boundaries are based on vertical relationships. We construct fences attempting to hold horizontal relationships away, to prevent connection. It’s an effort to maintain safety by attempting to keep I-It danger at bay. This type of fence building requires considerable effort. The effort is attempting to block flow by turning against and away. This effort is deeply embroiled in a sympathetic nervous system response that has real costs to our wellbeing.

Fence building is inhibiting and depletes. Boundary engaged is enticingly sustaining!

Alternately we can participate within our boundary and maintain the integrity of our vertical relationship, and honor those around us. The organization occurring within our boundary lends itself to I-Thou relationships. The vertical boundary is committed to participating with connection by turning towards connection. Turing towards connection is touching boundaries by honoring them through respect and gratitude. By committing to maintaining our I-Thou vertical composure, we are committing to touching with centered attention.

Our care lives in our core and we are turning towards and touching from our center. The vertical commitment is touching the earth from center. The commitment is to maintaining the integrity of touching the earth from center while maintaining full mobility to touch the environment. To cross this boundary of vertical composure is to over extend and become entwined and dependent on horizontal relationships which constrains choice, mobility and affects our wellbeing.

Residing within the boundary of I-Thou vertical composure is safe, is manageable, and is effortlessly maintained because it is in accord with the flow of the environment. This distinction is valuable. The commitment to maintaining the boundary of vertical organization is saying that we can participate with what is–by attentive touching with integrity intact. We experience outcomes that match our care by simply turning and going towards what is occurring while maintaining our vertical and mobile boundary.

When our stress loads are high we generally are turning against or turning away from what is occurring and we touch our world in ways that do not match our care. Being aware that our touch isn’t matching our care and that our stress levels or coping strategies are what is causing this divide is a manageable starting place. Manageability occurs when we soften and turn towards opening to ourselves with nurturing and support.

The embodiment practices we are engaging in are practices that inform our touch with moods that match our care.

Wellbeing within enticingly dynamic activity

This is an integrative and generative experiential process that cannot be planed or controlled, only touched.

True Play Involves a willingness:

  • to openly participate in discovery,
  • to learn by experience,
  • to enjoy feeling discovery and experience,
  • to maintaining being open to possibilities unfolding at edges and transitions,
  • to experiencing integrating connection in transitions,
  • to stimulate vitalizing growth,
  • to maintaining our integrity by owning what we have rights to within our boundary,
  • to practice healthfully saying yes to whatever is unfolding by pivoting and turning towards what is alive.

The 5 P’s – Pause, Pay-Attention, Posture, Permission & Participate:

  • Pause; the talking (sender/receiver/transmitter), trying to figure it out (analytical), defending, worrying about doing it perfectly (self-image reinforcement).
  • Pay-Attention; to the whole of what is evolving within your state of grounded/centered/balance.
  • Posture; sense your environment with all of your being, tracking the quality of flowing balance within the environment.
  • Permission; consenting to physically interact, be touched and to play with your body.
  • Participate; being open to experience, to sensations, with the spirit of play alive within, acknowledging your boundary wherein safety is maintained (it is paramount to true play).

–Guidelines for adults as they begin true play–

Spirit of Play:

  • You bring the spirit of play to the playing field before the game starts. In other words, before play begins you recognize the joyful excitement that is alive within you. Without this mood it is difficult to play once enter the playing field.
  • The playing area is found at the edges or boundaries of interaction, it is feeling/sensating shapes, balance and grounding, it is participating in the continuous flowing transformation of the playing field, playfully.
  • The play area is enticingly exciting, you are drawn to wholly participate in shapes and unsettling balance and when true play is alive in your being, it feels thrillingly fun and playfully safe.
  • The edges or boundaries is where transformation is occurring and is where exciting transformational discoveries occur.

Spirit of Consent:

  • Speaking consent or desiring to consent is not sufficient. The commitment to sharing is a commitment to embodying/feeling openness and to the continuous act of giving which are embodied in your spirit of play.
  • The sharing you are committing to is one of being open to experience, to sensations.
  • When the permission is not authentic, safety strategies such as aggression (domination) and avoidance (submission) are communicated in your self-talk body behavior.
  • The sharing has a felt sense that feels like a smile within you, and is alive wherever the play goes. The sharing felt sense is a mixture of excitement and enjoyment that is present when you are safely experiencing something unexpected.

When it’s not Play:

  • Withdrawing from the edges or retreating to the core is not play and is indicating that issues of safety are being expressed/ transmitted.
  • The tension holding the heart away from the center and the tension holding the center away from the ground is indicating your perceived need for safety and signaling the desire for safe resilient organization in your environment.
  • The heart and belly tension forms the ridged structures of; bounded rationality, arrested affective states, and physical stagnation.
  • The tension held in the core (heart and belly) is attempting to hold the core in a place of safety. The tension is an attempt at energetic and physical retreat from the environment to create a sense of safety and is transmitted as rigid or staccato movement.

Attributes of true play:

  • it is safe,
  • it is inclusive,
  • it is kind,
  • it is attentive,
  • it is patient,
  • it is grateful,
  • it is respectful,
  • it is accessible,
  • it is mellow,
  • it is a practice committed to embodied touching.

True play is an invitation to thrive and flourish while being an innovative and generative leader:

True play is enticing to participate in and has highly attractive magnetic qualities about it. True play draws out creativity and innovation from us like water over a fall. True play requires nothing more than our own child’s mind of curiosity and willingness to discover what is possible in a world of diverging possibilities. If you are curious about your world and would like to learn more adaptive ways of being, then practicing true play is an invitation for you to join in on the fun all around you.

Touching with our voice:

We can reach through our voice and touch those that we are communicating with. When we speak we can take the time to rest into our center, our care, and our voice; wherein a coherent reaching through our voice that touch occurs. The sensation is that of feeling your core (center and care) and reaching through your voice from your core to connect with the core of whom you are speaking and connecting with. Your voice becomes alive with what is alive in you and you are touching what is alive in others with your connected touching voice.

We cannot touch with our voice and communicate our care meaningfully unless our center and our care are where we are experiencing our voice from. So there is a dropping down into yourself and feeling your center, a settling down into your felt-sensed boundary. From this settled centered space we can feel our communication partners and connect directly with what is vertical in them.

Intentionally touching from our vertical awareness to that which we sense as vertical in our partner is touching with voice. This occurs on a line that feels very much the same as the–falling off of the line–touching. However this touching stays on the line and experiences what is alive in this voice connected touch. There is a sense of gratitude and respect felt when this voice connection occurs. There is a sense of recognition, transparency, and honesty that is felt by all involved when we touch with our voice. Touching with our voice is very enlivening.

What if having a meaningful conversation was a matter of inviting others into a safe space where such a conversation could unfold. In this mutual space you will have the opportunity to practice turning towards and touching what is meaningful and participate in creating meaning. Would you adopt this practice and see where it goes?


Touching in a conversation:

What is a conversation and how do you touch one? A conversation occurs when those conversing are attentively listening to each other and are open to understanding alternate perspectives and cares. The participants are open and enticed to flow with the discovery occurring in the conversation. The flowing opening in the conversation is being expressed by the capacity of participants to turn towards the content of care in the conversation. The conversationalist is opening to sensing I-Thou with the participants, while turning towards the content of unfolding mutual care in the conversation. Sensing the content of the unfolding mutual care, in the mutual space of the conversation, is the space where bigger possibilities exist and unfold. This sensing in the mutual space is the touching occurring in a meaningful conversation.

Outcomes of a meaningful conversation:

  • the growth of understanding that encompass a broadened scope,
  • the mutual understanding of cares within the broadened scope,
  • the possibility of discovering no mutual care within the scope,
  • the exploration of convergence of ideas and cares,
  • the exploration of divergence of ideas and cares,
  • the discovery of actionable offers centered on mutual cares,
  • the discovery of adoptable innovations centered on mutual cares,
  • all of these outcomes require a space to evolve in.

The shared space of a conversation:

  • is interactive,
  • is an opportunity of opening to discovering,
  • builds on explored content,
  • extends awareness and understanding,
  • unfolds unpredictably (spontaneity can be forfeited if urgency is present),
  • is respectful,
  • is about care,
  • requires presence,
  • can be any form of communication wherein the above occurs.

How do we have a conversation that is meaningful?

An effective conversation is about turning towards and exploring the possibility of mutual care. This conversation starts with an opening to discovering the scope of mutual care. As that possibility of mutual care is explored, a space emerges between those engaged in the conversation where their shared cares can be explored. This shared care space is where touching in a conversation occurs.

Turning Away/Against: Stress Fostering, Capacity Diminishing

  • Simulating
  • Abandoning
  • Horizontal Organization
  • Space for Conversation (???)
  • Boundary Aware (???)
  • Being (???)
  • Compression (???)
  • Sustaining Connection (???)
  • Fence Building

The possibility for a meaningful conversation is severely limited within the fence building organization. There is no space for the conversation to occur here, as the intent of fences is consumed with keeping the environment out. This organizes potential conversation participants to be consumed with protecting their vulnerabilities. The space beyond fences is perceived as unsafe or unavailable and is therefor not an occupiable space. Any conversation that occurs during this organization structure is most likely going to be centered on self and self-interests.

The cornerstone to touching a conversation is to embraced what is currently alive. The initial step in recognizing what is alive is the willingness to acknowledge our own horizontal relating. With recognition we can gently rest into the awareness of how we are seeking safety, acceptance and approval in our environment. Resting into, is the act of embracing is what is alive. Our horizontal relating is seeking to protect our vulnerabilities. Our horizontal relating is based on closing moods and fence building and there is little space in this organization for a meaningful conversation to evolve. A meaningful conversation is difficult to have if there is no one making an inviting offer to participate in a space for the conversation. A meaningful conversation is not possible if there is no shared space for the conversation to evolve in.

Vertical Organization

  • Turning Towards: Stress Metabolizing Capacity Enhancing
  • Sustaining Connection
  • Space for Conversation

Horizontal Organization

  • Simulating
  • Abandoning

Meaningful conversations have at least one participant present with the willingness to being open to exploring participants boundaries (vertical nature), fences (horizontal relating) within a safe space. An embodied leader can show up and assist participants by inviting them into the safe mutual space where a meaningful communication will occur.

What is alive in us is what is being explored in the shared space. What is alive in us is our care. If it is occurring in this shared space it is a respectful exploration where the touching of cares unfolds. The space contains an inviting opportunity to rest into what is alive in us, and in the space, where then discovery unfolds. In a meaningful conversation we are practicing reaching – extending through our reach – sensing in the mutual space of the participants the edges, transitions, and boundaries of cares to touch bigger possibilities, perspectives.

  • Boundary Aware
  • Being
  • Compression
  • Vertical Organization
  • Turning Towards: Stress Metabolizing Capacity Enhancing
  • Space for Conversation
  • Vertical Organization (???)
  • Turning Towards: Stress Metabolizing Capacity Enhancing (???)
  • Being (???)
  • Compression (???)
  • Fence Building (???)
  • Sustaining Connection

When we can rest into the awareness of our horizontal relating, the possibility of gently turning towards ourselves in a caring and supportive way opens the space for conversation to us. This opening possibility in ourselves is integral to creating the space between participants for the meaningful conversation to occur. Caring supportive nurturing is critical to participating in a meaningful conversation.

Embodied Leadership Sessions – Enticing Transformations © 52

4 thoughts on “Touching Care

  1. I look forward to connecting the concepts of positive and negative affective experiences (actually the ratio)(Seligman’s Flourishing and Fredrickson’s Positivity) to “touching care”. Fences are associated with negative affect. Vertical sovereign boundaries are associated with positive affect.

  2. Stress reactions, fight or flight, adrenalin mediated responses are physiologically evolved for turning away and turning against.
    Parasympathetic, rest responses are physiologically evolved for nurturing, growth, play, integrative learning.

  3. Conversational types:

    INQUIRY (learning orientation)
    –Dialogue (inquiry) for mutual discovery of care (understanding) and the possibility of shared care
    –What is the relationship of dialogue to “touching conversations”?

    ADVOCACY (goal oriented)
    –Offers and requests
    –Negotiation for commitment
    –Dealing with breakdowns
    –Declaring completion/failure, satisfaction/dissatisfaction

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