MEN ARE SAYING…
Our two sessions were so powerful that it took a few months to fully realize the effect they had on me. The initial effervescence I felt, gave way to a calm realization that there is a way to fulfill that void I had been carrying around; that, although my father isn’t around to fulfill it, there are beautiful, caring men like you that can help me in that quest. Those experiences also gave me a strong foothold and courage to further explore my needs for intimate, respectful, supportive, caring contact with other men.
This awareness has helped me realize that I CAN develop those friendships, that there is a bit of ‘falling in love’ with my friends, that it is in my nature to love and that I can love my friends as I would love a brother. I’ve also realized that if i reach out and ask for help, my friends are very willing to be there for me. Now that i’ve become aware of my fears, I recognize that there is nothing to fear.
—E., Ontario, Canada
I must express my gratitude for the session that we did together. While no single hour can probably really change a person’s life so completely, I can tell you this: in combination with the entire retreat weekend, that hour with you was one of the most poignant and transformative hours of my life. Since then, I began a daily meditation and movement practice (in which I spend part of the meditation re-assimilating the ritual we did together); I go to bed early enough to finally get enough sleep so that I do not need to drink caffeine to stay awake at work; I am allowing enough time so that I am no longer perpetually running late; I have cut back on my sugar use; I started paying attention to how much money I spend and budgeting.
While I used to experience a low-grade sense of agitation/irritability and anxiousness, with an accompanied, persistent muscular tension, I have discovered a sense of peace that I might not sure I have ever known before for an extended period of time. I feel like my internal space is not twisted and tight, but more like a warm pillow. I feel content, I don’t feel lonely.
As a therapist who has been in individual therapy for 21 years, I can’t tell you how profoundly therapeutic that experience with you was for me. I feel like I have arrived in my life and you were an important tour guide showing me the way, and for that, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you very, very much. I wish the very best for you.
Now that the whirlwind of emotions in me is a little quieter, I want to try to express how I feel and tell you how much you and your workshop have helped me. I went in thinking I would learn a new sets of techniques, a new approach to helping others; I came away with a deeper appreciation of who I am, what I’ve been missing in my life and how I can now help myself.
Here is my story in a nutshell to help you understand what I’m about to write. I grew up with a very loving single mom, but without a father. I was also molested as a child by my sister’s boyfriend. You can imagine the number of issues I’m working with my therapist to overcome: -).
When you asked me to participate in the demo, I was thrilled. Ever since I heard about you, I had wished I could experience your work. All the series of events at the workshop – from the puppy pile on Friday evening to the progression of breathing, grounding, holding and touching exercises on Saturday – prepared me to fully experience what the afternoon would bring. It still took a little bit of work for me to let the walls come down, but I’m so glad I did. To be standing there fully naked with nothing to hide behind and to have you invite me into your arms just as I am was so powerful; but the moment I will always remember is when we were hugging while standing and you invited me to rest and let go, you said: “here just rest, let go, I’ve got you, I’ve got you.” When I let my body just go limp and you held me up and you repeated “I’ve got you,” at that moment I felt what it is like to have another man hold me and support me when I was at my weakest and most vulnerable. At that moment, I felt loved, I felt protected, I felt cared for. I imagine that is the feeling a child must fill when his father holds him with no expectations, with no judgements, with no hidden agendas. I have felt that kind of love when I’ve held my nephews and nieces as babies; but I never knew that kind of love was possible for me. I’m working with my therapist on finding ways to help the little child in me heal; before the retreat, I could not have loved the little ME with that kind of love, but now I know what it feels like and I know how to provide it for ME. This is the moment when my healing started. I realize it may have felt different for you, but this what I experienced. Then later, when we were lying down with me on top and my head on your chest I felt safe, I felt secure, I felt at home. At the end of the session when my friend Bob asked me how I felt, I said I felt complete, I felt whole. A void in me had been filled. I just felt so fulfilled, I wanted to share that feeling with the whole world.
The next morning, when trying to explain how I felt, I said I felt like a butterfly that had just left its cocoon. When I thought about the meaning of those words I realized that I see myself in a different light now. I can appreciate the beauty in me. You have no idea how much I have tried not to feel like the “ugly duckling”!: -)
Over the last few days whenever I’ve thought about those moments or whenever I’ve told the story to my therapist and then to my partner I just started crying. I’ve cried tears of joy for knowing that feeling, tears of sorrow for having had to wait 43 years to find out what that feels like, but most of all tears of gratitude to the universe that made our paths merge so I could experience those moments and to you for showing me that feeling and helping me heal. I will always be grateful to you and I will always treasure that little piece of you that you left in my heart. You said it best in a posting to our group on Facebook, I feel like we went from being total strangers to being like brothers. So, THANK YOU my brother.”
I wanted to express my gratitude again for the ritual that we shared, you holding my inner 8 year old, as he held you at 14, with the “blank stare,” you described seeing in his eyes. Every day this year, I have reconnected to that experience in my mind, doing a movement meditation which has frequently been a visceral experience for me, often producing chills in my spine. It feels very important for you to know how meaningful and transformative an experience that was for me, and that it’s power has continued to grow and take roots over the year. You are doing such important and healing work, and I believe that my healing has me work more deeply with my own clients. I wish you all the best for the new year and thank you from the bottom of my heart.
My first experience with Kevin Smith’s “Holding Others” Practice was at a retreat center during the 2010 New Year’s Retreat. What a great way to start the new year! I really needed a spiritually-oriented retreat and wanted to be around other like-minded men. It was great meeting kindred spirits, but the true power of the retreat came about during the “Holding Others as a Form of Spiritual Practice” workshop.
The workshop was a group of men (about 30) who first were introduced to Kevin’s story, as well as the simple ground rules and aims of his practice. Getting started, we worked in pairs, many of us total strangers before that moment. Initially, the aim was to get comfortable and grounded in the space, primarily using breath and focusing on the man before each of us. As we began the practice, the process of holding each other progressed naturally and fluidly. There was a sense of deep compassion, respect and purpose. It was great to access this level of emotion in a safe and gentle environment, with Kevin’s mindful guidance. After a brief session, we were able to share our experiences with the group. Being able to hear what others had experienced was reassuring, gave a sense of camaraderie and showed the variety of effects possible. Then, we worked further with a different man in the group, and naturally, had different experiences. This allowed us to see the breadth and freshness of the practice, as well as the differences in our own experiences of the practice under different circumstances.
The second part of the workshop explored the same spiritual practice of Holding Others, but the confines of clothing were transcended. This allowed an even more fulfilling experience. Each man had his choice as to the level of exposure he wanted. The personal boundaries and guidelines were established, and respected throughout the practice. Those who were completely naked, myself included, were able to experience the fullness of open practice without physical restriction. I became aroused during the practice (what can I say, its a natural reaction for me when I am that close to another naked man), but it wasn’t about sex. It was about accepting all aspects of my being, and the man with whom I was practicing. And there was no embarrassment or shame in that space. The level of connection was incredible, without ever doing anything sexual. I think that it is very important that men be able to hold each other and experience deep connection on the soul level without it having to be about sexual expression. This is is another type of connection and expression that allows us to be whole and complete as human beings. This give us new avenues of accessing our innate healing energies for ourselves and our fellow man. This is very powerful and valuable stuff!
The benefit of going to a Holding Others Workshop, in contrast to a one-to-one session, is being part of a collective experience of sacred practice through embracing. Practicing with different persons allows us to experience different aspects of ourselves, both in what we give and receive from the practice. Being aware of this affects our lives in positive ways long after we leave the workshop. Listening to the experiences that others share allows us to relate further to our fellow man, and ultimately find more good of ourselves in the process.
I am going to the “Holding Others As Sacred Practice” Weekend in November because I want to experience this practice again, in a group setting, and further expand my experience with the process.
Kevin sets a wonderful tone right from the start of the session. He is very sensitive and respectful of his own boundaries and of your boundaries as well. By setting this up right from the start, it creates a wonderful freedom to explore touch and healing in a very safe and nurturing way that is often absent from our lives. These sessions are unlike any other kind of touch I have received, and I leave each session feeling opened up, nurtured and more relaxed than when I came in. I highly recommend touch practice to anyone who is looking to receive and share safe conscious touch more in their lives with someone whom you can trust and feel good about working with.
— A. K.
Read your site, loved it. Congratulations on tapping into the vast need for connecting. We all would have a healthier society if we practiced this daily with each other, one could only imagine all the good that would come from that.
I am a physician, and often I see older folks who live alone and haven’t been touched for months, or longer. I sense they come to see me more for the social connection than a medical one.
When I give them a hug at the end of the visit, its like watching a light switch suddenly turn on. While I reserve this for the elderly for professional reasons, I know many more are in need.
” From the moment we met, you made me feel comfortable and secure. I felt I could trust you to respect my apprehension but support me in the process as well. Throughout the session, I felt an acceptance from you and reflexively from myself that I don’t often experience. I was also very surprised at the emotional response it invoked in me. I did feel that deep connection that you spoke of. And it was amazing. Thank you for such a satisfying experience. You are a deep and thoughtful person and I cannot think of anyone else who I would have rather taken that journey with.”
“I was blessed by our exchange today. You made me feel so comfortable with your focus, groundedness, and compassion — I applaud you and your work; thank you for sharing it with me. look forward to knowing you better, my friend. all the best,”
“What a great time. I felt totally comfortable with you. Thank you for your patience and nice touch. You seemed to be a great guy, as well. I wish there was a way for us to meet again. Please keep in touch… “
“It would be really cool to meet up with other guys for a similar session. I am hoping you do not mind, but I might even steal some of your ad to start a practice myself here in [city name]. I liked the safety and the focus on bonding without the focus on sex. ”
“Wow, thank you. I don’t think you realize how badly I needed that to happen. I don’t let people touch me normally and I often get nervous and sometimes uncomfortable with affection and touching. I am always longing to be touched, but I suppose that it has to be the right circumstances and the right person. Although I’m 22 I have never dated anyone so therefore have not been able to show anyone else my affection for them and vice versa. So today was perfect in every way and really really helped and I can’t thank you enough That was amazing and given the chance, I will absolutely share that practice with other people. Take care! ”
“It was such a pleasure to meet you! I really enjoyed the experience! I felt very relaxed and at peace for an entire week afterward. It truly was a great experience and I feel very lucky I had the opportunity to have it with you. Hopefully we will have the chance to relive it again some day. Stay in touch and take care of your self! ”
“I found, or maybe rediscovered, something last night that I haven’t experienced in a long time. I appreciated very much that you were willing to let me embrace more but didn’t expect me to. That’s something I don’t often find in people and I imagine it has allowed you to connect more easily with people — it certainly made opening up easier for me. I think I sort of understand what you mean by adding people into your heart”
“Thank you for that amazing experience. Yeah, i must admit that i was so anxious before we met up and during the start of the session because i didn’t know what to expect to do with a total stranger. But you are a wonderful teacher/mentor that allows each student to move through their own pace and have a knack for making me comfortable and letting go of my inhibitions. After the session, i just felt so relaxed and renewed. i just wish we could do that again before u leave or i get the chance to practice it more often with an open-minded local buddy here. i would recommend that you write a book about it, and have more experiences to explore more into the complexity of human touch and the healing benefits of it. Thanks…
“I am hoping you will remember me. Last February, you offered a free energy session, and I met you at the [hotel name] near the airport in [city name]. You were so helpful to me, and I have been on a path of healing and recovery ever since. My partner died last December and I was raw and wounded when we met. I had previously studied massage, and after my session with you, and a few intense discussions with my grief counselor, I decided to start doing massage again. It has been transformational for me, to offer healing, and receive healing in return. So, I hope this reaches you. THANK YOU, Kevin, for offering kindness and love and support to a wounded man. It helped more than you will ever know. Please let me know if you will be in [city name] again. I will make you dinner, or at least a cup of tea. ”
“Thanks for the invitation to come experience that. It felt really good because I love being touched too. It made me realize something that I really want an need in my future relationships, and that is sensuality. I forgot how necessary it is for me to be touched and caressed like that, but doing that with you reminded me. The past few guys I’ve dated never did, and I always felt like something was missing. In addition to that, I was never able to “get close” or to fall in love with them. The next guy who touches me the way you did, I will probably fall in love with. Thanks. “
“Thank you, Kevin. I appreciate the integrity of your work. As a bodyworker I completely understand the necessity of it, and I know that there are many people who for various reasons, need a safe and respectful place to experience that type of work. I like the fact that you have created such a safe place for that to occur. Meeting you, talking with you and experiencing your work are making me consider the possibilities for creating my own practice. I applaud your own daring and commitment to just stepping forward and taking the risk to develop your work as you went because you sought healing for yourself and others. It takes a lot of courage to do that, especially through craigslist!!:) ”
Kevin is a very patient and kind practitioner. At our session, he was very respectful of my boundaries and always willing to adapt to my comfort zone. He also took the time to thoroughly answer my questions before we met, which helped put me at ease with what was a new experience for me.
M.W., Arlington, MA
Emotional expression has never been easy for me. It’s not an inability or a refusal, but more a general discomfort with verbalizing and or displaying how I truly feel. Partly, I’d just always believed that there is no reason for it. It demonstrates a lack of self-control. Or even a weakness— an inability to handle your own problems without having to confide in others. I was happy living a walled off, but stable life. I had good times, I had friends, etc, though I did note the absence of deep personal connections that my friends seemed to enjoy with each other. But that was a curious puzzle that I would figure out with time, a consequence of an introverted personality and a lifetime of struggling against shyness.
An additional consequence of relative emotional seclusion was physical isolation. I could share hugs and I’d had relationships, but always while being painfully self-aware and uncomfortable in my own skin. Physical contact with emotional undertones can feel like an assault on the walls of a carefully constructed fortress. And this fortress was built to keep people out due to the irrational perception of a threat. Emotional intimacy can bring as much pain as it can joy. Your anticipation depends on whether you believe the glass will be half full or half empty.
But I wanted to connect with people. I didn’t want to feel like I was on the outside while surrounded by friends. I wanted to feel comfortable and relaxed while holding someone in my arms. I wanted to be held without that fear of judgement, both inward and out.
It was with this background that I read about this affirmative touch practice. It spoke of developing a compassionate connection via touch to another human being. Interactive, mutual holding within respected boundaries that allowed both parties to touch and be touched. It sounded a bit like meditation. Outward exploration actually led to inward discovery. It sounded like exactly what I’d been looking for: a safe environment to extend my boundaries, if only a little.
I was desperately anxious leading up to the touch session. It was much beyond anything I’d dared to let myself experience before. How uncomfortable would it be to embrace someone I didn’t know? How would I respond to that level of closeness? What if I got an erection? Those were all concerns competing for priority and attempting to protest loudly enough to force me to just abandon the entire prospect.
But I didn’t. Because I was simultaneously excited at the possibilities. It was a possible solution to that puzzle I’d struggled with my entire life. So I met for the session. And found both throughout and particularly afterward how transformative it was. Far from a dreaded anxiety-ridden hour of discomfort, I found myself lowering my defenses and daring to allow someone to connect. Through entirely non-verbal communication, I connected to another person in a way that was emotionally and psychologically meaningful. I took a step forward and found someone waiting with arms extended in friendship. Far from judgement, I was greeted with complete and total acceptance. And it was this acceptance that I was then able to turn inwardly upon myself.
I have had the great fortune to share in this touch practice several times. Each time, I find that I learn something new. I feel that I have become a better person, progressing toward the person I want to be. But of course I’ve always been this person. It is only that, through this affirmative practice, I have learned to allow myself to be truly me.
C.T., Cambridge, MA