News from Touch Practice
Thank you for the many of you who have written, “Hey! Are you still out there? It’s been a long time since we’ve heard from you!” I am sorry for the many unanswered e-mails and the largely inactive Facebook page over the past year or so. Life has been good, but busy, and Touch Practice is alive and well, but morphing, as it seems to do in a constant and awe-inspiring way.
I have not taught Touch Practice in a public way in a few years now. My own private/individual Touch Practice has gone in a direction I would describe as “deep and narrow.” I work with about a half dozen TP partners on a regular, mostly-weekly basis. The work is almost completely non-erotic and almost always clothing-on. Typically, the people I work with are using TP in a “therapeutic” way to work their way through some specific issue they have engaged. Sometimes it is with people who are recovering from addiction or alcoholism. Sometimes it is with grad students or young people working out issues of individuation and separation from their fathers. I work with a few soldiers based in Fort Drum who have combat trauma and PTSD.
This “rhythm” of work, working deeply and frequently with a few individuals over a course of a year or more, is a new exploration of the practice for me. It represents a rather intense commitment to connect, typically once a week. I feel a responsibility to be available and an awareness of what people are giving up in order to be able to engage me (for the guys who come from Fort Drum it represents a drive of several hours, for some in recovery they have very few available hours a week. All of the guys I work with are working hard. It’s a fair statement that anyone who has engaged TP in this way has made a commitment, and has sacrified). I find myself encouraged and inspired by them to really show up–to be present, to be available, to show up with my body and my spirit to hold them and engage and do the work together.
I suppose I have moved in a different direction regarding TP. It is not, by any means, that I reject the powerful aspect of naked practice or the legitimate exploration of erotic energy, especially when sex is “off the table.’ I think these are valid explorations and there are lots of groups, first among many being perhaps Body Electric, which facilitate these kinds of engagement. My work, for the moment, seems to be the holding of men who are predominantly straight, predominantly struggling or wounded in one way or another, predominantly not interested in exploring the erotic (or for whom the erotic is not particularly relevant at the moment) and focused on using touch to engage and resolve a rather specific issue they are “working on.” This focus of the work is new for me. It is not as though the work has not taken me through a variety of populations (Mormons, soldiers, survivors, etc.) in the past–it has. But for the moment this focus seems new, very specific, and very authentic. This is the work I feel called to do at this moment: clothing-on, non-genital, non-erotic, restorative work related to trauma, wounding and recovery.
I am also looking forward to a reunion with a group of Touch Practice practitioners who I have met either through my own practice or through workshops I have done. MELT (Men Embracing Loving Touch) is a weekend retreat of a dozen or so men who rent a house and build a self-structured touch retreat, complete with discussion, social/fun time, and lots of touch. I am really happy that this year’s MELT has invited me to join them, and it is no exaggeration to say that this is an experience where students become teachers and vice versa. Having shared my own practice with many of these individuals years ago, I am inspired by where their own personal practices have taken them and I am looking forward to receiving from them their own wisdom around touch.
I apologize for no longer responding to e-mails at the Touch Practice “contact me” site–I started receiving dozens of e-mails a day from around the world and I couldn’t keep up, and being the perfectionist that I am, I simply gave up, rather than trying to respond to a few. Please don’t give up on me, or on Touch Practice, but realize I’m just one guy, a very ordinary, merely adequate guy at that. I am an incredibly good hugger but I have no “S” on my cape!
Give each other a hug, hang in there, hang in there with me, and I will try to be better at keeping in touch in the future.
Big hugs–Kevin Smith