A Practice on Professional Touch

I once asked a massage therapist if she’d ever had a client she was loath to touch. Only one, she replied, in all the years she’d been giving massages. Though she had a hard time pinning down just what about the client had provoked her aversion, she experienced something about him as “evil.” She struggled through the massage, but required several days to recover and clear.

In this practice, you’ll pay attention to your reactivity to the people with whom you must engage in your professional life, especially those for whom you carry some professional responsibility for the well-being of their minds, bodies, and spirits.


  • To whom do you notice you want to get closer? With whom do you have some inchoate aversion?
  • How would you label what in them is “making” you react in the way you are? Is it something about their physical person? Is it something harder to define, something in their “energy,” whatever that may mean? How close can you get to labeling it?

Now, turn your attention to yourself:

  • How are you experiencing your desire to reach out to them, to offer them healing touch, acknowledging that it is not just they but you too who have a body? Why do you want either to touch them or not to?
  • What would happen if you thoughtfully, respectfully envisioned doing the opposite of your initial inclination –touching them compassionately if your inclination is to avoid, keeping at a mindful distance if you’re drawn to connect?
  • What might be impact on them, on you, of making this different choice–an impact that stems more from the how of what you do than from the what?

What did you find out?

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