The Healing Touch of Connection – Blog by Liz Lord
Liz Lord, from The MYRIAD research team and a Teaching Partner for the OMC reflects on the challenges we face amid the COVID-19 pandemic and how connection can help us navigate challenging times. This blog follows on from her talk at the OMC on line sitting group (8/4/2020) which focussed on our ability to connect with ourselves and others in these changing and challenging times.
My dad, Vinnie is 88, lives alone and is fit and well. But I don’t want to take any chances and so I am being more careful with hand washing, keeping myself in check for any symptoms, dropping his shopping at his gate and chatting with him ‘over the fence’ He is keeping himself busy talking to his friends on the phone, reading and making things in his shed. His latest production line includes clothes ‘valets’ made out of his old staircase spindles, book stands and bird tables. Having lived through the Second World War, his generation are familiar with the camaraderie that can come from reaching out to others in a time of crisis, taking a wider perspective on issues and self-sacrificing for the good of the nation. We can learn so much from them, their wisdom, humour and approach to life.
I spoke to an elderly neighbour this week and her face lit up as she spoke of a phone call she had received from her granddaughter making sure she was ok during the current COVID-19 pandemic. She recited the conversation with such warmth and affection. These seemingly small exchanges and communications can bring such joy and comfort. Not only with the connection itself, but then the memory of the connection and the anticipation of the next time.
There is a beautiful and poignant scene in the film ‘Awakenings’ where the main character, Leonard, played by Robert De Niro is in a hospital canteen with a girl who he is deeply attracted to. He is a patient and has a debilitating illness which causes him to shake intermittently. At one point in the scene, he is shaking so badly that he stands to leave, embarrassed by his condition. She stands and moves towards him, takes him in a dance-like embrace and they begin to sway together. Gradually his shaking lessens and the scene ends with them gently swaying together. How beautiful the healing power of touch can be to soothe and comfort.
In these times, when the simple act of human touch has been taken away from us. How can we care, nurture and connect to those we encounter each day? Helping them in their distress. Our loved ones, work colleagues, patients and friends.
Right now we have the perfect excuse to contact those who may be vulnerable but perhaps we’ve not spoken to for a while. Not only will it reassure them that they are being cared for but it will foster connections that will be also be positive for us, our own sense of giving and ability to nurture and express love and tenderness to those around us.
You may even want to take this a bit further, perhaps think back to someone who has been a significant in your life. Someone who has really helped, inspired or supported you, who you may have lost touch with. Can you reach out to them? Message them? Or even call them? How many times do we think about doing this but never quite get round to it? Is there anyone who needs your practical help, with food and other essentials? Can we reach out to them and offer our time and care?
A few weeks ago, I posed a questions at the OMC Wednesday evening sitting group.
“What person, book, film, quote, line of poetry, song, lyric, author, composer, or just a word… has really resonated with you in your life?”
I wanted to share a few of these with you. Reading through them has given me a sense of how differently we are each touched by things in our lives and how words and quotes can be helpful to us, reconnecting us to the very core of ourselves. In this time of restrictions, a line from the wonderful film ‘Shadowlands’ comes to mind. Anthony Hopkins plays the part of CS Lewis and one of his students says “we read so we know we are not alone” Those moments of resonance when words and quotes profoundly touch us and articulate something deeply moving that we know to be true for ourselves and powerful reminders of our connection to others. Enjoy the few here and then I invite you to think of your own.
‘What a wonderful world’ Louis Armstrong
‘The last of human freedoms – to choose ones attitude in any given circumstances, to choose one’s own way’ Victor Frankl
‘You are not your pain’ Penman and Burch
‘It’s only kindness that makes sense any more’ Naomi Shihab Nye – kindness over fear
‘Better together’ Jack Johnson song
‘You are neither here nor there, a hurry through which known nor strange things pass’ Seamus Heaney: Postscript
‘In this moment I am free’ John Garrie Roshi
‘We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars’ Oscar Wilde
‘Go placidly amidst the noise and the haste and remember what peace there may be in silence’ Max Ehrmann – Desiderata
‘Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on…’ Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese:
‘Walk on with hope in your heart / you will never walk alone’ lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein
‘I have arrived. I am home.’ – Thich Nhat Hanh
‘What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’ Mary Oliver
‘Don’t worry about a thing because every little things gonna be alright.’ Bob Marley
‘Your friend is your needs answered’ Kahlil Gibran – The Prophet
‘I will not die an un-lived life, I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire… I choose to risk my significance so that which came to me as seed goes to the next as blossom and that which came as blossom goes on as fruit.’ Dawna Markova
‘Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.’ Quote from Gandalf (wizard from Lord of the rings book),
‘To live is to change, and to live well is to change often’ John Henry Newman
‘Oh! That gentleness! How far more potent it is than force!’ – Charlotte Bronte – Jane Eyre
You can listen to Liz’s podcast from our weekly sitting group here:
About Liz Lord
Liz Lord is the Schools liaison lead for the MYRIAD project in the Dept of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford. The MYRIAD project is a 6.4m project, funded by the Wellcome Trust looking at all aspects of mindfulness for school teachers and pupils. Her role is to facilitate and enable the schools to take part and to work closely with them throughout all aspects of the research. She has 20 years ‘experience as a school teacher and leader in both primary and secondary settings and successfully implemented mindfulness in a Pupil Referral Unit in Salford.
Liz has an MSc in Mindfulness based approaches from Bangor University and is a Teaching Partner for the Oxford University Mindfulness Centre.