My son got off to a lucky start in kindergarten – he had a teacher who ran his classroom to allow for plenty of (appropriate) physical contact. Hugs and physical play were important parts of the kindergarten curriculum.
Nowadays, the premature introduction of “academics” – reading, writing and arithmetic – is the rule. Parents are afraid that little Johnny and Samantha will fall behind if they’re not sitting at a desk “learning” something at age six.
Not only that.
Now, if a teacher gives a six year old a hug it’s likely to generate a disapproving glance and an administrative write-up. Fortunately, my son’s kindergarten teacher was a veteran. He’d entered the system in the early 1970’s, before the pendulum of public sentiment shifted so strongly puritanical. By the time my son encountered him he was a beloved senior teacher, beyond reproach.
Given the anti-touch trend in our culture, my career-long commitment to the use of touch in the healing arts has never been more needed.
This commitment was recently reinforced by the Neuroscience course I took at Princeton University on Motor Control and Motor Learning. We studied the complex ways the brain organizes our movements in response to the environment.
One of the themes my professor introduced was the concept of “embodied cognition,” a (relatively) recent academic formulation of the mind-body interface.
The idea of embodied cognition is that the brain isn’t sitting in a glass jar performing abstract calculations. Its computations are based on the bodily input it receives. Our brain and movement system respond in an integrated fashion as our sensations and emotions shift.
As individuals, we’re swimming in a sea of tactile input. Plus we get constant feedback from our muscles and joints. Deepening your movement and interpersonal touch experience is what makes the brain work better.
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