What Happens When We Touch?
Excerpted from Subtle Energy: Awakening to the Unseen Forces in Our Lives by William Collinge, Ph.D., Warner Books, Inc., 1998  

Marianne, 68, was in the recovery room after open heart surgery. She was full of tubes and needles when she slowly began to wake up from anaesthesia. This post-operative period is a time when people are very vulnerable to complications developing, and one of the greatest sources of concern is how the patient handles the trauma emotionally. The nurse who was assigned to watch Marianne had a practice of using the laying on of hands to calm and soothe her patients, and Marianne benefitted tremendously from this. As the nurse placed her hands on Marianne's shoulder and arms, she felt a loving presence and a flood of relaxation and warmth throughout her body. Her troubled and fitful breathing became calm and rhythmic, and she went into a state of deep relaxation.  

Why do we instantly feel warm and peaceful when one person touches us, yet we may bristle and cringe when touched by another? Is it purely psychological, or is something happening energetically?  

An Exchange of Energy

When we touch another person we exchange energy. There is no way to avoid the fact that a kind of energetic communion takes place, even in such seemingly innocuous acts as shaking hands or touching another on the shoulder. Touch itself communicates a great deal energetically, and actually influences our own energy field. This is something we all know intuitively, and there is even a passage in the Bible in which Jesus states, "Who touched me?... Someone has touched me, for I percieve that power has gone out of me."  

Some fascinating breakthroughs in understanding the energetics of touch have recently been discovered in research at the Institute of HeartMath. Since the heart creates the strongest electromagnetic field of the body (measurable from several feet away), Rollin McCraty and his colleagues wanted to find out whether our heart energy fields are really detectable at the surface of one another's bodies when we are in close proximity or actually touching.  

One study involved wiring pairs of subjects up to electrodes and having them sit five feet apart. The researchers found that one person's heart energy waves (electrocardiogram output) were not detectable by the electrodes on the surface of the other person's body at that distance. However, when they were holding hands, each person's heart energy waves were detectable on the surface of the other's body, and even in the other's brain waves.  

The researchers then wondered whether what was being picked up was being radiated through the air from the first person's heart, or was being conducted, like a wire conducts electricity, through skin contact. What they found was that when one person touched the other through a latex glove, the signal was still present, but was only one tenth as strong.  

They then did another experiment to determine whether heart energy was transferred when the subjects were sitting closely together but not touching at all. Subjects were seated three feet apart and again wired with electrodes. Indeed, their electrocardiogram output was detectable across the space between them on the surface of each other's bodies. Thus, we now know that the heart energy field is both conducted by physical contact and radiated across space between people.  

When we touch or are in close physical proximity with another, there is a real transfer of energy between us. We are "touched" and no doubt "penetrated" by each other's energy field. All kinds of contact   casual, intimate, as well as contact for healing purposes   involve a co-mingling of our energy field with that of another.  

And, when we consider the fact that the most coherent oscillator tends to "pull" those around it into entrainment, it makes sense that we can be so moved by being in the presence of someone who  radiates genuine love. Whether we are in the presence of a lover, a loving friend or relative, a healer or one of the world's living spiritual teachers, we are affected by the strong, coherent heart energy field they radiate, and our heart can be pulled into entrainment with theirs. Likewise, if we are with someone who is agitated or angry, their incoherence will make it more difficult for us to be in a coherent state ourselves.