“My back is a river. My back is a river.”
Over and over again, Shelley repeated these words each time before she moved. My friend had, regrettably, injured her back during a theater performance this past weekend. Despite this, she’d cycled over to my place with dinner in hand, knowing I was still laid up with my ankle injury.
Her water-related mantra reminded me how much depth there is in our relationship with this magical resource. By visualizing the fluidity of water while saying her mantra, Shelley is managing to move through her pain with a relatively sunny disposition. Her positive attitude in the midst of the monsoon of agony she’s experiencing speaks to the power of our relationship with water. Back injuries have a significant psychological effect – when our backs are in pain, chances are we’re feeling pretty frustrated on the inside, too. Conjuring strength from water’s inspired qualities can help us to move – and feel – more fluid, too.
Her natural instinct to connect with water strikes me as yet more proof of the ideas put forth by Alick Bartholomew, in The Spiritual Life of Water. Water’s natural qualities of fluid flexibility and healing energy are undeniable. While simply seeing water can cause this, too, there’s nothing quite like touch to bring it home. Even gliding down a river or running our fingers along the water’s surface can instantly create feelings of relaxation.
Recently, I unexpectedly had the chance to reflect on the importance of touch, in a way that really moved me. As I’ve been immobile with my sprained ankle, friends have been kindly bringing over food to my apartment. After reading up on what I need to be eating to heal more quickly, I have even more gratitude for this!
During one of these food-run visits, my friend Katy gently asked to see my foot. I sat atop my bed and removed the tensor bandage to reveal the full spectrum of swollen flesh — purple and blue from the sea of tiny tears lying just beneath the surface. Led instinctively by her previous experience in energy healing, she intuitively placed her hands over the messy mass of injured ligaments. While she directed her love to my icy foot, I felt a warm energy at the point of contact — where her palm met my pain. It marked first time that I’d felt emotionally connected to my ankle since the injury occurred early last week. As I let my tears flow freely at the feeling of being nurtured, my body was flooded with relief, releasing the anger and resentment I’d been subconsciously holding onto.
Touch has a memory.
― John Keats
Our connection with touch is a fundamental part of our everyday lives. Receiving frequent human touch is integral to our overall happiness, but how does the physical interaction that we have with products fit in? Our intuitive relationship with touch is partly what drives my enthusiasm for good design. When we interact with a product that literally feels good in our hands, the connection we form will naturally be more rewarding. Back when the first Ipods came out, it was awe-inspiring to hold this small, minimalist audio device that represented what a listening experience can be –clean and cool.
In this same vein, the Soma water filter excels: its minimalist glass carafe encourages human touch, intuitively designed to be conducive to both its intended function and our human hands. Simply put, it feels good to hold. While little pleasures like this can get easily washed away among the rush of daily life, it is in these small things where little pockets of happiness lie, waiting to be discovered. This is what good design can bring to our lives. Though, practicing mindful touch certainly isn’t relegated to man-made designs; nature’s creations often bring their own organic charms, even if they’re less easy to use.
The importance of physical connection can be applied to our interactions with products, as well as anything else that we come into contact with throughout our day. Noticing how soft our bed-sheets feel when slowly waking up to the day; gently touching the petals of a flower on our way to work; feeling the cool flow of water pouring from the tap onto our thirsty hands; enjoying the light, tapping touch of our sleek keyboards or touch screens; welcoming the effortless fit of the Soma carafe’s smooth, curved glass in our hands; or, best yet, valuing the comforting touch of a friend’s warm hand, as it soothes away any physical or emotional aches and pains.
This is what absorbing the finer things in life is all about. From helping an elderly — or injured — person walking up the stairs, to appreciating the feel of well-designed household products, these delicate connections are water for the soul. Being mindful of our sense of touch allows us to remain open to these small moments of interactive beauty, and drink in the pleasure of life’s subtler details.
Design is not making beauty, beauty emerges from selection, affinities, integration, love.
– Louis Kahn