There are many reasons why we want to be touched. The simplest and most profound is that touch heals us. The way a drop of water spreads when touched, the pains of living that we carry spread when we are held and comforted. The buildup of bearing things alone is released for being touched with sincerity and love.
Beneath all language, touch is the common gesture, the energy that connects all that lives inside us with all that lives outside us. We can disagree - be Catholic or Muslim or Jewish, be conservative or liberal, corporate or rural - and all the stern walls created by what we think will crumble for the gentle reach of a compassionate hand.
Often, we are frightened to let others in, afraid of being hurt, and, sometimes, once knowing the salve of being touched, we seek that comfort for pains we can only heal ourselves. I, repeatedly, have found myself doing both. But these are problems of when and how to open ourselves to touch. The need to be touched is never really in question, anymore than we question the need to breathe.
When my grandmother was dying at ninety-four, I felt crippled at heart because she had reverted to speaking the Russian of her childhood, and I feared we wouldn't be able to understand each other. But an old friend took me aside and said, "you both can understand touch." With this, I stroked her face and arms in silence and she rubbed my wrists, and, even when she couldn't open her eyes or speak any longer, we had a language of comfort that carried us to the moment of her passing.
Sometimes we would do better to admit the heart works best in mime. For beneath the worries and fears of being hurt or rejected or taken advantage of, beneath the avalanche of excuses and explanations, there waits a deep and simple pulse that we need from each other in order to be whole.
Enter a meditation with a loved one you feel safe with.
Focus on a pain that has been difficult to bear alone.
Now take turns. Have one of you express, as directly and simply as possible, not the circumstances of this pain, but the feeling of bearing it, while the other listens in silence.
Now, using only your fingertips, have the listener comfort the speaker through the gifts of touch.