The theme of “giving and receiving” has been a complicated subject that has called for my attention throughout most of my life. While growing up, we children were taught that giving, helping, rescuing, and “bending over backwards” were desirable virtues that had to be practiced, and -- if accomplished well-- were sometimes rewarded, but mostly just expected. I learned well. I learned well out of necessity. Spending time with either one of my strong-willed parents meant that we children responded without question to their demands. After all, that was how their parents and grandparents had raised them and this kind of giving/helping/obeying theme had been passed down from generation to generation. Starved for love in my teenage years, I turned to reading the 19th century German philosophers and poets. Yet I found that most of their stories centered on a love that was either unrequited, or a martyr’s love where the hero or heroine would gladly suffer and die to preserve their beloved’s imagined well-being at any cost. I learned that martyrdom and privation were linked to the idea of giving selflessly or denying the self. This made it very confusing for me since my natural tendencies are to joyfully use my creativity to spread happiness and contentment around me. But I felt stifled by expectations that I experienced as unnatural, severe or unjust. I learned to bend like a delicate flower in the wind until bending became my first choice of response. My body, mind and spirit adapted to the forces of my environment until they became less and less aligned with my own inherently intelligent ways. My natural energy pathways – designed to support me in expressing grace, beauty and ease in movement and voice, became redirected, and I began to compromise and ignore my inner voices, which I believe would have spoken of a much larger intelligence than my parents or teachers could offer me. However, there were other authorities I couldn’t ignore and they beckoned me to pay attention. These teachers were of the timeless magical world of nature. “My” animals, trees, flowers, streams, clouds, rocks, storms, stars, and skies -- with their unending songs -- became my emotionally accepting and loving parents, brothers and sisters. These chosen relatives nurtured me, cheerfully or powerfully awakened me, kept me in balance as much as possible during the day, and sang me to sleep at night. They touched me in my soul, and by receiving them, I touched them back. We established a giving and receiving that was based on a mutual joy of exchange. Whether I played in my sandbox (decorating my sculptures with worms, caterpillars and little daisies at pre-school age), watched the hens and roosters (while sensing their pecking-order language), or delighted in the round pigs (happily and deeply digging and rolling in the mud), or sat with my back against a large tree (cradled in its roots and shaded by the vast leafy canopy overhead) -- all of these experiences simply seemed to say, “you have a place here with us on this earth, your love and care for us is greatly appreciated, in fact we grow in strength and beauty because of it. You allow us to touch you back!” What I learned from my nature friends was that they and I were not only deeply related but we depended on each other for a mutually healing energy exchange that can only happen through love and care and in which giving is receiving. It was also the one and consistent feedback I could always depend on that taught me to believe in myself when no one else in the human world was capable or available to see or hear me. These early teachers of “touchback” as I have come to call it, have accompanied me ever since. I invite you to search your memory and find your unique “teachers” that offered you “touchback.” Maybe it was a pet, or a doll even, that helped you to stay centered within yourself, escaping from a chaotic world that didn’t make any sense. Or maybe you were one of those fortunate humans who had a wise and loving grandma or grandpa, Mom or Dad, who taught about giving and receiving in loving and supportive ways. Or maybe your first grade teacher smoothed the way for you to learn who you might become in relationship to the world around you. The “touchback” paradigm, once experienced, becomes a very compelling and strongly conscious voice, which has the power to call us back into experiences beyond our self-imposed limits. However, it requires us to listen to ourselves! We need to become aware of our habitual responses first so we can learn how to differentiate between trained voices of the past and our own naturally supportive voices. Seeing, hearing, listening to and understanding the natural ways within our own body and psyche will teach us how to connect easily to the world around us. It seems to me we have lost touch with these natural internal and external teachers and therefore are not able to be in touch with the voices of a larger wisdom. If we could find our way back to this kind of self-awareness, it would lead us to make not only self-supportive choices, but include the world around us. We would be able to examine our first, the habitual responses and know that they are coercing voices of fear from the past. We could acknowledge those and then enlarge our vision of possibilities and dare to choose a new response. We would know and learn that everything in our lives creates “touch back” and that life creates itself through the quality of our intentions in the dynamic play of giving and receiving. Let’s begin by imagining a world in which our chosen leaders embody “touch back” and let it begin with you and me.