Lesson in Awareness

By Barbara Janelle M.A.

First Published In Touch, Vol. IV, no. 1, June 1992

Over the Christmas holidays I came down with a very nasty case of the flu. I felt horrible and was in bed for four days. During those four days of misery, I was reminded in a very personal way of conditions experienced by the very ill. This “reminder” has increased my awareness when I work with ailing animals and people.

As I lay in acute discomfort, I found that loud and even soft noises went through me like a knife. My entire body seemed to resonate with sound. Loud or sudden noises jarred me in the most painful way.

I felt movement in the room as waves crashing into my energy field. All of me was assaulted by the movement of a family member in the room. Even a swift arm movement jarred my body. I could feel the cats moving in the room; their silent flow was easier to accommodate. Even so, I was aware of the change they created in the energy field of the room. I was super-sensitive to smell and to light. My body seemed to be a very sensitive conductor of every physically perceived quality in the room.

Flu is infectious and so I was left in isolation for most of the four days. This was the hardest part because I needed to have my hand held. Even a minute would have meant a lot. Touch is a major reminder that we are not alone. In missing it, I understood so clearly my need for contact and the support and compassion that touch brings.

Richard Bach in Illusions (1) says, “There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands. You seek problems because you need their gifts.” This illness brought me the gift of increased awareness–the awareness of the need for the touch of a hand. I learned that every move and every sound that I make affect directly the ill animal or person that I am with.

I am much quieter now around the sick. I move slowly, and I find my Therapeutic Touch movements are slower too. It is a qualitative difference that also supports my own centering.

(1) Bach, Richard. Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. New York: Delacorte Press, 1997.


I reread this today and thought that it would make good required reading for nurses and hospital staff, particularly those in ICU.

Working quietly and fluidly is important in a TT treatment, particularly with the very ill because noisy, rapid, or sharp movements in the field can hurt the receiver. I often suggest that students give a treatment as if their hands and bodies were moving in water. Donna Logan Van Vliet asks her students “How lightly can you move and work?” Tai Chi, Feldenkrais and Alexander work are very helpful for increasing physical balance and gracefulness.

–BJ 2/99