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136. Waiting for a Hug: Activism for the Chronically Under-Touched with Aaron Johnson

Nicole: So then the first question I like to ask each guest is how would you introduce yourself to the listeners?

Aaron: Hmm. Yeah. I am a touch activist. I'm the middle child of five. I'm a desert bean. I live in the desert and have been there for the last 20 plus years. I am a full time activist as well. I'm really committed to dismantling oppression at the micro levels, at the macro levels.

I don't care if we're in a grocery store, or if we're in the middle of a land transfer of over 100 acres. I'm still in the space of how can we do this and dismantling oppression as much as possible. And I think in most cases I surprise myself on how I'm able to show up in unique context, tenderly, and I think tenderness is one of my interruptive, what's that even, powers.

Um, particularly my black cis male body, tenderness is not always available for my positionality in America. So when it does happen, I think it interrupts the landscape a bit. And I'm also an artist and mentor, and I really cherish genuine, authentic connection. Yeah. That's how I'm entering today in a nutshell.

Nicole: And I'm so excited that you're here and to get to share this conversation with all of the listeners. And I'm excited to talk about your story, your journey, your personal connection to this topic. I'd love if you could take up the space to tell your story and share that with the listeners, wherever that starts for you, however far back, I'd love to hear it.

Aaron: Yeah. I think for myself, it starts probably. A couple of weeks before I was born, I think about the kind of stories that were told my mother is a pastor and I remember for years she would just preach about before I was born what she was going through. Her mother was dying and her mother was very close to her.

And so I was. In her womb and she didn't want me to, she couldn't relax enough to allow me to, to be born. And I remember her saying that she unplugged the phone from the wall. This is like 1982 and, uh, it's like a landline. And when she unplugged the phone from the wall, she knew that no one could call her and tell her her mother had passed.

And so because of that moment, she was able to go into labor. And so what I, what I pick up from that story is that my mom was in grief. I was born May 30th, 1982. My grandmother, which is my mother's mother passed away, I think two or three days after I was born and I feel that because there's a way in which I came into the world with a mother that was in grief.

And so I think as a child, we absorb a lot of that grief. And so I think it wasn't surprising. She says, Aaron just loved the cuddle. I think I was already responding to this grief that was in the air, right? We couldn't really help that with kind of lost. And so I snuggled. And love the snuggle from literally birth.

And so I felt one of the things that happens to particularly black cis men is that we get all this cuddling and tender care oftentimes from zero to four to five years old and it drops off. And I think for me, as much as I had a very loving family and siblings, there was a definitely a drop off in my, my touch needs.

Probably when I was too big to pick up, I imagine I was like five or six, I have clear memories of that point. So I go to like my journey, I can skip ahead. But when I skip ahead, I just want to kind of go from five years old to 17 years old. When I go from those gaps, there's really no place. In our particular conservative Christian home for touch platonic touch specifically to be skilled to be practiced.

And when I go to the mainstream culture, there was actually no music videos about cuddling or platonic touch or models for me or a safe touch between black men, cis black men and cis black men. So I had zero, zero actual modeling and that came to head probably into my twenties. So I'm going to, like, twenty eight.

29, 28. When I really started to re examine, I'd been dating for a while, I was moved out of the home, I, so I was in a place of like, life design in my mid to late 20s, and again, there is a vacuum of, of modeling of what it looked like to be a cis, straight, Black male and being tended to other, and so I just started working on my own personal journey, and so right around there, I was about to get married, I was engaged to get married, I remember having a conversation about not crying in 20 years, which is attached to my touch and not having any black cis men or any kind of practice that felt safe.

And we could box, we could play basketball, we could wrestle, but no safe touch, no tenderness. So that's when it kind of birthed the idea of like, I need to work on this. I don't know where to start. Way to work on it. Yeah.

Nicole: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Do you have any thoughts on the, yeah, where that messaging comes from or how that started?

Aaron: Yeah. The messaging, I think, as I've been studying this for the last 10 years, there's a couple of things that's important. I've traced it back to the invention of the black brute. And I think there's so many examples outside of the United States, other countries where Black men don't have the trauma story of the Black brute directly shaping their reality.

They're holding hands, walking down the street. On the continent of Africa, there's so many villages and spaces where men literally sit straight, men friends walk down the street, hold each other's hands. It makes sense. Where I see that disappear is where we look at slavery and the Black brute narratives being pushed into the media.

Well, before slavery is over, but post slavery, we saw this invention of the Black Brute and the Black Brute narrative says we are strong in our body. Muscular, a super high and wild or uncontrolled sexual desire, low intelligence. This is the propaganda machine that started to move. And I think there's a way where I look around.

I think the modern day, most invested image is still the black root narrative. It's a, you know, UFC or NFL. These are all places where the black root narrative is so present. And so I think to me, the origin story feels very clear attached to the propaganda of. How oppression shapes the narrative around black sexuality, particularly black male sexuality in America, using the black group as a fundamental defining spaces where I go from mainstream Hollywood to the NFL, to the UFC, to the NBA, to modern day pornography.

I see is consistent theme. Of the hypersexualized black male and the erasure of a tender complex intellectual consent, conscious black male that's not invested in, in a mainstream, but we've seen little drips and drops here and there, and it pops up, but there's a mainstream investment. The young man and myself early on had a hard time finding it, and even now as I do as a professional and investigate, still hard to find.

Nicole: Mm mm-Hmm, . Mm-Hmm, . And you were saying that you started to notice that at five. Yeah. Five years old. Yeah. What do you think you needed at that time that maybe you didn't get?

Aaron: I think models and normalizing tender touch between all beings, but specifically between cis black men and cis black men. That was the rarest thing to find is to see cis black men cuddling, being close, just being tender, tending to each other.

One has emotions, one tends to just modeling this behavior. Yeah. You know, we could really tend to each other oftentimes when. Um, I saw other boys even get hurt, you know, their mother tended to him, their father didn't come over and model that for a variety of reasons. So I think for me, just models would have been a huge, especially as I got older.

Nicole: Yeah. Hence the work that you're doing now, right? Being that model of this. Yeah. And the crying piece too, 20 years. I'm just, you know, like, how is that landing for you?

Aaron: I mean, I think tears are so attached to tenderness. It's attached to emotional intelligence and. You know, I, I took me two years working on my, my tears, an amazing counselor and holder of space before I had my first tears.

And she did a skillful job of just allowing me to be, we worked on it for like once a week for, for two years. And for myself, there's a clear picture of having to forge space, having to create a nest to where my body felt safe enough to, to be real about what was happening inside. And I think. In that it was probably 1 of the biggest emotional shifts I had in my adult life is to access tears.

If you know, I haven't cried in 20 years to that point. And so it's like, my face kind of blew off, you know, it's just like a build up a big emotions. And so I think in that it was. The foundational work to go straightly from accessing tears to this. No surprise within a year. I was working on my, my platonic touch plan, and I didn't have the language back then for a comprehensive touch plan, but that's exactly what I was doing for myself.

And maybe about 2 years after 3 years after that, I started building 1 for a mentee and that's what kind of started the journey. So to me, that tears. Working on getting access to my emotional profile, it wasn't just tears. It was rage that was hidden. It was grief that was hidden. It was, you know, kind of, I think sometimes we go rage, grief, pleasure, but it was there.

They're kind of woven there. I had joy that was dark. I had pleasure. That was grief. I had this. So I started realizing how many ways I could be. And so that's what that was. So tears was, uh, kind of a marker, but it was so much more of being, Oh, I've been smothering. A big more ray, a big variety of emotions that I didn't even have was like, just kind of, I think I was stuck in this kind of masculine numb, going to be okay vibe for so long that that was like the emotion, like nothing was too high or too low.

It was all right there in this kind of middle ground of. Of numb, masculine presentation of everything's okay. And that everything could be still be okay. And I can also weep for 20 minutes. Everything's still be okay. Actually, things will make me actually be okay. It's actually gonna be okay. If I'm actually able to move through life.

I didn't realize the kind of circular momentum that emotions allowed my nervous system to do. And then that for now, I think that my grounding is more based upon not the presentation of calmness. But the actual lived experience of being grounded in common, of course, I have stress in my life. And of course, there's things that test my nervous system, but there's a way that I don't just jump to the performance.

I jumped to what, what is actually here, but actually here means I didn't go lay down on my back on earth for 45 minutes. That's what happened. That's what's here. So I think for me, there's a way in which my body is now shaped differently because of. My emotions are able to be in a complete, uh, I say complete is a big word, but in a much more flowing state and I'm creating environments where people around me have had the capacity to engage with my nervous system and engage with me.

They don't panic when I start to cry. They're like, what is happening here? It's like, oh, this is actually a part of who Aaron is. And that feels really nice.

Nicole: Yeah. Have you had like other reactions in that in the past?

Aaron: Early. Yeah, because I'm building, I mean, for 20 years, I was known as a dude that can walk in and there's a rat in the house.

You call Aaron. If you, if you, if someone dies, you call Aaron. If our, our home, our community, our black community has four to five deaths per year. And so I would attend funeral after funeral for that 20 years, and I would be the one that would just. Beholding it for everyone else, the, the identity that people identify me as I wouldn't cry.

I just be like, how are you? You're good. You're good. I'm good. I got you. That was this rock consistency. It was like, I was celebrated as the kind of being that was before. So yes, when I started feeling. A lot of people had to start adjusting to, Oh, wait, is Aaron okay? Or how do we hold Aaron? What would that be like for us to actually hold him?

Not just him holding us in this kind of numb, masculine role, which is important on the numb part, but there's a role that I can play, but I also play the same role with tears. And so for me, it was definitely an adjustment in all my relationships. And, and, you know, it takes a couple of years, but people really start to appreciate it and understand what is happening.

And I just kept, I've gone, now it's like a part of my actual job. So I think everyone around me is definitely more accustomed to either a full. Emotional experience or know that we're inviting that in. So in my current environment, this doesn't feel shocking to the system.

Nicole: Yeah. Yeah. But it makes sense.

Like you said that people wouldn't be used to that, right? You were such this rock the stable person. So to have the emotions would be such a shift and that they wouldn't know how to handle that. So it makes sense. There'd be that large shift for your community as well around you. Yeah. I'd be curious then, like, when you were holding those emotions and being that rock, you know, that's what people saw on the outside.

What were you experiencing on the inside at those moments or in those times?

Aaron: I think generally speaking, there was a, probably a frustration of like, Who made this design for my being and then that frustration, I think, really sunk down into some grief and isolation where I felt like without having words, I felt like there is a place where I could tell the system I was in was broken.

But everybody at the time mainstream culture and personal culture define this as normal as this is where you should be. And so it was a little bit of like being gas lit by entire cultures like, uh, it's a really powerful situation to be in. And then I think as I started seeing. Mostly in the queer community first, a lot of the queer men, trans men, and all the folks really started to feel, they feel a lot more, they led the way, modeled it in a way that cis black men struggle.

And so I've seen just masculine bodies break out of the mold of traditional society gave me somewhat of a, a opportunity to imagine. And so I was able to, and this is kind of layered, like part of working on a touch plan, part of working on your tears is also working on your homophobia. It's part of that.

It's not separate. So there's a way I, I raised a very conservative Christian. So I hold a lot of doctrines early on, but this Christian is the masculine. So I had to start coughing up, hacking up a lot of that homophobia material that I didn't even know it was there again. When you're smothering your emotions, you don't realize your biases, they're just kind of stuck behind the numbness.

And so I think as you start peeling it back, you start realizing, oh snap, I have these really deep ingrained belief structures. And so I, it was, it was me kind of, I felt okay on the surface. I felt isolated a little bit deeper. I felt grief if you go a little bit deeper. And then I felt some deep fear and terror if you go a little bit farther back, if you go farther back and look at it, honestly, that's kind of what that fear and terror is probably what kind of blew out my face when I started to cry for the first time the first time I could just be that kind of collapsed human and not hold the role as whatever has been projected upon my body and identity.

And then rebuild from there.

Nicole: Yeah. Speaking to the deep emotions that are tied behind all of these things on that deeper level. I'd be curious if you could, you know, I'm presuming how the homophobia and transphobia is connected to this, but I'd love if you could flesh that out of seeing that connection of how that was connected to your ability to be emotional, to have platonic touch and how those two things.


Aaron: Yeah. So there's a lot of things here. So I'm trying to do this kind of succinctly only because when you, when I go back to my homophobia and transphobia material, I'm going to go just a little bit farther back. I think it was 1968 ish when the, there's a protest, a very famous protest. You see black men walking going, I am a man just walking kind of in public.

And the reason I say that I referenced this often is that there is a struggle. Of how oppression set on the black community and particularly on black men is that you might hear in like films or white men refer to adult black women. Hey, boy, get my fill in the blank. Hey, boy, what you doing? But boy, boy, they would, they would, they would really use boy as this derogatory term to demean the intelligence and the, the, so that this kind of signs as I am a man kind of speaks to the pressure against it.

White oppression of like, I'm just trying to be a man. I'm just trying, I'm trying to be a man. And we, and we kind of had to hold this masculine narrative. Of being human. And so that just was baked into my upbringing as a servitive Christian and a kind of proud father who remodeled masculine to me. And I think a very thoughtful way for the most part, but that was baked in the back, be a man, and this is what a man does.

And so we don't get this immediate message of like, Oh, you should not like queer folks at all. You shouldn't like gay folks. That did come into Christian narrative a little bit, but that didn't really buy into that what I bought into it. What do we get sucked into my bones was masculine bodies. Can't be like these queer folks because they're weak, the queerness.

It's weakness, right? And this is reinforcing four years of football in high school is reinforcing all my athleticism. So this is not just my parents. It's kind of a society kind of overcomes. It's kind of laying it nicely in my nervous system before I even had all the tools and what was happening. So, for me, I think about that hurt.

There's a way in which I could, I could see that I had fear and terror based upon trying to be a human being in a white control culture is constantly kind of in sometimes skillfully making me not a full human being. I couldn't I remember I was supporting and it speaks to the jobs where I was referring to speaking to one of my mentees was coming out as queer in his home and I was.

That came out and their parent just almost killed them, attacked them. Wow. And one of the things they kept saying was like, parent kept saying, we've worked so hard to just be human, how to be a man. Like, how can you not now be like saying you're not even claiming your, your male identity? Cause we fought so hard just to like, as black bodies in their mind, we fought so hard to be a man.

Now you're in a room. Now raise your hand saying, I don't want to be a man anymore. Like we can barely say we're human. How dare you?

When the society comes and says, you can't be human to have the, the, it's not audacity, but it feels like to have the audacity to be like, I'm going to take this thing that you grandparent fought for just to be a man.

I'm going to take that and just. Pass it to the wind because I actually have a more complex sexual identity and identity as a whole that you can imagine. That's probably why we could imagine it because of the work that they did. There's a way that can feel like erasure. And so that was in the background to again, not articulate as clearly as now, but it sits as I started to cough it up.

I started to realize choice of identity. That I never really had and maybe envy or discomfort. I felt for folks that were choosing their identity identity had to be discussed a bit had to be slowing down. I didn't have a lot of people having a conversation right away, but it started to happen as I met more folks in the community of like, Oh, what does it mean to have choice over your identity in a way that.

Was kind of put on the black body specifically in America differently. So that was, that was kind of the part. And then the other part is like, there's a place where how homophobia showed up in my particular trauma story early, early, but like, as I was coughing up was not realizing what my masculine identity actually was.

And that when it was questioned, or when a trans or queer person questioned it, it just shook my foundation, because I wasn't even sure. It was pretty flimsy of like, what, like, if someone asked me a question, like, what does it mean to be a man? I'd be like, well, uh, uh, strong, you work hard, uh, uh. I realized my brain, like a simple question, my brain went almost short out, because I saw these like surface models of it, but I had no...

I couldn't tell you the emotional profile of a black male really at the time. I had to like really reexamine and rebuild that. So I think that's where I think my whole family showed up is that I didn't have. There's a way that I think the queer community has interrogated identity, interrogated sexuality, interrogated, emotional int intelligence, interrogated a lot of themselves that cis black men are like, huh?

And black. I mean, cis bodies as a whole have just kind of plugged into the, the, to the major culture. They weren't able to, they didn't, they were never required to, to burn the emotional calories, to interrogate their identity, to ask questions about, is this working for me? That had not been done. So my homophobia came up when there was a kind of a flash between.

The lack of interrogation of my identity and the modeling of like, there might be something more that's actually more sustainable and that frustration or lack of clarity falling right back into the male trauma story of like, well, then the violence or shut down on numbness or all the above becomes the immediate response instead of slowing down to an innocent investigation or curiosity.

These are not words that that felt easily accessible early on. So I think that's how my. Homophobia, you know, arrived early. Yeah, I think there is, uh, I'll say in closing here on this idea of how my home showed up is that as I examined the lynching history and the exploitation of black bodies and slavery is that there, there is a place where we read about the, the buck breaker breaking black men.

So white slave masters would. Would assault black bodies to show their power over and there's, there's a way that that still ripples through the black community and I feel like fits into my lineage because I have traced back my lineage to Castro, Louisiana, I believe in my mom's side of folks that survived slavery.

And so, because of that, there is some, I think, internalized terror around outside of consent violation on multiple levels, but specifically, I actually try to avoid it. Being raped by the slave master is a part of the narrative, not discussed near enough, but there. So I had to kind of. Just grieve those things, um, release those things, research those things, and know that it happened, that it doesn't justify homophobia, but clarifies where it was sourced from.

And then slowly take it down to pieces and, and rebuild an analysis that doesn't mean that I have to be terrified to cuddle with a queer, gay, or trans body. And that's been really great that I'm not. At this stage in my healing process and touch plan that I have, I have no problem cuddling with all those identities.

And that's actually part of one of the more complex ways to show up out and have an unfortunate lot of cis straight black men. I'd be like, yeah, let's cuddle with other queer folks and whatnot. But it's been a wonderful, um, I think journey for myself to have that.

Nicole: Yeah, I appreciate you naming that. I think, you know, what I'm hearing is the ways that the societal context are deeply ingrained into how we see the world, how we see other people, right?

Instead of pointing that arrow at yourself and your quote unquote feelings are some ways we're taking that larger structure to look at how these things impact, how we look at other people and our ability to love and connect with other people. And I, I just, Sometimes I get a little sad when I hear, you know, the queer community.

I, I understand the need for like a more like, you know, fight mentality of people who are in that paradigm of homophobia and transphobia. But I think there's like a larger space of love for the context that people are in, right? And have gone through to unpack some of these narratives. You know, I, I don't think that we should come in with more violence for people who are in that space and struggling to understand how to love people.

Aaron: Agreed. Yes.

Nicole: Yeah, I don't know what that process of love looks like for people in that space, you know, and how you do that with boundaries to keep yourself safe when you're connecting with someone like that. But the reality is like your journey, you know, there was so much unpacking in that to get where you're at now.

Like if you were met with aggression, you know, from a queer person in that space at that time, you know, that wouldn't have been helpful.

Aaron: That's so true. That's so true. And I, what's tough is that, you know, black cis men have one of our first responses to queer and trans folks is violence. You know, we, we can, if we don't work on our chunk, that's what comes up early.

And so I could get the fear and concern it's, it's, it's, it's present. And when we could slow it down enough to not be violent or not go to that first to get some space for the terror and fear to be there without. Any kind of violence to be in a trauma led experience. I feel like it's really revolutionary.

It's it's profound. I mean, this country we're having right now is very unglue global and so many levels. Um, but I think you're right. The more we can see models of or build that some kind of, um, just guidelines or boundaries, but there's a level of nest making that I think is needed to. Invite this practice to the surface and be present.

Nicole: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Do you have any ideas on what that looks like or what it was for you? Was it community people bringing you into deeper love and like, yeah, what got that moving in terms of, you know, how we can support other people who might be in that space still?

Aaron: No, it's interesting. I find the most success I've seen is with.

Groups of white folks that are working as a lifelong practice on their anti racism, they're predominantly queer, non binary folks, but I found that in that environment, there's a critical mass of people that have been able to. Beyond this journey to ask the questions and not waiting for people to go enjoy to ask.

And then I combine that with black bodies that have the capacity to receive questions, engage with, you know, I think about the micro fusion dance community. I think about some parts of the content improperties, not always the case because these are oftentimes really white on an examined places, but there's the collection of these groups that are really working at racism really well.

And there's a way where bodies are dancing, they're being together. And then there's a, maybe there's a 60 white folks in there that have worked in their racism. So now they've got a couple of black bodies that are there. And if I'm a black cis male, I might show up and go, Oh, some really attractive people here.

But yet I'm not sure how many folks are actually even into cis straight bodies at this moment, but they're also being very thoughtful. They're not like fetishizing me. All of a sudden there's this way in which I find that the fusion community, the dance fusion community, Microfusion specifically, because very slow, very intimate, very tender and nature contact improv, very similar where your bodies are being together as much as it's opportunity for us to kind of examine in a, in a, um, there's no, there is essentially is present, but it's, it's not the main focus.

I mean, at least most cases, it's really about being human and body. I think some of these environments are great on ramps. I think they need to be followed up with a robust community that is doing the work on like we are going to, because what happens is a black body will show up these environments and they'll get, you know, prayed after and in a very much like black brute way.

And then they'll respond as black brute. And it's again, so we aren't, but when you, I think when the work is being done in that space, the black bodies can show up and not be just navigating too much oppression, but they can show up tenderly. Cause one of the ways that I think. In these environments, white swims can show up is that they start fetishizing the black provides are projecting violence in the black body.

So there's a way in which when that's happening in these queer and trans communities that there's, there's a way in which the black body can drop into tenderness and vulnerability. And all of a sudden that. Doesn't have a trauma led violence piece when they're doing a beautiful dance with a trans or queer person that normally wouldn't ever be in contact with because they're actually in that vulnerable open state.

And so I think that's where I would say, in the wild world of, of, of America, you might find some like, wait a minute, is that, is that brother actually being tender with whatever fill in the blank identity that he typically wouldn't be and vice versa. So I think that's where I would. I've done a lot of workshops and work around this community and still am, and I think this is a place where I've been like, a little amazed how it did start to happen.

So I think that could be an example of a place.

Nicole: Mm hmm. And then the ripples that that creates out in the community when you have those sorts of connections, right? Yep. Very powerful. Very powerful. I know a little bit earlier you talked about, I believe I heard a Playtonic plan. Is that what Playtonic touch plan?

Is that what I heard?

Aaron: Oh yeah. Having a comprehensive platonic touch plan.

Nicole: Yeah. I'd love to hear more. What's inside that plan?

Aaron: Yeah. So, so we have a program that we teach called touch specialist. It's actually changing next year to touch activists. And so one thing we want to invite people to think about is like, how do you build So you, you see a brother or a person that you're, that's aren't going to touch is quite clear and we can, we can get to how we can arrive there of understanding that and you identify and you might be the only person in the space to go.

I am going to be advocate a support to. Making sure we use myself as an example to make sure Aaron has a comprehensive touch plan, right? And so some people that are like massage therapists or professional cuddlers, like, Oh, great, Aaron, you come over at four o'clock and we'll cuddle and then you'll feel better and you go home.

And that's yes, that is kind of, but not really what a touch specialist does a comprehensive touch plan for someone from a touch specialist or touch activists. It's really about evaluating the whole entire environment the person is in, tracking the trauma story and personnel that person is holding, and then building thinking and sometimes physical practice to make touch more accessible.

And when we find someone that has met all their touch needs, we use a phrase called touch balance to get someone from a chronic under touch state. To touch balance. Now, I'm very clear. I would say a big, vast majority of people that we're with don't get to touch balance right away. It could be years before you get there, but it matters to create an environment where they're on their way to becoming touch balanced.

Right? And so there's so much nourishment and comfort. Well, before you reach touch balance, that is worthy to get there. So we're not just trying to not say we're going to be miserable until we reach touch balance. There's so much pleasure in balance. So then you say, what does that look like? What is it?

What is like to build a conference? Touch plan is as complex as it can be. There's some very simple things that we found to have in place. And so for your audits, I'm going to give kind of how we look at it. So one of the course questions I ask, I'll ask Aaron. So Aaron sits down. You're my touch specialist.

Hypothetically, you say, Aaron, can you just give me a list one that yeah. 10 of all the ways you receive touch. And if I'm a typical black male in America, I'll be like my girlfriend, my wife, that's it, my girlfriend and my wife, my girlfriend. So Aaron, I need 10, my girlfriend, my girlfriend, my girlfriend, my girlfriend, my girlfriend, a partner, and they stop.

And so that that. And that's if you're lucky. Sometimes it's like, not even my girlfriend. I just, I, uh, I'm, I'm single right now. So basically I don't have anything. I box. I type. I don't know. There's a way I might get some contact, but I don't even look at it as a touch plan. So what we want to do is that we want to go through the program.

I got some same questions six months from now or three months from now or two weeks from now. Usually I say, Aaron, what is your touch plan? I'd be like, oh, you know, touching the earth with my feet for 20 minutes in the morning is number one. Number two is. Really slowly petting my cat with intention number three is Holding hands and listening to a fellow black male that is a dear friend of mine And then I look him in the eyes and then we actually hold and hug each other for at least two minutes You know continue and then I find that going outside For just 10 minutes to take it off my shirt and just noticing the sun on my skin and how the vitamin D or is touching for like just 10 minutes or maybe it's me noticing the wind.

Oh, also, I think that it's going out to our little pond or a little area and put my feet. In the water a bit and slow myself down. Not just casually. Let me know what it feels like to be felt to be invited an experience and then so you'll find a real quickly by tell me the 10 at the very bottom. I might say.

Oh, also my lover. My partner. My wife is there too. It's not that the devalued, but you'll find that by the time I do all those things by the time I get to my partner. I'm not looking at them in this trauma. Instead of like, you have to Compensate for 20 years of me not being touched, and it only can come in one kind of way.

If I'm a Black, Brute, Native, Hurt, it only can come in aggressive sexual contact. It's the only way I can show up. And you better, if you don't, I'm gonna be panicking. I'm gonna be aggressive. I'm gonna be... That is so much for... A woman, no hold of that trauma story, 20 years of under touching it. But if you go through a place where you are waking up every morning and walk with your feet on the ground, you are touching your chicken, your, your cats, your other, it's amazing that when you show up to your sexual space, when you show up to your romantic partner, even though you might still not be at complete touch balance, man, you were so much more grounded and like, Hey, Oh, you said, Oh, you're not.

In the mood today, not a problem. Let's just, let's just go do something else. It's not like, what are you talking about? There's been a, there's no, there's such a, you guys, consent actually makes sense for their nervous system. Right. And so, so there's a way when you're on your way to that space. So a comprehensive touch plan is variety of ways in which we can get nourishment.

And it's not only our sexual partners, not only our. That's not it. The other thing is, where are you located? See, I'm in Phelan, California. So, there's no fusion dance community. There's no cuddle specialist. That's in Portland, Los Angeles, Seattle. I'm in Phelan. A small, little desert town doesn't have that kind of space.

As a touch specialist, I'm going to take that into consideration. I'm not going to project I'm in Seattle. You're going to go on the internet and find a local cuddle gathering. No, there's no cuddle gatherings in Phelan. The idea is that a touch specialist will understand that geographical location is important.

Then there's economics. A touch specialist will understand, well, how much free time do you have? Are you working class? Are you wealthy? Are you, you know, where are you at? So if you are working class, that means you're working every day, nine to probably eight or 10 and you're tired. So you only have a little bit of time.

A touch specialist is going to build practices of like self touch, which is going to get on that list of how do you just bring touch for yourself? Because you're in You don't have those, those, those easy communities to get access to at the same time. We're working on how close geographically is the next.

Contact improv class. So for me and feeling this hour and a half, so I'm a working class person, a touch specialist might put together a fundraiser to make sure I have gas to then travel to and a test specialist might even go there beforehand and check out and say, is this place safe for a black cis male to show up here?

That's on his journey of being crunk in a touch. Can I build relationship before he gets there and say, Hey, I have this young man that's coming. He's amazing. He needs touch, but also where he's at in his healing. Do I have a couple of folks here that can really drop in and not be Fetishizing him or not exploiting his vulnerability of being in a touch to, to, to fulfill some white fantasy for them is when you get ahead of those trauma stories before he shows up.

If you can, this is what a touch specialist does. They go and prepare the room. They prepare the nest. They think about the economics, the location, the hurts in his family, the hurts in his assertive Christian is also terrifying because Christianity says, so a touch specialist really examines the whole being.

And then writes up a plan and then offers it to the individual and said, does this feel like something you can hear? Yeah, I skillfully offer it to you in a way that doesn't overwhelm for your under touch nervous system right now Trust me and know that i'm here I can give you a hug. I can massage you for but i'm also here for you to have your empower you Co create a touch plan for you and that can take a couple of days I can take 12 months when I think about my tedx talk of the first Conference of touch plan wrote us the title of my talk is why I waited 12 months for a hug.

And the reason was, is that it took me 12 months to really write my first, I know I was writing it. My first conference of touch plan with a young black man. It took us 12 months. It took us 12 months. It's a lot of a pair in the room. So that touch specialist, that's the waters they're swimming in. It's not a cuddle, a professional cuddler.

I love professional cuddlers. Touch specialists should have a speed dial, at least 20 of them. That's kind of what a touch specialist does. It has a list of, especially the cuddlers that they know is a list of contact improv. There's a list of, of maybe one of the few CIS black cuddle places in the United States.

It'll find it and go, that's where it's at. And we'll fly our other black male to that location. If it can, I will fund where I would try and become a support to Nesta. I'm not going to do it to the point that when I step away, they just collapse. The idea is when a touch specialist leaves, that person's empowered.

And and doesn't need them anymore, but we'll be in a, in a self given practice. So a test specialist is really about building something that's not for them, but for the hand over that fits that person's experience. And it might mean some situations that their conference plan means that they're still at.

A current kind of test date, but so much further ahead, you might not ever get them to that complete touch, but it's worth to get them out because there's so many journeys towards test balance. Right? That is still much safer for folks that have experience men that can't take. No, they can't hear about consent as a violate.

They feel smothered by consent. They manipulate to get touched these met because that's the only way I thought they had in a touch activist does help them. I think. The consent culture has had, we've had our, we've had our rounds, but I think we've landed on the idea that helping someone heal from being cranky to touch is a critical part of teaching consent to teach consent without acknowledging the cranky to touch narrative is such an incomplete narrative of healing that I.

I kind of cringe and grieve when someone's like, this is how consent works, which I appreciate, but gives no actual tracking of what it actually, it's like, if I'm starving, yeah, I'm starving. Yeah. And I've been like out in the wilderness for a couple of days. You take me to a buffet and go, Hey, Aaron, I want you to stand here by this buffet.

And I just want you to smell that food, but do not eat it just kind of right. And I know I want to clear that when you say that. If, if there was someone that would start to nourish and balance me and I'm actually fully nourished and go to that same buffet and I go, Aaron, you can stand here, don't, don't eat it to smell it.

Oh my God. I'd like to tell me when I'm, I'm cool. I have, I can wait for hours cause I'm not starving the way that I, that the touch activists addresses that, that, that hurt of starving, you know, the scientific term for being crocodile touches skin hunger, skin hunger, addressing that when you teach the consent pieces.

It, it lands as good medicine and not as like someone is, is holding you back from something that, you know, it's just that it's a much more balanced response. It's been amazing to see the difference in someone that is closer to touch balance receiving consent training versus someone that's in the middle of their trauma story of being cranky and attached and trying to receive consent training and given dance or sensual camp or whatever it might be.

It just, it's just a, it's an obvious thing. So I just. Encourage all teachers out there that are teaching on that topic to hold that wisdom of the chronically under touched trauma story included in their curriculum if they can or get portions of it. Even the part we talk about in this podcast is adding that wisdom to it to be a significant interruption to how they teach it.

Nicole: Yeah. And it's important for dismantling rape culture because we all have needs. For a touch. And so I hear exactly what you're saying. And it, it frequently, as a therapist comes into the room too, if I have clients who are, don't have those needs met, and then it comes into our relationship and having to navigate that as the therapist holding that space, right?

Like I'd be curious, what would you want to say about consent culture and understanding the narrative of the chronically untouched person? Like, how do you support people in that space?

Aaron: I think one of the first things identifying it, I think a lot of times it's, I think rape culture, I think that was like something I heard in whispers, but didn't hear it loud and clear until, you know, the Me Too movement got momentum and rape culture became kind of a, a, a, a phrase going around and I think it's important to, the internet's kind of this way.

Is that it'll say a phrase like rape culture and what it's kind of saying, we won't slow down and go, wait a minute. What is the actual development of a rape culture environment for a young man? Well, there's a lot of things that support that, but one of them is being chronically under touched. Part of it is not having skillful, emotional, intelligent training models to express things.

It is, I mean, I know a lot of mothers, parents that. Are raising under touch children, but have a deep desire to not support rape culture. And it's not that the video games aren't being there, they're watching movies that support that, but they're missing the power of a 13 boy having the skill to still cuddle and be close and be tender and be vulnerable is a part of dismantling rape culture.

I think for me, that's important. So I would say identifying it and really letting ourselves settle. And I think what's attached to from my lens is to get really Exposed to the invention of the black brute, the invention of how the white male gaze has been shaping sexuality in America as a whole, which might feel obvious, but there's a way that we can see it cinematically here.

A lot of feminists say, you know, the white male gaze is here when they critique modern day pornography, the white male gaze is here. That's 100 percent right. The white male gaze is something that had to really start to track of how. Cinematic films and budgets are set to fulfill the white male gaze.

That's clear. That's not new information. But what's also a part of the white male gaze is. A long history of terror and fear of the Black Brute. When I look at the cinematic film, The Birth of a Nation, get exposed to how that can show up. So even if you're a white therapist working with mostly white people, there's a way in which lynching and brute material and, and how that shapes so much of our sexuality in America and our lack of touch and support for rape culture is having a more complete Exposure of history.

And so I think that will be something that would just invite them to know that history. So when they start to reach for, they can bring a comprehensive observation of the black roots, not just a phrase of like a modern day black male, they know there's a lineage. There's a lineage of it. And then the second thing is for them to understand their capacity to stay looking, to stay looking at these very tender, painful parts of American history that America is really excited about erasing.

And so I think for me, you got to be a little, a little more aggressive and assertive to really understand that. And then I think to me, I would invite, especially therapists to build a list of questions that help them really hone in on where the hurt is in the chronic attached self. And so I think there's questions I have learned to build and 1 of the ones that I hold.

Is where does my tinnitus feel most interruptive? Like, where is it the most interruptive? So, for example, if, if I'm tender in my home, right? I live in a tiny house in the desert with people that understand me. It is not interruptive. It's like that. They all expect it now of myself. But if I go to a, the Los Angeles and there's like a, I go to the club, go to my hip hop club, hip hop dance is happening and I'm getting my groove on.

Right. And I'm having a good time and maybe whatever. Hey, I feel some emotions. I go over and start to weep a little bit. It's like have a little crying moment. It's interruptive. It's like, what's wrong with the brother? Is he overdosed on drugs? Is he losing his mind? There's a way which is like immediately interrupted because in that landscape of maybe 100 to 200 people, you're not going to find a black cis male body being tender unless he's having a complete breakdown.

He's not just being, right. So I say that is that as a therapist, Understand whoever your subject is, where they can go and receive touch and where they can't go, where they can go and be fully human, where they can't go. And so if you're a cis black man, for myself, there's a small little bubble where I can go.

If you're maybe a queer or a white body person living in the Northwest or there's this, you can go to Whole Foods, you can go to chunk in the co op, you can go to a dance fusion, you can just cry, scream, rage. And it's like, that's what white people do at times in those places, fine. You're fine. You're just having a complaint.

We're holding space for you. It's normal. It's not that impressive. They should have the ability to do it, but they have a lot more. So the being able to there was a track depending who you are reaching for the vast difference. Of their actual lived experience in the world, and if we talk about, you know, darker to the skin, height, muscle mass, all that does take consideration of what people expect of that body.

So, I think having those questions where you can really examine yourself and your own unconscious biases, and maybe more conscious biases, and also being able to build thoughtful questions to help flesh out where that person shows up on the spectrum of America who deserves and doesn't deserve touch.

That would be, I think, very helpful. Yes. And build your healing practice around that wisdom. And I think you will, most marginally skilled therapists will be able to really find a well of healing and helping and support that's available for that topic. But unfortunately, most therapists I work with and have worked with have a hard time looking at that material.

I think that they should. Yeah. But that's my invitation.

Nicole: Yeah, that's all we can do, right, is invite. And I'm so thankful you're on this podcast, and hopefully, I know a lot of therapists follow this podcast, and hopefully we can share this, right? Like, let's get this out there, let's have more understanding of, yes, the context of your client and the unique situation that they are going through in terms of getting access to touch and their needs met.

Huge and to not recognize that context, I would say is a failure of the therapeutic relationship.

Aaron: I think so, but, you know, therapist, you can't touch your clients. And so touch is not something we talk about and in school. And so I, most therapists can't test the clients. I'm sure there's somatic. Killers that do that, some of that work, but just on the average, professionally trained, it's like you sit over there and how are you feeling?

Nicole: Yeah, yeah, we're trying to dismantle it, change it a little bit.

Aaron: I know, I know, but I'm saying that's, that's, that's the, that's the status quo. If we line up a hundred therapists, you know, that's, that's the. Yeah. I know. Holding his hand. Look at him in the eye. Could be, as many hands as I hold, it's shocking how much different it is when I reach out and hold a black man's hand and say, can I hold your hand?

Totally. I just want to hear you. And while I'm hearing you, I'm going to hold your hand. Just look at you. Versus me just sitting back going, I go, yeah, share what you got to share, just look off. But like, I want to, just a little hand hold. Sometimes I just do a little finger. If they say, sorry. I remember brothers like, I can't hold your hand, I'm not ready, but can I touch your foot?

Can I take my foot and just touch your foot? I'm like, yeah, touch my foot. Just that, just that. That's a mile right there. Totally. So I'm saying, I'm not trying to get any therapists fired, but just saying that. Hey,

Nicole: I'm trying to put a dent in the field.

Aaron: Changes. Just, just track it. Just track where, where, where we can be human.

And I'm sure it's a place to grow there.

Nicole: Totally. And I think that's why we need healers outside of the model, right? Outside of that system that can speak to this directly, right? Like surrogate partners, cuddlers, right? Your touch healing. I mean, this is so deeply needed. It is absurd, but you know that I know that.

And so I think eventually we'll move towards more models of that, but. I'm imagining, and maybe you can speak to this, you know, that person that you talked about doing that 12 months of planning for a hug. I can imagine how much transformation occurs for that person in their life and so many different areas, but, you know, I'd love to hear what you've seen in your work with people.

Aaron: Yes. I think for me, one of the first things, oftentimes, particularly black men say to me, I work with her like, Oh, I'm good. I'm good. I'm fine. And my response is great, great, you're fine. And I'm not here trying to force touch on you. I'm not trying to give you something you don't want. But what we find is as we start to work with Earth, it's one of my go tos.

Hey, you want to put your feet on the ground? Do you want to sing together? I have these clay balls that we make and we can just hold them and just, you know, have them in our hands. And as we start to soften and start to just ask some questions around life. What would it feel like to receive touch? So what I've seen is when the patience is present, the transformation is inevitable because I realized that patience is an anti capitalist practice.

Another one that's really anti capitalist, but you might not feel it right away, anti American almost. is listening. We live in a culture where listening is, is not sexy. It's not the life saving act that it is. And a lot of us don't even have models of what listening looks like outside of maybe some trauma from public school.

So I think for me, I think listening with a tender body, art and mind to bodies like Men, Black men, marginalized identities, ultimately everybody, but I look at those folks that oftentimes are not heard, is the first hug. Yeah. I think most people forget that I waited 12 months for a hug, but what was I doing for 12 months?

I was doing what we call the first hug, and that is listening. Ooh. Listening. There's a phrase that I birthed in that year and a half, and I said, hugging, holding, snuggling is a life saving act. Well, if I was going to enhance that quote, if I was going to enhance that quote, I would add that the first hug is listening, the first hug.

And so I think the first touch, the first, before the pinky, before the, I lay you on a clay earth and we, we cover you with sand and we sing song before we get to that point is I want to hear you. I want to hear you, not just my ears. Not just with my heart, not just my body, but with all of those things.

And so for me, the transformation that I saw with this amazing young black man was he started to understand what it felt like to be heard. Not perfectly, but heard more than he has been heard prior to that place where his nose were heard. That his yeses were heard, that his fear was heard, and that when he asked for a hug that there was zero confusion about his humanity, there was zero confusion about his, his sexual identification.

It was, it was that we just, we heard in that tender ask of, I want to be. Close to your body for a moment and receive a hug. So I think for me, I think that was one of the biggest transformation for myself. As a, at that point, I wasn't touch activist or touch specialist. I was just a brother trying to figure out how to figure out hugs.

I didn't have, I didn't have all this, you know, 10 years later, we have all this language. Oh, you're, you're, you're, oh, second year touch specialist. You go into the physical training, but yeah, no, we were just like. Wake up in the morning with my eyes wide open and go, what the chuck is happening? Google's not helping me.

So I just want to name that, um, the transformation was a lot of me learning when I was looking for like a team of therapists that had all kinds of drugs that I was like, and what I needed, I mean, drugs are needed at some point sometimes, but it's more about, I didn't realize the drug I was needing was the practice of like, Oh.

This thing called listening is not just me going and staring at somebody for like five minutes and when I listen, this is really a place where I get to like integrate, slow down, take my feet off and put them on the ground to allow myself to track my energy with the earth and what is actually happening and why have I been having rubber shoes between me and the earth for so long and what does this room feel like and how does this room Support or not support this person showing up in their way, like really just tracking being energy sensitive to the space.

And I think a lot of us have that in our bodies, but I think we're going so quickly. And that's why I think that, like, listening is such anti capitalistic structure. Because when I consult with businesses around racism, I go, where, where, where do you, Aaron, where do you see, you know, the place we should put most of our effort to dismantle racism in our organization?

I said, well, wherever listening is not happening is where racism is thriving. Yeah. And that could apply to this young black man is where listening is not happening is where the chronic under touch narrative is being supported. The black fruit narrative is being supported. And so that's what I would say the transmission was for us is we, we, we didn't look at listening as a passive practice, looked at it as literally the foundation in which everything else was built.

So it was, it was good. It was good. Yeah. I get chills to think about how important that was found and feeling California, kind of amazed that we're able to notice that medicine. Yeah.

Nicole: I'm feeling so touched by it too, just the amount of intimacy. It is there when you really listen to someone fully and meet them where they're at, you know, that person coming in and saying, I don't need touch.

You don't come back at them and be like, well, I know better than you actually. And we're, you know what I mean? Being able to actually hear what they're saying and meet them there. Transformational. Yes. Oh, we need you. You need more of you in this work in the world.


Is there anything you'd want to say to your younger self, you know, someone who's resonating with this, that younger self that hadn't cried for all of those years? Is there anything you'd want to say to that person?

Aaron: Yeah, I would say the magic is in the small micro movement. Yeah. The massive transformation is in the small micro movement.

Don't look for big changes, just deeply, deeply sink in to those simple steps. Gets super excited about, I think about those folks that work in like physical therapy, they're folks that are recovering from big accidents and they get someone's hand to move just a little bit and they go, yeah. Right. There's movement in the hand and then the person's like chucking, playing basketball and ducking backwards and doing everything.

But it's just that, that, that physical therapist knows that just the finger moving a little bit is like the miracle. That is where I think I would say, young Aaron, get really excited about that. A little bit of emotion, a little bit of a idea of a tear. Get pumped about that. Don't look over at this very conference of crying, complex person that's gone.

Just get pumped about those little pieces, if you can stay into those little pockets of success, you will build whatever emotional, mental healing you're seeking is in those increments and don't let the speed, the convenience of our kind of fast paced society to know that those inches. Those increments are worthy to raise your hand and joy about

Nicole: yeah, those little seeds that grow over time over years small steps Yeah, so powerful and I also I like to hold space for the dream right like, you know We've talked a lot about the work, but I'm curious the vision the dream getting past these parts of our society Like what do you dream of?

Aaron: For humanity and people for me, you know, we were in the middle of a land transfer of 189 acres in Northern California where I would like to have regular groups of black body people starting with, but people go majority extended to. We're prioritizing those folks that are, don't have space to come be immersed in nature and to build community and norms around that.

And once that gets flushed out, we have a critical mass of bodies that are at balance that we. get access to more land throughout the United States. So maybe the Northwest and the Midwest and East Coast. So no matter what region of the country you're in, you can be like, I need to go somewhere where I can get a really comprehensive care where my food and my nature based practices are allowing me to really drop into healing.

That would be huge. And then eventually, I think there is a scalable place where it's as common as you see a Starbucks or McDonald's, you might see a, oh, that's a little cut, it's a little cut restaurant space I can go into and maybe get like organic food and sit up in the corner and there's a professional touch activist comes over and checks in on me and there's maybe a therapist nearby or to be called virtually and you can drop in.

It's like, oh, yeah, I'm great. And I can get back in the car and it's like, I got, I still get the Starbucks. We get, we get like comfort to touch care. Um. Yeah. Yeah. That's available. And I would love for the medical industry to really start to recognize how critical this is for our folks that are in beds and that are unable to be into the world to have touch specialists and activists show up for them.

That will be, you know, maybe that's beyond my lifetime, but that would be great. I think if we can feed people burgers and, and, and fast food. National, that was a weird idea many years ago and now it's normalized. So I hope that maybe that becomes a part of the landscape. Instead of golden arches, maybe there's some kind of like golden hands or something that you go, Oh, get off this truck, stop, exit.

There's a, there's a, okay, maybe I'm getting a little far ahead of myself.

Nicole: Let's dream. Let's dream. I'm all for the dream.

Aaron: But there's a way in which, however it shows up, if it be an app or it be a physical store that I hope that touch plans for people is not this obscure, rare, shocking practice. And that trauma tracking and skillful understanding of it is not just that we're, we're kind of catering to the, the, the, the mainstream culture who deserves touch, but really going to places where people are forgotten and remembering them.

From prisons to elderly homes to, yeah, just all the places where, where I find the chronic untouched folks are there and making sure to interrupt it and building vocabulary for the world to hear. So it's not when we hear chronic untouched, people are like, what does that mean? What is that about? I understand exactly what that is and how we can get ahead of it.

It's like before, before we were consent culture, before we knew about me too, there's a way we didn't have language about now you say these words, people know what you're talking about. So I hope that this language becomes more in our culture so we can start to interrupt it. That's my dream.

Nicole: May it be so.

May it be so. Right? I mean, there was a world before even the word trauma. You know, that wasn't a thing until a certain, you know, context of society where we started using that word. And now look at how we understand that now. So, I mean, yes, talking about these things, I mean, for me, I'm sitting and thinking about like the world of psychology and how, you know, someone would be put in an inpatient hospital unit for these sorts of things.

things compared to the dream of what you're talking about of getting into the earth, having access to food, connection, community, touch. I mean, I don't know, but that dichotomy of like a hospital and that seems very stark to me. And I think we need to move in towards a world of community connection and yeah, I'm all for your dream and holding space to make that happen.

Yeah, I want to hold space to in case, you know, we talked about a lot of different things, but whenever I'm closing the conversation, I also hold space for the guest. If there was something that we talked about that, maybe, or something that we didn't talk about during our conversation today that you'd like to say to the listeners or any other topics of conversation that maybe we didn't hit to that you want to talk about.

Aaron: It's funny. I forgot to mention singing, not like as a performance, but singing as a part of a touch practice. I just invite a reminder, anyone that's been in our touch specialist program, we use a lot of singing and singing is a very vulnerable act, but I have found that amongst the things like nature and food and, and listening, singing has been a deep medicine.

I just want to encourage folks that might hear this podcast at any point that we need your hands, we need your thinking, this is not a finished thought, this is a organic, living, critical mass of thinkers taking on a topic that has so much more going. That's what encourages them to add their thinking to it, add their wisdom to it, reach out and be in contact with our org and other folks associated with us to help this move this movement forward.

Nicole: Absolutely. But Aaron, I don't have a good singing voice. What do you say to me? Oh my goodness. I'm sure many people have that thought when they hear that they're like, no,

Aaron: there's no such thing. I have a good singing voice and you have not heard me saying, and I just want to say that one of the biggest griefs of the oppressive nature of America is that we've monetized and put hierarchies.

On everything. And your voice is the whole thing. And I, I think when I do singing circles, all of the United States, and I give this speech at every song circle, and I say to them that. Your voice is a birthright. It's a birthright. And I've never heard a baby. Mm-Hmm. And babies, all the babies be singing

Yeah. And, and then we're all just like, yeah. You keep singing. Totally. You keep singing. And it's because Capitals had came in there and said that that little noise has to be paid for monetized. And so I think for us, I would just say that you, if you feel like you don't have a singing voice. It's just a result of the capitalist culture saying that we can't make a profit off of your magical voice that we want to then discard it because it's not fitting in a little, little bit of a narrow space.

And so I just want to encourage you to know that we all have an embodied experience of singing without that stress in our bodies. I'm encouraged to go back and remember that I invite daily, simple practice of just sounding to rebuke that, that hurt. And I, and some people say, Aaron, I start thinking my throat actually starts to close.

Like I feel pain in my throat. I said, just do an increments, but your voice is needed here. And so what I'm talking about here is not singing like you might hear on YouTube. I'm talking about singing. That you do as a human, this is not a performance, it's breathing, it's eating, it's touch, it's singing, it's wailing, it's grief, it's orgasm, it's...

Orgasm and grief, that singing, I hear people weeping and I say, do you ever hear someone weeping and you go, you're weeping off pitch. Can you lift your pitch a little off pitch and you're weeping? No, you don't do that. You're weeping. You're just like you cry. Same thing as this. Your voice is, ah, it's you.

It's animal. It's human. It's raw. It's vulnerable. And sometimes it does come out like an opera professional singer, but it's not necessarily prioritizing that as now, then therefore it's more important. That is the monetization of your voice. And we're not trying to monetize your voice. We're trying to see the human.

That's why I say something like that. That's what I would say.

Nicole: Totally. And I think we really need that message. And what a different world it would be if we had more people with their feet in the earth. Oh, I mean, oh, oh, I know I'm, I'm talking revolution. I'm talking revolution.

Aaron: I might be out of a job if you're talking like that.


Nicole: I think that's what we want, right? We want that. That would be a different world. So I hope it happens in our lifetime or, or way beyond with more of this. Yeah. Um, well, if you feel complete, I can guide us towards a closing question that I ask every guest on the show. I feel complete. Okay. So, I ask every guest, what is one thing that you wish other people knew was more normal?

Aaron: I would say, I wish people knew how to grieve. That was more normal to have public grief.

Nicole: To allow those emotions and to allow people to be with you in that. Just be right there. Yeah. That there's no right or wrong way to do that.

Aaron: . I'm undergrieved. Getting there, but still under,

Nicole: and so much of the work today that you shared with all of the listeners will hopefully bring more people to that space of being able to grieve in whatever way that looks like for them, but to really feel those emotions.

Yeah. You're doing such powerful work and I just want to state again how much we need you in this world and the work that you're doing. I can't even imagine the lives that you're touching through this, quite literally touching, right? Through this powerful work.

Aaron: Thank you so much. It's been a really great conversation.

It's so good. I'm glad we landed it today.

Nicole: Yeah, yes, yes. Me too. For the listeners who are connecting with you and your work, where would you want to plug your work so that they can find all of your links? I'll have that in the show notes below, but just shouting it out here. Where can people find your stuff?

Aaron: Yeah. You can go to cutproject. org. And message me there. You can go to holisticresistance. com and message me there, sign up for the newsletter and Instagram is cut. project and find me there. Those are easy places to get. You can DM me or email me through any one of those websites. I'll get back to you.

Nicole: Yeah. Well, thank you, Aaron, for joining us today and sharing your message with all the listeners. Oh, thank you. If you enjoyed today's episode, then leave us a five star review wherever you listen to your podcast. And head on over to modernanarchypodcast. com to get resources and learn more about all the things we talked about on today's episode.

I want to thank you for tuning in, and I will see you all next week.


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