Truthful Touch is dedicated to bringing you a wide range of experiences that reinforce your ability to live your ever expanding Truth of Being.
You have destiny to be fully at home within yourself and with others.
Let's go there together!
This is an interview Madelon gave recently for a blog. It is a good place to start getting acquainted...
Tell me a little bit about yourself, your history, and your life at the moment. What is your occupation? How did you find your way to this occupation?
I’m from St. Paul, MN and grew up in an upper middle class family of intellectual overachievers. I went to Northwestern University and ended up majoring in Communication Studies with a minor in Comparative Literature because those were all the classes I wanted to take. Being a “communication geek” firstly and an introspective compulsive self-analyzer secondly, I was drawn to theater and acting classes of all kinds. The combination of these areas of training led me to a job where I role-play patient encounters with medical students. I coach the students on the significance of their communication style and skills to facilitate the necessary patient trust for effective medical care. Somewhere along that journey, I discovered “The Work” of Bryon Katie and dove deeply into facilitating others and myself in the process of deconstructing thought and how it creates our experiences.
How and when did you first learn about cuddle parties?
I began integrating the experience of the body. I was intrigued by a lecture on Tantra and bought the speaker’s book. The chapter on boundaries highlighted my lack of clarity in identifying my needs in relation to others and taking steps to get them met. They referenced Reid Mihalko and cited cuddleparty.com. I located the nearest event and was so excited; I drove two hours to attend. I was stunned by the revelations that came from physically connecting with others in a space of clear self-reliant communication: inexplicably deep relaxation, a sense of bonding, authentic intimacy and general euphoria.
In the aftermath, I was able to have insightful breakthroughs that had eluded me in years of therapy and seeking. I felt new levels of compassion for others and myself. After two events, I was determined to keep doing this for myself and to make it increasingly available for others. Thus it all began! I discovered “the change I want to be in the world”.
What kind of training is involved to conduct a cuddle party?
Currently the certification involves a 2 and 1/2 day workshop called Foundations of Facilitation that is powerful for any kind of workshop facilitating. Then there is a 10-week course of specific Cuddle Party training/education that includes facilitating 3 events as a facilitator-in-training and getting review forms from participants and pursuant approval from the Cuddle Party Board. Those who qualify provide a workshop of comparable value anywhere you go in the world. We are always revamping the training and are looking to develop a program for certifying trainers to create more quality facilitators in the world. Currently we have facilitators all over the US, Canada, Australia and a few in Africa and Scandinavia. We are looking to increase the movement!
Why were you drawn to cuddle parties? What are the benefits of partaking?
- Meaningful personal insights and breakthroughs (clarity about who I am and how the way I relate to others is creating the experiences I have).
- An experience of authentic intimacy with self and others. Learning what that even means!
- A supportive community of like-minded individuals who are willing to gently stretch “comfort zones” that have become too uncomfortable to continue tolerating.
- A safe place to take rewarding risks.
- A set of tools and ongoing practice with them to take the reigns in living my life. Self-empowerment!
- A set of practical tools for more satisfying relationships.
- A sense of abundance about the availability of physical affection.
- An experience of belonging and trust with others.
- The health benefits of deep relaxation and oxytocin-physically, mentally and emotionally.
- Stress reduction
- Anti-inflammatory benefits including pain relief from arthritis, headaches, etc.
- Relief from social anxiety
- Increased self-esteem
The list goes on!
Why did you rename your events as truthful touch?
It highlights the value I find in the event of getting in touch with our truth. It emphasizes the necessity for communication and consent around touch to make it safe and enjoyable. When I said “Cuddle Party” people didn’t seem to hear anything I said after that. They seemed to imagine having to cuddle with a bunch of strangers and felt intimidated. After people came to events they would say, “I had no idea how much more this is than cuddling!” One recently joked, “Come for the cuddles, stay for the truth!”
What does your truthful touch parties consist of?
Truthful Touch parties are gender-balanced group of adults (18 and over) who are drawn by their own intuition and the desire for more satisfying connections with other people and themselves. Currently about 75-80% have been before and are returning, and about 20-25% are there for the first time. In the beginning, we are all buzzing with the uncertainty of being vulnerable. We spend the first 1 and 1/2 hours on workshop-reviewing our agreements, talking about the value of them and the challenges that come up, doing paired exercises that do not involve touch. There is always an invitation to leave when the welcome circle workshop is over with a full refund and receive this part of the event for free. Those who stay agree to conscientious communication and we have 2 hours of practice time of the skills taught in the workshop. We end with a closing circle to share our experiences and insights and remind us to take them back to the rest of our lives until the next time we gather.
What are common misconceptions?
That everyone cuddles at a cuddle party. Many come to practice the skills, to connect through conversation or to simply practice feeling comfortable with their boundaries in a room full of supportive people. They also receive a “contact high” of physical relaxation and emotional ease
Many people, before coming to an event, worry that they will be expected to take part in, or won’t get anything out of an event unless they participate in, something they find uncomfortable. We set up a safe environment by establishing group agreements, which support everyone being at choice in each moment throughout the event.
Others are concerned about the event feeling “creepy.” This is common in connection to our cultural bias concerning sexuality. It’s the looming “elephant in the room,” that sexuality is something to make us fearful. Human beings are sexual by nature and our bodies are inherently sexual. Cuddle Party is explicitly NOT a sexual event because that allows us to safely address that uneasiness and develop tools for a more healthy relationship with our sexuality. Most of us have had disempowering experiences around sexuality-even just around being attracted to someone and feeling awkward! The skills we learn and practice at cuddle parties gives our power back to us. This part is perhaps the nearest and dearest to my heart because it is so important to our ability to feel whole.
What do you want people to learn from your truthful touch events?
Any and all of the above! I want them to get what they came for and to leave knowing they can continue to identify and get what they really want out of their lives. I want them to learn more about hearing, accepting, and communicating their own truth from moment to moment.
What gender dynamics do you witness in these settings?
I take steps to gender balance as a policy. Before I did I saw about 3 or 4 men to every women. The men (in general) felt a sense of scarcity. The women (in general) felt pressure and intimidation. Now everyone has a better experience.
How do the benefits differ by gender?
Honestly, I haven’t done the research to determine this. I’d love to learn more about it. From what I perceive, the women (again, I’m generalizing) feel more empowerment to speak their truth-to own their honest no or yes, and be less afraid to assert themselves. The men feel relief from their neediness and the accompanying shame about wanting more touch and the uncertainty that anyone will want to give it. Both genders feel both of these things, but the men are more afraid of imposing their needs while the women are more afraid of withholding what others want and thereby losing their goodwill.
Both get the benefit of practicing empowering themselves in relation to one another. The result is more satisfying connections for each and more confidence that they can continue to have satisfying connections.
Why is this experience important from a human and gender perspective?
In terms of “contemporary manhood”, I will say that I’ve heard numbers of men say that perceived disapproval of touch with their fathers at a certain age gave them a feeling of sadness and disconnection. Some of the most touching things I’ve witnessed at Cuddle Parties is men connecting with affectionate touch and speaking of it being a healing experience from the lack of that from their father. The feeling of approval and acceptance from another man they admire, expressed by an arm around the shoulder, leaning against one another, etc. created calmness and soothed an old pain. It seems to me the traditional gender roles of withholding man to man touch reinforces the idea that touch is sexual and that “good” men can only get it from women whether its sexual or not. Perhaps this contributes to the myth that “men only want one thing”.
Where do you see yourself doing in the future as it relates to truthful touch?
I’d like to reach more and more people who are available to what this event has to offer. There is so much unnecessary loneliness in our world and I see it as a core factor in just about every kind of violence between human beings. Cuddle Party has taught me that denying our own desires is perhaps the single greatest source of suffering in human kind. I see myself doing whatever is offered and available to spread this experience of self-acceptance and self-empowerment in the company of others.
I will be speaking on a panel about Truthful Touch at CatalystCon in Washington, DC in March. Hopefully, through more speaking events and interviews. I will be part of doing what it takes to certify more quality facilitators. Perhaps traveling around the world to do so. I would like to bring this event to alternative communities and impact centers around the world as well. Training people to relate this way who live together on an ongoing basis is powerful.
What would be the most ideal achievement truthful touch in the future?
Sky’s the limit, right? To spread the agreements we practice at Cuddle Parties into the everyday lives of people. To have a culture in homes, schools and offices around the world that supports people in:
- Asking for what they want
- Being equally open to hearing yes or no
- Saying yes or no without justification or defense (the end of arguing)
- Saying no when they feel “a maybe”
- Feeling free to change their minds
I’d love it to be common in households around the world to hear someone say, “I’m a maybe, so I guess I’ll say no and I’ll let you know if I change my mind” or to respond to someone saying no with “Thank you for taking care of yourself.” This is the change I want to be in the world.
Can you share a ‘successful’ or impactful story as a result of attending a truthful touch party?
I would love to put this invitation out to my attendees and see who would like to share a story. There are so many! Some of my favorites are first date stories. One man brought someone to a Cuddle Party as a first date. He’d been coming for a year or two and it wasn’t until then that I discovered he was gay I love that it never seemed readily apparent or important what his sexual orientation was. We all loved that he decided to express who he was and gauge compatibility by bringing a love interest to meet his cuddle community and learn the “rules of engagement.”
After my first event I realized that what I had interpreted as rejection from my father as an adolescent when he stopped being physically affectionate with me was actually his own discomfort with me becoming an adult. It transformed hurt I’d held for 20 years into understanding and compassion.