HAND IN HAND IN MIND
What do you see when you look at your hands?
Notice any objects around you. What kinds of hands and hand movements created them? Or were they created in a factory? Think about that paradigm shift: how is a machine operation different than a human mind? What makes hand-crafted objects special?
In the structural and scientific sphere, the complexity of hands is undeniable: as noted in Brain: A Journal of Neurology, “The skin, muscles and joints of the hand are innervated by as many as 14 different types of nerve fibre, each transducing and encoding specifically different properties of stimuli reaching or obtained by the hand…from the movements of the opposed finger tips, the brain learns about the shape, size, softness or hardness, texture, slipperiness, stickiness and temperature of an object palpated. The papillary ridges of the opposed tips facilitate the precision grip but they are also instruments of tactile exploration.”
THE BIGGER PICTURE
The biology is of course interesting and complex, but in my usual style, I’d like to talk about the connection to mind and spirit. On the most basic level, hand gestures illustrate how the mind is working. Almost everyone gesticulates automatically. Going along with the premise of my previous blog post, “Within and Without,” you can either observe the hands to learn about how the mind is moving, or you can consciously alter the position of the hands, thereby encouraging certain mental and spiritual states (mudras). The theatre scholar in me also wants to mention how melodramatic acting styles of the nineteenth century relied on specific codified hand and facial movements to convey correlating emotions—but that could be a post for another time.
Beyond gesticulation as a way of communicating mind and personality, the wondrous field of palmistry, although thought by many to be rife with pseudoscience and scam, encourages us to examine the hands as a way to understand the flow of consciousness and our personal proclivities and gifts.
In the rest of this post I’ll go deeper into mudras, palmistry, and then weave in a bit of connection to hypnotherapy and butoh. All hands on deck!
The term mudra usually refers to hand gestures that correlate to subtle energy channels. According to Vijay K. Bansal, mudras “have been found in all continents, practiced by people of all religions and those professing none. They are as natural to the body as the daily needs of the body.” Bansal describes how mudras have been observed in rituals of Hinduism and Buddhism, Egyptian hieroglyphics, the Whirling Dervishes of Islam, and in artwork of all religious contexts including Christian and ancient Babylonian.
In the yogic tradition, the utilization of mudras is rooted in a belief that the 5 fingers of the hand represent the 5 elements present in any living body: fire, wind/air, ether, earth, and water. The mudras then can be used to balance certain elements. A common mudra I have seen meditating yogis utilize is “Gyan Mudra,” which is connected to air and the fourth chakra. It boosts cognitive ability and is thought to enhance knowledge and wisdom.
This past year I learned about the Lotus Mudra and loved it; it felt very heart-centered and encouraged transformation through difficult times or stagnant emotion. The beauty of mudras is that you can do them anytime and anywhere to help you feel more balanced. I’m all for reading up on the technical hand placements and meanings, but I’m also totally in favor of winging it and creating your own intuitive mudras!
Palmistry has as long of a history as mudras do, and it seems equally difficult to pin down one country, culture, or religious origin. It is true that there are some palm-reading businesses out there that are scams, but I also think that there are plenty of palm-readers who have done a great deal of thorough research with ancient texts and can genuinely assist in understanding the beautifully unique map of your hands.
Palmists will usually look at the whole hand: the lines, the mounds, the shape, the wrist lines, the fingers, the flexibility, size, nails, etc. Certain lines and mounds correspond to areas of personality and life experiences and are also occasionally loosely linked to astrology in their planetary names (i.e. “the mount of mercury,” “the girdle of venus”).
The most important thing to remember about palmistry, in my opinion, is that your hand changes as you change. Lines change. Attitudes change. The future is in your hands, literally! The best thing a palm-reading can do for you is heighten awareness— about your past and potential future trends, personality tendencies, natural gifts, natural problem areas.
On a really wacky note, some people have actually resorted to SURGICALLY changing their palm lines… no need, folks. Hands, just like the rest of our being, are malleable without surgery.
As I mentioned before, I have a lot of respect for people who approach palmistry with intellectual dedication, and those are the people who are helping us bridge the gap between what was once thought of as “paranormal hoodoo” and genuine science. Science already knows that the hands can tell us a lot about a person. For example, the ratio of certain finger lengths seems to be a fairly reliable indicator of hormonal levels. And more obviously, the color and health of the nails, the skin texture, the bone health, etc. can all reflect internal health of the body. And of course, other qualities of the hand (are they worn? burnt? soft? manicured?) can tell a lot about a person and what they’ve been through without going into anything too deep or metaphysical. But why not entertain the idea of both possibilities: that the hands can give the biological and biographical information as well as the general map of the mind and spirit?
As a hypnotherapist and butoh enthusiast, I observe that hands can reveal a person's state of mind. In fact, in hypnosis often the hand is the first part of the body to “go into trance,” and arm levitation is not an uncommon sight to see whilst in the middle of a session. Hypnotherapists can observe the hand movement to better understand the depth of the hypnotic state. Unconscious movement is often characterized by slow and jerky movement. Once the person is in a trance, sometimes the therapist will establish communication with the unconscious mind of the patient utilizing non-verbal hand signals. This phenomena perhaps is what originally got me thinking about the special connection between hand and mind.
Furthermore, I have made some interesting observations in Vangeline’s Butoh classes in NYC. If you have been reading my previous posts, you know that in my opinion her teaching is related to hypnotherapy in her utilization of trance states. She also works with bio-energetics and, as some might say, invisible subtle energies. I have noticed for myself, at least, that often when I have pushed myself to a certain physical limit and then allow myself to release and surrender deeply into a trance state, the hands are where I most obviously begin to sense that I am being moved rather than consciously moving. Interestingly, I did a hypnotherapy session with a butoh dancer, and as soon as he went into a hypnotic trance, his hands floated way above his head, without any suggestion on my behalf— and I wonder if the bodily response has been conditioned somehow by the butoh practice. The levitation is itself a fascinating thing to watch. If hand and mind are so intricately connected, what does it say about your state of mind when your hand is floating there so effortlessly and comfortably?
Here’s a fun exercise in self-hypnosis to try: turn on some ambient music, get relaxed, and consciously give full permission to your hands to do whatever they want. Don’t try to consciously move them. Just observe them. Perhaps they will move very, very slowly. Don’t think. Just let your mind get absorbed in the sounds as the hands float in whatever way they feel like. Notice how time starts to move differently the more you let go into the sounds and just observe the subtle movement. Notice what kinds of energy you feel around your fingertips. After a while maybe pick up a pencil and let your hand write or draw. A little automatic writing can do a lot of healing!