Look at your hands. Take a moment to appreciate the wonderfulness of your hands. See how they move. Just imagine-- ten appendages working together to tap away at those little bitty keys on your keyboard. For some of you they do it with considerable speed. They may even do it when you aren't looking at the keyboard. It's amazing. Are you amazed?
Place the palm of your hand an inch or two from your computer screen. What do you feel? Do you feel heat? Can you feel the static electricity? Anything else? Try the same thing by placing the palms of your hands an inch or two apart. What do you feel? Let your palms come together. Now what do you feel? Take a moment to wonder at the sensitivity of your hands. Can you appreciate that you carry with you always two of the most miraculous tools in existence? If a genie gave you a wish and you asked for the most valuable tool in the world she would show you your hands. How lucky you are.
Your hands are full of nerve endings and those nerves connect with huge numbers of brain cells. They are tremendously complex in their structure. In their function they have allowed our species to perform miracles of creation. In any tradition that deals with life energy the hands are critical in sensing and directing that energy. The laying on of hands, for instance, is a very old tradition of using the hands in healing.
Your hands carry within them powerful life energy. The Chinese call this energy chi. The Japanese call it ki. You can learn to direct that energy by studying Chi Kung (Qigong) or Reiki, but the skill is also known by faith healers, massage therapists, and great lovers.
In meditation training, one of the frequently asked questions is "what do I do with my hands?" The answer may vary depending on the meditation tradition, but usually the trainee is given instruction in placing the hands in a particular position. This hand position is called a mudra. A mudra aids the meditator in at least two ways. First, it creates a slight tension in the hands that helps us to focus our consciousness. Since the areas of the brain connected with the hands are so vast, settling them down is a big help in concentration. Second, the position of the hands may be used to direct the flow of chi in a way that aids the meditator.
A traditional Buddhist mudra is the cosmic mudra. You will frequently see this hand position in statues of Buddha. Try this: Place your left hand on top of your right, middle joints of your middle fingers together, and touch your thumbs lightly together. See how your hands form an oval? That oval is placed against your body just below your navel. If you think of the energy flowing through the oval, you can see that it centers on your tan tien or hara, which is a powerful grounding energy center in your abdomen.
Another mudra, used in Christian prayer, is very simple. Just place your palms together with fingers pointed upward. Like a church steeple, the fingers point to the heavens and direct energy skyward. The position of the arms and hands also creates a powerful closed circuit of chi. While in prayer or meditation, experiment with this mudra by placing your hands in front of each of the upper chakras or energy centers in your body. Specifically, place them in front of your heart, your throat, your third eye (between your eyebrows), and at the crown of your head. Experiment with how this feels with your elbows extended a little more, so that there is a bit more pressure in your hands. Spend a few minutes in each of these positions breathing slowly and naturally, letting your mind focus on the sensations in your body. Be especially aware of any feelings of energy in your body. These might be in the form of heat, vibration, tingling, or visual impressions of light or color.
Try this one. With the three middle fingers extended, let your thumb cover the nail of your little finger
. . .Oh, wait. That's for the American Boy Scout salute. Well, it makes a pretty good mudra anyway. A similar, but more traditional mudra is to extend your fingers and then join your thumb and forefinger to make a circle. While sitting to meditate, you can then rest your hands on your knees palms comfortably facing up. This position circulates your chi through your thumb and forefinger, and offers a nice feeling of energy exchange with the outer world. You can think of your hands as being in a receiving position, or you may use this position to extend your energy outward, such as sending healing energy to another.
There are many, many mudras. If you look at sacred statues and paintings, you will see a variety of them. We suggest that you experiment with them and find one or more that feels useful to you in meditation, prayer, or other activities of concentration.
Finally, we place our palms together in front of our heart center, bow slightly, and say, "Namaste," meaning "I honor the light within you."
© 2002 Tom Barrett