Enjoy Your Hands
by Rick Hanson, from Just One Thing: Developing A Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time
Sometimes it's worth remembering the obvious: you engage the world with your body — often with your hands.
Human hands are unique in the animal kingdom in their dexterity and sensitivity. Their capacity for skilled action helped drive the evolution of the neural networks that handle sophisticated planning, decision-making, and self-control.
Your hands reach, touch, caress, hold, manipulate, and let go. They type, stir pots, brush hair, wash dishes, shift gears, scratch ears, open doors, throw stones, hold loved ones, and help you snuggle into bed. They may not be perfect, and with aging, they may sometimes be in pain, but they're always lovely and vital.
Appreciating your hands makes you appreciate living. Being mindful of them - paying attention to what they're feeling and doing - is a simple and available way to drop down into a more sensual, in-the-body connection with the world, including the people you touch.
Right now, take a moment to be aware of your hands. What are they doing? What are they touching? They are always touching something, if only the air. What are they sensing? Warm or cool? Hard or soft?
Move your fingertips. Notice how incredibly sensitive they are, with about 20,000 nerve endings per square inch. Play with the sensations of your fingers stroking your palm, your thumb touching each finger in turn, the fingers of one hand caressing the fingers of the other one.
Soak up the enjoyment your hands give you. Use your hands to draw you into pleasure such as the warmth of holding a cup of coffee, the relief of scratching an itchy head, or the satisfaction of getting a pesky button through its hole.
As appropriate, touch others more. Feel the grip of a handshake, a friend's shoulder, a lover's skin, a child's hair, a dog's or cat's fur.
Feel the skillfulness of your hands: steering a car, writing a note, replacing a lightbulb, sawing wood, planting bulbs, measuring garlic, peeling an onion. Feel their strength in holding a knife, making a fist, lugging a suitcase.
Watch your hands talk: pointing, rising and falling, opening and closing, thumbs-up, okay, waving hello and goodbye.
Many times a day, try to sink awareness into your hands.
Feel them feeling your life.
- Just One Thing archive
- Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom
- "Each Flick of a Digit Is a Job for All 5," by Natalie Angier, The New York Times, Feb. 27, 2012