Occasionally I remember how much I would have liked my mother to compliment me more about my appearance, as I was growing through childhood and teenage years into my adult body. Like many of us, women and men alike, our body image was problematic as we grew up. The idea that we are ‘fat’ for example can stay with us throughout life, despite all proofs to the contrary, like shape and weight changes, a good health record or the love we receive – just as we are. Today I find it amusing that I supposedly had ‘chive curls’ (short for straight hair) and ‘sausage fingers’ (short for un-slender short-ish digits), interesting also that both expressions are in the food category, since my eating habits and weight development was closely monitored.
My pretty and petite mother must have been quite disappointed that physically I resembled her so little, and for some reason she must have thought it good to name these disappointing traits, in a loving tone – yet they stung! Difficult as this was at times, over the years the scars healed; and I remember distinctly that I began to like my hands quite early. Once I realized that they had exactly the same shape and proportions as my father’s hardworking and rough hands, I felt a sense of grateful connection and hands were no longer right or wrong, they just were- mine! I have to wear my finger nails short (weak nails, alas) and cannot tolerate nail polish. I wish my hands, like other areas of the body, wouldn’t show my age quite so much. I wonder where my slightly crooked index finger and its wart-like protrusion might come from. I notice some thickening of my knuckles due to beginning arthritis. I admire my friends’ long fingers or their perfect manicures or their ability to wear more than one ring per hand. Jealous I am not!
I like my hands and want to sing their praise. Let’s just contemplate for one moment how much they are and have been doing for us through our life time. I will not even begin a list here, but encourage you to do this, just for a moment, to think what your hands have been doing for you – just today. Or imagine what someone did for you with his or her hands – just today. Think about childhood and pause to remember what these little hands were able to learn. And how much abuse they can take: splinters and cuts, cold and burns! How sensitive they remain, what fabric and textures they can feel! What artwork they can manufacture!
As an Alexander Technique teacher I am particularly grateful for my hands as conduits to connect to another body, in order to sense what is going on in my students and communicate messages to their internal system. Others have written more eloquently about the Alexander Teacher’s hands, let me quote:
Judy Leibowitz: “One judges an Alexander teacher by the quality of his or her hands. … True understanding comes from the communication given to the student through the teacher’s hands. … They must sense what is taking place in the student’s body and at the same time give the Alexander Technique message for poise of the head and the lengthening of the spine. … Because these hands have no preconceived idea of what they will feel, they are able to freely experience the student at that moment in space and time. … Know that the hand you put on is an extension of your torso; it is growing out of your whole being.” *
Pearl Ausubel: “I put my hands on with my purpose in mind, but my hands have no intention. …The hand has to have a message but no intention, the message comes from the thought.” **
Missy Vineyard Ehrgood: “What you’re feeling is happening within you. It’s an illusion to think you’re feeling the other person. You’re feeling what touching the other person makes you feel in yourself. … My hands bring me information about this whole person that I can’t learn through any other means. … My hands feel what can’t be seen, heard, or grasped intellectually through verbal description.” ***
I am going to put some cream on my hands right now and hope you are taking good care of your hands as well, just as they are taking good care of you!
*(An excerpt from Dare To Be Wrong: The Teaching of Judith Leibowitz, A Teacher’s Hands, edited by Kathryn Miranda)
**(An excerpt from Pearl Ausubel, In her Own Words, based on interviews and written by Nanette Walsh, published in AmSAT news, Winter 2006)
***(An excerpt from How You Stand, How You Move, How You Live, The Teacher’s Hands, by Missy Vineyard)