Hands are Tools 
of the Heart  
Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

Hands that can sculpt beautiful figures with a chisel, write moving poems with a pen, and create breathtaking landscapes with a brush, can do all that because of a close connection with emotions. 

The connection of feelings with hands arises from our basic experience. We come to learn about many things in this world by touching and feeling them with our hands. We even learn to think with our hands. Writing further strengthens the connection between hands and thoughts. Someone said, "Unless I write it down, how do I know what I am thinking? " Thus, hands bear a very direct connection to the contents of the heart and the mind. Humankind used hands to express the desires and the feelings well before it invented words.

These days, almost every thing is produced by machines. If I am to give a gift to a friend or a family member, all I do is to go to a store and buy it. There are greetings and message cards to express feelings for every possible occasion and relationship. What tells apart a gift for a very special person or a very special occasion from an ordinary gift for an ordinary occasion, is the value of the gift, rather than the finesse of the skills or the hours put into the gift. As you are reading this, machines are producing future gifts for you in a remote factory, and printing shops somewhere are printing greetings and message cards for you. This commercialization has diluted the personal "touch. " that we used to put into a gift by personally making it. 

Recently, I happened to read about the Hawaiian tradition of quilting. I believe it's heading was, "A Million Stitches Of Love." This gorgeous quilt, displayed in the airline magazine took a million stitches to make--hand stitched by one person! Imagine someone doing this quilt for you with their own hands or you doing the same for someone special, all because of love. How much love can be woven into those tiny stitches. In the line of "Where are all the flowers gone, " I feel like sighing with the nostalgia of the yester years, "Oh! Where are all the hands gone!" 

Take for instance, the hospice tradition of making a quilt in the memory of a loved one. This beautiful tradition physically and emotionally engages the bereaved into doing something concrete for the loved one with one's own hands . Making the quilt converts the internal memory in to something external, that is out there which can be looked at and appreciated. This process has a very healing and gratifying effect on the bereaved.

There was a time when people made things by hands which took them years to finish. It was not so much the finished product, but the act of doing or making something for a loved one with one's own hands, day after day, month after month. It was a part of living, a part of growing up, a daily routine, just as cooking food and growing crops. (In my nostalgia of the past, I am sounding more and more like George Starr!) 

Take these two examples. In the olden days, a Hawaiian woman would work for years making a shawl or a blanket for her yet to be born child and as she finished that, she would start making another one for her grandchild grandchildren. In India, a little girl would start weaving a dress for her wedding, a project which would last up to her marriage. The cultures had invented ways to prepare their members from very early on for the adult roles, such as that of a wife, a mother, a grandparent, etc. These traditions put family roles right into the center of an individual's life.

Apart from the preparation for family roles, there is something very therapeutic and gratifying about playing and working with our hands. To know this, one has to only watch a child playing with a pliable material, such as mud, sand, or putty. In this activity, a child has the opportunity to mold something, bend it, twist it, and give it any shape or form that he or she wants it to be. Children become more spontaneous, relaxed, and creative working with their hands. It is a highly therapeutic thing to do. Parents can arrange for this activity at home by allowing the children to access to Play-doh or putty. It is good to give children a chance to mold something, for a change, since we adults are all the time trying to mold them in our ways.

You can use your hands to train your mind. For example, to center your mind and to draw in your concentration, draw your attention to your hand as you close and open your fist. For a better recall of a material, or for a message to sink in deeper in you, tap one hand with the other as you read a book or listen to a tape. Adopt at least one hobby to work with hands, be it gardening, carving, knitting, playing a musical instrument, etc. , to align the heart, mind, and hands into one cohesive, gratifying action. 

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Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 



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