I am grateful for hands. This is the bronze left hand of Martin Luther King Jr., as represented in a life-size statue of him at his namesake memorial gardens in Raleigh. His holiday was celebrated during the two weeks this month that I was in Seattle for the last intense stretch of the 2,000-hour College of Purna Yoga teacher training. During the training, someone shared this quote of his: “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” After returning home, I saw that quote in two other places.
Today, January 26, is the four-month mark of my hip surgery, and I went to the gardens after my physical therapy appointment. I’d never been. The statue, by Abbe Godwin, captures the great civil rights leader in motion, speaking with outstretched hands. I held each one. I’m not sure why. Maybe I was trying to feel what it feels like to try to transform violence into peace.
If the arms are the wings of the heart, as my teacher and friend Catharine Eberhart says, then hands and fingers are feathers that caress and enfold. Even bronze hands can have a light but lasting touch.
I am grateful to Allison MacLennan for her workshop on hands at the Alive and Shine Center and for the Purna Yoga wrist series shared by Aadil Palkhivala, which nourishes and promotes nimble hands and fingers. I am grateful for Heartfull™ Meditation as created by Savitri and the ability of my hands to flow through the meditation techniques to guide myself away from noise and more deeply into the quietude of my heart. I am grateful to place my hands namaste in reverence for my students, peers and teachers.
I am grateful for the ability of my hands to share my words in form, and for my hands to rest openly while others speak. I am grateful for hands that write thank-you notes, sympathy cards and “How are you doing?” text messages and emails. I am grateful for hands that flow from arms that offer unconditional embraces. I am grateful for hands extended, unbidden and with heart-stopping, open-faced love, to offer food and sustenance and cold medicine, hold a notebook, share an adjustment in an asana, set props up and put them away, arrange altars, open a door, offer a light touch of presence, put my socks on my feet when I can’t. I’m grateful for hands that wave goodbye. I’m grateful for my mother’s hands, which held my face as she kissed me as I said goodbye to her.
I am grateful for hands to hold books, and for the gift of “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer from my friend Cheryl Traylor. It is a beautiful meditation on reciprocity and our relationship to nature, and to each other. It explains the ethos of the Honorable Harvest:
“Know the ways of the ones who take care of you, so that you may take care of them.
Introduce yourself. Be accountable as the one who comes asking for life.
Ask permission before taking. Abide by the answer.
Never take the first. Never take the last.
Take only what you need.
Take only that which is given.
Never take more than half. Leave some for others.
Harvest in a way that minimizes harm.
Use it respectfully. Never waste what you have taken.
Give thanks for what you have been given.
Give a gift, in reciprocity for what you have taken.
Sustain the ones who sustain you and the earth will last forever.”
Thank you to the peacemakers and those who lend helping hands. May we continue to help each other climb staircases.