Communicating with our hands, whether sacredly or profanely, is a human trait. We use our two hands for everything, but most significantly, we use them to gesture. We make all kinds of gestures. For the most part we make them unconsciously and depending on whether we are pissed off or happy or getting an idea across or in prayerful reverence they can take on unconscious habituation for each of us.
There doesn't seem to be anything more obvious, currently, as we watch the Occupy Wall Street participants, than hand signals. You can find YouTube videos explaining each of the seven hand gestures, called twinkles, being used to help facilitate communications between the protesters. Wiggly fingers pointing up means "I'm in agreement with you." Wiggly fingers pointing down means "I'm not." The very interesting "triangle" shape, being used to signify "a point of process gone astray," is, interestingly, the shape symbolizing the male phallus. If turned the other direction, it signifies the female vulva/vagina. This version is a very ancient symbol used widely all over the world.
What of the current fad, started by celebrity singers, of flashing hearts created out of two hands (curled fingers on top, thumbs touching pointed down) to signify love? It's called hand-hearting. People are doing it everywhere. It might not be what you use when you're driving in rush hour traffic in downtown New York, though. That would have the name bird in it.
I've got a short video that demonstrates some sexual concepts that can help with orgasms and male mastery that illustrates how important hand signals can be. I couldn't get the concepts across if I didn't use my hands. It's just that simple. Using my hands the way I do also helped me remember what I wanted to say as I don't use a teleprompter when I make these short, instructional videos. Recent studies show that combining hand gestures with speech facilitates learning and remembering. Using hand gestures while speaking causes the speaker to better remember what they want to say. In a study done with fourth graders, the memory of math problems and their answers, worked out three weeks prior, increased by 300% for those students taught to use hand gestures along with words.
In Buddhist meditations and Tantric practices hand gestures are called "mudras." Here's the Wikipedia definition of a mudra:
Symbolic or ritual gesture in Hinduism and Buddhism. While some mudrās involve the entire body, most are performed with the hands and fingers. In addition, some definitions go on to say that the mudra is an expression of an inner feeling or emotion that can be represented and then felt, even stronger, by the act of the gesture itself.
This corroborates the concepts of better memory and learning.
But if we take these definitions literally, then flipping someone off, pointing a condescending finger, shrugging and throwing your hands up in the air, shaking your finger at someone or maybe even threatening to slap someone by raising a hand in the air; these are all mudras. I can think of so many ways we actually use mudras according to these definitions.
To our detriment, as we use these gestures unconsciously, we are creating deeper grooves in our brains for the meanings of anxiety, meanness and frustration. These are intentional acts even though they are often just below consciousness when we use them. We are using these gestures in ways that affect our body, our mind and worst of all our spirit. This doesn't even consider the other person, or persons, our gestures might be aimed at. These automatic gesture reactions to everyday stresses and concerns may be very bad for us. Words and gestures are experienced and interpreted in the exact same areas of the brain and scientists believe that gesturing came before language and therefore they share the same structures in the brain.
"In babies, the ability to communicate through gestures precedes spoken language, and you can predict a child's language skills based on the repertoire of his or her gestures during those early months," said James F. Battey, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. "These findings not only provide compelling evidence regarding where language may have come from, they help explain the interplay that exists between language and gesture as children develop their language skills."
If we are what we eat, do and believe, as so many scientists are now understanding to be true, what are we doing to ourselves?
The many postures of the Buddha show his hands in mudras that have deep meaning and can help presence the viewer to information being passed to them through example. A hand raised to shoulder level with palm out means "peacefulness." A right hand placed with fingers touching the ground means "to witness." And if the same hand is facing palm out it signifies "compassion and charity." There are many mudras in the Hindu and Buddhist pantheon but unlike our culture's penchant for frustration theirs are for the good. I never fail to notice how incredibly good I feel when I am in Thailand. Everyone, everywhere is always bowing with hands in the prayer mudra pressed to their breasts. I follow with a mirrored action and I feel good. I don't use the bird one, ever, because it doesn't feel good in me.