Saturday, September 28, 2013

on openhandedness

A simple gesture can change the way we relate to ourselves and the world.

Our minds affect our bodies, but the way we carry our bodies can also change our minds. There is some fascinating research on this by Dr. Amy Cuddy, who explores how body language (eg. the way we choose to stand, hold our shoulders, lift our heads) can actually improve stress hormones, confidence levels, and ultimately our performance.


The way we hold our hands, too, can say a lot about (and to) us. I have worked with some individuals who literally try to keep out their feelings with clenched fists. Just to keep their palms relaxed & open on their lap as they talk about something painful -- it's terrifying. It feels safer to keep themselves closed to everything. But the truth is that:

When we close ourselves from fear or hurt,
we also close ourselves to joy, and vitality.

And that, deep down, is really what we crave. When we learn to open our hands in the moment, in some ways we are choosing to feel everything, which is vulnerable but often so necessary.


As Madeleine L'Engle said, the world teaches us to clutch (onto safety, people, opportunities, ideas, things) but more often than not, this results in more tension, heartache, and loss.

Here's a 30-second exercise for you to try sometime:
1. Right now, wherever you are sitting or standing, hold out your hands in front of you, with the palms facing up.

2. Make fists with both hands and squeeze them as tightly as you can for up to 10 seconds. (If done properly, your arms will start to shake ever so slightly.)

3. When you reach 10 counts, breathe in and then exhale, relaxing your fists. Let your hands open up slowly, until it is like you are holding a smooth little gemstone in the center of each palm.

4. Stay here for just a moment, and breathe.
What was it like, to hold your fists clenched? What did it feel like in your arms, in your hands? Did it change your breath, your facial expression, your body? (If you're not sure or can't remember, you can always try the exercise again!)

Now, what was it like to hold your hands open?

You can feel what openhandedness is from the difference. In a world that teaches us to clutch, if we choose to let go, give freely -- stay openhanded -- then we make space to simply receive. Sometimes, literally opening up our hands is a good reminder of this.

If you try this exercise, I would love to hear your thoughts! This post on Openhandedness was made for this week's InspirationRx, but has been one of my personal themes this year -- see my post on The Pie.


  1. Are these hands yours?
    So soft yet so powerful!
    will let go, stay open-handed & receive from above :)