Last week I posted the first part of the first day of Rebalancing training in Pune India, 1988. Here is a continuation of that first day.

touch hands2Amrita stands facing the group with her eyes closed, arms loose at her sides. Sats gently lifts her hand. “We’re going to explore each other’s arms as if we’ve never seen such an amazing thing before. How does it move? How does it feel? Its weight, its texture, its ability to articulate…” As he speaks, Sats first lets her hand rest in his palm and then slowly begins to move and stroke each of her fingers, the wrist, the palm. “All the while, the receptive partner focuses on letting the active one have the full weight of their arm, surrendering it totally.” Almost imperceptibly, Amrita’s slim shoulder drops. She’s wearing loose blue and green cotton pants bunched with ribbon along the sides.

He’s sliding the wrist in delicate half-circles while cradling her elbow with the other hand. “There are so many possibilities for movement and stillness. Be innocent. Be curious.”

Everyone pairs off to try the arm exercise. A nice looking dark-haired Dutchman named Sam standing next to me, gives me a nudge. I offer to be the active one first while he stands still, eyes closed, hands dangling at his sides. It occurs to me that all of this, what we are doing here, what we experience in Buddha Hall, with each other, and even in the streets, is practising trust. Stretching out our vulnerable necks despite the risk that they may be chopped. It seems simple, standing here and allowing someone to move your hand, fingers and arm around; there’s no immediate danger from which one couldn’t simply extract oneself, and yet each time we offer ourselves in any of these ways, we leave ourselves open to pain.

touch hands

Before picking up Sam’s hand, I let my eyes rest on his long face, with its off-kilter jaw and prominent nose, and a sharp heat stabs through my chest. It isn’t lust this time; it’s a fierce need to protect, to keep him safe — to handle with care, a thing I’m not so good at. Just ask Alex.

“Remember, you’ve never seen one of these before,” Satyarthi says through the microphone. A hand, fingers, long stretch of skin… it bends, it swivels, hard in some places, soft in others, rough and smooth, too, many little crooks and so many ways to move. I like this thing called a hand. I turn it over so that the back of it lies in my palm, the long slender fingers curling inward, as if pointing to the world within – all those lines full of stories, heartaches and joys, losses and loves, lines that travel across the world. Sam’s hand.  After a stretch of time spent lifting and touching and turning the forearm, the upper arm, the elbow and hand, I return that hand to its place at the end of the arm and step back.

“Active partners, look closely. Check the difference between their arms. Receptive partners, tune into your two arms, your shoulders, and feel what has changed for you.”

Sam lists to the side, his shoulder dramatically sloped. He’s laughing quietly to himself. All around the room people are murmuring with surprised little giggles.

“Your left arm is about a foot longer than your right,” I say.

He nods and opens his eyes. “Hope we get to do both arms.”

When we switch I stand for several moments waiting for my hand to be lifted and explored, every cell bright with electricity. I want desperately to be touched, but strangely, I also don’t want this moment of anticipation to end. A shiver runs right up the underside of my arm and into my chest as the ends of Sam’s fingers touch the ends of mine.

“It’s love that makes all the difference,” says Satyarthi. “Without love, you’re just a mechanic.”

touching hands