Image: Jeff Sheridan performs in Central Park, NYC, circa 1970s.
More than 45 years ago, I was sitting in a café at the end of an afternoon of performing in Central Park with our felliniesque collection of buskers ranging from the infamous Philip Petit to… well, me in my striped shirt and overalls. There was a close up magician with us named Jeff Sheridan. He rarely talked, and had intense black eyes. In fact, he had black hair, always wore a black turtleneck and generally exuded an air of mystery. He stared at me, then waved his hand producing a coin. The next thing I knew, the coin was on my arm. His hand hovered above the coin and it rose up on its edge. As his hand slowly sidled up my arm, the coin slowly rolled to the crook of my elbow. I gasped. He grinned. “How did you do that?” I asked. He shrugged. Like I said, he didn’t talk much.
Carlos Castaneda’s books talk about learning to “see” our hands while “dreaming.” I don’t know if he was talking about lucid dreaming, or the waking dream of our daily lives. My hands work invisibly: flying across the keyboard, pouring in the detergent, grabbing the mail. They are continuously performing “sleight of hand,” making magic while I’m not paying attention.
When you say, “I was touched by what you said,” you are using words to convey sensation. Our hands just as powerfully convey the meaning of words. The researcher David McNeill categorizes two kinds of gesture: expressive: where you are using your hands to articulate for yourself, or directive: using your hands to indicate and yes, manipulate. These gestures arise from information in your entire body. It’s as if your hands are releasing what’s happening inside of you.
So take your hands out of your pockets and look at them. Touch your face. Caress your leg. Place your hand on your heart. Your hands are your allies. “See” them for the gift they are. Here’s a mini lesson for relaxing your hand from my book Walking Your Talk.