Man has instinctively employed his hands as healing tools to alleviate pain since earliest times, massaging a painful leg cramp, for example, or protecting a stinging insect bite. Oriental medicine discovered (over thousands of years) an association between the stimulation of the skin surface areas and the rejuvenation of internal organs. Gradually the art of massage became associated with acupuncture points and meridians corresponding to specific organs, and pressure was used along with needles and heat to stimulate these points.

Massage is not the only medical application of the hand. Another useful practice (which can be performed with immediate results) involves the combination of touch with chanting to stimulate and balance various energy centers in the body, inducing a state of centeredness and meditative tranquility. As taught by Michio Kushi at the East-West Foundation in Boston, this powerful, energy-channelling technique is called palm healing.

To begin, one should decide with his or her partner who will channel and who will receive the energy, although both people will certainly enjoy the benefits. From personal observation, serving as the lightning rod is in fact the more intense experience. The healer should sit facing his partner, relaxing on his knees with an erect spine. He should face south, according to Kushi, to channel the greatest amount of energy through his body.

The healer can facilitate his own energy flow by raising both arms over his head on a deep inhalation, then slowly lowering them parallel to the ground on the exhalation. This should be repeated several times to assure that the spine is straight and open. If one is familiar with hatha yoga asanas, it may be helpful to do a yoga session before hand.

To stimulate the energy flow through the arms, one should alternately rub the palms together briskly while holding them above the forehead until a sensation of heat is experienced, then hold the palms open, facing up about shoulder high with arms bent at the elbows.

After these preparatory exercises, you are ready to begin channelling energy. It is essential that the person receiving energy sit with an erect spine, either on his knees or in a chair. His hands should be clasped and resting comfortably in his lap, preferably with the right palm resting in the left (if he is right-handed), forming a bowl. The knees should be about the width of one fist apart. Most importantly, the healer should work to relax his partner, making sure there is as little tenseness as possible in his posture.

When ready to begin, the healer instructs his partner to close his eyes and keep them closed throughout the exercise. Standing behind his partner, the healer rotates his hands in a swirling motion over the crown of the head, tracing a spiral pattern in a clockwise motion for a female partner and counter-clockwise for a male. Whenever necessary, the healer may recharge his palms by rubbing them together. Ideally, the healer should attempt to sense an aura or field of energy about the partner’s head and shoulders, slowly moving downward through this field until his hands are resting on the other’s head.

At this point, the healer instructs his partner to breathe together with him, chanting the mantra “SU” (as in “Sue”) together on the exhalations. The two should synchronize their breathing and repeat the mantra aloud from eight to ten times.

Next, the healer places his palms on either side of his partner’s head about the temples and instructs his partner to touch the tip of his tongue to the roof of his mouth. Again, the two synchronize their breathing, chanting together on the exhalations about ten times. The healer again chants “SU” while the partner chants “OM.”

Next, the healer places one palm over his partner’s chest near the heart region, and the other at his midback, opposite the heart. Both partners chant “SU.”

After this the healer moves his palms to the center located just below the navel, placing one palm on the belly and the other on the back. While the healer chants “SU” the partner chants “TO” (toe), making the sound vibrate out of his diaphragm.

As a final exercise, both partners chant “SU” while the healer places his palm on his partner’s forehead with the other at the back of the head.

The healer then instructs his partner to sit quietly as he lays his hands atop his head. Slowly the healer begins to rotate his palms in the same swirling motion as opened the session, rising away from the crown of the head. He may also wish to draw his hands up his partner’s body a few inches away from the skin surface — as if drawing dissonant vibrations up and away.

Visualization is a powerful aid in palm healing. You may improvise in whatever manner you wish, but one effective visualization is to imagine white light striking the crown of your head and passing between your palms as you chant with your partner. Another would be to visualize your partner in a state of radiant good health, relaxed and smiling.

The key to successful palm healing is to let your intuition guide the chanting and visualization. If you sense an area that seems blocked or stagnant, chant longer at that point or visualize the tightness unfolding.

It is also important to wring your hands at various intervals to discharge any negative energy you may have absorbed. Afterwards it’s a good idea to rinse your hands in cold tap water.

To signal the end of the session, clap your hands together sharply behind your partner, instructing him to sit quietly until feeling centered and desiring to open his eyes. Remember to thank each other for sharing the intimate flow of energy that should have revitalized both partners and opened greater lines of communication. Palm healing can be a fulfilling complement to both massage or individual meditation.