Year of Grace, Day 93. On skinship and the laying of hands

In 1971, my first year as a student in Tokyo, I became aware of the plasticity of the Japanese language, in particular with its ingenious adoption and adaptation of foreign words. The neo-Japanese term sukinshippu (skinship)  officially made it to the Japan National Language Dictionary (Nihon Kokugo Daijiten) that year, though another dictionary claims it was actually introduced in the 50s directly from the USA (!).  Skinship appeared on trains –- on the ads and diverse announcements posted high above the handgrips and which served as practice for my newly acquired language. Media commentators and columnists relished using the term. This Japlish word subsequently crossed over to Korea.

So what exactly does skinship mean? Well, we’re familiar with the word skin and the final –ship from the words relationship, friendship, etc. Skinship means the physical closeness or intimacy between a mother and child, between family members, or between friends.

One of the things that struck me in Japan in the 70s was the way young children – from infants to toddlers – were carried on their mothers’ backs in well-designed baby carriers. Not the metal-framed back carriers then used in the US for toddlers, but the belted ones that hold a child very close to the mother’s body. (Baby trolleys only became available in a few exclusive stores in the early 80s in Tokyo and were not a common sight.) One particular poster that caught my eye back then was of a working man in a suit (a salary-man — another Japlish term) with a baby strapped on his back — a highly unlikely occurrence. (Btw, I am heartened that here in Bonn in the 21st century, this once-traditional way of carrying babies is very much in evidence, not only with mothers but fathers too!) The rest of the poster caption has escaped my memory after all these decades, but I haven’t forgotten that it included the then neologism skinship.

This roundabout introduction brings me to the laying of hands in Reiki. For the past couple of days, I’ve focused on the first three Reiki keys to health and happiness — be in the present, let go of anger, let go of worry. The next key is to be thankful, and since my daily gratitude journal has had me writing my thanks for the past 92 days, I hope you don’t mind my giving it a miss today. Instead I am sharing what thoughts I’ve been having on the laying of hands that is at the heart of Reiki.

Once we outgrow childhood, we lose the close, regular skin-on-skin connection (our skinship) with our mothers or other carers. As babies, we were bathed regularly, our bodies and limbs were touched daily. We were constantly carried around, hugged, cuddled. When colicky, our tummies were soothed, our backs were rubbed. Once we could fend for ourselves, we lost most of these baby perks. Unless we have a love or erotic relationship, we rarely get to touch or be touched by other people on such a regular basis. (And that is also no doubt why having a pet or grandchild is enormously beneficial to emotional well-being.)

And there I believe lies the significant beneficial effect of  Reiki’s  laying of hands, especially as it is combined with the practitioner’s therapeutic thoughts and the positive state of mind (induced by Reiki ideals) of the recipient. Massage in various forms (shiatsu and so on) provides similar soothing and therapeutic effects as well. However, I feel it is the combination of the Reiki ideals fostered in the mind and spirit of both practitioner and recipient that enhances the physical effect of the laying of hands on some (though apparently not all) who experience it.

For me at any rate, my mind and spirit need physical reinforcement. When I felt worry beginning to creep in this morning, I whispered the Reiki ideals and then laid my palms on my head, my throat, and over my heart, and I eventually managed to allay my fears.

For the continuing progress of self-healing I have found in Reiki, I am grateful. And additionally, I give thanks for the amaryllis, one of whose buds is on the way to being released, poised to unfold into bloom.

Amaryllis unfolding

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