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In a new report from The Journal of the American Medical Association, experts are making formal recommendations not to shake hands in a medical setting, hospital or health care facilities because of the overwhelming evidence that such hand contact is a leading vehicle for passing on or spreading infections. (1)
In fact, soon regulations may be passed to install appropriate signage in health care settings indicating a “Handshake-Free Zone.” Experts believe that the handshake is such a common vehicle for spreading germs, it may soon be a cultural relic and considered an unsanitary means of communication.
While the medical community has known about the spread of hospital germs through touching and handshaking for more than a century, efforts to wash effectively have been unsuccessful. According to this JAMA report, washing with antibacterial soaps is only practiced by 40% of health care professionals and much less by patients and hospital visitors, leading experts to make strong recommendations to abolish the handshaking practice.
Did the Buddhists have it right to bow to honor the sacred silence in each other, rather than touch when greeting someone? Is the Hindu practice of putting the hands together and reciting, namaste, which means “the divine in me bows to the divine in you,” a more evolved practice? Did they somehow know about the transmission of energy through touch that we are only now beginning to understand?
Here is what we know. There are microbes on the skin, some good and some bad. Because of incessant washing, overuse of antibiotics and an overly sterile environment, drying and chemical-laden lotions, many of the good bugs that support our immunity have disappeared, leaving room for undesirable bugs to proliferate.
It seems that if we had the immune-boosting microbial strength and diversity on the skin that we were designed to carry, a handshake would not present a risk.
We also know that microbes are responsible for the mood and mental function of the body. Researchers believe these mood-modulating microbes travel along the vagus nerve – among other unknown pathways – from the gut to the brain.
Is it possible that traditional Buddhists and Hindus were privy to this microbe-based energetic transmission and, because of this were reluctant to touch another person directly? During my studies in India I was told many times that touching the patients was less than desirable and that I should do my best not to touch my patients. Of course, I shrugged this advice off in judgment of how little I thought they knew! Now in hindsight, was this ancient practice of bowing to the divine in each based on the subtle perception that mood-modulating microbes were carried through touch, and one should be very selective about whom you touch? Hmmm…