Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Monday, 23 May 2011

Spinal Tap: A Meditation

Western philosophies tend to view events and time as linear; both philosophy and science search for a point where things began.  Past, present and future move in sequence to an end point.  Eastern philosophies are inclined to cyclical perspectives.  Time is a wheel.  The world and its populace move through cycles of events (or eventful cycles) with high and low points but with no defined beginning or end.  The different perspectives are often thought to be oppositional, but both ways can help to order our world.  To reconcile the two, we need only think of spinning and the yarns we make.

How do you think of yarn?  That piece of string can be laid out in a (more or less) straight line, with its beginning and end clearly apparent.  The yarn came from fibres.  It will become "something" in the future.  That something will wear out.

Z spun/S plied 2 ply wool

At the same time, hand spun yarns function as circles-tubes or spirals, bundles of fibres made stronger by twisting together.  Fibres, which were something else before they were fibres, move together around one another to become yarn.  That yarn becomes a skein which may or may not be worked into a project, but at some point, it will break down and return to the Earth where it will become. . . ?  Yarn, like everything else, has both beginning and end.  It is also part of a cyclical process of change:

Z twist Romney singles

All of this is a roundabout (!) way of leading you to a simple meditation on the spine.  The spine also possesses dual nature-it is the most important "line" of bone and nerves in the body.  That "line" is a series of stacked rings supporting tubes of cords which control our nervous system and our mobility.  The spine is a wonderful thing which we take for granted until our backs begin to ache.

As spinners, our spines take a lot of abuse.  We slouch at the wheel; we bend awkwardly while drafting fibres.  We curve inward as we card, spin and work with our fibres. Without sufficient, proper movement, we stiffen and have trouble moving through the things we love. It is worth the effort to pay attention to our spines.

Sit comfortably on the floor or in a chair.  (The seat of the chair should just touch the backs of your knees when you're standing, so that your feet rest comfortably on the floor when you sit, knees bent at right angles.)  Close your eyes.  Draw attention to your spine and how it feels now. 

Picture each vertebra stacked evenly upon the next, from the sacrum (tailbone) up through the neck where it meets the skull.  Slide both shoulder blades back and down along the spine.  Imagine a string attached to the crown of your head pulling your spine up without strain, each vertebra moving slightly apart from the next, until your spine is fully extended.  Your chin should be tucked slightly in towards your throat to avoid hyper extending the neck.  Note the difference between your natural seated position and an attentive spinal posture.  Move in and out of these 2 positions for a few minutes, noting all changes, but not naming or judging them.

Resume an attentive spinal posture.  Bring your hands behind you with a hand on either side of the spine.  Rub and press along both sides of the spine (not along the vertebrae themselves), moving from the sacrum to as high as you can reach.  Make gentle fists and tap them along your spine, paying special attention to tender areas.

Move your hands over your shoulders and continue pressing and rubbing along your spine from your neck along your shoulders and down.  Don't worry if you discover spots you can't reach.

Still with eyes closed, place your hands in your lap.  Maintain spinal awareness and sit quietly for a few moments.  Note the changes in your back and spine.  Open your eyes.  Sit for a moment before continuing with your daily routine.

You can use spinal practice as a meditation apart from daily activities.  It is also a beneficial posture to work with while you are spinning or enjoying other fibre work.  Mindful spinal posture keeps the the spine aligned, neither slouched forward nor bending backwards.  Your spine follows its natural curvature which allows you to spin comfortably without muscle strain.  Periodically rubbing, pressing and tapping along the spine give you the breaks many fibre people neglect and help keep your spinning stress free.

As in any practice, take care, work gently and do no harm.  Move through cycles of spinal awareness and appreciate that line of bones giving support to your body.  Then, go spin some circles!

Z spun/S plied Romney
Variegated single with solid coloured single

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