Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

We are Stardust: Reflections on Spinning and the Space Between Us

Last night was the final session of the spinning as meditation class.  Six of us sat and applied our spinning and knitting skills to meditation exercises. 

The energy among us changes as we move deeper into practice.  You can feel this energy becoming softer, calmer, as "the space between us" (Thanks, Mr. DD!) flows into a deep sense of connection. 

There is a lovely meditation in which we reflect on all elements which give rise to our present circumstances.  It's a simple practice.  Choose something in your life-food, a treasured object, a loved one, a skill, anything at all-and express gratitude for all the things which allowed this to come into existence.

Spinning and fibre arts are ideal candidates for this meditation.  As you spin, think of everything which brought you to this pleasure.  There are the tools you use, the makers who crafted those tools, the materials which comprise spindle or wheel.  Think of the elements required to grow the wood for those tools-wind, rain, nutrients, insects, other animals who deposited the seeds, to name just a few.

There are the fibres we spin: consider the animals and plants from which they come, the people who raised and harvested our fibres.  We can reflect on the "ancestory" (this spelling intended) of our knowledge.  Who taught us these skills?  Who taught them?  What conditions brought us to this moment, spinning?

A Tabachek bottom whorl spindle and bowl, yarn from Romney fleece, a ball of silk singles, sitting on a handwoven coaster of commercial cotton and hand spun, dyed wool

On and on it goes.  We trace our lineage through time, expressing gratitude to everyone and everything who contributed to our work.

When we practise this meditation, we realize that all things are interconnected and that our personal lives and skills encompass all.  No one person and no one thing arises on its own-we truly do come from stardust, eventually to return.  I'm grateful for that.

Thanks to all the fellow travellers on this journey.

A bucket of goldenrod flowers waiting to become dye

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Summertime Blues

It's been a month of changes.  Young Mr. DD has returned home, after a wonderful, long visit.  We were at my sister's and brother-in-law's 25th anniversary party last night.  This week, we have a farewell for a niece and a nephew-my niece heads off to the University of Toronto to study engineering and be a goalie for the campus women's hockey team; her cousin will be starting his Human Justice studies in Lethbridge.  Earlier this summer, we celebrated Ms. DD's new job.  Every new adventure brings endless opportunities.

 There has been sadness, too.  My godmother, 92, had a hip fracture and, although it was repaired and she's working on physiotherapy and rehabilitation, the future is uncertain.  Like many others, I was sad to hear of Jack Layton's death, but dare to hope that something good can come of his work, as Reverend Brent Hawkes spoke of in his homily at Layton's funeral.

Changes come to us all.  We learn that, when we fight them, the results can be like clutching fibres while we spin: instead of gaining the control we want, our yarns become lumpy, uneven, fragile.  Sometimes, we clutch so hard that the fibres refuse to move at all.  They stick and everything grinds to a frustrating halt.  It's only when we open our hands to let those fibres flow and release our hearts to open to what yarns the fibres want to become that the gentle action and rhythm of our spinning resumes and the yarn continues to form, although not always in ways we anticipate

I work at accepting life changes as they come, knowing that opportunities point the way to happiness, that happiness can sometimes bring pain, but that pain doesn't necessarily mean suffering.  I'm enjoying all moments as best I can, knowing that moments are all we have, that change will come whether we fight it or not and that new possibilities, like that yarn waiting to arrive out of that fresh bag of fibres, are soon to be discovered.

I may be caught in the summertime blues, but there is a cure.  Even now, I can feel a fresh, autumn breeze blowing through the hot summer evenings, bringing with it another of my favourite seasons.  More changes, new possibilities arising.

(A nod is in order here to Michelle for riffing on her last post.  One thing leads to another, as the old song goes.)

Monday, 22 August 2011

Total Eclipse of the Heart

Jack Layton

Thus shall you think of all this fleeting world:
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream;
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.
(The Diamond Sutra)

You touched our hearts and made a difference.


Monday, 15 August 2011

It Might Get Loud: Passionate Art

My son is a musician, a guitarist, among other things.  He's here on a visit before heading back to school. He spends hours playing guitar, taking apart guitars and repairing them, reading about guitars, watching videos, attending shows when he can.  The other night, he brought home It Might Get Loud, an excerpt of which is available on YouTube:

Three generations of guitarists-Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, The Edge of U2 and Jack White, of The White Stripes and Raconteurs-discuss the roots of their music and what led them to the guitar.  All of them had a "happy accident" moment; playing guitar was not their first career choice, but once the passion took hold, it didn't let go.

The boys spend their days making noise/music, banging about as they discover what works and what works not quite so much.  What a joyous noise they make, on their own and together here.

There's a moment in which Jack White, youngest of ten children, talks about growing up and having a tiny bedroom in which he packed every bit of music gear he could find into that room, removing his bed and sleeping on a piece of foam, wedged between two drum sets.

Sound familiar?  Many of us have a passion for something, an urge to explore an art or craft or life to its limits.  We eat, breathe and sleep to follow our passion. I've chased fibre for decades, in classes, while teaching, on vacation, at home with a room packed full of spindles, wheels, fibres and other equipment gathered on a quest to be the best at what I do, to push to the limits of my experience.  I'm not there yet and that's the beauty of it: I never will be. 

Everyone needs something that takes hold of her imagination, that allows possibilities for the mind and body and spirit. Often, if we don't find those positive aspects of our lives, other not so positive things creep in to inhabit the void.  Like music, spinning, knitting, crocheting and other fibre work can be practical, beautiful, artful and controversial, sometimes all at once.  Spinning is music for my soul; I practise every day.

Twist of Fate's Merino and Bamboo on a Yoyo Spindle

Take a look at the dvd, if you get the chance.  Appreciate the love these men have for their craft.  By the way, if you know someone who thinks you get carried away by string, show them the segment in which Jimmy, The Edge (don't call him "David") and Jack discuss guitar strings.  Spinners have nothing on these guys!

A Simple Line of String

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Hot Town: Spinning in the City

We've had a tent revival of sorts around here in the last few weeks: there have been spinning demonstrations and classes all around the city.  Last week, a group of spinners, doglover and MuddyPawsKnits among them, demonstrated spinning at the Queen City Ex.  These volunteers generated a lot of interest in fibre arts, especially thanks to eleven year old Katie, doglover's niece.  Katie impressed everyone with her spinning skills.  There are pictures up on Ravelry, under the Regina Stitch and Bitch and the Golden Willow groups. (You can see the famous Jeremy, Susie's husband,  and his brilliant skein of yarn.)

I taught two workshops for the public library and both were full.  The second class was supposed to be the overflow from the first class's waiting list, but we managed to have more people in that class than in the original.  By last night, 22 people from those classes were new spinners and we hope to bring more into the light because of the women who helped out at the Ex.

My workshops were hectic.  I have only one photo of the first class:

I forgot to take photographs of the second class learning to spin.  The pictures here were taken last night, as the class practised plying:

And here they are, with their washed and whacked skeins.  They did very well:

The spinning and meditation classes begin next week.  So far, about fifteen people have expressed interest in attending one or more sessions, which amazes me (in a good way), considering that either practice alone is not that common here; doing both together could be seen as downright strange.  I'm looking forward to the sessions.

If you want to be among fellow spinners or get yourself started, this is the place to be.  Who says nothing ever happens here?!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

And Now For Something Completely Different

I present to you, my Zombie Apocalypse Preparedness Package:

This is the box I received from FrizzyHooker on Ravelry, for an RR Swap.  We were to send the recipient anything we thought would be useful in the upcoming Zombie Invasion.  The box sent to me contained everything someone fleeing from Zombies could possibly want or need, both useful and comforting.  Among the contents were yarn, personal hygiene items, chocolate, tea, meditation items and a quiver to carry both weapons and fibre tools:

What more could a Zombie-fleeing gal want?  Frizzy thoughtfully sent a cover letter explaining the purpose of each item.  You can read the letter if you click it to enlarge:

It was a great gift and just the thing for the dog days of summer.  Speaking of which, here's Morris yesterday, helping Mr. DD trim trees.  Morris is also very thoughtful; he carefully stripped the bark from each branch and then proceeded to mulch the sticks:

It's the last evening of my spinning class at the library tonight.  There were 13 participants last week (12 students and an onlooker).  It was a busy but fun evening.  I keep forgetting to take pictures of these sessions, but I'll try again tonight.

Thursday, 4 August 2011


Heart Like a Wheel: Spinning and Fibre Arts as Meditation Practice
Location:  Bodhi Tree Yoga Studio at 3104-13th Avenue, Regina (Upstairs from Golden Willow)

Fibre artist Deborah B holds a Master's Certificate in Hand Knitting (TKGA) and has taught spinning, knitting and weaving classes throughout Western Canada.  In these sessions, she will help you begin a simple meditation practice by mindful application of your spinning and fibre arts skills and tools.

Dates:  Tuesdays, August 16, 23, 30, 2011
Times:  7 to 9 pm.

(Donations Only)

Please preregister:



Monday, 1 August 2011

Dazed and Confused: Concentration, Mindfulness and Spinning as Meditation

I want to explain more about the difference between using spinning as meditation practice and our normal spinning habits.  I’ve written about the difference between relaxation and meditation and how spinning to relax or zone out is not meditation.  Spinning in meditation is not concentration, either, that state of mind where we are striving to hold on to something, be it a thought, a movement, a skill.  Spinning as meditation is not training.  Somewhere in the middle of concentrating, training, sits our spinning meditation.

We often speak of “beginner’s mind,” that state of being one has when exploring new territory, an open-ness to possibilities.  The beginning spinner has countless options when learning her craft; the expert, through her knowledge, may not.  That open-ness is necessary in meditation, but beginning spinners (and others who are learning new skills) also use focus and concentration to help them learn.  This is where applying spinning skills to meditation can become confusing.
Just as meditation is not “zoning out,” neither is it “concentration” or “focus.”  Concentration and focus require a harnessing of thought, an effort to keep ourselves, our physical movements, our thoughts on track, attentive to the task at hand.  Beginning spinners have trouble with this—they are so busy trying to get everything just right that they can’t let go and let things happen.  Yet, it’s precisely when we let go and let things happen that something clicks and, hey, you’re spinning!
It’s that point of letting go that defines a meditation practice.  Thoughts are not good or bad; they simply “are.”  The movements you make, the yarns you produce in spinning meditation are also not good or bad.  They are simply part of the process.  Being mindful means we are attentive to what is happening now.  Awareness means we don’t cling to what mindfulness shows us.
When we are concentrating, we are trying to hold on to something.  When we are aware, we are simply allowing things to be.  So spinning as meditation practice involves using our craft as a stepping stone—we appreciate the rhythm of wheel or spindle, the sensations of the fibres flowing through our fingers, the yarns as they form.  We appreciate the annoyances, too—the way the fibres refuse to draft smoothly, the yarn as it snaps, the spindle as it hits the ground.  All of this is part of our practice.
There is no goal.  If, in bringing our attention to our spinning we find that our yarns improve, that is part of the process as well, but we don’t look for that.  It may happen; it may not.  When we spin to meditate, we let go.  Eventually, we may find that we can let go of our spinning, which is simply a support in our practice.  At that point, we can just sit.  We no longer meditate, but we are in constant meditation.
Again, being in meditation is simple, not so easily practised.  In the meantime, let’s use what we have to help us in our practice.  Just don’t think too much about it!