Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

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!


  1. Wow! This is something to contemplate. I had to read it a couple of times to grasp what you meant. I don't spin so I can only imagine. After such a meditation, how do you feel? Refreshed? Peaceful?

  2. Accepting? I'm not sure--you don't look for changes, but changes happen over time. I do know that there is a difference between my ordinary fibre work and using it in meditation practice. It's not an easy thing to explain because it depends on the doing.
    You can use knitting as meditation practice, too.

  3. There are two things in this life that I seek but don't always find. Serenity and Tranquility. Maybe I need to try harder.

  4. Or stop trying, which would be the meditation path!