Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Going to the Country: Off We Go!

This will be my last post until I return from Olds Fibre Week.  I'm planning to use my free time there as a bit of a retreat, so I'm leaving laptop and phone at home ( landlines don't travel well).  In the interest of full disclosure, I will be taking my IPod to use in classes and the camera is packed, so I should have lots of photographs of our trip.

I'm taking a few yoga classes before I leave.  Last night, I attended Sarah's C.A.T./Critical Alignment Therapy class (click on the name for the link).  Scott was teaching; he led us through a series of breathing exercises and slow, focused movements designed to realign our spines, relax  our muscles and bring energy and renewal to mind and body.

It was wonderful.  At one point, I felt as my body was floating away and I knew that I was perfectly well, that my body knew how to heal itself and that I was doing exactly what I should to help it.  I suspect I'll add this class to my list of "must do's."

The C.A.T. class made me realize how tight our muscles become when we sit in chairs, lean over a wheel to spin or repeat the motions required to whirl our spindles.  We need something to counter those efforts, to restore some balance to our bodies and our minds.

Yoga, with its meditative focus, is rather like plying yarn.  Just as we balance the twist in yarns by moving them together carefully in opposition to their spinning direction, yoga realigns body and mind, uniting the two into a stronger whole.  Slow, methodical movements take us out of the rush of our day, just as a slow, steady plying rate soothes our spirit, evens our threads and makes for better-balanced yarns (and spinner).

I'm off to a final class this evening.  I'm not sure what I'll take.  There is a Yoga for Backs, which I haven't tried and a Level I Yoga which would provide a good pre-travel stretch.  I think I'll just go with what feels like the right choice when I arrive.

Take care, everyone, and enjoy the Solstice!


Photograph from Google Public Domain Images

Monday, 18 June 2012

Isn't It Ironic? Misadventures in Mindfulness Preparation

I'm getting there.  I've packed and unpacked, then repacked.  My front hallway is filled with suitcases, bags and containers.  One of the suitcases is filled with personal supplies; there's a Princess Auto Tool Bag stocked with spindles, reading material, road trip supplies/purse and the rest belongs to the classes at Fibre Week.  I'll do a last minute check tomorrow evening and we'll head out on Wednesday morning for the ten day stay at Olds College.

Right now, I'm out the door to pick up my did-the-best-they-could-in-a-short-time repaired glasses.  The technician explained that they've held the dislocated arm onto the lens as well as can be expected, but they really need to send them away to be properly fixed.  I can take them with me, but do I have a spare pair?  (Yes, I do.  They're on my nose right now.  They're too strong, but if I didn't have them, I'd have to stay in one place because I couldn't navigate out of a chair.)

In case anyone thinks people who meditate are immune to carelessness, my plight with the broken glasses disproves the theory.  I really can't see past the end of my nose, to the point where I need glasses to get in and out of the bathtub.  Once I'm in, the glasses rest on the mat beside the tub.  I've done this for years.  I'm careful to remind myself that the fate of my visionary self rests on the floor.  My concentrated efforts have worked.  I've scratched and broken eyewear over the years, but never during morning ablutions.  (I've always wanted to work "ablutions" into a sentence.)

Until Saturday.  I was rushing around, worrying, anxious about whether I've packed everything I need for the classes, whether or not I'll know what to do and say when I'm there, wondering if I'll even have students. I thought I'd have a relaxing, restorative soak.  It would have been, it was-until I stepped out of the tub, right onto the arm and lens of my spectacles.

Oh, my.  (Those are exactly the words I used.  That's my story.)

Shelley, the optical technician, is a wonderful, kind being.  She soothed my annoyance at my carelessness, sighed over the damage and promised to do her best to have my glasses ready before I left town.  She's kept her promise, although she's doubtful that this will be a long term repair. The inconvenience is a reminder that not being mindful has consequences and that, no matter how much I meditate, I will always struggle to stay attentive and in the moment.

I'm going to resist the urge to give Shelley a great big hug and kiss.  I'm not sure she'd appreciate more than a hearty thanks.  So here it is-THANK YOU, SHELLEY.  I am most grateful for your efforts.


P.S.  My glasses are safely perched on my nose.  I have an estimate for a proper spare pair.  As they were making adjustments, Shelley asked, "What are you teaching?"  Head down, muttering under my breath, I replied, "Um, would you believe 'mindfulness meditation?'"  Shelley, the other optician and the customer next to me were more than a little amused.

Oh, my.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Come. Come As You Are. As You Were. As You Wanted To Be.

People are asking lots of questions about the yoga/meditation classes at Olds Fibre Week. Questions are good; I welcome them and you can not have too many of them, so ask away. The thing is, there is not much I can tell you about what will happen because, like spinning, yoga/meditation is about doing.  

Think about how you learned to spin.  You many have talked to people about the process, done some reading about spinning's history and techniques, watched DVD's or YouTube videos, but it wasn't until you held spindle and fibres in your hands or sat down with fibres at a wheel that your adventures with hand spun yarn began.  Spinning may have been exactly what you expected.  It may have been something completely different.  Your skills may have been there right off the mark or you may have struggled and struggled.  None of that mattered.  You were curious about spinning, wanted to learn and so you did.  You may have discovered that spinning your own yarns didn't suit you, but at least you learned more about how yarns were and are made than most people know.  Somehow, with intent and practice, you became a spinner.

Yoga/meditation is that.  Jon Kabat-Zinn encourages anyone who is curious about meditation to make the effort to practise because, he insists, that if you are drawn to meditation even a little bit, it's no accident.  Something is calling you and you should pay attention.  There's no magic in meditation.  We're not looking for anything.  We don't have to practise in any particular way, except to put sincere effort into what we do.  Meditation may help you.  In fact, sustained meditation practice likely will help you, but there's no guarantee.   

If there's nothing to do and nowhere to go with meditation, why work with a teacher?  Again, think of spinning.  Traditionally, you would learn to spin by sitting near a spinner, watching her and imitating her movements.  You did this over and over and over until something clicked and you had moments of spinning clarity.  You can learn to spin on your own. Many people have done this, but I have yet to meet a single spinner who wasn't helped by a teacher in a workshop or class, no matter how much self-guided study she had.  

You can learn to meditate on your own, but I find it's much easier to sustain practise and attention if you work with someone who also practises.  It's not that your meditation teacher is a better person than you or knows more about anything than you do-I certainly do not!-but, sometimes, it's easier to take a journey if you have a bit of companionship.

Spinning involves much twisting and whirling of whorls.  With too much twist, your yarn becomes tighter and tighter until you can't straighten it and, potentially, it becomes unworkable (but fixable). It's easier to work with balanced yarns. Meditation is like that.  You're not broken, but sometimes the mind won't stop twisting and turning.  It needs a bit of balance.  In meditation we work with whorls of whirling mind, rather than whorls of string.  Like spinning, meditation is simple, although sometimes it's not easy.   

If you're at all curious about this combination of spinning/yoga/meditation, I encourage you to drop in to a session, despite any hesitancy you may have. In reality, you can only come as you are and start from there. Here's another thing that Kabat-Zinn points out about meditation: in order for the practice to have benefits, you don't have to like it, you just have to do it. 

Practice won't add to the heavy workload some of you will have during Fibre Week.  You won't give up meals, shopping or any of the social events scheduled there.  You may find that you'll be refreshed and raring to go after a session.  You may be relaxed and more focused for the homework you must submit in other courses.  You may experience none of these things. We may not attain Nirvana with meditation, but we may find moments of peace and quiet.

Or not.  Namaste.

P.S.  This must be one of the reasons the "Straw into Gold" tales came in existence.  I'm spinning 80/20 silk/Merino top which I dyed last summer with dried marigolds from Richard's garden:

P.P.S.  Spellcheck keeps insisting on changing "spinners/spinning" to "sinners/sinning."  Hmmmm.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

On The Road Again: Packing For Fibre Week 2012

See this?

This is most of the stuff I need for my yoga/meditation classes and Heart Like a Wheel workshop at Olds College Fibre Week 2012.  (That suitcase is sitting on a bin of fibres.  The blanket covers a stack of books.  The inside of the suitcase is packed with a strange combination of props and spinning equipment.  I'm not telling you why I'm bringing the pool noodles.  You'll have to come to the classes.)

I haven't begun to pack my personal things, which will involve another (smaller) suitcase, a few cooking supplies and personal projects.  I'll be staying in Olds for 10 days.  My teaching is over on Wednesday, but my drivers have classes until Friday, so I would not want to run out of things to do.  Ahem.

That is, if they still let me ride along with them.  I'm simply excess cargo--I don't drive, so I can't help with that and I'm told that chatting on and on tends to distract the driver, which I'd prefer not to do.  I did warn Susie and Hilary that I had quite a bit of stuff to drag along and they assured me that this wouldn't be a problem.  That may change if they read this blog post.

See this?

This is the fibre room I just cleared out by doing a massive yarn destash and organization.  I've been going through the exercises for each class and the workshop, deciding what would best suit experienced spinners who may not have practised meditation and who probably haven't deliberately combined fibre work, yoga and meditation into one glorious (I hope) experience.

That room is not messy.  My space is not cluttered.  I prefer to think of it as fluid and flexible.  Yes, that's it, fluid and flexible.


Thursday, 7 June 2012

Little Cotton String Thing

It's here!

The Summer Issue of Spin-Off magazine arrived in my mailbox yesterday.  I've been a bit anxious for its arrival, because I have a piece published in this edition.  I wrote the Back Page Essay, "Little Cotton String Thing," a reflection on what hand spinning yarns means to me.  If you get a chance, please check it out and let me know what you think.  

This is a great magazine for anyone interested in making thread.  (I have every copy ever printed, going back to 1978, I believe!)  It's helpful for beginners and usually has several in-depth articles to please the more experienced.  This issue has three Canadian contributors, so we're well-represented.

Thank you, Spin-Off editors, for the opportunity to reach a wider audience with my writing, and thanks to everyone who reads the magazine and my article.


Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The Wind It Blows

We had the windows open all night and I lay in bed listening to the wind blow through trees, around houses and down the street.  It was lovely, soothing and I was reminded of something one of my meditation teachers told us, years ago, when she was trying to explain the essence of what we were examining in meditation practice: "Think of the wind, blowing through a canyon.  We're not interested in the rocks; we're only interested in the wind."

I thought that was a wonderful description of our search and I think of it often, when everything seems like a struggle and I'm forever slamming against metaphorical rocks.

I finished the sweater I knit for the Spin to Knit class, just in time for those howling winds and 30C heat.  I spent Monday weaving in what seems like a million and four ends (there was a lot of yarn blending going on in this garment, despite what those stripes may say otherwise).  I washed the sweater on the Knit cycle in my washing machine, then let the garment dry on my blocking table.  I don't usually pin out sweaters, but I did a bit of pinning here and there, just to even things up.  Here she is in her present incarnation:

People from the Spin to Knit class may notice a few changes.  I reknit the collar and bottom hem in different yarn, with a shallow tubular ribbed edging. I left the stripy sleeve as it, as a reminder of what happens when you freeform things.

I mentioned in class that the sweater would grow a size when I washed it in my machine.  This seems a curious thing, especially when the yarn is a softly spun Blue-faced Leicester, but the combination of my spinning techniques and the fact that I'm a loose knitter makes my garments relax when I finish them, so I plan for this in the knitting.  Your results may vary, so I don't recommend taking my word for this with your own knitting, but here are the before and after measurements for this sweater:

  • Body Circumference Before Washing 32 inches; After Washing 34 inches
  • Body Length From Back Neck Before Washing 19.5 inches; After Washing 22 inches
  • Sleeve Length From Underarm 16 inches; After Washing 17 inches
The plan,such as it was, was to knit a simple, cozy pullover to ease the summer evening chill.  I think this sweater will do that.  The yarn was spun with no plan in mind, so it's a bit soft for durability.  I expect the sweater to pill.  The sleeves are a bit too long, which is better than too short, so I think I'll leave them as is.  The body length is good, but the shallow hem may flip up when I wear the sweater.  If it does, I'll cut it off and reknit the bottom edge. 

So there you have it--my Spin to Knit project, a warm, useful sweater which will win no prizes or draw much attention.  It makes me happy. What more can I ask for from a simple project?