There’s a click and a whir, sometimes a clatter as I pull too tightly, a band jumps and a mousetrap releases, bringing the process to a halt. When my touch is light, no grasping, no clinging, when the rhythm flows, that thin line forms smoothly, twisting, twisting, from point to my fingers. A slight flick and the line moves, past the point, to be held securely until it is needed again. Back and forth, up and down, my hand guides the line and the line guides me, until I feel my breath soften, my heart open and I am calm again.
I am spinning cotton fibres on my charkha. It’s a hot summer day and I am sitting on my front step, watching the thread form, sitting in awareness of my task and the world around me. A sparrow hops over, head cocked, paying close attention to the being doing that strange thing. I greet her. She watches and then flits away, on to more exciting things. Back and forth goes my left hand, right hand turning the wheel, up and down, as fibres pull from the mass and form a sturdy thread. I am spinning cotton.
Mohandas Gandhi knew the power of charkha, using that simple tool to turn the world’s attention to his country people’s plight. Day after day, he, his wife and their followers sat at charkha, spinning and spinning, taking thread to loom to weave the khadi cloth that became a symbol of liberation. When day’s work was done, Gandhi moved back to charkha for meditation practice. That click and whir soothed his soul, healed his body and calmed his mind.
I sit, too. There are no great plans of liberation, no cloth to weave, no goal for the thread that glides through my fingers, although ideas will surely come. If I cling, to my fibres, to an outcome, if my attention drifts away from the moment, the line snaps and things fall apart. The clatter of non-attention snaps me back to my task and I must begin again.
I am spinning cotton. My charkha practice is simply That and I am That, held gently to the wheel and its history by the string that shapes from the cloud of cotton fibres held softly, lightly in my left hand, as my right hand turns the wheel, as the fibres slip and a thin line forms smoothly. All is well.