In preparation for my upcoming class on Breath and Meditation, I've been re-reading Jon Kabat-Zinn's Coming to Our Senses. Kabat-Zinn tells us that we become what we practise: anxiety begets anxiety, anger begets anger and so on. Our brains process emotions, physical experiences, information that we absorb and then our brains rewire so that whatever draws our attention becomes what we seek. I see this most obviously in the pull that "social media" has on us-go for a walk and notice how many people are on the streets, texting, talking on their phones, earbuds in, attention to their surroundings off. Stand on a corner and count the drivers in passing vehicles, cellphones in one hand, eyes not on the road. Go for coffee and watch how many people check their devices in the middle of conversations, or stranger yet, sit in a group, playing with electronics, with nary a word spoken among it. What is so important that it leaves us unable to communicate with one another? As far as I can tell, it's not issues that might require thoughtful attention and discussion; rather, we are caught up in the latest celebrity scandal, the current fashion, the fluff that skims the surface.
I'm as guilty of these practices as the next person-the main reason that I don't have a cell phone is that I'm afraid I'll never put it down. I'm quite fond of my laptop and I waste a lot of time following unimportant things. Because of that, I gave myself permission to withdraw for a while, to return to basics, to act, rather than react. Today, I did this:
|Dyes from top left to right: walnut hulls in iron pot; indigo and walnut hulls; indigo second bat;, lac, indigo, walnut and lac; fustic; top dyed with lac with walnut in iron pot. yarns in basket dyed with marigolds, alum; walnut hulls.|
That dvd arrived yesterday. In it, Nilda Callanaupa Alvarez talks to Linda Ligon (founder of Interweave Press) about spinning traditions in Nilda's home near Cusco, Peru. Andean women use spindles like the one to the left of the dvd to spin some of the best wool and alpaca yarn in the world, from which they knit and weave exquisite, durable textiles. Those spindles are the only tools they have-anything else required for their work involves using their hands and feet. They spin and spin and spin-all day, every day, while attending to the necessities, cooking, cleaning, child care. The wonderful colours of the yarn balls on the dvd cover come from the dyes they produce themselves, usually from natural sources. Nothing is wasted; every bit of usable fibre is knitted, woven or made into ropes. Tiny bits of yarn are burned so that the spirits don't find them and make the spinner lazy.
Inspired by this, I've been practising on my Peruvian spindle (courtesy of my friend, Coleen). It's kicking my butt. I spin quite well, but working with raw wool, in the way Nilda demonstrates, is outside my comfort zone. I'm used to commercially prepared fibres, with much of the work already done for me. I spin on designer spindles made by expert woodworkers, rather than carving one for myself (although I do have a stick I picked up in the park that gets used once in a while).
Again inspired by Nilda, I spent today (thank you, cooler temperatures!) using up some bits of natural dyestuffs that I've had in storage. As you can see from the photograph, the colours are subdued, compared to the vivid hues you can get from proper amounts of dyestuffs, but they're still nice, subtle and suitable for the knitter I have in mind.
After spending several weeks feeling overwhelmed, I feel myself settling. Nilda says that, when spinners have a bad day, they turn their attention to their spinning and it calms them "like a meditation." Jon Kabat-Zinn says, "we need to get simpler, not more complicated." What we seek is not inside this computer, that device, the tracking of the latest "controversy." What we seek, what we know, is this:
Taking up the challenge of waking up to our lives and being transmuted by wakefulness itself is its own form of yoga, the yoga of everyday life, applicable in any and every moment (Coming to Our Senses, p. 91).
Not only to we need to, in the words of Ram Dass, "Be Here Now," we need to Stay Here Now. Once in a while, step out of the vortex of social media. You don't have to practise fibre arts or yoga or anything else in particular. Simply, Engage.