Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Sunday, 4 March 2012

We Are One: Spinning to Calm the Roaring Spirit

File:Gandhi spinning 1942.jpg
Gandhi spinning on a book charkha, 1942, Wikimedia Commons public domain photograph

What is it about spinning yarn that makes it so appealing as a meditation practice?  Why are spinners, some famous like Mohandas Gandhi, others unknown, drawn to the rhythm of the wheel or spindle?

Spinning, like meditation, is about doing, not about theory (although one can certainly study both spinning and meditation).  If you want to meditate, you must meditate; if you want to spin, you must practice with spindle or wheel and fibre.  No amount of reading or mere inquiry will make you a meditator/yogi or a spinner. 

Like meditation, spinning is simple, not easily done well.  Meditation is more than sitting, more than reflection and much more than watching or controlling your thoughts.  Only a few yogis achieve emptiness, or still mind.  Only by lengthy, sustained practice will a spinner develop muscle memory, control and deep understanding to the point where she becomes one with her yarn.

If you are a karmayogi, like Gandhi, spinning can be a means of practical service.  Although we need not concern ourselves with the yarn forming when we meditate, the resulting yarn can be used to cloth ourselves and others, to provide care and comfort to people suffering.

The mechanics of spinning yarn are ideally suited to meditation, the practice of staying in the Now, being with your thoughts, yet not being your thoughts.  As Gandhi discovered, the whir and clicking of the charkha soothes the mind and brings peace to the spirit. (In his autobiography, Gandhi speaks of how the sound of ashram women spinning helped heal him from illness.)  Both spinning and meditation can calm the roaring mind; angry, upset, we sit or spin or practice both.  After a time, the anger settles, the upset decreases and we no longer feel that we are our emotions.

Meditation helps release attachment, to habits, to emotions, to the human condition. When we practice unsupported long draw, as required when spinning cotton at the charkha, we must maintain focus and a light touch. Spinning cotton is a practical reminder that attachment brings suffering-if our attention wanders, if we clutch the fibres, our yarn becomes sloppy or breaks.

When we spin, we are connected to a larger self, the part of us that is about spirit and community.  Spinning connects us to all spinners who have gone before us, who made possible the cloth that allowed humans to move across the planet, to stay alive.  Spinning connects us to communities here,  through shared experiences with local, national or international spinning circles. Like meditation, spinning can relieve us, if only for a moment, of our sense of being alone, lost in a sea of constant changes. In this way, spinning provides us with a tool to connect with the larger self that is found in meditation, whether we see that larger self as something within us or as a link to a universal whole.

The next time you sit down at your wheel or pick up your spindle, try spinning in meditative reflection.  Stay present (i.e., don't "zone out" or concern yourself with what the yarn will become) and focus on what is happening as your hands move, the fibre changes, the yarn forms.  Pay attention, the way you would were you meditating on a candle flame, and see if the rhythm of the spinning whorl as meditation/yoga practice helps to soothe the chatter of the whirling mind.

File:Gandhi spinning.jpg
Mohandas Gandhi spinning, late 1920's, Wikimedia Commons, public domain photograph


  1. A wonderful suggestion, I'll certainly try it tonight when I sit down to spin.

    1. You'll be amazed at how effective a little spinning meditation can be!

  2. I am so happy to have found your blog- through Ravelry - I am just getting back to spinning after being away from it for some time and this post has reminded me why I started spinning - mindful reflection. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here.

    1. Thanks so much for your kind comments. Spinning is my passion.