Spinning Light Bulbs and the Mindful Now

I so seldom write to this blog. Besides, does anyone read blogs anymore? We are so inundated with online musings into the ether. But when life has compelled the muse, as it has for me recently, I think that writing musings into the “ether” is better than writing nothing at all. So here comes another post into the World Wide Web as another year comes to a close…

Wheel-imageThe idea for this post came to me after teaching a beginning spinning class this fall. The class was proceeding fine. As usual, the common expressions of angst and anxiety occurred just before “light bulbs” started going off. (The Light Bulb moment in spinning is when body and mind join as one and real yarn starts to emerge.) But this time, just as that moment of enlightenment came upon them, a few students became obsessed with the over-twisted yarn on their bobbins. As soon as they stopped spinning in concern over these over-twisted “pigtails” in their spun yarn, their light bulbs turned off and progress came to an immediate halt. They experienced a self-constructed roadblock made of internal voices saying: “It’s not perfect”!

I’m not sure why some in this class displayed such a strong reaction to their “lack” of perfection except that perhaps our culture has become more concerned with the goal of creating a final product and less concerned with the process of simply making. When the mind becomes obsessed with the past (how it should have been better according to past expectation thinking), the present disappears. But it’s in the present—that “now” place—where all past deeds are washed away with fresh thought and action. (You could say that “now” is really the only thing that IS real since it’s now.) Because the students were focused on expectations, they could only see what was wrong and were blind to what was actually happening—in a positive way—in the present. Even though the past was only a few minutes or even seconds ago, it was still not the reality of what they were making in the “now.” And what was in their hands at the time of their loss of the light of reality was fine work!

Thinking in the reality of “now” is found in the practice of mindfulness. Spinning is an activity that brings manifestation to the practice of mindfulness. Its action happens in real time, in the “now,” and the creation of material (yarn) is the immediate result. It’s not surprising that these students were struggling since they were so oblivious to seeing the good work that really existed in the present in their own hands. They were fighting with reality!

I am very interested in the strong connection between spinning and the mindfulness state. In fact, because of its “now” centeredness, I believe spinning is a wonderful outlet to practice MBSR (mindfulness based stress reduction). MBSR is a practice that we can all benefit from during this, often stressful, time of year. It encourages present moment focus. It can be a tool in pain management, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) treatment, and in other life-coping situations. It’s a meditative practice for healing as it puts our minds into the real world that only exists NOW with each breath we take. It puts anxiety of the past or future aside, as those states cannot exist in conjunction with the present moment.

Spinning is such a great MBSR activity—if only we can put aside ego and the expectations that accompany our desire for perfection. The over-twist that just happened a few moments ago no longer matters. That’s in the past. Look at what is in your hands NOW. Put your effort into this moment, place, and time, as that is the clay—the yarn—of the future. The past pulls you onto the bobbin but it doesn’t define what you can do NOW or what the rest of your unspun fiber might become. Focus more on the fiber in your hands and worry less about what was wrong in the past. Consider the potential of your fiber as it comes into the draft but focus on the twist in your hands. This is where spinning lives. It is mindfulness in action! You will be amazed at how much better your spinning will become when you spin in the now—in the mindful now.

For 2015… fiber spinners (and non-spinners), may you find peace in the eternal moment within your own hands.

[To learn more about the subject of mindfulness, I recommend any books written or edited by Jon Kabat-Zinn.]


About wendyj-sagahill

I am a textile artist, designer, and author.
This entry was posted in "Yarn Works" book, MBSR, Spinning yarn and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Spinning Light Bulbs and the Mindful Now

  1. candykettle says:

    I was so fortunate to have attended one of your spinning classes this past year. I felt that mindfulness towards the end of the class. My hope is to own a spindle of my own this year and spend some time in the “state of spinning”.


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