Today I spent the day at the Village Renaissance Festival in Bucks County, PA. I’ve been a participant/performer at renfaires for about 13 years. While once I was a performer in a madrigal group, now I do demonstrations of weaving and spinning. Some interested (and some quite bored) children come around and their parents show them what I’m doing, and I explain how the process works and what the place of spinning or weaving was in history.
Today I brought my spinning wheel and I demonstrated spinning. A few times ladies said “that looks meditative”. Yes! I agreed wholeheartedly. To me it is an entirely un-boring activity. It is constant and requires a part of my attention, not always in a visual sense, but certainly in a tactile sense. With each draw and advance in the drafting zone I see a pile of soft fluff become a beautiful strong strand of yarn. It gives me a sense of fulfillment, but at a calm and even pace that allows me to relax into the moment.
I think I summed up the feeling it gives me in the haiku which is etched in the design on the side of my wheel:
The whirl of the wheel
Dreams turn to thread in my hands
Clouds become my yarn.
Most everyone engages in daily repetitive work. We all have to do it. Washing the dishes, mopping the floor, doing the laundry. Fulfilling our role daily to care for ourselves and our families. For most of my life, even now if I don’t actively monitor myself against the feeling, I’ve always thought that housework was something I had to rush through in order to have fun, in order to live my life. As though the activity was in the way of living my life. But it IS a part of my life. What I should be doing is allowing it to become a meditative activity, the same as my spinning. Enjoying the process, and allowing myself the pleasure of accomplishment in a small activity, and letting that pleasure move me through my next activity.
When I’m spinning fine yarn, as I am now, it can take a long time to get through 4 ounces of roving (combed fiber). If I were to look at that ball and think “oh no, how will I ever finish this?” I would freeze. If I put on myself the pressure of a deadline, I would unconsciously try to go elsewhere to “relax” and get away from that pressure, making the task of spinning that fiber last a long time, maybe even never finishing. But that’s how I handle all the other tasks in my life that I find “less pleasurable”, i.e., housework.
My house may be a mess. I may be overwhelmed by the list of tasks I need to do. But they won’t go away if I ignore them. And the tasks aren’t nearly as bad as I always think they are, even the stinky messy ones. But if I enjoy the act of whatever I do, as I am doing it, allow the work to be a chance at joyful meditation, it doesn’t matter how long it takes, or how much is left to do. And if I don’t stress over how much is left to be done, then I can move this mountain of housework, one pebble at a time.
Off to meditate over some dishes.