I have been… not really inspired, exactly… but the gentler form of inspired (is there such a word?) by Tara Jon Manning‘s mindful knitting. For some reason, mindfulness has been a recurring subject/issue/thing in my life. I can recall distinctly episodes of serenity, usually while in contemplation of the thing I was making, completely absorbed in the making of the thing, aware but at peace with the furor of my surroundings. One such episode occurred when I was trying to learn to spin. I remember coming home from a class, stopping to pick up Chris from work, and standing in the parking lot spinning for a good 20 minutes, just spinning with my newbie bottom-whorl spindle. Every time I think about spinning since, I remember that time. Spinning has centered me once or twice since–it doesn’t sound like a lot, but that’s because I don’t allow myself to spin much.
Why? Because I feel the need to be not only busy, but productive. And spinning (in my case) is not productive. It is something I do purely for the enjoyment and the process. Other activities are enjoyable (though they don’t usually give the same sort of calm) and productive, or just productive, and because I can tack that “p” word on, they are more worthwhile, somehow.
Funny, how I find that I even have to step back and remind myself that staying at home with my son is a worthwhile activity, even though I’m not producing something each day that I can show for my work. “Absorbing a further understanding of give-and-take” and “20 new vocabulary words” aren’t things of which one can take a picture and post to Flickr. Is that what it is about, really? Having something to show other people? In which case, why? What is it that other people can offer to me that would increase my enjoyment or understanding of the process and, if applicable, the thing itself? Do my socks feel nicer, when someone else is there to say, “ooh, nice socks”?
It’s easy to criticize the need for positive feedback. I’m a social construct as much as the next person (except for Kharold, for whom I take all blame), and I want to know that I’m not going to be kicked out of the cave and left for the lions to eat. Recognition of status and of usefulness to the tribe is important on a lot of levels. But it is difficult sometimes to remind myself that this recognition is not all that there is, and more than that, that the ones doing the recognizing do not always know what is being sought from them (or what it is that they are judging). Such pressure! Such telepathy! Neighbors, friends, and family, it is in your hands to establish the mood I carry today. The power is yours to make me feel fragile, fractious, or self-satisfied. All based on your response to the fact that I produced a physical object (or mopped my floor) (in which latter case Kharold feels that accolades are in order and should be forthcoming without prodding at all).
So back to mindfulness.
What I found, when I spun, was that I wasn’t concerned with the length of yarn I spun. I wasn’t concerned with how much was wound upon the spindle or for how long I stood. I drafted, I spun the spindle, I wrapped, I engaged in a dance with a handful of wool, literally, twisting my body from side to side and around. Completely absorbed. (In the parking lot, remember? Absorbed.) In the last week or two, ideas and reading materials have crossed my path such that the idea of mindful activity (versus activity for the sake of getting-it-done) has become a focus for me. Often, when I become interested in a new idea or path it becomes something of blazing interest, in which a dozen URLs are open at the same time and I am too excited about it to sleep. This is what I mean by not-quite-inspired… The URLs are limited. I’ve read a bit of Pema Chodron, a bit of Sharon Salzberg. I’m trying, somewhere between Chaos and Busy, to find a bit of quiet time. I took a walk by myself yesterday, for the first time in months. Something tells me that if I’m to allow a new idea to sprout and grow, a fiery birth isn’t going to work this time.
Maybe it’s time to dust off my spindle?