Monday, November 9, 2009

Crafts and Spirituality

It has occurred to me, now that Halloween is past (sob!) and life is returning to normal, that I haven't spoken much about spirituality, religion, or - gasp! - even piracy. While the latter could have been taken care of by mentioning developments in Somalia waters (kidnappings and continued harassment of shipping) or even my almost dressing up as a pirate for One Ring's colleague's Halloween party (that was nixed due to the outrageous prices of costumes and my constant nitpicking about historical accuracy), to be honest nothing much is going on in the pirate fandom world to warrant a post from yours truly. However, in the world of my crafts and hobbies, much has been happening, and since these can be related to spirituality, I figured I'd go off on that for a while, as it's Monday and I don't feel much like working (and I'm only working a half day due to a doctor's appointment. Woot!)

Back in the dark ages, when I was training at a Catholic retreat center in the art of Spiritual Direction, I approached one of my instructors with an issue that kept coming up. Due to my ADD, bipolar disorder, over caffeinated state, or just being weird, I found it hard to sit in silence and empty my mind of thoughts. In fact, there are many nights where I am unable to sleep at all due to "racing thoughts." For those of you blessed enough to not experience this, here's what it's like: Go to your the electronics section of your local Target, Sears, or Wal-Mart. Then turn all of the televisions and radios to different stations, remembering to also crank the volume up. Then sit back and enjoy the chaos. Yep. On a bad day, that's what it's like inside my noggin'. I say this not to inspire pity or sympathy, but rather to set up the wisdom of my teacher's instructions.

So what my spiritual director (all SD candidates had to receive direction while in training) told me was this: in order to quiet the mind, do something while meditating that will keep your hands busy. He then asked what I do for fun. I answered, "Origami and candle making." he said, "Great. Meditate while you're folding or sitting out there watching the wax melt."

And that's what I do. Now that the weather's cooled off a bit, and the candle shop / garage (after destroying two kitchens, One Ring no longer lets me melt wax in the house!) is tolerable, I've been setting things up for the holiday season. I made two pumpkin scented pillar candles and experimented with textures - one is mottled and the other is rustic in nature. This week I need to make some container candles for my in-laws to give as gifts, and one of One Ring's colleagues also put in a request for one or two. Add to that the ones that I want to make for the Christmas season, and I'll be pretty busy.

When I'm not making candles, I use origami to calm my mind. I've posted pics of some of the folds I've completed at work, and I've also posted the Haunted Mansion paper model that I've been building. Both activities have really helped me get the "monkey mind," as the Buddhists call it, under control. The concentration required keeps me in the moment, where I can experience life as it is, here and now, without being distracted by memories of the past and hopes and fears of the future.

So here's some of what I've done recently:

The lotus is, of course, a Buddhist symbol of enlightenment. I recently found the diagram online, and after a few days of making mistakes, finally figured out what I was doing wrong and got it right (origami works like that sometimes!). After doing a small one at work, I folded a larger one out of a 12"x12" square of mulberry paper that I picked up from the scrap booking section of the local craft store. The finished lotus was large enough for me to put a tea light holder inside. I thought it turned out pretty cool.

I had to convince One Ring that there was no danger of fire, since the candle flame did not come into contact with the paper, and paper won't ignite until it reaches 451 degrees F (Hence the name of the famous book, for all you trivia types out there!).

If origami is not your thing, Lord knows there are plenty of other activities that can calm the mind enough to allow the spirit to move. One Ring and I used to work with polymer clay and created Christmas ornaments and even a whole nativity set. For one reason or another, this activity fell by the wayside when we moved from one location to another. Probably the stuff got packed away and we forgot about it. We might not even have our clay and books anymore. But after seeing these on Deviantart by Shiritsu, I may very well give it another go! I love her cartoonish representations of movie and Broadway characters.

By the way, although crafts are good ways to quiet the mind, there's no reason why you can't do them with other people. One Ring and I regularly have craft dates or try to take classes at the local craft store, and as you saw recently, held a pumpkin carving party. It's a good way to connect with people as well as with your inner self.

Okay, back to faking work (or folding something!). Peace.

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