Sewing together

In the Western world yoga tends to be taught primarily as a fitness technique; but it originally evolved as a spiritual discipline designed to integrate mind, body and spirit.

The true purpose of yoga is well illustrated by a story told to me by my Jungian analyst, Dr Franz Elkisch, to whom I went over the course of some 23 years. When he retired we continued to meet as friends.

On one these occasions he told me shyly of one of his ‘successes’. Being a Catholic he was frequently sent monks, nuns, and priests who had problems. One particular nun was the bane of her community’s life, for anything she touched seemed to fall apart! She appeared totally dislocated.

Dr Elkisch lent her a book entitled Christian Yoga, by a French Cistercian, Père Dechanet. The Sister had been born and brought up in India, and the book immediately connected with her. With the permission of her Abbess, but unknown to the rest of the community, she began to meditate each day in her cell, seated cross-legged in the lotus position.

Time went by and then one day the community’s sewing machine, on which they were dependent for their living, broke down. This nun offered to see if she could make it work. ‘Oh no!’ they all chorused, ‘You will only make it worse!’

She gently insisted, however, sat down with the machine, worked on it patiently, and in a short while got it working again!

Not only did the community’s attitude towards her change, but she knew that she had finally integrated the different parts of herself, and was no longer pulling in different directions.

And so when we sit to meditate, whether on a chair or cross-legged on the floor, we meditate with our whole self – mind, body and spirit – sewing together the different aspects of our being.


One thought on “Sewing together”

  1. Interesting how this contrasts to what happens to us on the mobile phone or surfing. In fact, it’s argued our activity on the phone is training our brain to be, shall we say, dislocated. A recent academic study and a documentary on Boredom tell that boredom, little researched because it was thought to be a passive activity, is actually quite stressful. When bored the heart rate increases and stressor hormones are released into the system. This is exactly the opposite to what an activity such as sewing or knitting do for us. And it seems the analogy to sewing ourselves together is apt. In the 19th century there was a solution found for people who had very boring work. Amphetamines. After taking one, even turning a screw all day seemed to be meaningful work. Well, there’s a similar masking drug today. Yes, caffeine. So, this frantic surfing, checking the phone, whose physical touching gives us a small shot of dopamine, is a kind of dislocation, inability to settle on anything, and its disturbing to us. And significantly, it brings a sense of meaninglessness to what we do. We can mask it, make it feel that our life is meaningful with the drugs of our culture -the caffeine, even harder drugs, or the increasingly overstimulation of the experience of sports and entertainment. With some movies we leave the movie theatre thinking something important has happened for us, but really we’ve just been bombarded, and our senses are raw, and for that we think we done something. Or, an alternative, as we learn here week by week, is to be grounded, to experience a meaningful life by knitting together our lives, by focus and concentration, attention and rootedness. Funny, how I have to fight and struggle against my dominant social milieu, to resist it and find an alternative to the consumer, corporate-agenda driven culture about me, and make my peace in spite of it all.

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