Monday, April 28, 2014

Felting Stones as a First Chakra Meditation

I'm excited and honored to be teaching another SFEtsy sponsored craft event at the Museum of Craft and Design in San Francisco.  Last time we played with needle felting colorful mushrooms.    This time we are going to make a big, soapy mess as we use our hands to wet-felt beach stones. 

This wet-felting project is a quick, simple and easy process that can be learned by anyone.  While I plan to teach this as a straight-forward craft project, I wanted to write a little bit about the original conception of this project as it relates to my yoga therapy practice.

The previous blog post is a more in-depth look at the yogic chakra system, but just to review, one way to look at the chakra system is to realize it is an energetic map of where we store and process emotions in different places in our body.  In that sense, there's nothing especially mystical about it.  We all know we feel love at our heart center (fourth chakra), that our insight is in our head (sixth chakra), that certain emotions make us feel"choked up" (fifth chakra) and that we feel butterflies in our stomach where our center of confidence is (third chakra).  And we speak of feeling "ungrounded" or uprooted when we experience certain types of trauma or stress.

The root/1st chakra (Muladhara) is associated with the color red and the element of earth, of feeling grounded, and with our feeling of "the right to be here."  It's connected to our relationship with money, security, and home.   It's this idea of the "right to be here" that ultimately inspired me to choose this earth-element root chakra project for the event at the Museum of Craft and Design. 

It's not news to anyone living in San Francisco that there's a wide spread sense of insecurity about the "right to be here."    Almost all of us know someone who has been displaced, literally pushed out of their home by soaring rents, or worse, evicted by real estate speculators exploiting the Ellis Act to push long term tenants out, and hiking rents to ridiculous rates ($3200 studio apartments anyone?) to feed the beast of the Silicon Valley gold rush. 

Even if you aren't personally on the verge of getting pushed out of your city and your home, it's difficult for sensitive citizens to not feel the first chakra anxieties that are permeating San Francisco right now.  I would say it's even experienced by the new wave of affluent tech workers who feel the resentment here, or see the protests against the Google buses for example.  There's no security in feeling resented by the city you've moved to just because of the field you are in. 

From the perspective of yoga therapy, there are a number of ways to ease root chakra anxieties and imbalances.  Authentic movement, tribal dance, grounding yoga asanas/poses, specific breathing practices, gardening, or going for a barefoot walk on the beach are all tremendously therapeutic and grounding. 

I have found the art and craft of felting to be healing in many different ways and it has been a natural progression to want to find ways to consciously apply this in my practice of yoga therapy to help others experience this.  Felting beach stones is just one example
The Sanskrit/symbol for Muladhara, the root chakra

In felting beach stones, you will experience the earthy heaviness of the stone in your hand.  You can direct your attention to the soothing calmness of that weight in your hand as you select the stone you want to work with. 

Other elements are present as well.  Feel the light, airy wool between your fingers as you direct those energies of the heart into the work you are creating.  The element of fire, the heat of your confident solar plexus in the "fire" that is used to heat the water we use.  Consciously breathe as you work, feeling that heat in your hands and direct that confidence and heat into the stone and into your root chakra as you work.  And the water itself, that second chakra sense of desire, passion and sexual energy, water, the sensual way we move our body, the blood flowing in our veins. 

Do this work meditatively.  See the colors and the wool, working the wool mindfully around the stone.  Feel the heat of fire in your hands, and the sensual slippery way the water lets the wool transform into soft, protective felt around the heavy stone.  Notice the calm, grounded and centered way this work makes you feel.

And later, keep the stone in a place that is meaningful to you.  And when you are feeling stressed out, ungrounded or anxious, pick it up, feel that weight and that softness, and remind yourself that whatever life hands you, the ground is always beneath your feet, feeding and nourishing you with its energy, and that as a creature of earth, YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO BE HERE.

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