Tie dye is a good metaphor for my life. I think I can control it, but I can’t. Not really. I try, but it does its own thing. I can fold and tie garments to create certain patterns, vary colors and thickness of the dye, and attempt to create what I see in my head. Nope. It rarely happens. The dye will travel on the damp cloth to unexpected places, colors will blend and break at odd times. The final product is always a surprise. I have found that people and life events act much the same way.
If you are of a meditative frame of mind, tie-dye is a good exercise in letting go. When I am on the cushion watching my breath I never know what is going to come up and what I am going to have to face just as I never really know how my tie-dye will turn out. I often start out with a shirt and an expectation of the finished product. I often enter into a meditation session expecting/ wanting a certain outcome.
I plop my butt on my cushion, set the timer, and settle in and hope to come out of my session a little bit closer to enlightenment. Most often I end the session with numb feet as memories and emotions surface and the monkey mind chatters away. I focus on my breathing, counting breaths, and suddenly discover I have lost count. I start over and over and over. Sometimes I end the session crying, other times laughing, often merely relieved that I got through it.
Dying can be like that. The studio in the garage can be uncomfortably hot and dying is a messy proposition anyway. I fold and tie a shirt, plop it on the rack over the sink, pick up a bottle of dye and apply it. Sometimes my hand shakes, sometimes the dye comes out of the bottle too fast or not fast enough, sometimes I am distracted by other things and put the dye in the wrong place or pick up the bottle of dark blue when I wanted black. I prep a certain number of garments to dye in one session and I set a timer for the number of minutes I want to meditate. There are days when I get to the end of the stack and am happy it is over because the dye, like my thoughts, was not doing what I wanted it to do.
Just as the effects of meditation will carry over once your session has ended, dyed garments have to “cook” for a while in order for the dye to bind with the fibers. After the “cooking” period the garments are washed out to remove excess dye. Life events can “washout” the endorphins produced by the meditative state. Dying creates permanent changes to a garment and regular meditation creates permanent changes to the brain. Both processes are sloppy and messy and emotional.
The chaos in a dye studio is not obvious to someone buying a shirt at a festival and the chaos of meditation is not obvious to someone who is not on the cushion. Colorful garments flapping in the breeze do not seem to have anything in common with a blank-faced someone sitting still.
But the process is the same. I have to let go of my expectations of what the combination of dye and fiber will do as I have to let go of the emotions and memories that surface when I sit and my expectations of what life will bring me. There is peace in that. Giving up the constant need to control what is happening, whether it be in dying or human interactions creates enormous freedom and makes room for boundless joy.