Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Random Yoga Magic: Ballooning Spiders &c.

I love random moments that feel like magic melded into the mundane elements of everyday life.

I had a few of these this week, already. It’s good. 

#1. I open the door to the room in my house where I practice yoga. Stepping in, my eye is immediately caught by the sight of a spider strangely suspended in midair.

It’s hovering halfway between the floor and the ceiling, right over my round blue meditation cushion.

I stop moving and watch, curious. The spider drops straight down, touches the meditation cushion, then bounces straight back up to where it was before. Suspended in midair. In the middle of a room. No web in sight.

How is it doing that? I peer closer.

I don’t see anything other than a tiny gossamer triangle suspended in midair a few inches above the spider. How is that there?, I wonder. Has the spider woven some sort of suspension mechanism from a speck of dust?

The spider floats. I stare.

Eventually, though, I decide that I just want to practice.

I move my mat away from the spider, who’s invaded my normal area. I decide to just let him be.

I start practicing. Next time I look behind me to check him out, he’s no longer in midair. I look up. Yup, he’s made it all the way up to the ceiling.

It’s an old house. That was pretty far. I don’t know how he managed. But it was impressive.

This feels like a triumph. Even though I normally recoil from “bugs” (ewwh, gross), I’m oddly happy for this strange feat.

I go back to practicing. Next time I look back to check, the spider’s nowhere to be found. Disappeared. Vanished. Gone without a trace.

I’m glad. It feels metaphorical. I think of the thread that I try to follow in my own life, in my own practice. It feels just as invisible as whatever that spider was suspended from. But just as vital. I hope that I’m moving up too. I think that I am.

It feels like a sign. 

#2. Later, I stumble into a post explaining that what I’ve seen is a “ballooning spider.”

From “Travelling on Gossamer Without Wings,” by Tom Turpin, Professor of Entomology at Purdue University:

Spiders sometimes fly. Not under their own power, of course, but by a process known as ballooning. Ballooning spiders hitch a ride on their silk as the breeze carries it. Spider silk floating on wind currents is known as gossamer. It has attracted attention for centuries. The word "gossamer" is an old English term, apparently based on a period of warm weather in November, known as goose summer. That was the time of year when geese were eaten. Late fall is also the time when ballooning spiders are most likely to be seen floating on the breeze.

Yes, it was a warm day in November. But who knew this was “goose summer”? I didn’t. And wtf was the spider doing inside the house, above my meditation cushion anyways?

(Besides giving me a magic sign, that is . . . )

 I read on. And yes: another strange synchronicity. Turpin quotes Whitman. Yep, old Walt, none other than the namesake of this blog:

A noiseless, patient spider, I mark'd where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark'd how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament out of itself:
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.
And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space.
Ceaselessly, musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them.
Till the bridge you will need be form'd, till the ductile anchor hold;
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

#3. I’m practicing next to a woman I’m friendly with in my regular weekly yoga class. She’s a teacher, too. This particular class is full of yoga teachers.

Doing minutely detailed variations of Bow. All of a sudden, there’s something that feels like an electric CRACK in the air next to me. But all I hear instead is this lovely woman next to me starting to cry, almost sobbing, and at the same time, amping up her Ujjayi breathing. Breathing slowly, steadily, strongly, powerfully. Sobbing, and breathing.

I think, this sounds like a heart breaking – and opening. It feels like an energetic body cracking open – and growing stronger. I go deeper into my own backbend, and feel my own chest and shoulders open. It feels like inches; it feels like a seismic shift; it feels like nothing special. Sobbing. Breathing.

Then everything shifts, and quiets. We finish class. Rolling up mats, our eyes meet. We pause, and hug. “It was nice practicing next to you today,” I say.

“You too,” she replies. “I’m glad you’re here.”

Yoga happens, I think. And then it’s on with the rest of the day. 


  1. And this is an abundant Thanksgiving offering. Blessings to you and the spiders. Blessings for friends and yoga and all those that came before us and blessings for all opportunities they and we offer to notice and think and love.Blessed be the poets and singers and the readers and those who sing along.
    Happy Thanksgiving with love

  2. In the midst of the turmoil of a daughter taken suddenly and seriously ill (but thankfully on the mend), caring for the rest of the clan, the approaching holidays, work, and trying to fit my two loves yoga and writing in the spaces in between, your post was an invitation to immediate stillness.

    Thanks, Carol

  3. Sweet, sweet post. I've just returned from a week-long yoga intensive where we were all holding each other as we cracked open. And some of us were floating, I think. Blessings to all and thanks giving to all.

    Thank you