Life has been weird lately. Stressful stuff, you know? We all go through these patches, and we all have our own tricks for getting to the other side. My old habit of powering through and just working harder has not been doing it for me lately though, and it became clear that I needed to do something different. As in slower and calmer. Not my strong area, slow and calm.
Over the years, I've been urged by plenty of friends to meditate. I've resisted in the past, but finally, out of desperation, decided to give it a try. I read books, sampled apps, downloaded music, and listened to guided meditations. I tried the sitting still kind. I tried the walking around kind. I tried counting my breaths. I tried focusing on my heart center. All of them gave me some degree of centered calmness, but none of them really resonated in a way that felt like it was meant for me. I could see that none of the standard methods were going to stick.
Then one day I was sitting at home knitting, and it hit me - tada! Knitting can be meditation too! A quick google search confirmed that I'm not the first one to think of this, and there are even books written on the subject. I ordered two of them - Mindful Knitting: Inviting Contemplative Practice to the Craft, by Tara Jon Manning (paperback), and Zen and the Art of Knitting: Exploring the Links Between Knitting, Spirituality, and Creativity, by Bernadette Murphy (on Kindle).
The books have helped me put a more intentional focus into my knitting when I want it to be a meditative thing. And even when I don't do that, I find I'm knitting more in social situations because I enjoy it so much, which in itself is calming, and even seems to sort of relax those around me.
There are several folks in our building now who want to get together for regular knitting nights. Sort of like a "stitch-n-bitch," but without the bitching. That kind of defeats the purpose of any sort of meditative practice. Instead, we'll call it stitch-n-dish, meaning the chit-chat kind of dishing, and also opening it up to bringing favorite food dishes to share, which further opens it up to being a vegan knitting kind of event. I like it!
My project of choice right now is about as simple as it gets. I don't want to get all wadded up in reading patterns and making complicated things like garments and socks. That would make it necessary to put my attention into the details rather than in the simple act of knitting. For me, it's more about the process than the product. With that as the focus, I make washcloths! They're small enough to carry around and work on anywhere, they're useful, and they're a really luxurious addition to bath time.
And to make it even better, I found some wonderful organic cotton yarns at our local yarn wonderland, Knit Purl. One of them is made by the Vegan Yarn company, and it's absolutely gorgeous to work with.
If you're on my gift list this year, you're very likely to get a set of washcloths and a nice bar of soap. You'll love them! They have a lovely zen-calm built into each and every stitch. I could call them Tranquility Infused washcloths. That's how nice they are.
Maybe right about now you're saying to yourself, Hey, no way am I ever going to take up knitting! OK. Fine. I hear it all the time. And while I don't understand some people's determined refusal to give it a shot, I also realize that not everything is for everyone. So maybe you'd rather try regular meditation to defuzz your sweet little frazzled stressball self. Yay! Do it! Here's a nice easy article to get you started: Using Guided Meditation for Anxiety.
Now back to knitting. If you feel the need for some simple de-stressing, and mainstream meditation is not your thing, consider the humble joys of sticks and string in your hands. For me, it's better than anything else I've tried.