I’ve been meditating pretty regularly for the past six months, and I can honestly say, it’s been life altering. I’m quite confident that I’d be a much grumpier and less accepting person without this 10- or 15-minute daily practice.
Am I completely mellow all the time? Nope. Do I glide through each day radiating goodness and light? Ha!
But my ability to experience life’s ups and downs as they come to me — and as they spin around in my mind — with a bit more distance and curiosity and with less judgement or baggage, has definitely improved.
There are loads of meditation apps available, but I’ve landed on Headspace, which my brother Michael introduced to me. It’s completely accessible and easy to use. The voice of the founder, Andy Puddingstone (a fascinating man in his own right), is reassuring and encouraging.
“We can’t change every little thing that happens to us in life, but we can change the way that we experience it.”Andy Puddingstone, Headspace
I’ve long thought that knitting is a kind of meditation: the repetitive movements, the counting of stitches, or quiet chanting of a stitch pattern — “knit into front and back, knit two, slip-knit-passover, knit one, knit two together, knit two, knit into front and back” (the chevron pattern of my current sock project).
If you’re concentrating on a pattern, the mind’s chitter-chatter of thoughts has to take a backseat — at least for while.
Of course, I’m not alone in this. There are scientific studies that show the mental and physical benefits of handcrafts. No less than Harvard’s Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine has found that knitting, with its repetitive motions and focus, can elicit the body’s relaxation response, the opposite of the “fight or flight” response.
One of the things that I love about knitting is that it’s both a social and a solitary craft. You can knit while talking with friends even those who aren’t knitting. We knitters do have friends and family who don’t share our craft. Yet.
Much of my knitting over the past year has been essentially solitary. While I’m sitting with Mom for at least several hours each day, we’re not chatting much at all since her ability to speak or make sense of conversation has diminished.
My mind can easily slip into a state of worry about things large and small — will my client like my latest edits? why didn’t I handle that last conversation with [insert family member’s name here] better? will our democracy survive? what does that warning light in the car mean? I honestly wonder how I’d maintain my generally positive spirits if I didn’t have knitting.
I found out earlier this week, when I ran out of yarn shortly after arriving at Mom’s apartment. I’d forgotten to toss the other ball of sock yarn into my bag before I left home. As I worked my last few rounds, I recalled my meditation practice, breathed deeply, and settled in for the rest of the afternoon.