Meditation in Knitting

Soft bulky yarn in my favorite colors. Bamboo circular needles, size 10. A mug of tea (Darjeeling). Rays from a mellow winter sun. Cat purring nearby. A need to calm the incessant chattering of my monkey mind. These are ingredients for an impromptu meditation.

I’ve learned enough along this road to grab the moment when I can. Used to be, I’d need to do this thing right: all the proper accessories like candles and incense, timers and chimes, guided imagery, another retreat, more classes in meditation, rules.

It had to be perfect.

But then a phone would ring, or the cat jumped into the middle of my solar plexus, knocking the spiritual wind out of me. The candle kept guttering and my Tibetan singing bowl CD skipped.

I’d set up a regular meditation schedule and immediately begin making excuses for not following it. Days turned into weeks, and the guilt built up into too many layers to take off.

Inside my head, there was a constant stream of demanding desires, home movies made from worry, a nagging attention deficit with an urge to be somewhere else. I was taught to acknowledge these visitors and let them go. There were so many, though.

And the hands. Always fidgeting, or hanging on for dear life. Chant beads let my fingers count the ways to serenity. Crystals grounded me or sent me off into outer space. All valid and worthy, but more like special-occasion, exotic fare than daily comfort food for the soul.

Enter my grandmother. During a lazy Sunday afternoon when I was little, she taught me to crochet my first starting chain. One of the rare women of her day who “worked outside the home,” her domestic side took the form of sewing, needlework and crocheted afghans for the family.

I still have mine, even though the wool makes me itch and it’s that 1970s shade of gold (to match my bedroom’s shag carpeting).

Years later as a SAHM in the ’90s, I revisited the yarn arts and taught myself how to work the old half double, leading to years of gifting afghans to anyone who stood still long enough. And yes, there was one for my daughter, which she still uses.

Besides keeping me occupied during year-round TV sports weekends and late afternoons waiting for grownup conversation to come home from the office, I found tranquility in the rhythm of a crochet hook and the slow unwinding of a yarn ball.

My mind grew quiet from the constant review of my choice to stay home and forgo a “real” job like my grandmother. My busy hands worked out the knotty anxieties over first-time motherhood, and smoothed away insidious fears of coming up short as a parent. For a couple of rows, at least.

Recently, I have started to knit. It doesn’t come as naturally as crochet, but I’m intrigued by the idea of wearing what I make, rather than just sleeping with it.

No longer a hands-on mama, my restless fingers are reacquainting themselves with that calming rhythm, searching for peace without regrets after the job is done.

Hopefully, the mistakes I made as a young mother can be left woven in those afghans from years ago.

From now on, the dropped stitches and crooked rows will be solely my own.

2 thoughts on “Meditation in Knitting

  1. Wow. Very thoughtful. Last winter I gathered up 40 years’ worth of yarn stashes and unraveled a few unworn sweaters I’d knitted and made a free-form crazy afghan. It’s quite large, took me about four months. Started in the middle with a bit of crocheting, then picked up stitches and knitted a patch, then picked up more and went off in different directions with different colors and weights of yarn and different stitches, and eventually incorporated leftover bits of things, including a tiny crocheted purse from high school in the 70’s. It was partly because I had already begun downsizing, and had vowed not to buy anything new, especially yarn, and to use up what I had on hand. It was also partly because my ex, my son’s father, was dying from a brain tumor, and I was dealing with a lot of flashbacks and feeling a lot of distress for my son. So it was therapeutic on many levels, gave me many hours of meditation. My son adores it and I think I shall give it to him one day. It’s on the sofa at the moment. Obviously I really related to your post 🙂

    1. suburbansatsangs

      I’m very moved by your comment, Meg. I’ve just become acquainted with free-form knitting, and your afghan sounds amazing. I can imagine that working in free-form is extremely creative, maybe even freeing since you go by your own inner pattern. Handwork of any kind can be invaluable on so many levels and yet, gets relegated to a hobby or pastime. As for relating, it just blows me away how connected we all are. Thank you for sharing this with me.

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