Several scientific studies over the last couple of years have provided some evidence (see some references below), most of it by correlation, that a daily habit of meditation promotes successful aging and better mental health through stress reduction, but it’s actual effects on any given health problem are mixed.
But have you ever actually tried to meditate? I can’t even make it to ten deep breaths. “ONE…”, I say to myself as I inhale and exhale slowly. Then, without fail, before I even finish exhaling, my mind has wandered to the fact I need to RSVP for that birthday party my daughter was invited too and find time to get a gift.
“Wait, what breath was I on?”
“Oh and I really need to get that package mailed to my sister, and I’ve got to buy the airline tickets for the upcoming trip so that they aren’t a thousand dollars a seat, and can you believe the extra work…NUTS! What breath was that again?”
“Wow, look at that, there is a Sandhill crane wandering around…”
And so goes my meditation session.
Yes, I can see how mediation might be helpful and healthful if I could actually clear my mind long enough to accomplish ten cleansing breaths. But as soon as I am seated with nothing to do, nothing on which my mind can focus, my mind finds its own focal points, thousands of them.
However, I have found that if I am knitting, I am able to reach that coveted state of cleared mind.
My mantra becomes the pattern I am knitting: slip, slip, knit 2 together. I repeat that over and over in my mind, and my hands are busy committing my mantra to finger memory. Perhaps because there is muscle memory involved, I find that the repetition of knitting even calms my heart rate and breathing. It has not only mental effects but physiological too.
Because I am working on a knitting project, I have to focus on my mantra or I will be doing rework—so I stay focused. I find that the problems and irritants of daily life disappear and my mind clears—it’s meditation for the Type A personality. My hands are busy, I’m producing something useful, and I am clearing my mind.
I’ve had life-long knitters tell me similar things; I’ve read about elderly knitters who have lost memories and the ability to communicate, but they maintain the muscle memory of knitting—the movement seeming to calm them when nothing else does.
In my humble opinion, I can’t think of a better form of meditation. You clear your mind and get a scarf, hat or sock to boot. A clear mind and a sense of accomplishment, what more could a girl ask for?
- Davidson, R. et al. (2003) Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine 65, 564–570.
- Blom, K. et al. (2013) Hypertension Analysis of Stress Reduction Using Mindfulness Meditation and Yoga: Results From the Harmony Randomized Controlled Trial. Am. J. Hypertens. epub.
- Ahmed, M. et al. (2013) Acute Pain Relief After Mantram Meditation in Children With Neuroblastoma Undergoing Anti-GD2 Monoclonal Antibody Therapy J. Pediatr. Hematol. Oncol. epub.
- Luders, E. (2013) Exploring age-related brain degeneration in meditation practitioners. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. epub.
©2013 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.