It took two months, but I finally finished a pair of socks, knitting in the wee hours and whenever I could grab five minutes.
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.
When she was seven or eight years old, bobby socks were all the rage, and Nancy desperately wanted a pair. However, her parents refused to acquiesce to the trend of the time and buy her any. Instead, Nancy had to wear ugly brown full-length stockings.
“So I went to the library,” she said, “I had a library card even then. I found a book about knitting and checked it out. Continue reading “Initiative, Perseverance, Courage and True Love”
When I got married and moved into my husband’s house, I found some amazing treasures that had been sitting neglected in his closets and cabinets. One of them was a beautiful, hand-woven table runner, a gift from his great Aunt Eina in Sweden, sister to his maternal grandmother. Today that runner graces the piano in our living room. I often admire that runner, and it has peaked my interest in weaving.
Since getting married, I have learned to knit, and having become part of the knitting community, I have also discovered the world of weft, warp and rigid heddle. I recently ordered a knitter’s loom whose arrival I awaited as expectantly as any child awaits an oncoming birthday, and I even signed up for a weaving course at this year’s Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival. Continue reading “Weft and Warp and Ancestry”
I think that my daughter may be the only person who can attend a Sheep and Wool Festival and come home with a stuffed cow. A few weeks ago the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival was held at the fairgrounds in Jefferson, WI. I attended last year accompanied by two other knitter friends, and we spent the better part of a day wandering around all the vendor booths fondling yarns, wishing that I had been smart enough to write down the yardage I would need for the various projects I was considering.
This year I decided to take a class. I knew I would not have a weekend free because my husband was working against a major deadline. So, I took a vacation day and the beaded wrist warmers class taught by Carol Rhoades. It was a fun class, my first at adding beads to my knitting, and I learned that beaded wrist warmers are the “in” thing among Swedish skateboarders. So I’m thinking that once my wrist warmers are complete, I should invest in a skateboard to match. Continue reading “Sheep, Wool and Cows”
It’s been a long time since I have made an outfit especially for a date, but I feel like I’m in my twenties again. The advantage making an outfit for a date with your husband is that if you don’t get your outfit made in time, it’s okay. The disadvantage is that the long periods of time that you had to work on your outfit when you were single have been replaced by short intervals snatched between work, commute, dishes, laundry and assorted “Mommy can you’s”. Furthermore, you simply must control the temper tantrums that accompany any ripping out, lest you find yourself explaining to a teacher where your daughter heard that word.
I started this particular outfit 13 months ago, with no intention of having it for anything special. I was knitting a bolero sweater of “intermediate” difficulty. I liked the pattern, it was a “small” sweater that would be challenging for me to knit, but wouldn’t take too long. Continue reading “A Date…with a Gibbon?”
Knit. Knit. Slip. Slip. Knit. One two three four five six. Yarn over, wrap all the way around. Purl two three. Slip slip knit. One two three four five six. Yarn over, wrap all the way around. Purl two three…
That’s my mantra. Knitting is a meditative hobby, but unlike traditional forms of meditation, while the mind is stilled by concentrating on the repeating pattern, the hands are busy and something tangible is produced. Type A meditation.
Sometimes it’s hard to count to six. Because at four you start thinking about that medical test report you are waiting to hear about. Or as you are wrapping the yarn over the needle you think about the person who didn’t come through on their part of the project at work or school, and you make a mistake. You sigh, breathe, unknit and start over, repeating your mantra. Continue reading “A Knitting Mantra”