May 22, 2015

Untangling my Mind: a Knitting Meditation.

There are many paths to mindfulness.

We do yoga; we utilize breathwork; we meditate; we have certain rituals that remind us to be in the present moment as often as we can, whether it’s a long walk, doing the dishes, or making tea.

One of my favorite paths toward mindfulness involves double-pointed needles and about 450 yards of sock yarn.

I’m just as busy as everyone else. What with maintaining and growing a business at my yoga studio, teaching, volunteering, writing, meetings and family time, the concept of a mindful moment is great—making it happen sometimes seems beyond me.

Yes, even for those of us “in the business,” sometimes the busy-ness gets in the way.

When I find myself the most unraveled, picking up my needles and winding the yarn through my right hand gives me space and time to breathe. On a day where perhaps progress eludes me, meetings drag on, words won’t come easily—not unlike sleep the night before—knitting is there.

I sit in my chair, pick up my current WIP (work-in-progress) and take a deep breath. Then I start knitting. Even if it’s only for ten minutes, when you’re knitting a sock as opposed to an afghan, that ten minutes can be a goodly number of rows.

And that, my friends, is progress.

I keep track of my rows, particularly if I’m knitting a pattern on the leg of the sock. As I tick off the rows, the pattern repeats. Even if I just whip out my measuring tape, I can see my progress as the pattern develops.

An average pair of socks consists of about 34,000 stitches. I have my own particular way to knit the cuff. I can pick my yarn. I can decide what length I want the leg (anklet? 5 inches? 7 inches?). I can decide which heel to use (Doris heel, eye-of-partridge or Strong heel?). I can decide on the toe (plain decreases or star toe?).

Believe me—on those days when I know my world is totally out of control and spinning off its axis, just being able to make those decisions is huge.

When I pick up those needles, it’s almost immediate. My breath slows. My focus sharpens. My monkey-mind starts to settle down. Unless I’m turning the heel (a magical point, to be sure) or decreasing the toe, I’m even perfectly able to carry on a coherent conversation. It’s amazing.

In, loop, pull through. In, loop, pull through. All the way around.

At each change of needles, tighten up those first two stitches to prevent ladders.

In, loop, pull through. In, loop, pull through. Tick off another row.

Occasionally, pull more yarn from the ball.

Every 20 minutes or so, put it down, look around the room, blink, do some hand-yoga, stand up.

Measure and applaud your accomplishments.

The motions are in my muscles. In my cells. They’re automatic. As my breath softens into the pranayama of knits and purls, my hands move and my mind quiets. Accompanied by the soft music of the click of the needles as the yarn makes each stitch, I feel the calm steal over me. Once again, the magic of sock meditation works to even out my harried thoughts and weave its web of relaxation over me with each stitch. I can feel the knits and the purls even before I see them. And I know, now, without looking, if I’ve made a mistake.

When I finish a pair of socks, not only have I created wearable art, but I feel a sense of achievement. I don’t care if those socks took me three weeks or three months. Slow and steady progress centers me and makes it possible for me to do the other things I need to do.

You know—like breathe. Concentrate. Be mindful. Pay attention to what’s going on in front of me.

I’m not out to set a record—I don’t need to “knit a pair in a week” (even if I could). And yes, I certainly could buy a pair of socks much more cheaply, since even the most basic yarn in my stash is about $18. Count up the cost of yarn, cost of needles, and an estimate of my time spent? A hand-made pair of socks is a totally ridiculous proposition. But in my case, necessary on so many levels.

It’s not quantity I’m after. It’s quality. The quality of peace and calm. The quality of creativity—which often sparks even more creativity when I set aside my needles. The quality of just being.

All’s right in my world when I have time—no, when I make time—to sit and play with sticks and string.


Author: Pat Perrier

Editor: Alli Sarazen

Photo: Courtesy of Author

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