I may not be a mind reader but I know what you're probably thinking. How can a secular-scientific, mental health-improving, worldly-recognized process called Mindfulness be compared with hand-knitting a pair of socks? Let me explain.
When I was eight years old, my Mom taught me how to knit. Thinking back on it now, I'm sure that burgundy-coloured, synthetic monstrosity I lovingly called my 'First Best Scarf Ever' was a testament more to my Mom's patience than mine. And yet, thanks to her, I began my lifelong, mindful journey with needles and yarn.
I mention my Mom's patience because it was an important marker in this whole process. It was her mindful attention to my desire to knit (I relentlessly pursued her until she finally gave in and showed me how to cast on) that fired up my passion for picking up the needles. Over the last 5o plus years, I have knit my way through a cornucopia of sweaters, hats, gloves, toys, blankets, and, my all-time favourite knitwear: socks. Lots and lots of socks!
All of this requires patience. Patience taught to me by my Mom all those years ago.
When I began knitting I tried most anything that could be knit. The results were sometimes hit and miss and I would often be frustrated by complicated patterns, undo-able mistakes and ill-fitting garments with necklines too tight to allow your head to pass through.
And yet, I did not give up. I continued to hone my skills and recognize what worked for me and what didn't. Much like choosing the type of mindful practice that brings the most reward for your efforts. Each mindfulness practitioner is unique and we all have techniques that we prefer over others. Some like silent meditation, others prefer guided. Some like to focus on the breath, others would rather walk in the woods and focus their attention on sights, sounds and smells.
Sitting to knit has become one of my favourite forms of meditation and therein lies the key to linking this fibre art to mindfulness. When I sit and knit I have the opportunity to slow down, be quiet, focus and create.
You don't meditate because you are mindful. You are mindful because you meditate.
I immerse myself in the rhythm of the needles sliding in and around the yarn and the tactile sense of the garment forming beneath my fingertips. I follow a well-rehearsed pattern, counting stitches (much like counting breaths) and moving from stitch to stitch with mindful attention. All of this requires patience. Patience taught to me by my Mom those many years ago.
Patience to sit, settle and be calm. Patience to recognize if I've made a mistake and patience to go back and repair. Patience to wait for the last stitch to be slipped off the needle. Patience to allow the process to be the process. Simply patience.
This reminds me of one of my favourite knitting authors, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, once said, 'You don't knit because you are patient. You are patient because you knit.'
This same quote could also be applied to the practice of mindful meditation, 'You don't meditate because you are mindful. You are mindful because you meditate.'
So whether you choose to knit socks like me, follow a guided meditation or take a walk in the woods, I encourage you to do so with patience. Take in the moment to moment experience. Notice your senses, be aware and above all, be kind, compassionate and patient with yourself.
Because just like a knitted sock, you're a beautiful, evolving work in progress.