Have you ever tried meditation? Have you ever tried meditating while you are knitting?
I am a firm believer in meditation. The older I get, the more meditating I do and I look for moments throughout the day that I can use for meditating. I am also a firm believer in deep thinking, but it isn’t the same as meditating. I’ve often considered knitting to be a form of deep thinking, a way to keep my hands busy while thinking so deeply about something that I lose track of everything else. About half of my knitting time is spent that way; the other half is usually spent listening to a podcast, conversing or watching television while I’m knitting. I can get totally engrossed in thoughts while I’m knitting, but I’ve never actually tried to meditate while knitting. So this weekend I spent some time exploring it.
At first I looked online to see if others had specific advice about what they did. I didn’t find any blog that had what I wanted, but I did find this Ehow video by Cara Graver on YouTube. It seemed very close to what I envisaged for the meditation. Very similar to what I already do as part of my regular practice.
I ended up with an approach much like a walking meditation or an eating meditation. I’ve done it three times now, once each day for two days, and then again briefly this morning instead of my usual sitting meditation. It was enjoyable; I felt relaxed and peaceful afterwards, kind of like after a walking or eating meditation but not as fulfilling as a long sitting meditation. Perhaps I just need more practice… I’m all for that!
So for today’s post, I thought I’d share what I did. I don’t think it would work if you had a knitting project that requires following a pattern, and I don’t think it would work well if you are just learning how to knit and it’s one of your first projects. There’s no doubt that those types of projects can be used for getting into a very mindful state and/or deep thinking. But it helps the meditation if the activity itself is something normally performed without much attention, just like eating or walking. At least it does for me.
Therefore, one of the things I thought would be helpful is to have a ball of yarn and needles just for meditative knitting. It doesn’t matter what yarn or needles you use as long as you don’t have difficulties while knitting with them. The knitting will be done in garter or stockinette stitch.
Also, don’t get attached to the idea of making something that will be used. The purpose of the yarn and needles is to facilitate meditation; you really don’t want to create any self-inflicted suffering from worrying about imperfect stitches.
I hope this inspires you to try your own method of knitting meditation!
My Knitting Meditation
I make sure I have everything I need for knitting right next to me before I start. Also, since my goal is meditative knitting without thinking, stopping the flow for any reason, even for casting on, seemed like it would be counterproductive.
Therefore, I had several rows on circular needles before I started the meditation. Knitting in the round is great for this. In addition, it’s super easy to pick up for the next meditation session. I stuck with the knit stitch, but I really don’t think it matters as long as there isn’t a possibility of distraction from a mistake.
Note also that it’s important to choose a place that is quiet. The entire point of meditation is to eliminate distractions and clear you mind. Noises (even music), people walking by, and smells can be a distraction to meditation, especially if you haven’t practiced recently or are very tense.
I put my phone on Do Not Disturb when I meditate and go to a room where I can close the door. I can’t help hearing the cars go by outside or my family walking around in the house, but it isn’t as distracting as when I’m right in the middle of it.
Before starting, I set a timer so that my meditation time is broken into periodic intervals. I use Interval 1 as a brief time to get settled, usually set between 1 and 5 minutes depending on my general tension level. The more tense I am, the more time I need to get settled. Then I set periods of 5 minute intervals up to the amount of time I want to meditate. The total time is going to depend on how practiced you are at meditating in general, so if you are an infrequent meditator you might want to start with two intervals of 5 minutes each, plus your settling time. The more practiced meditator shouldn’t have any difficulty with a minimum of four intervals.
The timer acts as an aid for focus. During meditation, when my mind wanders, if I can’t bring it back to focus within the five minute period the timer reminds me. I use a meditation app that has chimes that sound like wood blocks, gongs, and various bells. I find the wood block works the best, although sometimes it still startles me!
Then I got into a comfortable position. I used a chair for this even though I normally sit on a cushion for meditation sessions. My cushion is the space that I associate with stillness, so I’m not sure I want to create a new association for it with a meditation that requires moving my hands. The choice, however, is entirely up to you.
2. Beginning the Meditation
I started the timer and used the first interval to settle down. This is the same as the start of any meditation session. I like to start with a full body check beginning with feeling my toes. I feel what each toe is touching, whether it’s a sock, a shoe, a floor, a carpet, or just the air. Once I feel it, I move on to the next toe, until I feel all my toes at the same time. Then I let them go. As if they aren’t part of my foot any more. They just “drop” away. They are completely relaxed.
I do this same thing for each part of my body, moving upwards through my feet, ankles, legs, knees….you get the point. If I’m already relaxed when I sit down, I usually can get to my head very quickly, but on the days when I’m really tense it can take ten minutes or so. The point is to get my body into a completely relaxed state however long it takes.
The next part of settling for me is to watch my breathing, but since this was to be a knitting meditation I only spent a few moments with my breath. It required just enough attention for grounding me in the moment. Watch the breathing, while thinking I am here. I am now. There is only here. There is only now. Once that sunk in I was ready to pick up the knitting.
At first I focused on the yarn, and I focused on how I put the needles into my hand. I didn’t start to knit. I just wanted to focus on the material in my hands and my hands themselves. The settling timer chimed some time before I finished settling in but it didn’t matter. I continued until I felt relaxed and fully focused. Then I started knitting.
3. Knitting Meditation
The meditation is simple. I knitted mindfully, noticing the movement of each finger, the movement of the hands, the way the yarn makes a loop, the way it interconnects with the yarn on the needles. Focused on the knitting.
At the beginning, as I made each stitch, I watched my right forefinger move from one position to another down the needle and finally to the tip of the needle as the stitch completed. It seemed to do this all by itself. I certainly wasn’t telling it what to do! This fascinated me so much that I couldn’t quit watching it. Eventually, though, I remembered to start counting. As I watched the finger doing its dance, watched the yarn, I counted each stitch – up to stitch 8 – then started the count over from 1. Just like counting breaths in sitting meditation. The point is to keep the mind occupied on something other than thinking, not count the total number of stitches.
I was pretty successful at this through the first timer interval. It was easy to focus on the way the stitches formed and the way my fingers and hands moved while counting. It wasn’t until after the second chime (the first full meditation interval) that my mind began to wander. Every time my mind wandered into a thought I took note (i.e. “I’m thinking”) and went back to the counting, back to focusing on the knitting. Sometimes I also watched my breaths. All of it, all of it, kept me in the present moment.
I continued this until the final chime sounded.
It’s inevitable, I think, that the mind wanders no matter what form of meditation it’s experiencing. But I was immensely glad to find that I could focus on the knitting without thinking about anything other than counting for such a long period of time. I didn’t go into deep thinking mode. I didn’t need a mantra to stay focused. Eventually maybe I won’t need counting. I’ve found that counting is helpful during sitting meditation (counting breaths) so it was natural to add it to my knitting meditation.
The total experience was very much like walking meditation in that there was a lot to be mindful of at first. Walking meditation is about focusing on each part of your foot as it touches and leaves the ground, and for me that whole process is more complicated than knitting. So I think it’s a little easier to reach the state of watchful knitter than it is for watchful walker. But, just as there is a definite difference between mindful walking and walking meditation, this was a different experience from mindful knitting.
Meditation requires mindfulness but mindfulness isn’t exclusive to meditation.
At the end of each session I felt rested and clear headed. In all three instances I went on to pick up my current knitting project and continue knitting. But I felt like I could sit there and knit all day without worrying about anything else. I felt recharged!
I would love to hear about your experience with knitting meditation. Are you a deep thinker or do you try to completely clear you mind? What do you include as part of a regular meditation practice? Are there other types of meditation that you prefer? Feel free to leave a comment!