Mindfulness - one stitch at a time
(This article may resonate especially with all the mamas out there!)
Most of us have read or heard about the amazing benefits of the ancient practice of meditating. Our cut-edge science can actually measure the mood, mind and even immunity-altering benefits of meditation. We should all make it part of our everyday lives. And yet...
If you are like me, a busy mum with two inquisitive and very lively boys, who is always planning, organising, thinking and generally DOING you will find the idea of sitting down daily and 'clearing' your mind of EVERYTHING, so impossible it sounds hilarious!
Don't get me wrong - I have a deep respect and admiration for people who meditate. But it is simply not for me. For me, the idea of mindfulness sounds a lot more achievable.
We could say that mindfulness is a form of an active meditation. When we do NOT sit down to try and clear all thoughts from our mind. Instead, we notice/pay conscious attention to the present while being ACTIVE. While we are doing what we are doing. We simply try to be PRESENT.
So rather than functioning on autopilot (which, let's be honest - we all do most of the time!), we consciously bring our attention to the present moment right here and right now - and notice ... how we chop the onions/ cut the veggies/ fill or empty the washing machine/ water the potted plants ...
Doesn't this sound good?
This kind of mindset can reduce stress and anxiety, bring us inner peace and induce positive responses in the body and mind (similar to the ones achieved by meditation).
And yet... Do you find yourself constantly multitasking? Answering never-ending questions, discussing politics or the environment while preparing a meal/ driving/ cleaning the bathroom etc.
Every hands-on mama will testify that she CANNOT stay in the mindful state for long. She cannot bring her conscious attention to her cooking/ cleaning/ general caring for her children for longer periods of time, unless she puts them in front of the TV for some mindless entertainment. Have you noticed - mindless vs. mindful? And mindless entertainment is the very thing we are trying to avoid here...
So what do we do?
I cannot claim that this will work for every person out there - but it's worth a try. It definitely works for me.
As a woman and mother, to stay sane, I have discovered that I need two things - to CREATE and to be PRESENT while creating.
If you can be present while creating a meal or cleaning your house - lucky you.
In my case, I can only achieve this state of full presence when I am quiet and on my own. Some days this will be when my older boys are at school and my youngest is napping.
Other days, I may only achieve a few deep conscious breaths or a minute of mindful stitching, while my toddler zooms past, shouting. Or a stop to smell a flower and close my eyes for a few seconds, with my lively toddler in tow.
It doesn't quite matter when and how you do it, as long as you find the time and space to experience mindful moments - even a few minutes every day.
Just an advice (based on personal experience): Don't expect too much! (Too much from yourself, from your family, don't put too much pressure on anything.) On some days you may only manage a quick row or a few lines in your journal. Going with the flow is part of mindfulness, too. When we let things happen without pushing and expecting too much, the process of creativity is all the more enjoyable.
Mindful crafts to try
I have tried sewing (I'm not good at all!) and crocheting (not quite my cup of tea). Even adult colouring books (this is fun!). But what really fills me with excitement and joy is KNITTING.
I heart knitting very much!!!
I love handling natural fibres in beautiful colours - dyed and undyed. I love working with wooden knitting needles and watching my projects grow - one stitch at a time. I get so excited when my garments grow from a few tentative stitches to a full work of art. The best thing is - I get to wear them. And I can choose whichever colour I want to have in my life at the time - whether while creating or later while wearing the garment. Or they could be decorating your dinner table and be admired by all your family members and visitors!
The idea is that as long as you are enjoying your crafty skill and find moments of total happiness and presence while creating, it doesn't matter what exactly you do. It could be drawing, furniture repairing or making pottery. Or even gardening - you can plant tiny seeds and watch them bloom/grow into their full potential. And then again, it could be some sort of stitch craft - embroidery, crocheting, sewing or knitting. After all, even celebrities are seen knitting in public.
Knitting is medicine
The research on the therapeutic benefits of knitting especially is very extensive. The positive effects can range from lifting depression and anxiety to reducing blood pressure and chronic pain. Some people use craft to help with weight management or even addiction. Reducing stress is the number one benefit.
Whatever your situation, I warmly recommend knitting to you. The rhythmic click-clacking of your needles can be very soothing to the ears and the repetitive stitching process will occupy your hands while freeing your mind. And the best (and I mean the very BEST) bit? You create something beautiful as well as practical that you can treasure for years.
The real high the feeling of completion and achievement will bring you is better than drugs!
To sum things up, just a few do's and don't's:
- do not attempt anything too ambitious for your first project(s) - a scarf or a small baby blanket are the best for beginners
- do not feel guilty about 'sitting down and doing nothing' - in fact you are learning/ practising a life skill that you can pass onto your children one day - and you will teach them about self-care, too
- do not give up when things get tricky - it takes time to learn a skill and the more you repeat something the more confident you get
- do not hesitate to unpick your stitches/ work in progress if you don't like what you see - trust me, it is worth to rip it at any stage and start again so you can create something you are REALLY proud of!
- try and do find time everyday - it doesn't matter if it is 15 or 90 minutes - just find some time and space for yourself
- if you can, do share your skill with another person - it makes it more fun and you can help each other out with stitches, mistakes etc.
- do find help - whenever you are stuck or unsure, use online tutorials or get a book from the library
- if you can, go and buy the best tools and yarn you can afford - it makes the process all the more pleasurable (even if you can afford only one ball of lovely squishy natural wool to make a hat or a simple cowl - it's wort it)
- and finally: ENJOY the process - after all, it's about the process (the journey), not the destination
I do hope I have inspired you to dust off your long-forgotten knitting needles.
There are so many options to learn or improve your knitting - physical classes as well as online tutorials, books, magazines and knitting groups.
Go and find something that keeps you sane and happy - one stitch at a time!
Further reading and recommended shopping:
(one stop for all things knitting-related: www.lovecrafts.com)