As you know, this summer was a rough one for me: my biological father passed away, and then a dear friend. It was a very emotional time. We’re told to meditate to help manage stress, but meditation became very challenging for me. Part of meditation is allowing thoughts to come and just observing them, but when I was feeling anxious, the last thing I wanted to do was watch a bad movie in my head.
This is when active meditation saves the day. Active meditation is an activity that doesn’t require too much thought, but just enough to give your mind a point of focus. As I wrote about in Yoga Mind, it’s giving a baton to an elephant to keep its trunk occupied and out of various baskets that could contain fruit, or maybe snakes. (In my anxious, emotional mind, there were far more snakes than fruit.) Some forms of active meditation I learned about on retreat at ashrams include walking meditation and writing meditation.
My meditation of choice became MedKnitation, using knitting and crochet as a form of meditation. Once you get the basic stitches down, and you choose a very uncomplicated project—a scarf is perfect—the action of making stitches requires just enough of your mind’s attention to provide a point of focus. The repetitive motion is very relaxing, similar to repeating Mantra with mala beads.
When my usual meditation practice became a source of further aggravation rather than relief, I turned to the active meditation I’d learned from my teachers, and I put my own soothing spin on it, using knitting as my gentle activity. It works wonders, and there’s a lot of emerging research about how knitting and crochet build the ability to focus and be mindful, as well as soothing anxiety and relieving depression. (I’m currently writing a book about this exciting stuff!)
If you’d like to try MedKnitation, I’ll be leading sessions at Knitty City in New York City. The schedule for fall/winter is:
Thursday, October 26, 6:30 – 7:30
Thursday, November 21, 6:30 – 7:30
Thursday, December 19, 6:30 – 7:30
All you need to know are the basic knit or crochet stitches, nothing fancy. If you’d like to learn how to knit or crochet, Knitty City has excellent teachers; it’s where I learned how to knit. (Please call Knitty City at 212.787.5896 to reserve your seat; space is limited, and this event usually sells out quickly.)
When traditional forms of meditation become difficult, try a form of active meditation. Let me know how you like it by emailing me through Connect.