Friday, May 17, 2013

Material World

Tonight I listened to the second session of the meditation class I'm taking online while knitting my kidsilk throw. Scott suggested imagining the breath as a horse and the attention as the rider. It was easy to imagine the act of knitting as the horse — the gallop of the knit stitch, the lope of the purl. I knit more fluidly than usual, and focused on the tactile pleasures of the barely-there whisper of the mohair and the strong silk it's spun into. I kept my focus even as I paused to pull more yarn off the skein, feeling the cobwebby tickle of the mohair on my bare leg, as it lay there waiting to be tangled up in my fingers before being caught up in the needles. I heard the gentle nickel-click of the Addi circulars more clearly than ever before.

I don't intend for knitting meditation to be the only form of meditation in my life. Centuries of meditators have it right that sitting with nothing — no movement, no runaway thought-train — coming between our consciousness and the fact of our existence is the best way to face that often puzzling existence with courage. But as a sort of adjunct practice, knitting meditation is a chance to combine a feeling of trance and deep focus with a sensory experience that is pleasing and multilayered.

In looking up other examples of knitting meditation before I started this blog, I found a lovely video on YouTube about a woman who makes a daily practice of getting up and knitting a "seeds of intention" scarf: "I take out my needles and my yarn and I knit good intentions and affirmations into every stitch. I feel peace around me and within me... I call this project my seeds of intention scarf. It's a kind of tactile prayer I get involved in."

Not long after finding this video, I read a Daily Dharma from Tricycle Magazine that echoed this in a nice coincidence of language: "...we meditate on our good intentions, however weak or strong they may be, and water the seeds of these intentions."

Mindfulness practice urges nonattachment — to things, concepts and beliefs — but we live in a material world, and lovingkindness toward that material world is part of a mindful and grateful approach to having life in this moment. Knitting is a great way to focus on the beauty and life-givingness of the materials around us. It's not easy being human — we're soft and vulnerable in a world with many hazards and we've had to be ingenious in using materials to literally keep us alive. I love knitting as an expression of this. It's low-tech, but knitted garments keep us warm; in their beauty they please us and others and remind us of the loving intentions of the knitter, stitch by stitch, breath by breath.

Sensory and Other Pleasures

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