Monthly Archives: April 2015

Knitting as meditation class update

Update on the “Knitting as Meditation” class I’m taking.  The teacher Lanny Mihardja has a unique approach to mindfulness.  She uses the activities of knitting and crocheting (although her website says you can work with sewing and quilting or other handcrafts as well) as a focus of awareness.  “It’s a movement meditation”, she says.

This is what was so interesting to me.  I thought I preferred sitting meditation.  For some reason it seems harder for me to be mindful while doing an activity. It’s much easier to get lost in thought when I’m producing.  And I guess I feel like moving and not sitting is cheating.   But to bring mindfulness into your everyday life, you need to use your activities as objects of awareness. Activities such as eating, walking , doing dishes can all be objects of mindfulness.  Learning to be mindful while going about your day is actually having a mindful life rather than having a life that includes a short mindful sit.  So I will embrace movement meditation.

While knitting and being mindful of the needles in our hands and the yarn bobbing, she instructs us to watch and pay attention to our body and thoughts as they arise and pass away.  And just like sitting mindfulness, she instructs us to just watch it all as if sitting on the sidelines of a parade, just letting the thoughts, feelings and sensations pass by, allowing them to come and go without judgement.  And then returning to the present experience of the current stitch.

I’m a very inexperienced knitter sitting with very experienced handcrafters.  Of course I was first aware of my feelings of inferiority.  One of the class members wrote a book on sequence knitting for goodess sake!  But as I continued, my experience was one of comfort as the knitted part of my scarf covered and warmed my legs and the quiet repetition of knitting soothed my nervous system.  Eventually, while sitting with the other ladies, I felt somehow gently held by their experience and therefore wisdom.  I was very comforted and touched by the first class.

The subsequent class was done with a guided meditation which is not technically mindfulness, but powerful none-the-less. Lanny is a gentle facilitator who apparently walks her talk as evidenced by her caring and wise manner. I highly recommend this class.

Here’s Lanny’s website- Hancrafted Mindfulness.  She writes a newsletter with tips on handcrafting as well as being mindful.  Check it out.

The intersection of awareness and connection.

photo 2

This is a very busy intersection in San Francisco.  Five 3-lane streets, three 2-lane streets and a dedicated street car lane meet here.  My husband always avoids it if he can because if you miss the light you have to wait through 4 cycles until your next turn.  I on the other hand, really like it.  First of all I love finding small moments in the day when I can be mindful.  This intersection is one.  If you get there at just the right time (or wrong time, if you’re my husband) you can have a full 6 minutes of mindfulness practice opportunity. But secondly, there’s so much to notice that it’s almost a world of it’s own.  And you can feel connected to it all by just noticing.

Since I enjoy watching the goings on and try to pay attention to just being at the intersection, I’ve had some interesting experiences just waiting for my green light.  Once, while waiting, I noticed a soccer ball fly over a fence at an elementary school on the opposite side of the street.  I watched it come out into the street, roll down the slight hill and become stuck under a car one block down the hill.  I saw the kids watch helplessly through the chain link fence.  The ball passed by construction workers who seemed mildly interested but too busy to care.  In their defense, they couldn’t see from where the ball had come so they wouldn’t know where to bring it back.

I decided to pull over, (after I got through the intersection) retrieve the ball, and bring it back to the kids.  The workers were encouraging and one said, “Some kid’s gonna be glad you did that.”  So they did notice.  The kids were grateful and expressed their gratitude. And the yard monitor thanked me and said that they’ve lost so many balls that they just give up.   I left feeling really connected to the community that existed around that intersection.  You know a busy intersection, right?  It’s just a bunch of fast moving, impersonal cars… unless you pay attention.

One time I saw a lady running for a bus that was stopped and ready to move.  I was able to get in front of it and block him as the light turned yellow.  The lady was able to board the bus.  My good deed for the day, thank you intersection.

If I’m going west, I always enjoy the view of the Pacific Ocean.  How many people get to see that?  Do the drivers in their cars waiting for the light know that they have a million, heck in San Francisco, a two million dollar view?  I think about all the fish that live in the ocean.  Sometimes I see big shipping boats bringing all our necessities and treasures.

And of course today I got the inspiration for this entry.  So moral of the story, if you find yourself stuck somewhere you don’t want to be, look around, sink into your body, notice life going on around you and enjoy just being.  It’s a gift.


Thoughts during meditation.

So the basic instruction to meditation is to start in a sitting comfortably yet alert position.  Then you find the spot where you notice your breath the most.  It may be the air going in and out of your nostrils.  It may be your chest or stomach rising and falling.  You pay attention to your breath and when you get distracted by thoughts you just gently return your focus to your breath.  You do this as often as needed.

Easy right?  I would say simple, but not necessarily easy.  The problem is that your mind wants to think.  It wants to plan.  It wants to reminisce.  And it’s usually very persistent.  Never-the-less here’s a couple of ways to  approach your persistant thoughts that may be helpful.

One thing to do is to imagine that you are siting on the bank of a river.  Imagine that you are watching your thoughts float downstream.  If you suddenly realize that you’ve been lost in thought.  It’s as if the thought had just climbed up from the river and sat on the bank with you.  So just imagine you picking it up and gently placing it back in the river.  You return to your place on the bank and your breath.

Another way to think about thoughts is like they are clouds just passing through a clear sky.  They arise and pass just like clouds, coming into view and then moving past your line of sight.  No need to hang on or keep them.  When you have a thought, just imagine it passing by like a moving cloud.

So next time you meditate, if you’re having trouble letting go of thoughts, try imagining them in one of these ways and see if it helps you not get so caught up in them.  But as always, if even this doesn’t help, you just notice that you’re having trouble letting go of thoughts and you return to your breath without judgement.  Because mindfulness is more about noticing your experience than changing it.

Happy meditating.