Sunday, July 14, 2013

Seated Meditation

A friend once told me that knitting was her form of meditation.  I found it an odd comment at the time because my lack of skill left me feeling frustrated and annoyed while knitting.  I threw knitting needles back into the bag with a hopeless sigh, I tore out countless rows when an error was discovered too late, and I misread patterns that left me lost in a sea of unfamiliar terms and abbreviations. After some, ok lots, of practice, I've learned how to knit in that fluid way that is at once both mindless and mindful of the present moment.  It really is a form of meditation and deep relaxation. I can knit in the dark, I can knit while having a conversation, I can knit without looking at my work and let my mind relax and wander.  I understand what my friend was saying.

There is a unique kind of joy that can only come from creating something beautiful with your own two hands. Whatever medium used to create doesn't matter, just the fact that you are creating is worthy of your time, energy, and love. I tried to learn how to knit many times before it finally stuck.  I'm not sure what it was that prevented me from grasping the concept initially but something finally clicked during my second pregnancy.  I found myself less frustrated as I held the needles and lined up the yarn, and more determined.  I just plodded along, slowly.  So, very slowly and over time  I understood how a series of loops became something beautiful.  I had found my craft of choice.

Fast forward some years, and I've gone from being a solitary knitter to having a community of my dearest friends who share in this craft and love it the way I do.  Some even more devoutly than I do.  We get together every couple of weeks, sometimes more often, sometimes less, as our families and life dictate.  But every time we gather to knit and visit, a sort of calm settles in the room and conversations just flow right along with the rhythm of the needles clinking.  It might just be the common nature of close friends who are together and can relax, it may not be thanks to the needles and yarn, but without them, we wouldn't have this regular date and without that, we wouldn't have this special niche of a community.

I haven't been able to go to knitting night for a while.  Mostly due to my anxiety (which I will devote more posts to later, to help give context to this and other entries).  This past Thursday I decided to give myself a push and try.  It wasn't easy.  I debated going the entire day, and even up until ten minutes before I left the house.  It had nothing to do with my friends, the location, or knitting at all.
It is solely a function of my neurosis at the moment and the inner argument that is constantly going on in my mind.  This near constant "pit in the stomach" feeling that seems to follow me everywhere.

I decided that I would drive to our lovely hostesses's house and if I felt too anxious I could always turn around and come home. I had a plan, which is a huge help for me and I felt confident about seeing this through.  Here's the thing with that plan when you live where we do though - "driving over" equals at least twenty minutes, sometimes up to forty.  When I've made that investment in gas, time, and left my kids, I feel more compelled to follow through.  I suppose this is a good thing in the long run, and maybe it'll even help me overcome aspects of my disorder, but it has a catch too.  It leaves me with another decision to make, and I do not handle decisions well these days.

I sat in my car at the end of the driveway for a good ten minutes before getting up the courage to walk in. And this is where the irony of anxiety comes in - I felt like I couldn't be there, like I shouldn't be there, that something bad was going to happen to me, that I was going to get sick or embarrass myself only because I was thinking it.  Once I walked in and got settled, I was fine.  I had about thirty minutes of awkwardness at first, and again it was all in my head.  Again.  I pushed past the nerves, I pushed past my inner fear and made myself stay. I'm so thankful I did.

The time passed too quickly.  I found myself looking at the clock in disbelief when it read 12:30.  How had it gotten so late?  I just got here!  I finished one project that had been looming in my knitting bag for over a month and I dug into a second with furry.  I laughed at my friend's jokes and stories.  I made jokes and people laughed at them.  I listened, I shared, I smiled, I felt safe, I had fun, and I remembered how lucky I am to be here.  To have these friends, to have this life, to enjoy it.  It's too easy to forget that when battling this inner voice that has been turned up to high lately.  These friends drowned out that voice for hours and helped me feel like myself for an evening. I'm lucky. I'm really lucky.

"The rhythmic repetitive movements of knitting are important - quite how, we're not absolutely certain of yet, but we have our theories. Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that they induce a form of meditation very similar to Mindfulness. Recent research has shown that Mindfulness can be very effective in treating depression and chronic pain. It can also help those who are fit and healthy to combat stress and to manage life's downs. It helps you to put into perspective any traumatic issues that would normally dominate your waking thoughts helping you to find a stable balance between problematic events and feelings and more positive, pleasant sensations within the current moment. It's a state of mind where you're not mulling over the past or fretting about the future."  
 Courtesy of  Knitonthenet 


Hilaree said...

Oh, honey...I'm so with you on this. You've described the pain of anxiety so well here. Excellent writing, my dear. Expressing our vulnerability can be so lovely. Thank you for this pearl in my hand today.

Miriam said...

I'm not a knitter, but I can relate to that feeling of creating something, getting into the state of flow when you're doing something you love.
I had no idea you struggled with anxiety. Just know you are not alone. My husband has dealt with it on and off for years, Emily has, Jesse does a little; and i even had some problems when we were selling our first house. It was good for me to experience it, because finally I understood how "real" it was, even when it's not real. If you're interested, I have some herbal suggestions for anxiety: lemon balm and passionflower are two that have helped Emily. Also hops, valerian, kava.
Wonderful post! I go through something similar about social gatherings, always have. I never thought about it as anxiety but maybe it is... and when I'm in the situation, I'm always fine.