Creative Contemplations began for me at the age of six, when, with much wrinkling of the brow, I created a ragged mess of cream wool with holes and no two edges the same. It grew in no particular direction, and turned into no particular thing.
I still see clearly the confusion hanging off my needles – the memory is strong because I was so utterly focussed on what I was doing. I had no idea then that I was practising a form of mindful meditation – or giving myself a gift that would serve to comfort, calm, challenge and entertain me for much of my life.
But I was.
It took me a long time to realise that when I knit socks, for example, it is about oh so much more than having something decent to warm my feet (although handmade socks are truly the cream of chaussettes). I enjoyed knitting but saw it as a means to an end – so if the end didn’t work out so well, and let’s face it, that happens more often than we would like – I would feel disenchanted.
Then, in my mid-thirties, I had three babies in just over three years. My life was no longer my own and at times I really struggled. One day, when I was at the end of my tether, I sat down to knit and realised that after ten minutes I was much calmer. I got it then, knitting isn’t about the end.
Meanwhile, I discovered meditation. Well, in truth, I discovered that I was really rubbish at it. How hard could it be, I thought, to sit and think of nothing? Very hard, it turned out. I spent years on and off frustrated by my wandering mind. Then I read a bunch of books, took a course, and saw that the only problem was one of expectation.
I realised there was link and I now see that when I knit or sew I can enter a meditative state. There is, however, a ‘but’. The ‘but’ being I have to be doing what I am doing consciously – that is, I have chosen to do it, allotted it time, and eliminated distractions. When I knit in front of the TV, I am not doing so mindfully. When I crochet while waiting for the kettle to boil, I am not doing so consciously – indeed, I am not doing anything consciously – as anyone who has ever waited for a cup of tea in my house will tell you. Recently, I overheard a woman at a knitting group remark that she rarely got any knitting done because she was too busy chatting. I rest my case.
Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, one day, as my family awaited their hot beverage, if I could find a chunk of time to devote to doing this – ‘this’ being crochet, not boiling kettles. Wouldn’t it be great to free up all distractions and sit quietly with others doing the same thing. Oh, the stuff we could get done, the things we could try – and, like, how Zen would we be after that?
So, I started Creative Contemplations – because to be perfectly honest, it’s my dream job. I get to do what I love doing, I get to be a little bit (but not too much) Zen – and share all that with other people. I get to feel all fuzzy and warm because I will be helping others to feel calm and restored. And I get to connect, learn and share skills.
That’s an awful lot of my boxes ticked.
So, a big salute to the little girl struggling with her knitting years ago, and to the mother who taught her. I have a memory of leaning against a cabinet in a shaft of sunlight with about four rows of holey knitting accomplished.
I have become more adept at knitting since then. I would like to say I am better at mindfulness too, but that wouldn’t be true – who lives more in the moment than a six year old?