Monday, April 8, 2013

sewing meditation

Meditation is hard.  I am not the first person to say it.  I also think I am terrible at meditating even though I know there is no good or bad, there is only sitting.

There have been a few things going on in my life lately that has made it hard to keep my mind in check, to be able to just play or focus on the task in front of me.  I've always reached to meditation, or at the very least following along to a guided meditation, or even least-er listening to a dharmatalk to get myself through the sticky knot my mind is in.  

Knitting and spinning have intense meditative QUALITIES but I have never been able to rely on them as the sole focus for attention to clear my mind.  I find them incredibly GENERATIVE (in a soothing and focused way) - a way to clear the mind to come up with new ideas or a solution to a problem.  It doesn't always work when I am trying to completely quiet my mind. They serve as accompaniments to thought, or movie watching, but then I still have to try to find space actually sit to meditate for quiet.

I was in one of these states last night, trying to knit my way out, trying to read a trashy book, nothing was working.  I picked up a handsewing project and started listening to an interview with Martine Batchelor (thank you Sarai for posting about her on your blog - so thankful) on the Secular Buddhist podcast.  In it she said that its not just the sitting, it is what we bring to our lives from the sitting.

"I became more interested in...pragmatic Buddhism...which is about...sitting on the cushion is fine but how can you translate that in your daily life?  Because a problem in daily life is...when conditions become difficult its a survival mechanism, we go back to our habits, and generally those habits are painful." (Martine Batchelor, in the episode mentioned above.) 

She later speaks to a more inclusive focus of attention, an open awareness that can be practiced in every moment of daily life that needs it. 

I realized whatever kind of sitting you can do, it doesn't have to be meditation with a capital M as it is done with an intense razor like focus but whatever form you can grab it with in your life right now.  I get so down on myself when I fall asleep when meditating, or go a couple weeks without a sit because I just cant find the space.  The space was sitting right in front of me, its all around me and I was already doing it.  I stopped the podcast and refocused, open to the moment and on my sewing. 

So, handsewing.  Where I am currently finding my meditative space. This project I am working on is a Alabama Chanin inspired dress for my daughter, inspired by this.  I am sewing against time as I cut out just one size larger than she is wearing right now, and the embroidery, it is a lot of work.   

With each stitch I sit and measure with my eyes the distance between the holes, the stitch length.  I don't have space in my mind to think but fleeting thoughts and actually it gets easier to label the distractions "thought" while handsewing and let them go.  I sew and listen to M protest bedtime and Aaron's gentle ssssh in the other room.   

I feel like I can choose to spend my time in this way and that knowing to pause and choose wisely how to react - choosing to refocus my attention widely with the sewing - its is half the work of quieting the mind.  I know its being "productive" and maybe I am multitasking but - right now I need this.  And I love the sewing. 

Baby steps.  Both towards finishing this dress and staying in the present moment.

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