A few months ago, the lovely Sara, owner of my favourite yarn shop, Black Sheep Wools in Warrington, invited me to her 'Mindful' day, at the Craft Barn, to chat with customers about how to practice Mindful knitting and crochet. I was really delighted as I always love a visit to the Craft Barn which is full of everything colourful and crafty, including delicious food and cake (and it's the most delicious homemade cake too with gluten-free options - yum!!).
I love to share my passion for knitting and crochet with others and I'm at the point now where I feel really comfortable chatting about anything knitting and crochet related. So now I don't feel as anxious when I'm teaching or talking (which is a relief), so as you can imagine, I was really looking forward to spending a day in the Craft Barn and chatting about mindful knitting and crochet.
The main event for the day was a talk by James McIntosh and Dr. Thomas Ernst, all about using knitting as Meditation. James and Thomas are touring with their new book called "Knit and Nibble" which not only contains lots of great knitting patterns, but also lots of recipes for delicious biscuits and cake - what a perfect combination.
Their talk was incredibly interesting, heart-warming, sad as well as happy. James openly talked about how he went from hero to zero, practically overnight; from having a huge, successful TV career in China, to not being able to move his legs and get out of bed through acute depression. He talked us through his journey, how he survived with the help of his partner Thomas, and how he discovered knitting, which was a pivotal moment for him. He taught himself to knit, and stitch by stitch he has started to rebuild himself and his life.
Dr. Thomas talked about the scientific elements of Mindfulness, and I was captivated by his talk as he explained that we're all born amazing and it's only society that tells us that we're not good enough, or that we need to certain things to show everyone that we're successful and worthy humans. But in reality we're born amazing through billions of years of evolution and we carry all of the historical DNA coding from our ancestors - from that single cell amoeba, to fish, mammals and so on, through to our human form. He explained how our unconscious mind holds all of these memories too, in addition to the memories of our conscious mind (which I was surprised to learn is only the size of a walnut - quite small isn't it!!). He went on to talk about Mindfulness and how it can aid depression and we all practised a mindful body scan.
The question and answer session was really insightful as most of the audience either suffered themselves with depression or anxiety, or worked with others or were carers for those who are mentally unwell. It was quite emotional to hear people's stories and journeys, but the common thread that drew us all together was that we all used our knitting (or crochet) as a tool to make us feel more relaxed, calm and positive.
I found it quite amazing that just two things could make such a difference to our lives - a simple ball of yarn and a pair of needles (or hook). Isn't it incredible to think that every ball of yarn contains so much hope and love within it, and for James, it literally saved his life.
The main aim of James and Thomas is to raise awareness of knitting and meditation - James has called this 'Knititation'.
Together, they're hoping to raise awareness and encourage funding to enable full medical research into knitting as a therapeutic benefit for acute depression, which would be amazing, wouldn't it. You can read all about James and Thomas over at Knit and Nibble (www.knitnibble.com).
For me, it was a great opportunity to meet James and Thomas, as well as to chat with the all of the lovely customers and talk to them about how to combine Mindfulness with their knitting and crochet.
I practice at least 20 minutes each day and combine it with my knitting and crochet and it has helped me to feel much more positive and mentally refreshed. I can honestly say that it’s made a huge different to the way I feel, the way I deal with things and the way I react to stress and pressure. I feel much calmer and ready to face each day, along with the many challenges it may bring.
I find that as the rhythmic and repetitive stitches become more familiar, they help me move into a more meditative and trance-like state. As I slow down and unwind, my body reacts by releasing chemicals that are calming and soothing, and as I relax, my knitting or crochet then becomes more enjoyable. In truth, I don't really want to put down my knitting or crochet, but I find that focussing for around 20 minutes each day is enough for me to feel the benefit. I do knit and crochet for much longer each day, but not in a mindful way, but more to just relax and watch TV.
Over the coming months I will be sharing some tips with you on how to practice your Mindful knitting and crochet, and if you would like to learn more in-depth exercises, you can come along to my workshops in June (link is below) - an extra date has been added as the first ones have sold out. Thank you to everyone who has booked already and I can't wait to meet you all.
If you would like to read about the health and wellbeing benefits of knitting, I would recommend Betsan Corkhill's pioneering book called Knit for Health and Wellness. I have read it from cover to cover and refer to it often. You can read more about the content of the book over on amazon by clicking here.
Mindful cards are also a great resource to help you with your daily intentions. LSW London have some beautiful cards and ebooks over on their website *here
So for now, it's back to the grindstone of life as a new week awaits, full of deadlines, new beginnings and of course, a little bit of mindful knitting and crochet so that I can greet each day feeling as though I have a chance of climbing those 'deadline mountains'.
Have a fantastic week, and remember, as Dr. Thomas said "We're all born amazing".
Happy Crafting, Lynne xx
Disclaimer: All of the content is my own personal view.
Links:Chatting with Sara about Mindful Knitting and Crochet