I struggle with contemplative practices. I am fairly good at being silent, being still, being solitary. I am an extreme introvert, after all. My thoughts, though. They scurry and rabbit around like, well, rabbits. One thought can produce ten more, and off I go, sitting silent, still, solitary, but planning the next day’s meals and must-dos, mulling over yesterday’s missteps, and wondering what time it is right now.
In my hospital chaplaincy work, I have learned to be comfortable with silence, with stillness, with sitting with someone who is grieving the sudden loss of life or of an old, long-lived way of life. I have learned to train my rabbit-y mind to attend to the details in front of me, to be very present in the moment, to hold space for whomever and whatever. When I am alone in my meditation space, however…Yikes!
This Lenten season, I am striving to provide the same unconditional positive regard that I give my patients to myself. When I sit in my meditation space, I am bringing a mind that will keep traveling far from center. Knitting helps me maintain a center in my contemplative practice. There is so much to be present to with knitting: the sound of the needles against one another, the softness of the wool, the warmth of the steadily growing garment in my lap, the colors and how they play together, sometimes even the musky smell of lanolin.
As I knit, stitches moving from one needle to the other, the yarn flows up from the yarn-keeper at my feet. To one side, my right, I have an imaginary basket. There is another to my left. When a future-based rabbit-y thought scurries through my mind trailing its prodigious progeny behind, I settle it all in the right basket. When a past-based thought does the same, I settle it to my left. There is no wrong, and no right here. They just are. Some mornings the baskets fill to overflowing, and that is okay. Those rabbit-y thoughts can wait. And when I approach my meditation time with gratitude and these intentions, and pray that I will allow the same space to myself that I would give a patient, I often end with a sense of sanctuary that I can carry with me into my work.
On the needles
Garden Variety shawl by Lisa K. Ross, knit in succulent colors with Miss Babs Yummy 2-ply Toes.
Patti is a deacon in the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, NY, and a per diem chaplain at three area hospitals. Currently, she is a full-time student at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, working on a master’s degree in Religious Studies. In her spare time (and during some classes), she knits.
Project Update – 8 rows of Stockinette and the word Hope using duplicate stitch