As a lifelong knitter but only a recent (four years) but dedicated (every day if I can, several seven-day retreats) meditator, here is a short list of similarities between the two activities which I thought might apply to many other kinds of learning processes as well:
1. The beginner gets immediate rewards.
Knitting: The magical emergence of a serviceable, flexible piece of fabric created by merely passing one stringy loop of yarn over another.
Meditation: The unusual experience of a slowed down, calmer mind by doing what often feels like nothing, just sitting and breathing.
2. You can remain at a basic level and get satisfactions.
Knitting: Ten scarves of different textures, colors and weights, for yourself, or for gifts.
Meditation: Continued moments of calm. Even five minutes a day, or three minutes when you’re feeling stressed, can produce a less reactive you, sparing both yourself and your loved ones from small angers and hurts. A life with fewer small angers and hurts often produces extra love and mutual support.
3. You can always learn more.
Knitting: Fitted sweaters of many colors complete with shawl collars!
Meditation: A profound understanding of the nature of life on earth leading to a mental peace which surpasses understanding. Or so they tell me. I don’t expect to get there anymore than I expect to ever knit a sweater with a shawl collar.
4. If there were an Olympics for enduring boredom, knitters and meditators could both qualify.
I was reassured the other day when an experienced teacher of mine reported that he has had times during retreats when he thought he would “literally die of boredom.”
5. Frustrations, called “hindrances,” by the Buddhists, can abound in both activities.
Knitting: The sweater is two sizes bigger or smaller than you had planned. You have dropped a stitch somewhere in the middle of the project and have to unravel all the way down to reach it. This list could be very long.
Meditation: Sometimes nothing happens; the calmer mind will not emerge, even though you’re doing exactly the same meditation today that you did yesterday. Or you are faced with feelings you have run from all your life and they hurt and scare you as much as ever. This list could also be very long.
6. One bad joke to leave you with:
What did the afghan knitter say to the meditator? Don’t move! I have you covered.
7. One pun for you to ponder:
A knitter’s goal – something to wear. The meditator’s goal – aWAREness. Ha ha ha!