Happy Autumn! At the time I am drafting this post, fall has just ticked over from summer, and we are feeling that shift here in Pittsburgh. I am enjoying the cool mornings, warm and sunny afternoons, and crisp evenings, and I plan to enjoy every minute of it.
Most people "hate" this change over from summer because they know winter is coming soon after, but I choose to live in the moment and take it for what it is: gorgeous weather. There will be time to complain about rain and snow soon enough. :)
We all know that 2020 has been a you-know-what, am I right? There are so many lessons in this year. For this month's post, I wanted to talk about how you can use hobbies to gain some peace. I've mentioned it before, both in writing and in talks I've given—indeed, I was supposed to give a workshop on this topic in Sedona this past spring, but that never happened—so let's talk about it here instead!
As you may know from past posts, I'm really into prayer, meditation, and intuition work as a source of being true to myself, to always make decisions based on that truth, and to keep my blood pressure and stress hormone levels low. Paying attention to and developing these skills has brought me a great deal of peace in my life: reducing anxiety, helping me sleep better, and keeping me clear-minded. But it was only in the last several years that I realized I could apply these concepts to my crafting hobbies.
You see, I used to be a stressy crafter. I used to craft as a means of escape, but would often find myself ruminating in the background. I had the wrong idea of what "escape" meant. My mind was so focused on what was bothering me that soon I'd find I was stabbing the fabric when I cross-stitched, tightening my tension too much in my knitting, or constantly breaking my singles while spinning yarn due to not paying attention to my drafting.
But now, I realize that "escape" is really transcendence, that I can craft my way to peace by being mindful about what I'm doing instead of ruminating. Keep reading...
I've turned crafting into my own form of meditation.
There are five steps you can take to start turning your hobby into a meditative practice and pass along all that good energy to others while you're at it. Here are the 5 steps I take every time I sit down to work on a hobby:
- Breathe and stretch — before picking up my piece, I take a good 5–10 deep breaths. I stretch my neck, my hands, roll my shoulders, and shake out any tension from the day.
- Focus — I focus on the craft I'm about to pick up. For example, if I'm going to crochet, then I put myself into "crochet mind" by envisioning myself using the hook to make something beautiful.
- Set an intention — whoever the recipient is going to be (including myself), I imagine that person in my mind and set a nice wish for them. I picture them wearing it or using it or smiling upon opening it. I imagine them happy and at peace. I might think of a specific situation that I want to turn out well for them and say prayers for them. This is where intuition can step in and help, too: what is your intuition telling you about what the recipient needs? You can pick up on that and focus on something good for them based on that nudge.
- Work mindfully—once I've done steps 1–3, I pick up the piece and begin. As I work, I continue to engage my breathing. Deep breaths in and out; no shallow breathing. I also focus on keeping my tension even. If I start to tense up, or feel my shoulders start to rise, I take a second to regroup, breathe, and focus on even tension. I refocus on happy things for the person I'm working the piece for. Mindfulness is the name of the game in this step.
- Don't ruminate! — energy transference is real, and I don't want to infuse the piece with anything negative. If I find my mind chewing on problems, I stop, regroup, breathe, then continue working. I stay focused on the task at hand; not my problems, the world's problems, or any other problems I could possibly dream up. If I start to ruminate, I might smile to myself to break the cycle, then...you guessed it: take a second to breathe, set my intention and envision happy things for the recipient again, and only then do I continue. If I can't get this last part right, then I put the piece down. (More about that in the next section.)
Energy Transference and Crafting
Some people take their crafts to the next level by learning new skills. I take mine to the next level with energy and intention. Some folks don't believe energy transference is real, but have you ever found yourself around someone really negative and not wanted to hang out with them any more?
Your crafts (and any recipients, including yourself) are similarly affected. Don't put your bad mood into your work. Level yourself up by using intention and breath work. If you want to take your crafting into a safe space, where you can GET AWAY from your problems, not ruminate or stress out, taking steps 1–5 above are a great way to do that. I promise you it's next-level stuff. You may even find you're branching out in your actual skills as you engage with this new way of crafting. I can't tell you what this has done for my own abilities!
This process has become so important to me, so ingrained into my lifestyle now, that if I'm in a bad mood, stressed out, etc., I absolutely WILL NOT pick up a craft until I shift my mindset. I will not put any negativity into that piece, especially since most of what I make now goes to other people. Why would I give them a gift that has anything negative attached to it?
Here are some scenarios you can consider, followed by suggested answers/intentions.
- How would a new parent feel about that gorgeous baby blanket you made swaddling their precious newborn if they knew you were angsty and angry about politics while making it? (Put politics aside and imagine that newborn growing up happy, healthy, cute, and giggly as they have tummy time and learn to crawl on that beautiful blanket.)
- How would your mom feel while wearing the gorgeous necklace you made for her birthday if she knew you were upset about something the entire time you made it? (Why are you upset? Identify and deal with it, then take steps 1–5 and work on the necklace for your mom without those bad feelings; imagine her smiling beautifully and feeling thrilled as she proudly wears your elegant creation.)
- How would your child feel hugging the new stuffed animal you sewed for them if they knew you cried over it every night while you made it because that was the only time you had to yourself and could let out your tears? (It's tough being a parent, and parents often hide their feelings while putting their kids first. Have your cry first, then take steps 1–5 and sew that stuffy with a clear mind while imagining your kiddo enjoying the heck out of their new toy.)
- How would a cancer patient feel wearing the chemo cap you made for them if they knew it had all your work frustrations stuck in it? (Look, we all have work frustrations. Moan about it to a coworker or friend first to get it out of your system. Then set an intention for that cancer patient, that they will be warm and comforted by this hat and that they will regain full health; imagine them vibrant and happy and resuming activities they love to do.)
Do you see how using your imagination is a part of setting your intentions?
By taking a few moments to center yourself, breathe, envision positive things, watch your tension levels, etc., you are helping both yourself and the recipient of your gift.
This applies even if the item you're making is for yourself. By having a mindful crafting practice, you are helping yourself doubly. I absolutely ADORE a blanket I made for myself and feel so comforted by it because I know I am wrapped up in not only soft and squishy yarn, but in the positive feelings and intent I set for myself while I made it.
Take Breaks for Physical Health and Flow
Finally, in order to make sure you stay healthy physically along with all this awesome emotional work you're doing, make sure you take some breaks. Don't get a repetitive stress injury (RSI) by doing a craft or hobby for too long. On your breaks, drink water or herbal tea and stretch. Do a little bit of flow, like Yoga, Tai Chi, Qi gong, or walking around. Keep that healthy, deep breathing pattern going. When you resume the project, remember to keep your intention in mind and stay in that positive mindset as you work.
You can apply the concepts I use to any hobby, too, as far as I can tell. Imagine following a similar process whether you're a knitter, crocheter, painter, jeweler, stamp collector, scrapbooker, woodworker, metalworker, sculptor.... The important thing is to breathe, flow, and set your intention to be a positive one.
The bottom line is: hobby time is an opportunity to create a mindful and meditative state that positively affects both yourself and others.
Drop me a comment and tell me:
- Have you been crafting or hobbying during the pandemic? If so, what are you making or doing?
- If not, do you think you might try it again using these techniques to "meditate"?
- Have you ever done anything like what I do?
I look forward to hearing from you!
Oh, and if you want to follow my crafting projects, you can find them on my newly resurrected Crafting/DIY blog!