It has long been said that keeping the hands busy is a great way to calm the mind. Studies have shown it has a beneficial impact on the neural pathways in the brain, and although it isn't a magic panacea, I certainly found that crafting helped me to cope better with the circumstances surrounding the death of my partner a few years ago. I think there is something very therapeutic about tackling a craft you are unfamiliar with and following it through to it's ultimate creation, there's a degree of having control over something, when other things in your life have left you feeling out of control.
Occupational Therapy is a tool used by the medical profession to help people get over a trauma. Crafting, Creative arts or home-making could be considered the non-medically prescribed version! For some people, the idea of seeking help to overcome their grief is abhorrent to them, yet it is often the case that these are the very people who desperately need it. There is no shame in seeking help to surmount your emotional pain. Be it in the form of prescribed counselling or occupational therapy or even via the pharmaceutical route. But if this is not something that you feel you need for, or even if you have turned to these but feel the need to change, then I highly recommend crafting.
As mentioned earlier, I started to crochet. Knitting I could do (as long as it was a scarf!). Crocheting I had no idea! A close friend, with the patience of a saint, tried to teach me the basics, but I didn't want to stretch the bounds of our friendship so far that they snapped due to my inability to crochet anything but a long chain! So I looked it up on YouTube, there are many different sites that can show you how to start with the basic stitches. At the end of last year, I crocheted a rather nice cardigan that was longer than I thought it would be but looked brilliant nonetheless. This year things have been different and I have found myself creating gifts, with love, for those that I love.
Nowadays my crafting has extended to creating gifts to sell at craft shows, upcycling furniture to order and I'm now trying to teach my eleven year old daughter to crochet. When she lost her father she turned to crafting to help her with her grief, she would draw pictures for Papa and she drew a beautiful one of the three of us together that we had placed in his coffin. Crafting helps her to deal with the emotions she has had to deal with and with the fast approaching puberty period on the horizon, I hope she will continue to craft and create instead of obsessing with boys, her looks (she's beautiful already, but I'm biased!) and all things social media. She already knows how to sew, I bought her a lovely starter sewing machine and she can spend days designing and creating dresses for her dolls. In the not to distant future she'll soon be growing out of the "playing with them" phase, but hopefully she will still use them as her models, this will help her, I hope, to develop a style that is unique to her and not to follow the crowd. We have decided to earmark craft projects that we are going to undertake together. Giving us some mother daughter time and learning a new skill in the process.
Meditation has a strange reputation. Many people do it, yet to some there is a stigma, a weirdness about it that deters people from starting to meditate. Despite the fact that many doctors and other health professionals recommend it (it comes in many guises) some people are still wary of it. Back in the day it used to be the province of hippies, buddhists and Hare Krishna monks. It was (falsely) aligned with cults and religions. There was a image of some bearded man sat crossed legged in front of burning incense with temple bells chiming in the background. I must admit to always wanting to meditate, but not being sure I was “doing it right”. I was too focused on the idea of meditation and its goals that I tried too hard to master it, master my mind and exercise ultimate control. Apparently I was doing it wrong! Who knew?!
Essentially, the goals of meditation is a mind at peace, a mind of clarity, only sometimes our pesky brains don't seem to want to play ball (well mine doesn't) and no sooner am I “in the zone” when along comes a thought, followed by another, then another, and then, yep you guessed it, self-flagellation of the mental kind, and (what I perceive to be) failure.
How To Meditate
It has occurred to me that, like journaling, there is no right or wrong way to meditate. It's completely personal. So personalise it to your heart's content. You don't want to sit crossed-legged in the lotus position? Then don't! Sit on a chair, on the edge of your bed, on your sofa, it really doesn't matter. I sometimes sit upright on my sofa or crossed legged on my bed. If you want to sit in the lotus position but you find it uncomfortable to sustain for more than a few minutes then maybe you might like to invest in a meditation cushion. They take over the role of the rolled up blanket under your tailbone and can help you achieve and maintain the position longer and in more comfort, but they are NOT an essential part of the meditation process.
You don't want to sit in silence? Then don't! There's a ton of free music just a search away on the internet, type in “meditation music” (I'm a huuuge fan of this channel on YouTube, sign up for their newsletter and get a free download to use when you are not online) then chose your music; whale song, running water, waves, thunder, rain, piano, chanting, the list is endless…
Some people can't meditate on their own, if that's you then you may benefit from guided meditation, this could be in the form of an app, an audio download or a CD.
I’ve used the Headspace app in the past, and I really recommend it. You can try it for a month for free then afterwards you pay either monthly or annually. One of the benefits of the app are the packs you can follow, or you can choose their daily meditation offering. Another great benefit is the kids option. I lost my partner a few years ago, naturally our daughter was hit hard by the death of her father (nine years old is no age to be losing your Dad, especially when you’re a card-carrying Daddy's Girl). The children's sessions are split up into age groups and are offered in terms of emotion; kindness, happiness, sleep, etc... and they are either three, six or nine minutes long. There was a distinct improvement in her coping mechanisms and general emotional well-being after a few days of using the app, and let's face it, if we can get our kids meditating at an early age, we'll be setting them up for long-term mental wellness as adults.
The Benefits Of Meditation
I read somewhere that while the object of meditation is clarity of mind, it does not necessarily need to be an absence of thought. This is what I struggled with at the beginning. A thought would pop into my mind, I'd latch on to it and off I'd go on my Alice in Wonderland style rabbit hole journey into my mind, then I'd beat myself up, and thus it continued. Frustrating didn't even begin to cover it. Now, however, I am gentler with myself, I recognise when I'm thinking and I imagine swiping it away as you would a fly from your face or a page on your tablet and I move on. Being in a place of mental clarity is the goal, not absence of thought.
Some people meditate as a means of tapping into their spirituality, but you don't have to be spiritual or indeed religious to benefit from this practice. Initially, I used meditation to get in touch with my inner being, my guardian angel, later I used it to visualise cleansing my chakras, and occasionally I still practice that. Nowadays I use a guided meditation for 20 minutes in the morning, just after I wake up. It sets me up for the day, although I can and frequently do, self-sabotage and check emails, Pinterest, Twitter etc... before I meditate, which somewhat dilutes the practice and its obvious benefits.
Sometimes my practice is fulfilling and I come out of it full of inspiration and joie de vivre, other times I find myself thinking or even singing in my head, which apparently is totally normal, but nevertheless irritating!
My Tips For Your Meditation Journey
So here some tips I recommend to start/continue with your meditation journey.
Check out and follow my Pinterest Meditation Board for some links to pages that I have found helpful in my meditation journey.
Life is a journey, not a destination.
Are you new to meditation? Do you struggle with thinking your way through a session? Share your experiences of meditation by leaving a comment below.
With love and light