Quilting and Mindfulness

Somehow in my four years of quilting, “making quilts” has turned into an informal mindfulness practice.  Mindfulness, as defined by Jon Kabat-Zin is “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment.”  When the time comes to settle into my sewing nook it can be an opportunity to “show up” and really be present in that space with my mind and body. Having the opportunity to practice being in one place, working on one thing is hard to come by in our hectic daily lives in which normal often means juggling multiple task, demands and priorities.

Present moment awareness can take multiple forms. Sometimes it can be focusing in on the colors, noticing the subtle variations within and between fabrics.   Or it may be noticing the texture of the fabrics, the thread, noticing the whir of the sewing machine, the snipping of threads, and the space between all of the noticing. Taking some time to just notice what is happening in the present moment often helps me appreciate the time I have had to sew, which is often not as much time as I want to have. And because minds like to judge our experience, I inevitably notice thoughts that spring from direct observation; “I want to get this done,” “I like this part of quilting,” “I don’t like this part of quilting,” “I’m bad at this,” “I’m having fun.”

And with this judgmental, running commentary part of the mind there is the gift of practicing patience. Patience for the process of learning and doing, patience for judgmental thoughts about performance or skill, patience for the worry thoughts about how it will look in the end. In learning how to cultivate patience here, and continuing to do what matters when the mind is running through its hamster wheel of thoughts, there can be room to grow this awareness into other areas of life. And continually, with kindness, returning attention to the direct experience again, noticing colors, sounds, textures, thoughts, and the creation of something out of something else.

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