Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The More Things Differ, The More They Are Alike

It recently occurred to me just how much all of my interests have in common, which is rather surprising, given how varied they are.  While knitting and spinning require different skills, different hand motions, and each has it's own challenges and problems, are alike in that they are both fiber arts.  And yet it strikes me how much both of these activities have in common with my study of TaeKwonDo. 

I came into TKD after a rather lengthy stay in the land of yoga and realized that the two practices, to me anyway, seem to be two sides of the same coin.  The yin and the yang, if you will.  Both require mental focus, physical strength and flexibility, balance, and the ability to be completely drop into that mental "zone" where you are perfectly aware of your body and your surroundings.  They both share the same roots, and it's really quite amazing how many poses and stances the two disciplines share.  Yet whereas the yoga that I practiced was generally mellow, relatively quiet and meditative, the TKD requires lots of yelling, sparring, and strong, fast movements.

Although I must admit that my knitting & spinning have resulted in yelling and language I do not want my children to hear, neither requires sparring or significant physical strength.  All of these activities do result in that same mindful state of awareness and of being in the moment.  When I am knitting or spinning, I focus on the task at hand, the feel of the fiber or needles in my hands, and the motion required to produce a stitch or for drafting the fiber out for spinning.  I can choose to listen to the clicking of the needles or the faint knocking sound my wheel sometimes makes.  I can focus on the rythym of my work.  I can choose to do none of these and let my mind go where it pleases and allow my motions to become the background for the mind's wanderings; a sweet release indeed after a prolonged period of intense focus or stress.

I have tried on many occasions to start a regular meditation practice, based (loosely) on the buddhist tradition.  It's not that I don't enjoy the sitting or the experience of doing this; in fact I like it quite a bit.  It's just that I have found that I am getting a lot of the same benefits that meditation has to offer from my fibery pursuits and TKD.  This is not to say that these activities are a replacement for a dedicated meditation practice, but ways carry that practice around with me and perhaps learn to apply it to more of my aspects of my life.

For example, knitting in busy public places seems to calm the commotion that surrounds me and I am drawn into my work.  The noises soften to the point where I am aware of them, but they are no longer intrusive.  The bustle of the people around me seems not so much to slow down, but to be farther away than it really is.  Performing the same activity in my home when no one else is around allows me to actively listen to the music playing or enjoy the sound of the rain on the windows: sensations I might take for granted or miss altogether were I not still, quiet and focused.

Practicing TKD in a crowded classroom has brought me into a very similar mental state, in which I am aware of the movement and sounds surrounding me, but they do not interfere with my concentration.  The rest of the students and the sounds of the class fall away as I try to perfect my stances and hand motions.  It's almost as if the classroom gets bigger and everyone has their own personal practice space.  I am aware that my muscles ache and that the room is so hot that my clothes are soaked through with sweat, but these thoughts retreat into the background of my consciousness.  I am able to be entirely present in and mindful my body.  I allow only one thought to dominate at a time:  Feel the floor under your feet. Make a perfect stance. Twist into the block. Balance. Breathe.

All of this has made me wonder if people are drawn to their interests because they have some element(s) in common, and if that element is something that the practioner needs for some personal reason.  I know this is true for me, is it for you?  What do your interests have in common?  Is there a link that you had not noticed or thought about before?  I invite you to share your thoughts on the subject.


  1. Beth,

    congratulations on starting the blog and having your first post! This is great - while I'm contemplating the same for a years by now :(, you are actually doing it!

    Keep'em coming!


  2. Great post to jump in with. Knitting definitely feeds/soothes my soul. It makes me patient, relaxes me, and definitely puts me in a meditative like state if I knit without any radio/tv.

  3. Congratulations on getting this off the ground. I know how hard it was for you to jump into this technology with both feet.

    -- Greg