On Sunday afternoon, as we enjoyed an hour of quiet time, Mr. Wanderlust and Wanderlust Juniors built Lego creations while I retreated to a different room to knit and listen to a podcast. As I listened to Michael Stone speak about the habit of multitasking and its negative effects, I laughed at the irony of the situation. There I sat, listening for entertainment, however educational, while knitting. I was in the midst of creating something while listening to a dharma talk about the importance of giving ourselves space to sit and do nothing.
Many knitters enjoy clicking their needles while watching a TV show or listening to a podcast. In fact, many even bring their knitting to the movie theatre, family dinners, and other social events. It has been said, half-jokingly, that knitters can’t stand to have their hands empty. I can attest to that. Once upon a time, I was the knitter whose fingers probably used to move in her sleep as she dreamed of knitting a sweater. I was in undergrad at the time and when I would visit my parents and my sister on weekends, my sister would get upset about watching me sit on the living room couch with my knitting. She said that although I could easily carry a conversation without looking at my yarn and needles, she felt as though I wasn’t fully present. I now understand how different a non-knitter’s perception could be from that of the seasoned multitasking crafter. In truth, we cannot be truly present while we multitask.
It can seem natural for us to listen to music while preparing dinner, or listen to a podcast while cleaning our homes.
What happens if we turn off the noise? Will the sound of our thoughts become amplified? What narrative will we start to hear? Can we learn to be comfortable with that narrative, to acknowledge it without attempting to silence it?
Can we, instead, turn up the soft sound of our breath at the back of the throat? Can we enjoy the feel of the rubber gloves on the skin of our hands as we wash the bathroom sink?
Can we fully experience the scent of the baking soda, vinegar, and essential oils that we use to clean the sink?
Can we stand at a bus stop without mindlessly glancing at our phones every two minutes, if only to check the time or, perhaps, to avoid the gaze of the people who surround us?
For the past few months, it has been my practice to spend one day per week without screen technology, never glancing at my laptop or phone, and sometimes without listening to music (TV never enters into the equation because I only watch an hour of TV per week, if at all). In addition, I refrain from approaching my laptop or phone after the end of my workday. I feel guided to deepen my practice. This spring, I choose to mindfully focus on one activity at a time instead of pairing it with technology and the possibilities with which it presents us. I am also making the choice to not share my experiences as frequently, however exciting they might be. I choose to keep certain stories and photos to myself and my family, instead of sharing them on Instagram. Maybe, I will tell a friend about my fun experience sometime later, when I speak with her on the phone or in person over a cup of tea.
Discernment frequently shows us in my life in the form of yoga, asking me to choose between a strong Vinyasa and a quiet Yin or Restorative practice. I can apply similar discernment to knitting and technology, choosing whether to listen to music or a podcast while I work on a garment, or to set aside time to knit without any background noise as an entertaining distraction.
Some say that ‘knitting is the new yoga.’ Both yoga and knitting are opportunities that show up in my life as reminders to practise awareness. May we give ourselves permission to enjoy the pleasures of living with presence.
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