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can't meditate? here's why you should try art!

Stashed in: Meditate, Awesome, Knitta, please!, Creativity, happiness, art

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1. Art is a vehicle for meditation and self-connection

Most of us can understand that art provides an escape to a sometimes harsh reality, but where does art’s healing potential come from? It impacts the state of our mind: enjoying emotional stability is largely about taking responsibility for how we feel.

Research has shown the power of meditation and the science behind it. One of the reasons it is so powerful is that it fosters acceptance: “meditation is an active training of the mind to increase awareness (…) it emphasizes acceptance of feelings and thoughts without judgment and relaxation of body and mind”. Creating art is a type of meditation. It allows you to free yourself from daily worries and tensions and connect with deeper parts of yourself.

Moreover, art, like meditation, allows you to create space between ‘the thoughts’ and allows us to connect with our true selves – as opposed to with the fleeting/or false sense of identity we can get when we are caught up thoughts and emotions. Eckhart Tolle, spiritual teacher, writes; “Identification with thoughts and the emotions that go with those thoughts creates a false mind-made sense of self, conditioned by the past… This false self is never happy or fulfilled for long. Its normal state is one of unease, fear, insufficiency, and nonfulfillment”. Creating art is about reaching a state of consciousness and breaking free from the constant debilitating chatter of the mind.

Can we think of knitting as a form of creating art?

yes, but it's slow and mechanical, which means it still leaves a lot of room for mind chatter.  i think what makes painting, sculpting, and drawing so helpful for the mind is that they require more attention.

I had not heard of Zentangles before. Thanks Christina. 

I get it that the activity needs attention to free the mind from chatter. So knitting is not good for this. 

but i don't want to knock knitting.  it's still a creative process that can be relaxing and make great sweaters and this:

i mean, when you're that good at knitting, maybe it's like meditation.  we need a real knitter to comment!

Did someone call for a knitter? I greatly admire art but I can't say I really understand how it works or what the line is between art and craft in the brain. I sucked at art in school, and my mind was never clear while doing it because it was so filled with anxiety and self-critical mind-chatter... which would totally defeat the therapeutic qualities of art you're talking about, Emily. People who think of themselves as "good at art" from an early age -- like you! -- are probably less subject to negative mind-chatter while making art! That is not true of those of us who have had negative results with drawing and painting from an early age.

When I look at people like the leaf-painter you chose to illustrate this article, or the paper-cutters that I often stash about, or the veterans with PTSD who made masks... I actually have no idea whether their process is slow and mechanical, or quick and inspired, or what. Some artists seem to have a pretty sharp dividing line between concept and execution, while others seem to figure out what they're making as part of making it. Certainly when I look at sculptors, their process seems often to be a little bit dangerous and very physical -- welding and whatnot -- so I imagine they'd be more or less forced to live in the moment, like dancers. But I know people who weld all kinds of stuff, like cars... are they also artists?

Knitting is definitely relaxing and many people find it meditative in the way that any repetitive physical movement can help you focus without focusing. Emily, I think you're concerned that it's not CREATIVE or EXPRESSIVE enough to perhaps trigger certain kinds of breakthroughs... which is certainly the case for 80% of knitting. But is meditation itself a creative or "breakthrough-as-a-goal" act? Or is it about forcing yourself sit with your thoughts, no matter what they are? I think people disagree about this, which is why there are many paths to meditative practice.

I will say that there are different methods in knitting, and some of them are doubtless more creative and expressive than others. A famous knitting writer once expressed her frustration with writing patterns for "Blind Followers", and looking at Ravelry (a website where knitters chronicle their projects) certainly suggests that many of them are. On the other hand, there are "freehand knitters" who take a big box of various yarns and just start knitting without worrying beforehand about what it's going to be. That would probably be more like art therapy! Those yarnbombers are somewhere in the middle.

I think worrying about the line between art and craft is a waste of a good worry. There was a world-class potter at my art school who ran the ceramics department, and I have little doubt a world class knitter could run Fibers (another department, for real!)

Why not just relax into the joy of making, be it painting, zentangles, knitting, sewing, cooking and be utterly present in that act. 

Let art happen if it needs to, but never demand it. Too stressful!

yes, i totally agree, christina.  it is best to relax into the art of creation.  cue elsa: let it go!  :)

but, that being said, i love the feeling of breaking through the critic within.  and often that happens in the act of creation, not beforehand.  joyce, what you talk about—the negative mind chatter while you make art—is something i deal with almost every time i paint.  but i've gotten to the point where i know that if i paint on, it will all turn out okay.  i think that's what i like most about painting: the inner me telling the inner critic to fuck off!  ;)

and then seeing what comes out!

(and sometimes i paint the whole canvas white again.  and that's okay, too.)

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