Isha Upanishad

Quilting as Meditation {Discussion}

Every now and then, I get a little more philosophical here in my blog posts. The musings I’m sharing today were inspired by two activities that I have been engaging in on a daily basis this week: quilting (I’m up to working on back and forth free motion quilted lines for Space Arcade) and meditation. I have been drawn to meditation practice since I went on a retreat to Miraval Resort in 2011, but until this year I did not have a consistent meditation practice.

Desert Aerial Photo

Desert Aerial Photo

At the end of my week vacation to Miraval in 2011, after daily meditations, exercise, and other special group sessions, I felt like I had shed a lot of pain/anxiety/stress from my body. Which pretty much all came rushing back on my flight home, as I looked out the window and prepared to head back to work (I took the photo above just before reality came creeping back).

Spring Blossoms, April 2014

Spring Blossoms, April 2014

This year, I have been doing my best to carve out time every day for a short, daily meditation. I have access to the Calm app through my health insurance, and I have particularly been enjoying setting a timer for 5 or 10 minutes and following one of their breathing recommendations.

  • Relax: count of 4 in, count of 6 out
  • Balance: count of 4 in, hold for 2, count of 4 out
  • Restore: count of 5 in, count of 5 out
  • Focus: count of 4 in, hold for 4, count of 4 out, hold for 4
  • Energize: count of 4 in, count of 2 out

In addition to finding it calming to so singularly focus on something as simple as my breath for 5 or 10 minutes, I’ve found that I am focusing more on deep belly breathing instead of upper chest breathing at other points during the day. The simple switch of making sure I’m expansively breathing and checking in on that throughout the day has been good for me.

Isha Upanishad

Isha Upanishad

My in-laws gifted me a year’s access to Gaia so that I can do yoga workouts virtually with them occasionally. We will select the same video and practice it sometime during the day. It’s a lovely way to be connected with them. The Gaia app also has meditations that I use, and one of the meditations I used in the past week was based on the opening invocation to the Isha Upanishad (shown above). The meditation asked us to consider that we live in abundance and have all the resources we need. The funny thing is that I immediately thought of my fabric stash and how even if I didn’t buy any more fabric, I probably do have all the resources I need for years and years to come.

2022 Kona Club - 365 Kona Solids!

My abundant fabric stash

When I am really in the zone quilting a quilt – when I have found “flow” – I find that I am in a very similar mental state to when I am meditating. I get less attached to the thoughts that come into my head. For instance, some of my favorite broken records to mentally put on repeat are about moments in the past when I have said something that I wish I had not, and I can really spiral into shame and embarrassment which leads me to feeling sad and/or anxious. I think that’s why I will often have on a podcast or music in the background while I quilt – it gives my mind something else to focus on instead of digging up those old movies. However, now that I am four and a half months into my new meditation practice, I’m finding that it’s a lot more quiet on my studio. I’m more intent on listening to the sound of my sewing machine, the sound of my deep belly breathing, and the sounds of the world outside my studio walls.

Full disclosure: I’m also finding I’m starting to turn off the radio in the car so I can focus and see better when I’m driving. So take all these musings about Zen like meditative states with a large dose of the reality that I’m probably also dealing with the normal aging reality that I’m not able to take being as overstimulated as I used to be. 🙂

Is there a particular step in making a quilt that is especially calming and Zen like for you? Are there other hobbies (gardening, exercising) where you can find bliss?

13 thoughts on “Quilting as Meditation {Discussion}

  1. A wonderful thought provoking post! My happy place is when I’m fmqing, the worries slip away.

  2. Stacey Rothchild says:

    I have found recently. I have also enjoyed driving and sewing in silence. Somehow all the extra noise gets my brain all jumbled versus be able to concentrate on what is in front of me. I think it takes practice to enjoy silence and not have to have distractions for the mind. I’ve been trying to incorporate some meditation but with work and life and everything else it is hard to shove the brain off even for a few minutes but consistently making me effort to at least try I think is helping.

  3. Oh, gosh, I do the same thing, go over and over something I wish I hadn’t said or done, (or something I didn’t do) for days and days. Interestingly, I too sewed in silence on afternoon this week. My softer new age music just never got put on, and I didn’t miss it that day. I enjoy the quiet of the very early morning as a respite most days.

  4. Debra G Best says:

    Thank you for sharing that! I really need that!

  5. Paulette says:

    I can relate to what you’re saying, and the “full disclosure” paragraph rings true, too. I use the Insight Timer meditation app and have found a lot of interesting meditation teachers that way. I find I don’t tolerate the jams in my sewing space as much as I used to. Podcasts are more my speed now, or simply silence.

  6. I agree – I like the idea to think that we love in abundance, and most likely have everything we need. Not that we can’t get more, but maybe use the moment to see what we already have, and if that works first before accumulating more… ( and not just fabric!) Remember in the olden days when our ancestors could cook with just what they had… it still amazes me.
    I am with you on the quiet too – I am finding I like it, and its stops my multitasking thoughts ( as in I should be doing 2 things at the same time)

  7. Great post, Yvonne! I think piecing is the most calming for me. I usually listen to podcasts, but most times I find myself so in tune with stitching that I block out surrounding sounds! Just ask my hubby!! LOL I guess I’m weird that way! As you stated in your full disclosure paragraph, as I get older, I definitely do not enjoy being overstimulated, or being constantly on the go, which is much different than when I was younger and was constantly on the go!

  8. Liz says:

    I really appreciate you writing this post. There was a time that I found machine quilting very meditative and relaxing and I’d put on music or an audiobook and block out the world. But at some point, I started listening to YouTube instead and it has definitely disturbed the peace I found in quilting. I’m still trying to learn to spend less time on there and go back to my zen zone of audiobooks and music for machine quilting, but it’s been a real challenge to disconnect! This post has made me think, so thank you.

  9. Kate says:

    I’m in a similar spot now that I’ve retired. I’ve been concentrating on my photography skills recently and both books I’m using for guidance start off with relaxation and breathing exercise to clear you mind before you start taking pictures. I’m still not very good at it, but I’m finding it does help with my state of mind these days.

  10. I don’t often have music on, it helps me focus not to. I do love my breathing exercises from yoga and practice with a live zoom class twice a week if I can. I have had periods with more meditative time, and think it really does help one focus. I am glad that it continues to be a supportive and nurturing practice for you.

  11. Kaja says:

    I go through phases when I meditate every day, then something disrupts me and it takes a while to get back to it, but I definitely feel all round better when I keep it up. I can’t listen to speaking when I piece so no radio or audio-books. If things are working well then I have music, if I’m stuck then silence or Beethoven. When I’m quilting I listen to the radio or work in silence, depending on my mood. I think the best bits of creativity are when you are in the zone and everything is flowing. In those moments, to be honest, it doesn’t matter what’s happening in the background because I just don’t take any of it in. This is a great discussion topic – thanks, Yvonne.

  12. Shelly Starr Stephen says:

    I loved this post on meditation. Thank you, I needed to read/hear and feel your words.

  13. I read this post in my Inbox but life kind of got in the way of getting here to comment, but I’ve come back, because so much of this resonates with me. An incident just this morning, with my Ashtanga yoga partner on Zoom (so cool that you zoom-yoga with your in-laws!): I was a minute late to start our meeting, and said sorry, I’d been sewing a bit, and time just evaporated…she said, “Do you ever stop?!” to which I replied, “Sewing for me is my happy place, my zen, so starting my day that way is the best.” (even more than yoga!!) I’ve long told people that quilting, especially FMQ, gets me in a similar state as to watching goldfish, just so meditative, and yes, you can ‘watch’ your thoughts, and you don’t spiral into them the way you sometimes can. Thanks for sharing all of this, how nice that your Health Insurance recognizes and pays for the Daily Calm app. I’ve had it for a couple of years now, lots of wonderful stuff within it, especially the daily meditation with Tamara.

I really appreciate the time and thought you take to comment, and I look forward to conversing with you. :)