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June 18, 2008

Sew what!

Now that I am getting the office/spare room clutter down to a more manageable level, I'm going to pull my poor neglected sewing machine out of the garage and give it a tune-up and put it in the office. I love to sew!

My office closet used to hide a big stash of fabric but not anymore. However, when I was cleaning out the linen cupboard a few weeks ago I found a lot of things in there I wasn't using and with some creative cutting and a dye job they might turn into something fun. I haven't decided what I'm going to make or when, but I think it's a good sign that I am bringing the sewing machine out of retirement. Sewing is the first and finest form I ever discovered of active meditation -- I didn't even know what "active meditation" was back then, I only knew that if I started a sewing project, I became so focused on it that all my other worries and inside-chatter went away. That is a really good feeling, especially if you have the brain of a yappy chihuahua like I do. Yap yap yap ... that's all my brain ever does.

As part of my big self-helpy Buffet Of Learnin' I read a lot of helpy books, and it appears that all these enlightened people who probably don't cuss in traffic and don't secretly flip off their computer when they get an icky email are all folks who meditate daily. So I tried to meditate. I really did. I tried diligently for weeks to sit all still and to quiet my mind. My mind would say, "Are we there yet? Huh? Are we? Are we at inner peace yet? How much longer? Do I have to sit still like this the whole way? I have to go potty. Why are we doing this? If I can't meditate does it mean I will never have inner peace? Why are we still talking? Are we there yet? Is there any cheese in the fridge? FOCUS. Ok, I am focused! My leg itches. Do you think we got a bug bite? What is wrong with me that I hate doing this so much? Where is the next exit?"

And so on.

One time when Drew came to visit we were eating lunch and watching TV and they had a promo for the Oprah show. The little commercial was promoting an upcoming show about people who were married and discovered they were gay. The soundbite used in the commercial was something like, "One day I just knew something was different..." and they showed a close-up of this guy's face. Right then Drew turned to me and asked, "You think he woke up one day and just said ...'Uh-oh! I think I might be FAB-YOO-LESS!!!'"

Oh Lord I had not laughed so hard in a long time. It makes me laugh even now just thinking about it.

Then the next day when I tried to meditate all I could hear inside my stupid brain was, "Uh-oh! I think.. I think I might be FABULOUS!!!" and I started giggling and it was all she wrote. Finally I just gave up on the traditional sit-still-and-ponder-your-navel thing. I don't care how many people tell me it's the only way to find peace. Good for them. But they aren't me and don't have a chihuahua in their heads.

All that frustration with meditating is how I remembered I'd once read a term called "active meditation" and it clicked with me. I immediately thought of sewing -- it's something I could spend all day doing and I love doing it and so why is my machine out in the garage in a box? When I'm cutting out pieces for a pattern (or making my own pattern) and pinning them together and moving the foot pedal on the machine, I think of nothing else at all. Active meditation is awesome for me and my yappy brain. You just focus on something you like or an activity and your whole body gets less tense. You breathe more regularly. You stop clenching up all your muscles and making mental to-do lists. I figure if I found something that works for me, why beat myself over the head for not being like everyone else?

Other things that keep me focused and help me relax and breathe:

• Writing
• Painting (anything, not just a picture, but painting old furniture or picture frames or making watercolor postcards). Painting old terra-cotta pots is relaxing, too.
• Wrapping presents, like at Christmastime when you sit down to wrap everything, that's so relaxing.
• Petting the cats or brushing them. Frankie will sit still for hours to be brushed with the soft brush, she starts meowing like crazy when she sees me go near it! So I guess that's her meditation, too.
• Cleaning the house when I don't "have" to clean it (it's very stressful when company is coming and I have to clean, but if it's a Sunday afternoon and I'm just puttering around it can be very relaxing to shine up the kitchen.)
• Gardening
• Brushing my teeth
• Showering, I swear I could stay in the shower all day (but I don't)
• Cleaning out a kitchen drawer
• Making crafty stuff
• Walking
• Sitting at the beach or walking and looking for shells (that is my favorite)

I have a book on my bedside table called The Meditation Bible that has tons of great ideas like the candle meditation (where you focus on a pretty candle) and active listening and all sorts of things. It has given me some good ideas and made me realize there's more ways to find a slice of calmness than just sitting in one spot and closing your eyes.

My favorite meditation device -- my sewing machine -- will be off to the Sew & Vac repair shop this weekend for a good tune-up. Older machines love having a thorough cleaning and getting all greased up on the insides every now and then. Mine is an old Singer model from the 1970s and it only has two stitches, straight and zigzag! It doesn't even have a buttonhole maker. I like it though, it's sturdy and friendly and I've had it a long time. I wonder what weird and wacky thing I'll make with my sewing machine this summer? All I know for sure is that I'm looking forward to some zen time winding bobbins and threading needles!

Besides, maybe I'll make something and realize ... Uh-oh! It's FABULOUS!

Posted by laurie at June 18, 2008 8:29 AM