Posted by: drjamm | January 25, 2010

knit one; walk two

the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth – Thich Nhat Hanh

It’s 12°C and I’m sitting cross-legged on a lounge by the pool. I’m wearing two sweaters, a scarf, and have a raincoat wrapped around my legs. The dark thunder clouds above have turned the sky into a troubling, gun-metal gray canvass, but I’m determined to sit by the pool and knit even though the wind bullies my wool around. You might be surprised to know I am sitting in an RV trailer park on the edge of the Sonora desert. The sun shines here 300 days out of the year but I am lucky enough to witness the “rainy season.”

I can guess you might be thinking, “please spare me the descriptions of how the palm trees are bending with each moaning gust of wind; and omit the part about how the wind is mists the pool water into my face; and just skip straight to the important part — — what’s on my knitting needles!

Okay, my bright heart singing friend, so as not to disappoint you,  here is my knitting story: I’m teaching myself to knit mittens in the round. This year I plan to knit mittens, in all sizes, all year, and practice my loving-kindness meditating at the same time. I already know how to knit mittens flat on one needle and sew up the seam. That’s a piece of cake! But I want to make seam-free mittens in the round using the magic loop technique (using one long circular needle rather than four double pointed needles). Knitting is one good way for me to achieve a sustained focus on a single purpose in order to empty my mind of other worries and unhealthy thoughts.

So I sit bundled up by the pool on edge of the Sonora knitting my way to desert-Zen. Who cares if the weather is tempestuous and I had to keep tugging back my wool from the wind’s greedy clutches? This weather is strangely a perfect match for me as I wrestle with my magic loop needles. Ugh! Another mistake! I rip out my work for the fourth time. Oh well, learning is learning. I don’t know if I’ll succeed with this new knitting technique but I will try my best to complete one pair before I give up altogether. In the meantime, while I knit, make mistakes, and re-rip out my work, I dedicate myself to loving the future person who will eventually wear these mittens. I actively try to imagine that future person with warm hands and a warm heart.

Later, I leave the pool side and find a big open space in the somewhat vacant parking lot at the RV Park. I slowly pace in a circle while I work on my fifth attempt. My wool is stashed in a nerdy recycled jean sack that dangles from my arm. My eyes move back and forth from my work to the road ahead and back again to make sure I neither drop a stitch, nor bump into any RVs, people, or into any oncoming traffic. This walking and knitting practice may seem needlessly risky to you (please rest assured there is virtually no traffic or people around to see me), but for me, this slow walking/knitting meditation is one of the most successful techniques I know to side-step my busy mind and just BE.

My mind is so active –over active — that only knitting is not enough to bring relief from my habit of “circular” thinking. When I knit-and-walk, my need need to monitor my stitch work, AND my steps, AND turn every now and then in my circle to avoid bumping into things, fully occupies my “monkey mind.” With this knit-and-walk practice, there is very little mental energy left over to worry about anything else in my life. As a result, I am free to BE: BE knitting; BE walking; BE windswept; BE breathing; BE alive;, and BE happy to be here in the desert — thunder clouds not withstanding.

People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Everyday we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves … All is a miracle.

-Thich Nhat Hanh

May you discover whatever it takes for you to participate in the miracle of this present moment — even if it means knitting on circular needles while (carefully) walking in circles. Happy knitting!

*******       bright heart singing                          credits and links             *******

Photo credits: Photos by jamm at

Book credit: excerpt from The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hahn

Poem credit: Poem excerpt from: Rumi, Mathnawi (Mesnevi), II, 278

bright heart singing, copyright 2010 – jamm. Creative commons attribution, non-commercial sharing only (translation: feel free to quote me in context or use this entry but please always credit me for my work, thanks.)



  1. Saw your blog in the article in UU World, then was drawn to this entry as a knitter. Thanks for the idea of walking meditation while knitting. I try to do nothing else while knitting (unless it is so ridiculously easy that I started the project for the purpose of doing something else while knitting it–like a Netflix-watching project, or a meeting project), because I find that the concentration lines up all my neurons after a frazzly day. I save especially complicated projects for times like that.

    How’s it goin’ with the mittens? I have 2/3 of a first mitten done on 4 dp’s and I hate working on it. Thought I would try changing to two circs, since I knit socks that way very easily. And now it’s mid-January!

  2. I am happy you found me. Well, mittens? Hmmm. I have finished all but the last inch of the thumb-tip on my first mitten. Unfortunately, I picked too small a size of needle and the mitten does not even fit my daughter. Darn — it will have to be an iPod sack now (cut off the thumb). But I found a great generic mitten pattern and the process was very simple: Ann Norling’s basic mittens on 4 needles (except I use one 40″ circular needle for magic loop). I think one more try with magic loop, nicer wool, bigger needles will be worth the experiment.

    Thanks for visiting and commenting. It is nice to know you read my post. cheers, Jessica

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