Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Sing a Song of Socks: Another Meditation on String

Life continues its ups and downs.  I've finished dyeing yarns, a gift for someone dear to me. At the same time, I've been sitting with and watching the process of some other loved soul as she slips away, moving to a place where there will be no need of anything, the other dying we all come to eventually. The whirlwinds around me leave me irritated, sad and angry.  I can't settle, even when I get a piece of really good news.  I'm mean as a snake, ready to bite the heads off chickens and I'm upset that I'm upset.

All this fuss leaves me asking, "What am I doing, teaching a meditation class?"  I know a few inspired meditators.  I'm not one of them, certainly not someone who should be giving advice on how to sit and be in the moment.  Then again, Jon Kabat-Zinn points out that the point of mindfulness, of accepting experiences, is to accept all experiences. They are what they are, neither good nor bad.  It is our minds which shape the stories which feed our perspectives.  If we can learn to acknowledge and accept the experiences, watching whatever comes to us without adding layers to "problems" by building stories around them, we will come to know that whatever it is we are going through will change.  The more we practice, the more the mind will settle.  We may all experience pain, but we don't have to suffer from it.

Of course, it's one thing to know this intellectually, quite another to practice. I have my tools.  Some people focus on candle flames, while others follow the breath.  I spin or knit, turning my attention time and time again to the effort applied with sticks and string, all the while working at allowing the anger and sadness to ebb and flow, letting it be what it is and how it is Now, without scolding myself for feelings stirred by those experiences.  It's never easy and I'm not often successful, which is why I meditate, why I do what I do, over and over and over again.

And so, I'm knitting socks.  Unlike the socks which inspired Neruda in the poem below, these are no "soft rabbit socks."  They're socks from overspun and plied 3 ply Romney/Corriedale wool, with a 6 ply cable of the same yarn for heels and toes, spun on a Tabachek Tibetan spindle.  They're walker's socks, for a woman who wears sturdy boots, who walks the pavement and the dirt roads, in the rain and the snow, who walks out her sorrow on the prairies, in forests and in mountains and who finds comfort in those places, in the stillness of breezes and the changes in solid rock, in shifting waves of grain fields as they move from green to autumn gold. They're socks for me, neither pretty, nor inspiring, socks with purpose and intent. They are sturdy and they will be good socks.

As I knit, bringing attention to stitch and shape, I feel myself settle for a bit, for a moment. It's in that moment, gone before I'm fully aware of it, that I glimpse the meaning of Patanjali's Sutra: yogas citta-vrtti-nirodha (Yoga stops the whirling mind.). It's in that stillness that I understand what inspired Pablo Neruda to write an ode to such a simple thing, the gift of a pair of hand knit socks.  In that instant, I can smile, be happy, as I sit at the centre of the current storm, knowing the winds will calm.


An Excerpt from Ode to My Socks by Pablo Neruda

Mara Mori brought me
a pair of socks
which she knitted herself
with her sheepherder's hands,
two socks as soft as rabbits. . . .

my feet were honored in this way
by these heavenly socks.
They were so handsome for the first time
my feet seemed to me unacceptable
like two decrepit firemen,
firemen unworthy of that woven fire,
of those glowing socks.

Nevertheless, I resisted the sharp temptation
to save them somewhere as schoolboys
keep fireflies,
as learned men collect
sacred texts,
I resisted the mad impulse to put them
in a golden cage and each day give them
birdseed and pieces of pink melon.
Like explorers in the jungle
who hand over the very rare green deer
to the spit and eat it with remorse,
I stretched out my feet and pulled on
the magnificent socks and then my shoes.

The moral of my ode is this:
beauty is twice beauty
and what is good is doubly good
when it is a matter of two socks
made of wool in winter.


  1. Very nice poem! Take care, Deb. I hope your quiet moments in the storm increase in number and carry you through this difficult time.