In this post, I am going to discuss the links between meditation, mindfulness and cross stitch, and how we can use all 3 to reduce our stress and have more peace in our days and within ourselves.
I am so far from an expert on meditation and mindfulness, so this is a really quick overview of how I view these 2 things and how I link them to cross stitch.
You can listen to the podcast episode below or keep scrolling to read the blog post.
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Google defines meditation as to “focus one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation”.
That word focus is so important. When you are meditating the goal is to empty the mind of everything and usually focus on just one thing. You’re trying to separate yourself from your thoughts which can help you control them in the long run.
If you are doing an unguided meditation, as in you are just sitting in silence, usually, you focus on your breath and any other thoughts that start sneaking in you just recognise they are there and then let them go.
I usually visualise them floating away in the sky and turning to clouds then bring my focus back to my breath.
Repeating a mantra
Some people also choose to repeat a mantra or a word over and over again and focus on that for their meditation.
It could be “I love money and money loves me”. That’s one from the book You Are a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero*.
Or Allie Casazza has a mantra that I love; “I am an action taking, problem-solving mom”.
Then there are guided meditations where you listen to someone walk you through a meditation and focus on their words only.
Did anyone else do these in school? I don’t think we called it meditating but I went to a catholic school and at least once a week we would go to the reflection room I think we called it, grab a pillow and lie down. The teacher would put on a guided meditation and we would either have to close our eyes or pick a spot on the ceiling to look at. Of course, you would try and look cool and not close your eyes. I was so far from cool though. It’s funny though isn’t it, what seemed ridiculous to most of us as teenagers we all strive to do now as adults.
Anyway, that’s guided meditation. I still remember some of those ones from school.
Next, let’s talk about mindfulness which is a bit different from meditation.
I actually heard and started practicing mindfulness before I really knew what meditation was properly. And this was when I started practicing Pilates.
At the end of class, the teacher would tell us to really tune into how are body was feeling and how tense we were. This is being mindful of the present moment in your body, but you can also be mindful of your surroundings too.
If I am feeling particularly anxious or I’ve spent too long on my phone I stop and literally go through my 5 senses. What can I feel physically, what can I hear, what can I see, what can I smell, and what can I taste? And then I also go 1 step further and check in with my body; mainly my posture and tension.
I think mindfulness is so so important. I love being away with the fairies and daydreaming, but I know I can miss out on what’s happening right in front of me, particularly now my kids are home like all the time.
It’s also important if you do suffer from anxiety and worry about the future a lot. I’m always making up possible scenarios in my head. Coming back to the present moment and remembering there is really only right now, that’s all we have, can help calm those anxious feeling instantly.
The difference between
meditation and mindfulness
The main difference in mindfulness and meditation, I believe, is that when we are in meditation we have to be still, silent, and really just focus on that one thing, letting all other thoughts go, and do that for a certain length of time. One minute, 5, and hour. We are being slightly mindful, but at the same time, we can go into ourselves a bit and almost forget where we are.
But with mindfulness, you can be mindful all day long if you want to. You can practice mindfulness playing with your kids, when you’re cooking, cleaning, even driving. It’s all about being right in that present thing you are doing.
I am very bad at this. I try but it’s called a practice for a reason.
However, both can help the other. When we practice meditation, the long term benefit is to help us control our thoughts, and to control the thoughts we are having we have to be present and recognise them.
How cross stitch relates to meditation and mindfulness
So how does this all tie in with cross stitch?
Many people say they go into a meditative state when they’re cross stitching and I used to say that myself, and I can see why we think that, but actually it would be very difficult to cross stitch and meditate at the same time. There’s just too much to focus on when you’re cross stitching.
But we can definitely be mindful when we are cross stitching. You can really focus on each stitch, how the needle feels in your hand, the counting, how tense are your shoulders when you are stitching?
Being right in a moment like that is where I think we get the most relaxation from cross stitch. It’s the reason people say they’re using their hands but relaxing their minds. It’s because you’re not thinking about anything else at all other than getting those stitches right.
If you’re not very mindful when stitching, don’t worry, I’m not either which I will talk more about. But maybe you could try next time you sit down. I know most of us like to stitch with the TV or an audiobook on but what if we try stitching in silence and be present in that exact moment?
So I said I’m actually not that mindful when stitching and that is true. So here’s my issue. During the day I do try and be present if I’m with the kids, and sometimes I stitch while they’re playing or working and then I am practicing being present when stitching.
But anytime I’m not with the kids I’m usually working which involves writing and designing and I get a little lost in that. And if I’m doing housework I’m listening to podcasts or audiobooks.
So when I sit down at night I love to just let my mind wander. I’ve spoken about this before and quoted Twyla Tharp, but in case you missed that quote:
“You are not trying to empty your mind, not trying to sit restfully without conscious thoughts. You’re seeking thoughts from the unconscious and trying to tease them forward until you can latch onto them. An idea will sneak into your brain”.
This is from the book The Creative Habit*.
I absolutely love this quote and I haven’t even read that whole book yet, but that quote is worth the money I spent on it. I think listening to some of our thoughts is just as important as letting them float away in meditation or controlling them in mindfulness.
Here’s how I see it. I used to think it was beneficial to meditate at night to relax my mind. And studies have shown it doesn’t really matter when you meditate, it’s the consistency that helps for that long term benefit.
Then I heard an interview on The Purpose Show podcast with Dr Heather Rhodes talking about cortisol and stress and it made so much sense to me to meditate in the morning because that is when our cortisol is at it’s highest.
Now, I don’t meditate every morning just throwing that out there. I’m actually not great at meditating at all. But I do pilates and practice mindfulness most mornings.
So I like this idea of emptying our minds of all negative thoughts in the morning and bringing that cortisol down right away. This is a great reason to also cross stitch in the morning!
Then during the day obviously we’re taking in more thoughts and ideas. I don’t always want to empty them out at the end of the day though. I kind of need to sort through them, which is what I do when I’m cross stitching of a night. I’m letting my thoughts whirl a bit and see if any turn into an idea I can use.
And then I read to switch off right before bed otherwise those thoughts keep on swirling!
I feel that all 3 of these practices are crucial to maintaining a healthy relationship with our minds.
Meditation to empty our minds to make room for bigger and better thoughts.
Mindfulness for bringing our minds back to the present moment and reducing anxious thoughts.
And daydreaming for finding those thoughts that hold our dreams, ideas, and goals.
And remember, you can control your thoughts. You can choose to hold on to them or let them go. Just start paying attention to them and go from there.
I’m right there putting more effort into this with you, especially right now when we are all anxious over the future because no one really knows what’s going to happen next. I mean we never do, but that fact has never been more prominent on such a global scale as it is right now.
I hate it when someone tells you to get up earlier to practice self-care, which is what all of this is, but sometimes it does help.
Since hearing about your cortisol being highest in the morning I’ve tried to put much more effort into having a calm and peaceful start to the day. Which is much easier with no school run to do.
But this doesn’t always have to mean getting up at 5 am. Let the kids do what they want in the morning if they aren’t in school right now so you get the best start to your day. This will help everyone have a more peaceful start to the day and you will carry it through all day.
So here are a few little action steps for you to do or try:
- Look at the podcast “Untangled”; they have free meditations as podcast episodes.
- Listen to that podcast episode on The Purpose Show about stress. It’s actually about stress and hormones but there are such good nuggets of information in there. (This is actually a carry on from another interview all about hormone health. This is the link in case you want to start with that).
- Try cross stitching in silence in the morning for 5-10 minutes.
- Set timers throughout your day to remind you to slow down and be present in the moment you’re in.
I hope this episode has just made you more relaxed just thinking about how to relax more.
Just remember to go easy on yourself and take time for yourself – you deserve it!
Extra posts you might enjoy
- The benefits of cross stitch
- My cross stitch routine
- How to have a creative retreat at home
- 5 ways to stay calm during chaos
- 5 ways to get creative by being bored