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Mindfulness in the empty minutes

“And in between, my mind kept wandering to those creative projects that keep calling to me, hopping along with me from moment to moment throughout my day, waving. Not nagging, not impatient, but simply there and smiling, not wanting me to forget.

I won’t forget. I’ll make room and time. If only for a few minutes here, a few minutes there …”

These words came off my pen last fall. Last fall when I was deep in preserving the apple harvest, when homeschool and sports and hunting season were woven over and under each other in a beautiful, complicated pattern, and when, over all this, sat the largest project I’d ever attempted.

And I was promising myself that I’d do even more?

Yes.

Actually, no.

I wouldn’t do more, I would simply learn to see. I would see the creative nourishment and mindfulness waiting in the empty minutes of the day. And I would pick up the needles and knit, if only but a few stitches (this morning it was only 4 or 5). I would color slowly across the linen with embroidery floss, just one stem of a flower. I would open the journal, pick up the pencil, and sketch – what did that cloud look like today?

It was less about making room and time, I realized, and more about recognizing the room and time that I already had.

Those empty minutes. While waiting for the pasta water to boil, while waiting for boys at practice, while waiting my turn during a board game, and certainly while listening to the audio book after I’d slid into bed at night. Receiving the calm I needed from contemplative, creative, repetitive movement. Pause the brain, and let the body hum.

The tote bag hangs on the knob of the wardrobe door, holding the knitting that is always ready to grab and go – either to the next room over, or out the door. In the basket that sits in the corner are circles of fabric, ready to be stitched into a yo-yo or two (adding to the pile of them for later embellishment of dish towels, handbags, or the hems of dresses). The embroidery sits on a nearby shelf – hoop, needles, and floss, and the crochet hooks are in a zippered pouch. It has to be handy, or the time will be lost on the looking for it.

There will always be the larger things in life, of course, the things that take up the majority of the time in my day. I don’t want to change that, for those larger things I’ve chosen are good things, wholesome things. They are life-affirming occupations that fit me well, nourishing me and my family in a deep and meaningful way.

But those empty minutes in between? I’m learning about them. They’re not a task-master, not a commander (sometimes those minutes do need to be left wonderfully empty). They’re simply there, waiting. I’m learning how they can be brought together, stitch by stitch, line by line, minute by minute, becoming something of beauty and purpose. A tangible capture of time, calming and settling in the making.

Thinking about picking up handwork in your empty minutes? You’ll be inspired by these lovely places:

Knitting (for beginners, too): Fringe Association
How handwork can help heal: Posie Gets Cozy
Embroidery: Sublime Stitching

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