My friend Aurelia and I recently learned that we both knit. That’s not entirely accurate. Aurelia is a freestyle knit artist who makes beautiful garments combining patterns and techniques with joy and confidence. I knit row upon row of even stitches and produce scarves. Reading patterns, purling, knitting and then purling these things fill me with dread. My eyes glaze over when I try to learn from knitting books but my bigger problem is that I panic in the face of mistakes. I stare and stare at them and finally rip it all out and start over. If that doesn’t work, demoralized, I give up and shove the piece in a bag.
Whether I’m knitting or meditating or writing, once I have a basic understanding of a practice I experience mistakes with a deep feeling of failure and the conviction that I won’t be able to recover from the setback or worse that I’m simply not capable of succeeding at the task. Is it absolutely true that I have no experience of recovering from mistakes? No. But in the moment of error my experiences of being resourceful and resilient flee my conscious mind.
Aurelia invited me to join the Thursday afternoon knitting group at our local yarn and yoga shop. I took my bag of damaged projects and with a teacher’s soul she went through each item praising my even knit stitches and patiently explaining how to correct problems. The phrase she used several times was “learning to read my knitting.” She taught me how to make sense of each stitch, to understand its function and therefore how to retrace my steps and make it right.
While I continue to struggle in the face of inevitable mistakes, thanks to Aurelia’s kindness, I am learning to read my life as well as my knitting. I notice how I feel in my body—tight chest, clenched stomach. I pay attention to what my mind is doing—racing with fear or withdrawing in defeat. I acknowledge those feelings and understand that they are only trying to protect me. I allow them to move through me and find myself in a calmer place. Panic recedes. Resourcefulness and resilience flow. I pick up my dropped stitches and move on.