The Meditation Of Cross Stitch

This post was originally in XStitch Magazine Issue 10: Namaste, and has been adapted.
 
A Namaskar is a greeting. You put your hands together, bow your head slightly and say ‘namaste’. It’s mostly a sign of respect and has no real translation into actual words. People have tried, in fact, many have, but they always come up short. Simply put, it doesn’t mean anything. But it also means everything. To explain this, let’s go on a little journey together.
 
It’s hot. Really hot. Now, I don’t mean hot like India, I mean hot like a mediocre English summer which all British people pretend is as hot as the sun. I was on the tube, packed full of both commuters and tourists on a sunny Friday evening. I was running late. What makes it worse is that I rushed out the door, grabbing a jacket of all things, so I was not having a fun time. In turn, I slowly got hotter as I was getting angrier and angrier at myself for leaving this late for my meditation class. Yes, the irony here is that I was going to a class to help me live in the moment.

Summer Window Cross Stitch Pattern by MariBoriEmbroidery (Source: Etsy)
Summer Window Cross Stitch Pattern by MariBoriEmbroidery (Source: Etsy)

But I got there, and just before it started. It was my first foray into meditation and thanks to my journey there, I just wasn’t into it. My mind was doing flips and I couldn’t get into the zone. But there were two things I remember clear as day, some ten years later. The first was the teacher, or more specifically, what she said at the end. I won’t divulge the whole statement, but she said ‘namaste’ to end the session.
 
I giggled. Why wouldn’t I? Up to this point, I had only ever heard namaste as a greeting, specifically, a greeting when meeting, not when ending something. To my brain, that’s what it meant, effectively ‘hello’. This was of course, well off the mark. But I didn’t learn that until much later.
 
I was working at a big data analytics company, and many of my colleagues were spread across the globe, with a big part of the company outsourced to India. As with many big companies, everyone was expected to speak English, even in chats. And one day, after saying hello I thought to myself, maybe just this once, I can buck the trend.
Namaste cross stitch pattern by MariBoriEmbroidery (Source: Etsy)

I happened to know where the office in India was based and knew that namaste was the traditional greeting, so I said that instead. To me, it was just a nice gesture to my colleagues and friends in a different country. But to them, it meant much more. It was a sign that I respected them as equals, that I wanted to know about them on a personal level, that I was willing to go out of my way to get into their world and ingratiate myself, when not only was it not needed, but wasn’t expected, or even accepted.
 
This is when I started really getting into cross stitch. And when my understanding of namaste opened up. The second thing I can remember about that meditation class was a lady in the corner, knitting, whilst meditating. I was in awe at the time, that she could do something so complicated whilst meditating, let alone the fact that it was something so complicated while her eyes were shut.
 
But, now, knowing more about cross stitch, and meditation, I know better. I don’t know about you, but I cross stitch watching TV and movies. If someone asked me if I could cross stitch with my eyes closed I’d scoff at them, “no way” I’d exclaim. But I do pretty much exactly that. I sit there, eyes glued to the screen, sometimes so much I forget to blink, and whilst I’m keeping up with the latest exploits of some superhero, I’m stitching away. Usually perfectly too, although I’m convinced those counting errors happened thanks to the TV. Whilst I don’t sit in a room with nothing but the gentle sounds of waves, whale song, or a Tibetan singing bowl, I do meditate when I stitch.
 
For a long-time cross stitch has been known to be calming, taking you into the moment, freeing your mind. I started suffering from anxiety recently, and whilst I do sit and meditate daily, it’s not as calming as cross stitch. For over a decade everyone one of us has been meditating in our own way, placing stitch after stitch in a repeating pattern, like rosary beads on a bracelet. To us, cross stitch is meditation. We might not realize it, we might not even plan for it to be the case. Hell, I swear at my cross stitch more often than I’d like to admit, but it’s still cathartic. Something to shout out without offending anyone.
Cross Stitch to Calm Stitch and De-Stress book by Leah Lintz cover (source: Amazon)

This is kind of how the word namaste works. It’s a word that means nothing, but to others, it means so much more. It’s been appropriated as a greeting, a word to represent meditation, a word to represent cultures and feelings.
 
Words are more than just their sounds. Many people know that it’s polite to ask “how are you?” when meeting someone. The answer, is “OK, thanks”. Those words mean nothing. It’s just the sign of respect that you show. But what if you want to know more? What if you actually want to know how someone is? My friends now ask me “how’s the cross stitch going?”. It’s a sign that not only are they interested in me, but as non-stitchers they can recognize that your hobby is the thing that allows you to get emotion out, to really get to know you.
 
Namaste is a great word for this purpose, but there are other words in other languages with similar stories. Konnichiwa was actually part of an ancient Japanese saying “how are you feeling today?”, it meant more than just hi. But Konnichiwa has its history in a sentence, in a meeting. Namaste doesn’t. Namaste literally means nothing. And everything.
 
I’ll end by stating the whole phrase my meditation teacher said. I don’t remember her, I don’t remember the class, and frankly, it was a decade before I tried it again, but this phrase stayed with me. “Namaste… whatever it may mean to you”. And I think that for us, that phrase can be read differently.
 
Enjoy your cross stitch… whatever it may mean to you.
 
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Robin Stalcup

    I’m the same way. I started doing audio books from the library and true crime podcasts on my laptop.

  2. Karen

    This may be my own oddity but I find that the more demanding the cross stitch is the more relaxing it can be. Perhaps because it causes me to be more absorbed in it but still relaxing because there are only easy decisions to make – which path shall I take for these stitches rather than how shall I balance the colors in this design. I tend to watch things that are really mostly listening otherwise I find myself looking at the computer screen with the hands paused.