Monday, January 10, 2011

Zen, Karma and Knitting

In Zen philosophy, one guiding principle is living each moment with intention.  That is, you live only with the effects on the others, environment, and world at large that you intend to have.  Masters of this principle are adept at saying only what they mean to, leaving no ambiguity, and acting without recklessness or disregard.

These are skills that are seriously useful in knitting, and yet not always fun (or achievable!)  As I carefully and thoughtfully grafted together the toes on my "Girlfriend Socks", I could not have been more focused.  I was not in a hurry, or stressed. I was not drinking my evening glass of wine.  (It was skipped on this evening to make sure I was clearheaded when working the Kitchener.)  And yet, two-thirds of the way across the graft of the toe, on a sock that was until now knitted entirely in one piece with one continuous strand of yarn, the unthinkable happened:  the yarn broke.  During the graft.  Almost done.  But not quite.

I uttered several very un-Zen words.  How far back do I go to join a new piece of yarn?  How do I ensure that the new yarn join won't cause a blister?  Is this a big enough flaw to make the gift un-givable?

I tipped the box of wine and watched the Merlot swirl into the glass. And then it hit me.  Another Zen principle is that nothing is perfect, and nothing is permanent.  I sat and drank my wine with intention for a few minutes, and then decided to go with the flow.  I only ripped back a smidge, joined the yarn, and moved on with my grafting.  It went flawlessly this time.

Karma is the circumstance of bringing about inevitable results onto yourself in this life or the next by the quality of your actions.  Whose Karma broke the yarn?  The yarn manufacturer's? Did I do this? Did the recipient Karma herself into blister-causing socks?  Accepting imperfection as part of reality is much easier to do than achieving perfection.  I will focus, and intend good work, but I will learn to accept the inevitable intervention of Karma, too.  At least some of the time it has to make me look good, right?

No comments: