There was a lot going on in my world one day a few weeks ago. My 92-year-old father was in the hospital with heart issues, and I had two presentations to make that day at the local Geriatric Interest Network conference. I woke up that morning and did what I always do — I prayed and meditated for about 20 minutes. Sometimes this morning process is a surrender form of meditation, called Centering Prayer, where whenever I catch myself with a thought, feeling or sensation, I return to my “sacred word.” Sometimes it’s a repetitive motion kind of meditation, where I use prayer beads and pray specific prayers as I move my fingers along the beads.
After I finished that morning’s meditation, I felt a welcomed sense of peace and calm. More so than usual. This sense was palpable and remained with me throughout the day as I traveled back and forth between the hospital and the conference venue. I was grateful for this feeling throughout my body, mind, heart and soul. Thankfully, the Mount Nittany Physician Group cardiologists determined my dad’s heart issue and performed a procedure, and my dad was on a path to feeling better. On top of that, my presentations were to a crowd of caring geriatric professionals and the experience was nourishing to me. All was well.
As I said, I always begin my day with meditation and prayer. It feels like a muscle that I need to exercise for my well-being. This isn’t to say that I am always in a state of peace and calm. That particular morning felt different. But my daily practice feels like I’m exercising a muscle and making it stronger. The stronger it is, the more I can return to it as I need throughout each day and throughout life’s challenges.
I read somewhere that quiet, clearing-your-mind type of meditation has its roots in the traditionally masculine hunting practices, whereas the repetitive and continual movement meditation comes from the more traditionally feminine gathering type practices. One isn’t better than the other. What is important is finding what appeals to you at any given time to keep your own meditative muscles strong.
One meditative practice that appeals to many people is knitting. Resources show that a Harvard Medical School’s Mind and Body Institute study found knitting created an “enhanced state of calm.” There is even a field of therapeutic knitting or bilateral rhythmic psychosocial interaction. According to the founder of this field, Betsan Corkhill, a clinically trained physiotherapist and well-being coach, “The benefits get deeply into physiological, neurological, psychological, behavioral and social changes. There is something vitally important about being actively creative, as opposed to being a passive recipient of a destructive force that you feel you have no control over, such as stress, depression or pain.”
Grief can be one of those destructive forces. Meditation can support us as we allow ourselves to be with the sometimes painful emotions that accompany grief, like sadness, fear and anger. In partnership with Centre Region Parks and Recreation, we are offering a grief education and support gathering that will combine meditation, knitting, caring for others and the healing aspects of nature. This gathering is called Med-Knit-ations: Knitting Our Hearts Back Together.
Med-Knit-ations is a four-session series where we will knit hats and/or sweaters as donations for newborns, in the beauty of the outdoors. No knitting experience is necessary! I will be one of those novice knitters myself. Eleanor Martin, a knitting guru, and I will be co-facilitating these sessions at the pavilions (by the restrooms) at Tudek Park from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, May 30, June 13, July 11 and Aug. 8. Participants will be responsible for providing knitting needles and yarn and will receive a list of the necessary supplies after registration. More information can be found on the Bereavement Gatherings and Events page under Local Resources on kochfuneralhome.com.
Our hope is that Med-Knit-ations will strengthen grievers’ meditative muscles to help support them just as those muscles have supported me. For other community outreach gatherings, we are offering the following:
• Monday’s Moments Virtual Gathering on Mondays, June 5 and July 10, from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Zoom.
• Virtual Grief Healing Circle on Wednesdays, June 14 and July 12, from 6 to 7 p.m. on Zoom.
• Monday’s Moments In-Person Gathering, in partnership with Centre Region Parks & Recreation, on June 19 and July 17 at Sunset Park, 850 McKee St., State College, from noon to 1:30 p.m..
• Death Café Virtual Gathering on Mondays, June 19 and July 17, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Zoom.
More information can be found on the Bereavement Gatherings and Events page of the Koch Funeral Home website. To reserve your spot and receive the invitation links, email [email protected], call (814) 237-2712 or visit the Koch Funeral Home Facebook page.