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Handmade Wares and the Journey to Mindfulness

Danielle Barzilai

mindfulness.jpg

The mind is not easily bridled.

Seek out a place to meditate, and the mind suddenly fills with a million pressing concerns. Lay your head on the pillow and old anxieties creep in to break things in the attic.

The challenge of being present is one of the biggest of our era. Between cell phones, computers, and CELL PHONES when do any of us ever stop to check in with ourselves?

Try this experiment: close your eyes and try not to think about anything for 30 seconds.

If you made it 10 seconds without some crazy thought careening across your tranquility, good for you! That little exercise should tell you how scattered your mind is. But now try something else: close your eyes and breath normally, counting one on the intake … two on the out breath … three on the intake …. four on the out breath and so on until you get to 10.

Did you make it further before your mind wandered? I usually do. I know my mind is going crazy when I can’t even count to ten without losing that state of tranquility. But focusing on my breathing helps; it helps because I am paying attention to my body, not my thoughts.

I’ll tell you something else – making things with my hands takes me to a place of near-meditation. I am focused painting fine lines, threading needles, and blending colors. When I am in my little workshop, I find peace.

There is actually a body of scientific research that explains this phenomenon. Adults are encouraged to draw in coloring books to reduce stress, as the practice increases mindfulness and awareness of the present moment.

But I also believe that mindfulness is expressed through art and artisan goods. A painting communicates hours of focus. When I gaze at the work of an accomplished artist, I feel that. When I pull out my clutch, which I made with my own hands, I am reminded of that state of tranquility and focus.

Perhaps I have spoiled myself, but I cannot buy mass produced goods as a result. Art printed by machines, accessories stamped out of plastic, jewelry made thousands of pieces at a time…

When you buy a handmade item, you are not selecting an option off the shelf that matches your color preferences and style, you are selecting a piece of art, an item that has been cared for and was made with mindful hands.