12 April 2006

Simplicity and elegance

Last week, 5 friends and I had tea together. We are all fond of formal teas, and we have enjoyed them in many of the places that "do" them on Long Island. This was different: it wasn't a "place," it was a private house, and it was one of the loveliest experiences yet.

Debbie played gentle music (Enya, Faure, Debussy), fed us homemade sandwiches and cakes, replenished our teapots continually, and created an atmosphere in which we could laugh, talk, be silent, and be appreciative of each others' company. We all felt at home in her pretty house, we loved the stuffed bears and teapots on high shelves, and we felt as if we had found a true haven.

This was an experience that was both simple and elegant. How rare is that? How many people even realize the beauty of simplicity and elegance? Nana Sadie Rose has been discussing simplicity on her blog for the last few days. (Check out her yarn focus challenge.) Her entries have made me re-examine some of the clutter that I accumulate, whether yarn, books, stationery, music, or fountain pens, and to be very conscious of how often I buy these things to fill an emotional need. The things themselves are authentic representations of what is important in my life, but if I did not buy them with that conscious purpose, they do not represent the life I would like to live.

I'm sure we have all meditated, contributed to causes, tried to reduce our ecological footprints, and tried to send out the kind of compassionate, giving vibes that could harness the runaway ugliness, greed, violence, and mindlessness that permeates the world. I don't see any meaningful, positive movements that might slow down these hideous forces.

Does mindfulness, mindful attention to one's own life, make a meaningful difference? Or does it so sentitize a person that it creates paralysis? Nana Sadie is struggling with bigger questions than the amount of yarn in her closets. So am I. Simplicity should not mean deprivation; it should come from conscious, mindful choice.

Where does elegance come in? I keep coming to the conclusion that something is elegant if it has an essential core, and if it is not afraid of the light. It need not be spare, it need not be new, it need not be shiny. It can be a piece of scrap metal, if it expresses the essence of scrap metal.

I just started a shawl for myself. (In fact, I might want it to be my KTC project for Pride and Prejudice... ) I was fooling around with various stitches and patterns, and then I realized that I wanted something simple. It will be pretty because the yarn is pretty (sport weight, periwinkle, very soft), and because a simple, garter-stitch triangle will allow the beauty of the shawl to come from the yarn itself. It will be warm, light, and comforting. It will be intentional.

Elegance and simplicity, yes? And a useful way for me to be mindful.

How do you practice mindfulness? Please share.


Stephanie said...

Food for thought and very well put. I think tht is how I knit socks. I never do anything fancy, just stockinette or a 2x2 rib. For me it is all about the peace of the knitting and letting the yarn show itself.

But the biggest way I try to lead a mindful existence is in the way I try to help my children grow & grow up.

Jennifer said...

Before I had children, I used to attend and lead spiritual retreats. These retreats were very meaningful and mindful for me. Now that I have children, I find simple moments with my children, or making decisions for my family to be mindful.

KnitNana said...

You said: "Where does elegance come in? I keep coming to the conclusion that something is elegant if it has an essential core, and if it is not afraid of the light. It need not be spare, it need not be new, it need not be shiny."
Thank you! Someone IS reading! And oh, these few lines above - such elegance in the words themselves...
Simplicity is indeed a personal choice. And I can't WAIT to see your shawl! You'll have to do photos of that. (for those who don't know, I'm also Nana Sadie Rose)

KSD said...

I find mindfulness in slowing the pace. Of my life, my breathing, my driving, my reading . . . It makes me focus on staying slow, and on what is really going on. As per Gandhi, there is more than life than increasing its speed.

It's Me, Maven... said...

Elegance... just a stray thought or two... I like things to be aesthetically pleasant AND functional. I have no room in my life, and not enough muscles to lug around in this life all sorts of flotsam and jetsam that others collect. If I have something, it must serve a purpose. Perhaps that's the pragmatist in me.

Mindfulness... I am truly a flower child when it comes to this. Granted when I was a child this didn't appeal to me. However, as an adult, an existentialist adult, the notion of Tikkun Olam and Karma Yoga appeal very much to me.

Mindfulness in things I purchase. Trying not to put a drain on the environment. Mindful of giving unused clothing and household things to Good Will or to the local women's shelter.

Mindfulness in getting to know not just my neighbors' names, but the names of the people who provide me services, from my waitress to the gal who squishes my titties in my annual mammogram.

Be still and know that I am.

But most of all, and the hardest for me about being mindful, is being kind, even to folks who have wronged me. I still have an attachment cough cough! grudge against a few folks, rightfully so, however, I try not to let it be in the forefront of my mind.

Mindfulness is difficult if one cannot calm the "chitta," the endless chatter in our minds, even if we are still, even if we wish to meditate.

Quietude and mindfulness can be found in a cup of tea or a spring breeze.

Appreciation of the small things, the GOOD things, even when the rest of the world, or the rest of our lives seem so chaotic.