How long have humans been knitting? Knitting falls into a category of hand-work that much ancestral maintenance labor fits into. It is rhythmic and regulating, and you can converse while you are doing it.
Knit something, sculpt, paint, draw, play an instrument, balance rocks, learn how to give a massage. Use your hands in a sustained way. This impacts your brain in a very particular manner. Especially for people who are doing knowledge work, or things that are abstract, anchoring the body in the tangibility of using the hands is critical. If you spend more than 5 hours a day in your head, this is a critical core practice to cultivate. What you are doing with your hands is less important than that your attention really be in your hands. You could be working on a car, or building something, or gardening, or doing carpentry. Your hands need to be the primary instrument, not your cognition. If you think about our ancestral trajectory, not that long ago all of us were making stuff all of the time. Now, for many of us, the world is pre-fabricated. We don’t have to make our clothes, or our shelters, or our dishes, or our bowls, or our art...We don’t have to fix our own vehicles, knit our blankets, make our pillows, tend our fields. It’s a highly unusual situation in terms of our ancestral living pattern. The body likes to be used. It likes be active. Intelligence likes to be in the hands. There are neural pathways that light up through the hands that will not light up any other way. Maria Montessori suggests that the use of the hands is essential to developing intelligence. How could it not be so? We are creatures that make things.
This is connected to moving at what our friend and mentor Ilarion Merculieff calls an “earth-based pace”. There was a point a few years ago when I realized that I could type faster than I speak. I also realized that doing this was speeding up my mind in a way that I didn’t like. I’ve started talking out loud while I type, and basically dictating to myself. I suppose this could look odd if I was in a cubicle, but it helps me to keep my hands and my mind at a human pace, which is necessary for me in a world saturated with speed and information where I can have 67 windows open in my browser–which is simply a representation of having 67 things happening in my mind. Coming back to the hands anchors us in one thing at a time.
Video: Distill | Photography: Stein Egil Liland | Licensed from Pexels.com, used with permission.