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Pink Needles
Fabulous Yarn

The Heart of Charity (and I love Apple Pie)

The nights have been getting chilly. It seems like I’ve pulled the blankets out of storage a little early this year, giving each one of the boys an extra layer to kick off during the night. The trees have been picking up breezes and the apples have turned red. Pie time!  It’s wool weather, it’s snuggly weather, and it’s knitting weather – or nearly knitting weather, depending on your latitude. Fall beckons to my yarn and needles (yes, I started knitting again – although I’m taking it slow).

With the thrill of opening a birthday present, my mind begins to ponder the possibilities.

Maybe I will finally get a jump on holiday knitting. Don’t count on it, but I can dream. And in this dream there are itty-bitty gauge Nordic kids’ sweaters, luxury fiber wrist warmers, cashmere scarves, and mittens for everyone – maybe even two, maybe even two that match.

My thoughts are about what to knit for whom. Does Bill “need” another sweater?  Zane’s outgrown everything all of a sudden, and Jack is still waiting for his red Chenille Double Crossing Diamonds. What could I make for Barb this year – a tricky one – knitting for a knitter?  And I still owe my dad his scarf from last year. Already things to catch up on before jumping into the something new!

Then my mind turns out toward others – I have a collection of outgrown and unworn sweaters I am gathering to ship off to Native kids in cold places. I make little hats just because. They’re so fun and cute!  We often include baby hats as our charity project during the Mindful Knitting Retreat – they end up looking like little yummy cup cakes!  I encourage everyone to make a baby hat and donate it somewhere – even if it’s to a stranger on the street. Another harbinger of fall: a deep desire to make my needles busy working on more things to give away - for charity knitting.

We’ve all heard the adage “charity begins at home.”  This saying may refer to our family traditions, moral points of view, or physical dwelling. But our “home” – the real seat of charity, is in our hearts. Our hearts are quite amazing in their capacity. As I played with ways to describe the quality of “heart” that lives within us and on our needles, I found words such as kindness, generosity, compassion, bountifulness and munificence (I really liked that word). All these qualities of heart perk up when we think of a particular person, or group of people, in the world and what we will knit for them – whether or not we ever meet them.

Knitting has an inherent quality of generosity. It’s such a natural expression of caring – literally offering someone warmth and relief. Creating something by hand, one loop at a time, and imparting it with blessings and joy. So, you know those socks you’re making right now – they will tell you who they are really meant for as you knit them. Knitting things to give away to others is very gratifying, and sometimes necessary when you’ve overdone it with the quick and easy scarves. But here’s the frequently – okay – almost always, we forget to cast on that pair of wrist warmers for ourselves.

We need to make sure we take into consideration the home in which our heart lives, this really important aspect of “home” – us, ourselves, YOU. There is a form of meditation that I practice that is often called “giving and receiving” wherein you draw upon your compassion and heart and think about a person or event and send thoughts of relief and comfort. A reminder that is given with the instruction for this type of meditation is that we must always start with ourselves, at home. That in order to have compassion for others, first we must have compassion for ourselves. We must generate and actualize compassion for ourselves in our own world. We have to be nice to ourselves, and start at home. And although we start with ourselves, in the course of practicing giving and receiving, the next step is to work outward, first to our loved ones, or to someone who is ill, then to our community, and out further to the world to someone we’ve never met.

So what are you going to do for yourself – a knitting version of “giving and receiving.”  Is there a tiny little fun thing you’ve wanted to make forever, but just haven’t?  Go make it now. Cast on the wrist warmers. Pull out the wool thing you put away because summer came and finish it. Knit a chenille washcloth and then go take a bubble bath and use it. As you luxuriate in the bath, you can consider what wonderful wool sweater to make for the Native American sweater drive or a hat for the new baby down the street. And remember my sage advice: if you haven’t cast on your holiday knits by October, come up with an idea for something smaller. Now it’s time to go make some apple pie – yummy. And, I strongly encourage you to make a little hat and give it to a perfect stranger – see what happens, and let me know.

The practice of “giving and receiving” or “giving and taking” is a traditional Tibetan Buddhist meditation practice called “Tonglen”. More about this meditation practice can be found here.

Also – Tara will put her favorite Best Apple Pie In The World recipe on her blog. Yummy.
Tara Jon Manning is a designer, and author of five books. With her book “Mindful Knitting: Inviting Contemplative Practice to the Craft” she pioneered the Mindful Knitting movement, and invites knitters and readers alike to apply the instruction of basic mindfulness meditation to the work of their hands. Among her other books are the newly released “Nature Babies” and “Men in Knits.” She lives with her family in Boulder, Colorado.

Visit to learn more about Tara’s Mindful Knitting retreats and workshops, and her blog, Earth-Sky-Knitter, for musings on life, knitting, dharma and motherhood.