Last Updated on September 25, 2020 by Paul Farrell, MRP, JD, PhD
“Arts & Crafts Keep You Sane! Certainly Was True For Me”
– Mary Engelreit, Artist
“Meditation ought to decrease the drivenness of our lives, not make it worse. That is why I say meditate for its own sake, as a hobby… Don’t become an expert, but stay a beginner’s mind.
Like a hobby, meditation ought to be a time when you can occupy your mind with something for its own sake, without getting caught up in any of your usual occupations.”
– Clark Strand, The Wooden Bowl
Hobbies are activities you love to do for relaxation, things outside your everyday occupation, like woodworking, knitting, model making, photography. Things you’re passionate about. Sometimes they evolve into a business. Most of the time, hobbies are a little money and a lot of enjoyment.
And that’s why a hobby is a perfect opportunity to meditate, a natural way to meditate, and you don’t even have to call whatever you’re doing meditation. I love the way Clark Strand, a former Buddhist monk, puts it in The Wooden Bowl: Meditation should be “like a hobby.”
When it feels like another job, with a checklist of things to do, the idea of meditation is long gone. Better to see it as an escape from the stresses of the everyday business world.
Yes, Have Fun! This Meditation is About Doing What You Most Enjoy Doing
This is the easy path, the high road. By using your favorite hobby as your meditation, you’re able to do something you already know you love doing, you get to concentrate totally on it, without distractions, and you can enjoy the moment, every moment, naturally. Best of all, it won’t take you any extra time.
You just do it whenever, and as long as you feel like it. And it don’t take any extra time: So you don’t have to worry about finding 20 minutes in the morning (time away from your kids and reading the newspaper) and 20 minutes in the evening (time from your spouse and your favorite television shows) to do sitting meditation.
That way, everything meditation promises – time away from the stresses of the business world, relaxation, balance and a feeling of peace – are all there as part of your favorite hobby, and that’s your meditation.
Don’t Take it Too Seriously
Most traditional systems of meditation take themselves far too seriously. That’s not really what it’s all about. Meditation is about liberation, not confinement. As Strand writes in The Wooden Bowl:
“Once meditation rises above the level of play, its possibilities are diminished. Why? Because when meditation loses its lightness it becomes like everything else—an object of desire. When we meditate for something other than meditating, we only become further ensnared in the endless cycle of getting and spending, whereby every activity has to have a goal.”
Hobbies are the perfect way to meditate for the pure pleasure of doing what you’re doing. In fact, with your favorite hobby you don’t even have to force yourself to focus and concentrate. When a hobby becomes a way of meditating, focusing and concentrating happen naturally, because it’s not a job, nor a duty, you really want to do what you’re doing!
Find the Soul in Woodworking, Photography, Silversmithing, and Building Choppers
When you’re working on a hobby, meditation can last for hours. Or it may peak in a sudden flash of insight – when you’re doing what you love, a warm feeling comes over you, you get a sense of total peace, and for a moment you know deep down how lucky you are, thankful for the opportunity to be doing what you love doing – and in those beautiful moments your craft is transformed into the perfect meditation. We’ve all experienced it. Here are a few people tell us in their own words about this magical way of meditating:
In The Soul of a Tree, a Woodworker’s Reflections: “A tree provides perhaps our most intimate contact with nature. A tree sits like an avatar, and embodiment of the immutable, far beyond the pains of man … We woodworkers have the audacity to shape timber from these noble trees. In a sense, it is our Karma Yoga, the path of action we must take to our union with the Divine.”
In Silver-Smithing by Finegold & Seitz: “Silversmithing is a craft with a rich and ancient tradition and, in this technologically overprivileged society, it is a kind of economic anachronism. However, it provides its practitioners with immense personal rewards, not the least of which are the mesmerizing, possibly meditative pleasures of hammering out form for hours at a time.”
“The Tao of Equus essentially translates as ‘the way of the horse,’ while emphasizing the healing and transformational qualities of this path. Interacting with these animals can be immensely therapeutic physically, mentally, and spiritually, helping people reawaken long-forgotten abilities that are capable of healing the imbalances of modern life.”
In The Tao of Photography: “You can learn to ‘see’ a picture before you take it; and when you acquire this ability, you will spend less time looking for photographs. They’ll discover themselves for you. You will then not need to seek; you will find.” And most other photographers agree. For example, Joy Ribisi says: “Photography is meditation. I am able to leave the shell of my body and express my thoughts, my sights, my emotions.”
The world’s leading builder of “choppers,” customized Easy Rider motorcycles, first as a hobby. When the brash tattooed James talks about his sculptural beauties, you sense he’s working in a meditative state that the Zen masters would envy: “Success for me is to be able to come here to West Coast Choppers and to work hard, in peace and make beautiful stuff.”
Pro Football Defensive Giant Loves Needlepoint
By now you know the range of hobbies as a way of meditation is without limit – it’s whatever suits your personality. Jesse James the chopper guy is a bad-ass, my-way-or-the-highway kind of personality:
“You know those needlepoint wall hangings that say ‘Home Sweet Home’? I just had my friend’s mom, who is really good at those, make one for my house. It says, ‘Go F— Yourself,’ but it looks exactly like a nice needlepoint.”
Rosey Grier is also a mean, in-your-face guy. Back in the sixties Rosey was a star Los Angeles Rams lineman, anchoring the Fearsome Foursome Rams defensive line. After he retired from making life hell for opposing quarterbacks, he became a movie actor, then a minister, and later wrote Rosey Grier’s Needle Point for Men. You heard right – needlepoint! In his book Rosey tells of an insurance executive, a real estate broker, an international banker and a stock broker member of the NYSE, all active needlepointers.
Hobbies Help You “Zone-Out” Opening Your Mind to the Inner Creator
In Dr. Herbert Benson’s most recent book, The Breakout Principle, he tells us that Oscar-winning Russell Crowe, fashion designer Bob Mackie and television network executive Stu Bloomberg are also members of this elite “male knitting underground” because it’s great stress relief.
One leading management consultant tells how he uses knitting to come up with solutions to sticky business problems:
“The insight has to come from the outside. It’s absolutely essential for me to get away from my job and coworkers. Put myself in a completely different space. The best way for me to shift gears is needlepoint.”
How does it work? Dr. Benson says this businessman
“found that when he was working on a background canvas, with only one color and one type of stitch, the work was highly repetitive. Row after row, he executed exactly the same finger movements. As a result, he could ‘zone out.’ Most important of all, he could break all previous trains of thought—and let his mind wander and hover freely, over this and that.”
And then, as he let go and moved away from everything into another mental space, he created a mental vacuum – that’s when he was open and new insights could come in, after surrendering to another reality.
Mysterious Links Between Hobbies ’n’ Crafts, Creativity, Meditation and Spirituality
Real men do yoga and needlepoint, flower arranging and other outside-the-box hobbies. Why? Because “most anything can be meditative” says Peg Baim, a colleague of Dr. Benson, founder of the Harvard Mind/Body Institute. Baim was quoted in Bernadette Murphy’s Zen & the Art of Knitting: Exploring the Links Between Knitting, Spirituality & Creativity:
“When people meditate or participate in a meditative activity like knitting … they increase their creativity, shut off their spatial awareness and time orientation, and they may experience oneness, unity, expansion, feelings of hope, and awe.”
Don’t get us wrong, we’re not suggesting you take up needlepoint, any more than silver-smithing, woodworking, horseback riding, or building choppers. The point is, you begin with what turns you on, something that makes you want to “work hard, in peace and make beautiful stuff.” You already know what that is in your heart, and you’re already doing it.
Here’s a little checklist of other possibilities of hobbies that can become meditations:
Crafting Hard Materials
Manual labor is now missing from so much of what us workers do in today’s high-tech society, which is why so many people crave hobbies that demand hands-on physical work:
- Auto and boat restoration and racing
- Home renovations and cabinetry
- Pottery making and ceramics
- Glassblowing and leather working
- Model making for airplanes and trains
Stamps and coins, as a kid I fell in love with the sheer beauty of these miniature artworks, vicariously traveling the world and learning history. My son had a huge comic book collection, later became an graphics illustrator. An actor friend traveled the country collecting 19th century glass. Another collects guitars.
We all know enthusiasts avid about collecting baseball cards, records, clocks, salt shakers and autographs. Others collect and restore antiques and art of all kinds. I recall reading about how a charming little librarian and her husband amassed America’s premiere collection of minimalist art on a minimal budget.
All are doing what they love.
Painting, drawing and sketching may expand into a line of handmade cards or some specialty in the printing arts such as book binding, calligraphy, origami, collages, montages.
Another alternative is toy-making, puppets, dolls, teddy bears. Floral arranging. Making confectioneries, candles, or soap. Other possibilities: Weaving, fabric making and fashion design. Jewelry and gem designing, bead stringing. Shortly before I started at Morgan Stanley a male professional left to create a line of sculptural silver belt buckles that were being sold in upscale Madison Avenue shops.
The Ultimate Meditation Sharing a Child’s Favorite Hobby
And forget about all the gender stuff: Rams lineman Rosey Grier (needlepoint) and Cy Young Award Winning pitcher Barry Zito (yoga) have blown apart male-female stereotypes. Gender considerations shouldn’t influence your choice of hobbies. It’s far more important that you simple tap into the creative child within you – and what better way than to help a child with their favorite hobby.
If you’ve ever shared a creative hobby with your kids you know exactly what I mean. For a little kid, creativity, crafts and hobbies are natural ways to meditate – except they don’t put those kind of fancy mental labels on what they‘re doing, they just do them and have fun.
For example, go pick up a simple book like the Better Homes & Gardens, 501 Fun-to-Make Family Crafts. The book is loaded with creative, fun stuff to do with kids for seasonal events, holidays, birthdays, parties; making. And each time you’re cutting out a snowflake or heart, pasting up a paper turkey, or coloring Easter eggs, meditate for a moment on what it all means to you and to that wonderful little child.
Discover what it’s like to create like a little kid. Then come back and live with that same feeling in your own hobbies – because that spirit is what every meditation is about.
About the Author
Dr. Farrell is a Behavioral Economist. His books include The Millionaire Code; The Millionaire Meditation: Stress Management for Wall Street, Corporate America & Entrepreneurs; The Zen Millionaire; The Winning Portfolio; Expert Investing on The Net; Mutual Funds on The Net; and The Lazy Person’s Guide to Investing.
He also published 1,643 columns on DowJones-MarketWatch and for years was their #1 traffic-generating columnist. Before the Internet, he edited & published FNX: Future News Index, a financial newsletter for stock market traders. Earlier he was a Wall Street investment banker with Morgan Stanley, Executive Vice President of the Financial News Network; and Associate Editor of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner.
He has a Doctorate in Psychology, Juris Doctor, Masters in Regional Planning and Bachelor of Architecture. He worked on the Esalen organic farm and served in the U.S. Marine Corps as Staff Sergeant in aviation computer technology.