Throughout my childhood, my family spent a good chunk of every summer visiting my Grandparents in rural Alabama. One of my favorite memories is sitting on my Granny's couch, nestled in the crook of her arm, Lawrence Welk crooned on the TV while we crocheted. The memory is still so visceral. I don't ever remember feeling so safe as I did in those moments, it's a warmth that you feel through your skin and into your bones. As soon as I got in the car to head back to Texas, it was gone.
When the time came for booze to work, it worked. Food was probably the original offender, but alcohol eventually became how I learned to treat any and all distress. It worked better, faster. Instead of trying to connect back to that inherent, bone-deep warmth and feeling of safety, I settled for the warm flush alcohol provided, a temporary safety blanket and I wrapped myself tight. Over the years, that temporary fix began to rot away the very fabric of my being.
Often with very old textiles, such as quilts, the fabric contains the very elements that lead to its own destruction. It happens with properties, like iron mordant, which was often used in the dying process and over time, it eventually disintegrates the fabric. Quilt preservationists lay the quilts out and very carefully and lovingly pick out the destructive fibers and replace them with non-destructive fibers. I never thought I could ever access that feeling again honestly, that feeling of being held, that emotional awareness of my own body, but slowly, carefully and lovingly, those destructive fibers are being replaced.
The mind-body connection is having it's light-basking moment today, as if we needed doctors to write about it to validate its truth. The practice of yoga takes me straight into my body, running keeps me aware of my lungs in action. Self-soothing by keeping my hands busy is intuitive now, I've relearned the art of listening to my body. I stitch during phone calls, doodle during meetings, crochet during Netflix. What may logically appear distracting, engaging my body actually heightens my awareness.
Creating something with my hands is healing in the process, the act is the salve. I wanted to make something that symbolized that process, a tangible creation to remind me, "Pssst, what you seek? It's inside you." A meditation pillow it is.
For a medium pillow, you start by cutting out 6x9 pieces of fabric and you need 14 total. I used bright, fun vintage cotton, probably with its own inherent vices but hey, at least we'll relate.
You'll also need two circles that are 13 inches in diameter for the top and the bottom and I'm decorating mine with a couple of vintage doilies because doilies make everything better.
Next, you need to pleat your rectangular pieces so the ends will shrink from 6 inches wide to 3 inches wide. I don't get too precious about the pleating, I just eyeball it instead of measure each one, but if you are a pleating perfectionist, get on with your bad self.
So once you get them all pleated and stitched across the top and bottom to secure, you'll stitch them all together. This is where I got a tiny bit perfection-y but only to make sure the pleats were all facing the same direction.
This next part is where you can choose your own adventure, but a "proper" meditation pillow should probably be stuffed with Kapok, which is a precious organic cotton-silk like fiber or you can use buckwheat hull filling. If you use one of these, you may not want to attach your pieces end to end without installing a zipper or some Velcro, so you can replace the filling or add to it when it gets dull. Me? Well, I needed instant gratification with this so I just went to Target and felt around the pillow section until I found one that satisfied me, brought it home and ripped it open. All of this to say, I didn't do an opening there, I just stitched my long piece end to end.
Next, you'll want to turn your pleated piece inside out and with right sides together, pin and stitch your circular pieces onto the top and bottom. Be sure to leave a gap for the stuffing if you didn't install a zipper. Trim the excess.
Commence stuffing, stitching up your opening and if you are adding your decorative doilies, it's easiest to do that after the stuffing is added.
It's not perfect, but neither am I. I don't meditate perfectly either, but I can meditate on my perfectly imperfect pillow, imperfectly. I once heard that God lets you keep some of defects so that you can empathize with others, stay relatable. My pillow and I will have a lot to talk about.