The Benefits of Practice

I have spent the past three days working at our community’s biennial Quilt Fiesta. This is my second Quilt Fiesta. In 2012 I was in charge of the gift shop. This year I worked for the local sewing machine shop. Last year I spent the entire week before and all three days of the event (and several after) stressed out of my mind. This year I enjoyed every minute. What was different? Practice.

Yes, it did help that I’d done it before, but that’s not the type of practice I am talking about here. I’m using practice in the spiritual sense of the word.

At the gift shop, I was running the show–making sure everything was well stocked, managing volunteers staffing the booth, adjusting prices, helping customers. I felt torn in a million different directions. This year I also had to restock, help customers, and generally help keep the booth running smoothly, but my most important job was to demonstrate one of our sewing machines–a sit-down long arm for free-motion quilting.

For those of you unfamiliar with free-motion quilting, it’s basically like doodling with thread. Except that instead of a pen you have a very large machine, and instead of moving that machine you move the fabric. I took my first real free-motion class less than two months ago which means I am a beginner. But I wanted to learn, so I sat my butt down on that chair and started to sew.

As a result, two things happened:

  1. I started to get better–a lot better. And that getting better made me feel good. And that feeling good gave me more energy. And that extra energy made me more optimistic and more confident. And that helped me get better.
  2. Free-motion quilting, like doodling, has a very meditative quality to it, and like meditation, offers a number of health benefits, including lowering blood pressure and reducing depression–and not just during these meditative events. A regular mediation or other spiritual practice (including art-making and crafting) can help build psychological, emotional, and even physical resilience.

A daily meditation or art/craft-based practice of even 15 minutes a day can help you cope in even the most stressful of circumstances. And as for that other type of practice–imagine how much more confident and optimistic you’d be about your prepping plans with regular test-runs. Run through anything enough times, and it becomes muscle memory. You don’t even have to think. You just do.