That time I meditated to Kayne West lyrics


The first time I meditated in a proper temple Kayne West lyrics from Mercy started marching through my head and the incongruence of being in that very special place hearing that particular song made me laugh out loud. I sat on a thin cushion topped by an ill shaped half circle, on a plain wooden floor inside a residential neighborhood home that was converted into a Buddhist temple. I sat there wondering if I would ever have sensation in my feet again after the pins and needles of sitting uncomfortably for so long. Being the only white person it felt doubly, no triply important to do a good job at meditating at the temple (which goes to show how western my practice has been), with as little fidgeting as possible, slow, calm breathing, sitting up straight with hands on knees.

But first, the barrier for entry. I have this friend who knows me well enough to give me suggestions on things to do. “We should go bungee jumping!” “Sure, I’ll go!” “I know this temple where you can meditate!” “Okay.” “Come to tai chi class and see if you like it!” “Well, alright.” “I know this place where we can meditate on our chakras!” “Right.” I had been meditating for about a year and a half at the time, and had worked my way up to 30 minutes silent mediation daily on my extremely comfortable zafu at home. I read Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chodron, Suzuki and everything else I could think of. I was looking for the next step because I could not get my brain to shut the fuck up already and I had a lot going on that made it a good idea to be able to focus. “There’s this temple that has a 30 minute walking meditation after a 30 minute sitting meditation at night, want to try it?” “Yes. Yes, I’ll try it.”

But first. How do you walk into a Vietnamese Buddhist Temple as a white person when your friend who told you to go doesn’t show up? You go in. You bow. The monk comes over and it goes a little something like this. You have to get permission to be in that special space. You have to be respectful, thoughtful, and conscientious. And there are a few questions to answer. “Who told you about this?” That one is easy. My friend with all the crazy ideas and this is his name. “This is a 60 minute meditation followed by a 15 minute walking meditation. Do you meditate?” I do! But the most I’ve ever done is 30 minutes. “What do you focus on when you meditate?” My breath. A candle. “Do you have a meditation teacher?” No. (Maybe I do now?) Okay he says. Okay. Go sit for one hour.

It ended up being a 75 minute meditation because I came early to speak with the monk to ensure I was allowed access. And then the walking meditation, which is one of my very favorite things. After that first 90 minute temple session I felt total euphoria because the cushion I sat on was such a terrible fit that not sitting in an extremely uncomfortable position any longer made my body rejoice with disbelief that the session was finally over.

There was a large alter where the monk sits. Nearing the end of the silent meditation I saw him bring out something that was glowing and hold it in his hands. I thought “Oh wow, my first session and I’m already learning the deep secrets of buddhism.” …Eventually I determined that that night’s secret was that the monk possessed a smart phone and he was checking the time.

My favorite thing about the buddhist temple is the quiet. Sometimes you can hear flocks of wild parrots squawking. There’s a large buddha with a circular LED screen behind his head (Buddha’s aura in fact, with the same colors that appear on the buddhist flag) on the alter. The lights vary in color and pattern and it’s a very calming thing to look at when you can’t keep your eyes shut any longer. There are orchids usually and other flowers depending on the seasons. On my first visit there were beautiful orange gladiolus, one of my favorite flowers. There is always fresh fruit. In the silence you hear clocks tick, you hear other meditators falling asleep and snoring, stomachs growling, people coughing from the incense, smart phones ringing, people shifting in place on their cushions, or the gurgling of a water fountain. When it’s really hot, like oppressively so, you’ll hear a swamp fan. Otherwise, you hear silence.

When you do walking meditation it is a slow, thoughtful walk. We do it in a converted living room, back and forth, back and forth. When you slowly pick up your foot, you think “up.” When you slowly put your foot down, you think “down.” If the floor is warm, you think “warm.” If the floor is cool, you think “cool.” When you reach the other side of the room, you carefully turn, moving one foot at a time a quarter turn clockwise until you are facing the opposite wall. Fold your hands in front or in back and keep your head down. Walking slowly without falling down is harder to do than you would think. But it is calming.

The monk told me he would be happy to answer my questions after each session. I only had the guts to ask him a few things over the course of a few months. Here are the questions I asked with his answers.


Me: “My mind is not silent, is that okay?”

Monk: (laughter) “Do you focus on the breath?”

Me: “Yes.”

Monk: “No problem.”


Me: “Is it okay if I look at the Buddha’s aura while I meditate?”

Monk: (laughter) “Yes. No problem.”


Me: “Where do I put my hands when I meditate?”

Monk: (smiling) “On your knees or in your lap, it doesn’t matter.”


Me: “Where does meditation take place in the body? Where do you go when you meditate? Is it deep inside your mind?”

Monk: (Thinking about what I said, but touching his heart when answering) “Yes, it is deep inside the mind.”

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On the Needles

Pea pod

There it is

copper corgi and persimmon tree farm

Sheep in Pasadena! This means I can have sheep in seal beach right?

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I’ve been all over the place!

It would be unreasonable to list and show photos of every place I’ve been for Fickle knitter in the past two and a half years so here are some highlights. I released a new book, Dreams. I went to Portland Or, Denver, Chicago, and Virginia Beach. And I went to Stitches West, Stitches MidWest, Tnna(s), Vogue Lives and all the other haunts where you’re used to finding me. Here’s a short photographic recap.

I'll be at @theyarnclub in Virginia Beach, Va tomorrow, 1-27 at 6pm signing my brand new book. Hope to see you there!

I stole this photo from @feliciacakes! Hi @feliciacakes ?
Portland, Or, at the official Knitted Wit headquarters

@lgidding showing off her gorgeous Baah shawl at Colorful Yarns in Denver
Denver, at Colorful Yarns

Selfie time! @windyknitty
Chicago, at Windy Knitty

A pic from my visit to @yarnclub this past January!
Virginia Beach, at The Yarn Club

Winter Tnna with Yarnover Truck

After only eight years I've finally figured out how to take a photo of one of my pieces and myself at the same time
Vogue Live Pasadena with Foxyknits

My dream of cloning myself has finally come true! @yarnovertruck
Look! I’ve cloned myself! I guess this means I can knit twice as much. (And look at my hair getting progressively longer in this series of photos)

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Foxy Surprise Shawl at Vogue Live Pasadena

Fresh off the blocking board #foxyknits #koigu

I’ve written a brand new shawl for Merilyn of Foxy Knits. If you don’t know Merilyn or you don’t know Foxyknits let me be the first to tell you that both are all about koigu yarn. I admire Merilyn’s steadfast admiration and love for Koigu. And that’s an addiction I can get behind. This two skein shawl is Koigu’s 100% merino lace yarn and I love how it knit up. The colors are beautiful and the yarn has a great texture. It’s a fine yarn and I knit the shawl on a size 4 needle.

The shawl sample will be in the Foxy Knits booth at Vogue Live Pasadena May 13-15, 2016. If you stop by be sure to tell Merilyn and crew that Michelle sent you!

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Deconstructed Cheesecake

I was watching a cooking show recently where the chef (either french or italian, but definitely michelin starred) invented a dessert called deconstructed cheesecake. His sous chef spoke with quiet awe about how the chef created the dish after plating the intricate dessert under pressure and then watching in horror as the cheesecake slowly slid off of the plate and smashed into a thousand pieces leaving them unable to create a replacement for important guests in a timely fashion. So the chef picks up the smashed-to-hell cheesecake, puts it onto a new plate, carefully putting pieces here and there with a little piping and some sprucing renames the disaster deconstructed cheesecake. It became a hit. Don’t believe me? Google deconstructed cheesecake.

What does this have to do with anything? Well a while back I deconstructed myself too. For a long time I lost the ability to write my feelings and the ability to create. I wondered how to address the deconstruction of my life with kindness.

And here is my effort to do so. There are these moments in mid life where you literally shake away or discard all the pieces of you that just aren’t working anymore. I did it with a combination of therapy, meditation, martial arts, time in nature, a hell of a lot of tears and many late nights of silent prayer. If you read that list carefully you’ll see there’s not a lot of knitting or writing. But there is a lot of stripping away of nonessential parts of me. Like unhooking that voice of constant worry and disbelief that I’m worthy of all the things anyone else is worthy of. I took a long hard look directly at myself, my beliefs, what I was doing, why I was doing it and what could I do to focus 100% of my efforts on raising my two children and caring for myself to the best of my abilities.

Chillin on the lead fire truck before the Christmas parade down Main Street, as you do.

Becoming a single mother is hard. Divorce is hard. There are a lot of moments where you fall directly into bed the microsecond after you put your children to sleep for the evening and spend the dark hours of the night in rumination. You ask yourself how you will accomplish what they need you to do, and make a plan to do it, addressing all (and mostly unlikely) variations of what will occur and how you will counter. But sometimes you just cry, hoping they don’t hear.

I can't believe my baby is going to turn 8. EIGHT.
There are a lot of tears in single motherhood. Their tears, my tears. But tears can become an epoxy to hold your life together. My friend Gemma told me that when we cry our bodies release chemicals to reduce stress. Somewhere, sometime, I read that tears are a silent, keening prayer to god when you can’t manage the words on your own.

It’s funny, using words like prayer, and god when you’re an atheist. Becoming deconstructed altered me just slightly enough that I can use those words now. I am my old self, but I am also the new me. The one who doesn’t have time for bullshit. There’s a lot of cutting through the chaff where I am in this life. What doesn’t serve me has to go. And go it did. Lest you think I’m speaking of other people, I’m not. We are the wellspring of everything going on in our lives, what we are is what we see in the world. I had a momentous shift in my life where I became the parent of my sister’s special needs child. Caring for him made it apparent to me that I had no problems loving him. He could be flawed, and imperfect and made me love him not one whit less. I began to wonder why the hell couldn’t I love myself that way? So I began a journey to change my life. And I did.

Looking back I guess you could say the deconstruction of my life began when my sister (my nexus, my touchstone, that one person in my life that would always be there) passed away unexpectedly from pneumonia at 45 in 2011, and all the following events, fraught with the realization that my brother in law was going to die, that I had a lot of learning and growing to do, and a lot of responsibilities to take on. In order to rise to that occasion I had to make some tough choices. I’m proud to say that I made those choices and I’m a better person today. Leaving behind old habits and ways of being was extremely painful but worth it.

Afterwards I could no longer touch the parts of me where my creativity flowed previously. I’d sit down to write and nothing would come out. I’d sit down to knit and nothing would happen. I was an island and there was not one drop of creative water to be drunk nor savored, consumed nor used. What I bathed myself in in the past went from full blast to the barest of trickles, then to nothing, a steady flow of sand where water once was in abundance.

In speaking with other creatives I’d ask them, what the hell do you do when your flow of creativity dries up? I mean, it’s kind of like your arm or your leg, you expect it will be with you at all times and under all circumstances, but it isn’t. Sometimes it goes away and you look back at that part of yourself with sadness and horror wondering if it will ever return. Slowly, you have to pick up the pieces and go on even with the huge hole in your life and hope that maybe if you nurture yourself, your kids, and your existence it will deign to return. There’s a lot of heartbeats, footsteps, patience and going through the motions even though that large part of you is now empty. But eventually you’ll have the feeling that maybe that fount will return. Perhaps it will return however briefly like a butterfly and leave again.

Maybe you have to grow to accept that creation and art and being isn’t a given and it isn’t forever. Somehow it’s possible to be thankful in the moment for what little gifts you have even if it’s not what you had or what you thought life would provide. And, with all of that it’s possible to totally be okay too. Even when you’re no longer on the path you thought you were. Thich Nhat Hanh says those of us who write poetry, when life makes our authorship grow dormant, our subconscious still creates, and one day when it’s time to write again you’ll see that your body was doing it for you the whole time even when you thought that part of you was barren. I find a lot of beauty in that.

My reconstruction, my wabi-sabi began in November 2013. It’s a journey with a lot of darkness and a lot of light. And on that journey my knitting became deconstructed too because how could it not? Some days when all I could hope for was a new, quieter day tomorrow I snuck in a little knitting time. Burdened with all of the responsibilities of a single parent, I didn’t have time or energy to do anything but make my needles sing. No fancy edgings, but quiet, rhythmic, small sequences I could keep in my head when nothing else would stay in. When things were fraught and I had a lot of lemonade to make.

Getting ready for the Knitted wit trunk show in Portland this weekend. Hope to see you there. #new #finally #back

Packing the essentials for Maryland Sheep & Wool pt 2

I’m as changed as my knitting. Transformed. I’m not sure where my knitting will take me (although it has taken me a lot of places in the past two and a half years, but that’s another post). I hope you’ll be patient with the new, more concentrated version of me, as I try with myself to adhere to grace in all things. I’m leaner, meaner, but also more purely myself. I look different from before and how I conduct myself and live my life is different from before. But now in those quiet moments I feel good and there is happiness, the joy of the accomplishments of my kids, as well as loneliness and the whole range and scope of human emotions both good and bad, and I’m sure as hell no longer afraid to feel them.


When you look at me don’t think about how fragile I am. Look at my scars and see how I put myself back together again and that I’m tough and gritty and ready to meet the challenges in my life. Me, but reconstructed.

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Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival 2016

Tractor time
What I saw.

Packing the essentials for Maryland Sheep & Wool pt 2
What I blocked immediately before I got on the airplane (Neighborhood Fibers).

What I heard.

Packing the essentials for Maryland Sheep & Wool
What ends I didn’t weave in right after blocking before getting on the airplane (Dragonfly Fibers).

Bye sheep
What I wished I could bring home. (Neighbors! They are dogs! Big, fancy, bleating dogs! Country style dogs!).

Isn't she lovely Isn't she wonderful Isn't she precious Less than one minute old I never thought through love we'd be Making one as lovely as she But isn't she lovely made from love
What I’m working on now (Wooly Wonka).

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Hello World!

It’s been a while. Here are some personal photos of a few things I love. Sharing with you to get myself back into the habit of blogging.

Again again!
Color Gradients

O Sensei

Just a lady and her jade sword #taichi #form32
Martial Arts

Yes I think I will

Handmade carnitas tortillas with cilantro, green onion, lime, and crema. My nine year old was kitchen assistant, supervising the corn tortillas.
Eating Well

Clyfford Still

Painter's Box, Marisol Escobar 1956 #mca

Another fog filled morning, the ships have been sounding their horns all night

One of the loveliest shops I've been in

Wishing peace, prosperity, and good health in the coming new year to all my friends and family.

Denver Botanic Gardens

This seat does not recline

Wheels down Chicago

Fresh off the blocking board #foxyknits #koigu

Back in my happy place, finishing up a design for @yarnovertruck and about to crepe
Knitting AND Coffee

I’ll be at the Maryland Sheep & Wool festival this weekend. Hope to see you there! I’ll be the one buying up all the yarn and fiber.

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Green Mountain Spinnery Shawl Errata

green mountain spinnery shawl

The Short Row Center even-numbered wrong side rows should read

Row 12 (WS): P13.
Row 14 (WS): Slip 1 purlwise,
Row 16 (WS): Slip 1 purlwise,
Row 18 (WS): P13.
Row 20 (WS): Slip 1 purlwise,

Everything else is correct as written.

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The Diamond Shoal Shawl by Fickleknitter

The Diamond Shoal shawl was inspired by

The Cape Hatteras lighthouse near Buxton, North Carolina
The OBX Lighthouse

diamond shoal with text
Can you see it?

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New Kits in Shop.Fickleknitter!

It’s finally time for a New Fickleknitter KAL!
diamond shoal
Presenting the brand new Diamond Shoal KAL kits! These are available exclusively through and are knit up in beautiful Baah yarn.

diamond shoal kit
It’s time to treat yourself! Each kit comes with three skeins of Baah yarn (that’s 1200 yards), two gorgeous venetian glass sterling silver stitch markers from Knitifacts, and the Diamond Shoal knitting pattern. The first round of kits will ship August 15th. We have limited availability so reserve your kit today.

diamond shoal closeup w flower
Please join us on ravelry for the KAL which runs from September 5th-September 26th.

By popular demand the June KAL kits from 2013 have been reissued. There is limited availability so snap yours up today!

June Kit Reissue
The kits come with your choice of yarn color and fabric. Only a few in stock!

This version of the kit is available in Golden Delicious green, Prussian Blue, Holly & Ivy, Brown Sugar, or Beaujolais yarn with a Matryoshka doll or Sushi fabric box bag and two beautiful sterling silver markers by Knitifacts.

Ohm Kits
Ohm Kits

There are only a few Ohm Kits left in stock! These beautiful colors were hand picked especially for us by the dyer at Zen Yarn Garden.

“The premise of Michelle Miller’s Fickle Knitter Design Volume 1: Leaves is one most of us will appreciate–patterns that use 395 or fewer yards of yarn. We’ve seen a lot of people try this approach, small-scale and mainstream publishers alike, but the results don’t always scale aesthetically to match the amount of yarn the projects use. All eight of Michelle Miller’s designs in this book do, and beautifully.”
–Clara Parkes, “the Booklet” Summer 2012 Interweave Knits

“Here you’ll find great ideas from Michelle Miller of Fickle Knitter Designs! Every project in her book Leaves, is made with less than 395 yards of yarn, perfect for using up single skeins. With four smaller projects geared to newer knitters, and four shawls for the intermediate knitter, this book is a great addition to any collection”
–July 2012 Creative Knitting

What other knitters have to say about Fickle Knitter Design Patterns:

Michelle, just wanted to tell you that the shawl designs are drop-dead gorgeous, especially the borders. I am on my third now. Your patterns are crystal-clear and make perfect sense to me (unlike others where I have to wrap my head around the construction details first). I have more of your designs in my queue and project sections, including one which is hibernating while I finish the current one! Months of enjoyments – thanks! — Mary

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