Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Ananda

I finally made it past vitarka and vicara and reached ananda in my work on my Juliet sweater. Ananda is the third stage of learning of four that Patanjali lists in the 17th sutra of Book I of the Yoga Sutras. No matter what we're learning, we start at the gross or unrefined level and slowly move to a more subtle understanding of what we're doing. Vitarka is the most superficial level, the clumsiness of a toddler learning to walk. Vicara is a deeper understanding: now we have an idea of how to walk, but we still fall a lot. Ananda means "bliss" or "joy": now we're getting pretty good at walking, so we love it and we want to run and jump and skip.

To get to ananda, you have to go through vitarka and vicara. For me, that seems to mean figuring out what needle to use by actually knitting the sweater. Swatching doesn't work: each project, I discover that I'm hapier knitting on a needle one size larger than what worked on the swatch. For me, vitarka: choosing the pattern and working a few rows. Vicara: getting a physical feel for how the yarn works in my hands, what the structure of the fabric looks like, whether I'm enjoying or struggling with the work. Ananda: after trying a size 9 needle on the yoke for several rounds, then switching back to the size 10.5, and finally, trying my favorite needle, a Bryspun, in a size 10.

Suddenly, pleasure in knitting. A beautiful fabric, firm enough to have body but loose enough to drape. And no fighting with the yarn on every stitch. I finished the entire yoke in one day and am ready to put the stitches on a piece of scrap yarn so that I can decide whether I'm ready to cast off the sleeves.
On the right size needle - for me - even the increases are pretty.
Oh, and the fourth stage of learning: asmitarupa: we take on the form, metaphorically, of what we are doing. We know the process so well that the work is effortless, we can do it without thinking, as though it's second nature.

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