Stitching Buddhas: Can Sewing be Meditation?
Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo is one of few Westerners trained in the rare Buddhist art of silk appliqué thangkas. She was featured in the documentary, Creating Buddhas: The Making and Meaning of Fabric Thankgas, and runs a virtual apprenticeship program called Stitching Buddhas that teaches people how to integrate their spiritual and creative paths.
WorldLifestyle: What made you start your online program to teach people this rare art form?
Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo: When I completed my own apprenticeship with a Tibetan master in India, His Holiness the Dalai Lama encouraged me to use my skills to awaken the spiritual aspirations of people across religions and cultures.
WL: How can stitching thankgas be spiritual?
LRW: Many of us don’t use our hands much anymore, aside from typing on a keyboard and swiping a touchscreen. Working with needle and thread reawakens our tactile intelligence.
1. Spending time with sacred images reminds us of our deepest values and connects us with the blessings and energy of spiritual teachers.
2. Being present with each stitch allows the mind to settle.
3. Conscious stitching is an antidote to multi-tasking and and an invitation to be fully present.
4. Confidence builds as challenges are overcome. It feels good to develop new skills.
5. Beauty lightens the heart, making our whole world look more beautiful.
WL: Why did you decide to make it an online teaching program?
LRW: I”m an artist, teacher, and caretaker of a sacred and transformative Tibetan textile tradition and I wanted to teach this ancient art in a contemporary way to a western audience.
The six-month online course gives these women a way to integrate their spiritual and creative paths. It increases their mindfulness, attention, connection with the sacred, and opens up many doors to self-understanding and compassion. And also builds their confidence in using technology to learn and communicate.
And as a woman, my approach seems particularly appreciated by women — women who are creative, who seek deeper meaning, who are courageous enough to engage in online courses but may not be particularly tech-savvy, who love fabrics and want to engage in the world in beautiful, tactile, meaningful ways.
“Many of us don’t use our hands much anymore, aside from typing on a keyboard and swiping a touchscreen. Working with needle and thread reawakens our tactile intelligence.”
All photos courtesy of Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo