Blacksmithing to Increase Mindfulness

This past Sunday, I took my son to experience blacksmithing. We spent nearly eight hours creating beautiful hooks as an introduction to this old-school form of art.

The blacksmith we received guidance from has an intense full time job but finds time to do this twice a week (he can forge items much quicker than us of course). He proclaimed the need to do it for stress-relieving purposes. While experiencing it for myself, I could see why.

The process

When transforming ugly scrap metal into beautiful pieces, you have to take it through an intense process that requires all of your attention. You have to be present in the process or you might get burned, or worse — lose an eye! It gets dirty and hot but by the end, we created a beautiful, functional piece that we envisioned in our minds before we felt them in our hands.

By mid-day, I could see a resemblance between blacksmithing and gardening. Gardening is a hobby that I admire but one I’ve never had the patience to practice. It’s the first one that came to mind while I was in the middle tapering the end of my soon-to-be hook with the largest hammer I’ve ever used.

Blacksmithing vs gardening

With both hobbies, you are creating a new form from a seed. You can get dirty and hot in the process. Heat and water are required. If you stop paying attention, all your hard work will be for naught.

The biggest difference is timing! While it can take a month to grow a seed into something you can see, you can transform scrap metal in less than an hour. More intricate designs may take 24 hours (or a couple of weekends), but you can see the progress immediately. You can infuse character and your signature into every creation to make them all unique.

I was thisclose to saying I may have found a new hobby with blacksmithing! I want to increase my mindfulness and realized this hobby may be the answer. Yeah it’s gritty but it’s also exciting.

About 17 years ago, one of my favorite bosses encouraged me to get a hobby. Through all of my life changes, I try to find one that will stick with me.

Then hour #6 hit and I was pretty much over it. I’d made two creations by then while my son was still working on his J hook (which came out nicely).

I appreciate the practice of blacksmithing but I don’t think it’s my thing… not at this time of my life anyway. I will encourage my son if he decides he would like to pursue it.

However early yesterday, I had an epiphany.

The epiphany

I gained a new perspective on running. I keep trying to make it a habitual weekly practice but continue to lose momentum. I’ve been doing this in fits over the last couple of years. It’s something I know I can’t take months or weeks off without losing progress. Maybe if I look at it as a hobby, I can get the same results plus many more. Benefits of this from a hobby standpoint include:

  • Increased mindfulness — paying attention to my breathing and pace increases my ability to be present in the moment at hand, the epitome of being mindful.
  • Shortened exposure to grit — running gets hot and dirty like blacksmithing and gardening, but not in the same way nor for the same length of time.
  • Transformed, old to new- in the past, running has transformed me to my best self. Just like an old piece of scrap metal forged into a beautiful piece, my body and soul can use the heat (again) to transform into a beautiful creation of my choosing.
  • Increased focus and dedication — as with the others, if I stop paying attention, I lose the progress I worked so hard to achieve. It’s even worse since it’s my ever-changing body, not something I can throw away. As I get closer to 40, I’m fighting for it to behave and have the shape I want it to have. With increased desire and urgency for that specific goal, once I’m in a groove, I know it will spill over to other areas of my life.

As far as timing goes, the full transformation in running may take as long as growing a garden but in as little as six hours of working out, or running two or three times per week for two weeks, I’ll see progress… as long as I also watch what I feed my body.

I went for a run yesterday to work out some frustration.

I finished with more clarity on a number of things. Today, my body and mind feel much better and I’m determined to do more this week. I’m liking this new perspective about it.

After that talk with my boss so many years ago, I took up baking. I was good at it too. Though there are comparisons to make about baking vs blacksmithing, now is not the time to consider that hobby. My body can’t take my delectable sweets at this age like it could at 22. I’ll reconsider when I get running together. I’d love to share baking with my kids more often than I currently do!

I’ll write an article comparing this process to what we go through as business owners another day. Meanwhile, please share your experience with hobbies that transform old to new and support increased mindfulness.