One Loop at a Time: A Story of Rug Hooking, Healing, and Creativity

I woke up one day and I didn’t know who I was anymore. I didn’t know how to move forward. I didn’t know what my life or my career were going to look like. This was even scarier than my diagnosis of breast cancer.

That day was just over a year ago, January 6, 2016, when I finished my radiation treatments.

Six months earlier, I had made the decision to step away from my practice as a homeopath and Bowen therapist so that I could focus on taking care of myself. I had been in practice for 20 years, and this diagnosis was my second wakeup call in just over a year.

From a homeopathic perspective, the diagnosis of cancer is illness at a very deep level. I knew that if I truly wanted to heal (not just recover, but heal deeply), I needed to be responsible only for myself. I couldn’t take care of others while I was healing.

I knew I needed to find a new way to be in the world, and that included my profession of caring for others. After 20 years in practice, I longed to combine my love of designing and hooking rugs with my experience helping women move forward with their own healing journeys. I knew I wanted my work to have a wider impact than just seeing patients on a one-to-one basis. I made the decision that I would not return to my practice and that I would allow myself time to heal before deciding how I would move forward.

So, like most people in my situation, I got busy with the business of receiving treatment. Along the way I learned some great tips for surviving and thriving through the treatment process, which I share in my book One Loop at a Time.

When my treatment ended, that’s when my healing really began.

I didn’t set out to make healing mats. I turned to writing and rug hooking as a way to process my emotions, to make sense of what I had just been through and what was ahead of me. When I read about a workshop on writing and yoga by author Sheree Fitch and yoga teacher Josette Coulter last January, my heart gave a little leap. I had just finished radiation for breast cancer that week. There was a snowstorm in the forecast. My stomach clenched at the thought of having to drive several hours to Tatamagouche and back.

But when I visualized being with a teacher I adored in a room full of women writing and doing yoga, I felt so happy. I knew I just had to be there.

That workshop was the beginning of my writing and imagining my whole new life. It was also the impetus for my Healing Mat series.

In the eight months following my treatment, I filled five journals and designed and hooked seven healing mats—Curvy Lines, Love Letter, Joy Releasing, Dancing Wildly with Joy, Breaking Open, Dancing in the Wind, and Abundance.

I wrote in my journal about each of the mats and about the inspiration for them. Although I had been hooking for about seven years by then, the design of these mats was something very new for me.

There were three things I did differently.

1. I developed a unique method of writing healing phrases on the linen around the mat.

2. I selected colors based on chakra color theory. (There is a chapter on chakra color theory in my book.)

3. I developed an original design method based on following the healing energy. In retrospect, I realized that this design method is very similar to the method I used to take the cases of my patients as a homeopath.

one-loop-at-a-time-a-story-of-rug-hooking-healing-and-creativityI’m now using my experience to help other women move from wakeup call to wellness through tapping into their creativity. I’ve become known as the Healing Mat Lady on Twitter and Facebook.

I teach Hook a Healing Mat workshops, do individual custom healing mat designs, and inspire women to take a step toward wellness through my speaking and writing. I published my first book, One Loop at a Time: A Story of Rug Hooking, Healing, and Creativity, through Full Circle Publishing.

People that I love to serve are women who have the feeling something is missing and have identified that there must be more to life. They realize life is short. They can get there because they have had a wakeup call, experienced grief or depression, are recovering from illness, or are at a transition point in their life. These women are ready to learn something new, to explore their emotions, and in the process, play a little.

Learn more about Meryl’s book One Loop at a Time:

Learn more about Meryl’s Hook a Healing Mat workshops:

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About the Author | Meryl Cook

Meryl Cook is a contemporary rug hooking artist, author, former homeopath, and breast cancer survivor. Meryl worked in the healing arts as a homeopath and Bowen therapist for over 20 years, stepping aside from patient care in January 2016 to devote herself to her new business, The Healing Mat Lady. She teaches Hook a Healing Mat workshops, does individual custom healing mats, and is a speaker. She is currently working on her new series of mats, called Heart Listening.

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14 comments to "One Loop at a Time: A Story of Rug Hooking, Healing, and Creativity"

  • I love this story and the profound strength shown by the author! It’s amazing how inspiring it is when people transform a health wake up call into a bold new life.

  • Thank you Eleanor! It has been amazing to have you to bear witness to my transformation in my life and my business. Thank you for inspiring me to be #fierce and to keep raising my hand.

  • Kelly

    Meryl, you are an incredibly strong woman and a great inspiration. Love your story!

    • Thanks Kelly! It is a great story and it happened to me. But taking a first step to reawaken your purpose through creativity is possible for anyone. That’s why it is now my mission to inspire women to join a community of women who are choosing to get out into the world and live life to the fullest.

  • Leanne Myles

    The insight that Meryl has is just incredible !!!! I love her story and how she helps with healing! Just incredible:)

  • Thanks Leanne. I’m so glad my story has inspired you. Please feel free to pass my contact information on to women you know who are searching for a way to reconnect with their life’s purpose.

  • Reading this story brought me to tears, as I turned the pages I could feel my own healing begin, the thickness of the pages and the beautiful colours and simplicity echoed in my soul. Meryl’s book is a tangible healing guide that I will treasure always. Thanks for sharing strong woman.

    • Thank you Rosmarie for sharing your response to my book. It was very important to me that my book be beautiful. I also wanted to inspire others to begin their healing journey, to begin to connect with their purpose.
      All the best healing to you Rosmarie.

  • Tracey

    Love the inspiring story and the beautiful creations. Meryl has such a special way of connecting with those around her.

  • Thanks Tracey for that lovely praise. Learning to listen to my heart was one of the gifts of my breast cancer. I think connecting with others on a heart level begins with connecting with our own hearts and then it ripples out from there.

  • Beautiful story of resilience and healing. Meryl is a an amazing and inspiring women. Must read for anyone struggling to find themselves, their purpose and peace.

    • Thanks Raelene! I love that you get that my book goes way beyond women facing breast cancer. It is a story of reinvention and redefining ourselves.  

  • Hilda Gan

    Meryl, when I read the article, you leap out on to the page for me. I felt you journey and more importantly, your revelation, your healing. Your journey, your discovery and your healing is an inspiration and a pathway of calmness for anyone who is touched by your words. I bought your book recently and had time and curiosity to read it. I opened the book to the page with your explanation on the Rug Curvy Lines. The impact on me was instantaneous. Your warmth, your personality and your experience leapt out on the page. the mat was calming and brought peace and brightness at the same time. What an amazing journey you are sharing with us. Well done. So touching. Thank Meryl for sharing your experience with us.

  • Dear Hilda,
    I am so happy that you were moved by Curvy Lines! It was the first mat in my healing mat series. I designed it when I was waiting for my test results. I was reflecting on what it means to be a woman with a changing body, and what having part of my breast removed would mean to my femininity. I was also dancing daily to lighten my heart. And of course, I have never been a straight line kind of girl.