Wherever you’ve been sitting under an umbrella, it’s hot, hot, hot and the activities are non-stop. That’s summer at its best. When hot days are punctuated by some cooler nights we recover to take up the race again. Want to slow it down before the season ends? Savor those lazy days of endless sunshine with a coloring book!
From simple patterns to elaborate drawings from pen and ink artists, there is an array of coloring books for you to relax with for as long as you choose. Why are these suddenly so popular? It seems the addition of an “anti-stress” label will sell just about anything these days and coloring books are no exception. That’s no empty marketing gimmick though, it’s based on timeless principles that have garnered attention due to the increasing awareness of the benefits of mindfulness. You are actually doing an active meditation and many people find this easier than concentrative meditation. When repetitive motion is coupled with focused attention we can calm our minds, relieve stress and experience true relaxation. I believe in the benefits of a creative practice and coloring fits right into that category.
You may find it too daunting or inconvenient to tote around art or handwork supplies but a slim volume of coloring pages or a simple photocopy of a design and handful of coloring sticks is all you need. There is no right or wrong when using crayons, colored pencils or pens, and no one is watching. Just pick up the most appealing color and get started! To enhance the mindful aspect of coloring, take a few deep breaths before you get started and deliberately clear away unwanted thoughts. Be aware of how the pen feels in your hand, notice how it moves against the paper. Do you have a light touch? Are you using crosshatching? Fairly soon none of this will matter and you will be immersed in the process of filling in the design. When you stop you’ll be amazed that time has passed. Take a moment to savor your effort before you put it away and move on with your day.
Want more freedom to create your own designs? You can turn the experience into a two step process, by first drawing your own design or personal mandala. Mandala means circle in Sanskrit, so that is where you begin. Many spiritual practices worldwide include the circle as a symbol of wholeness. There are particular symbols you can incorporate or improvise your own. You may be surprised by what you come up with and discover a connection to an ancient culture. Sacred geometry used in ancient buildings such as the pyramids derived from the study of both mathematics and the repeating forms in nature. You only need to look at the world around you to identify interesting shapes and patterns you can incorporate into your design.
To get started the pleasure of choosing your coloring supplies is a must. Art supply stores allow you to test out the different implements so you can find just the right one. Gel pens come in a wide variety of tip shapes and widths, with or without sparkles; some are even scented. Of course you can stick with the basics and enjoy the nostalgia of the waxy scent of crayons. Colored pencils come with the joy of sharpening – and the shavings are fun to play with too 🙂
If you want to see mural work of pen and ink, check out the Art Wall of the ICABoston where Ethan Murrow’s Seastead will be on view this year.
All Photos Claire Mauro