(Children already know how to calm themselves naturally with crayon and paper. This article is for the adults that forgot this hidden gem.)
Mandalas seem to be everywhere nowadays. I go into the local book store and they have a table dedicated to these intricate coloring books. I go on Amazon and see them on the sidebar or under “often bought together.” Even my Facebook feed will every now and then pop up with a mandala coloring book it thinks should be marketed to me. I’m not sure how to take the “swear-word” one, but I totally get the Doctor Who one (I did try to get the latter but it was extremely backordered). If you are in need of a special occasion version, just Google and you will be sure to find one. Some places market these as “adult” coloring books, even though the first time I saw a mandala was from my sons’ yoga class. So with all the hype of mandalas, I decided a blog was in order to help understand the lure (and the hidden need).
Mandalas, a Sanskrit word, are spiritual geometric symbols representing the universe. Mandala can also mean “circle” or “world in harmony”. Practitioners of Buddhism and Hinduism sometimes use mandalas to meditate on one’s unity with a higher power and as a guide to an inner wisdom or inner purpose. Tibetan Buddhist Monks spend weeks creating sand mandalas only to destroy their work of art upon completion as a reminder that nothing is permanent. The history and meaning of mandalas get very, very deep. The mandala books we find in mainstream stores use the term mandala more as a generic term for a geometric pattern.
Let’s get back to how we can use this ancient practice to maintain sanity in our daily lives. This recent fad is actually a really good one versus some others of the past (anyone remember the Fry Daddy?). In a society where everything is rushed, over-scheduled and stressed, we need a simple activity to help us calm down. Years ago I had heard that coloring was a natural de-stressor and anti-depressant. I was in the military and just moved overseas. Moving to a strange country all on your own can be down-right scary. I always considered myself an adventurous type but I may have called a family friend from JFK and completely lost it. These feelings were foreign to me and it took a whole year to adjust. One of the things that helped me was a box of crayons and a Winne the Pooh coloring book (not kidding). At the time I didn’t understand why it was helping me, I just knew that it did. I have since learned that the coloring of a mandala is a form of mindfulness meditation.
In an article I recently read, it claimed that coloring could be the new alternative to meditation. I maintain that coloring is a form of meditation. The psychologist Carl Jung used mandalas in the early 20th century with his patients as a way of getting them to focus and to allow the subconscious mind to let go. There is definitely the need for mindfulness to stay within the lines of coloring the intricate designs in some of the mandala books out there. However, just focusing on the colors and letting the lines flow gets us out of busy minds and may stir up memories of a simpler time as a child. Working with the mandalas circular shape (true mandalas have no beginning or end) helps the mind to relax which can aid in balancing the body’s energies. This can indeed help support healing the body and mind from the everyday stresses of adult lives. Through focusing on coloring we move our mind away from focusing on our worries, to-do lists and negative thoughts.
So the next time your child sits down to color, take their cue whether it’s with an intricate mandala book or Winnie the Pooh.
For a longer conversation about the connection between art, yoga and mindfulness, take a listen to our podcast, Mindful Conversations with KAY!
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