Tuesday, November 24, 2020

On being mindful

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The new trend of adult colouring-in books can help people de-stress and relax as part of an everyday routine

While there has been a proliferation of relaxation music and the like for a number of years, the latest trend in mindfulness training is colouring books for adults. Bookstores are reporting unprecedented sales and there have been a spate of apps released using the colouring principle, aimed at guiding people in meditation.
Of course such an activity is not new in Indian culture or the Buddhist traditions. The colourful rangoli creations made every day in Indian society, and the beautiful symmetry of the complex mandalas created by monks in the Buddhist tradition, are rituals that have been preserved for millennia and are still practiced today. Indian women in particular enjoy the relaxation that a rangoli provides as they create colourful geometric designs.
Colouring-in.Indian Link
Today, colouring-in is presented as an activity suitable for highly stressed adults to unwind and relax. The creation of both rangolis and mandalas requires focussed attention and fine manual dexterity. Colouring-in for adults is perhaps a short-cut to enjoy similar relaxation and focus of attention.
Colouring-in books demand attention in the immediate present. The mind is so consumed with concentration on the task at hand that it stays focussed in the here and now. It also satisfies the creative need. Most people are not gifted artists and so the next best thing is to add colour to a beautiful picture and admire the finished product.
Colouring-in.Indian Link
It is important to understand and realise that spending time with colouring-in books is not necessarily mindfulness meditation. It does allow you to sit quietly and be absorbed in something that is not demanding while allowing you to feel that you are ‘doing’ something. It is a good starting point for those who seem unable to sit still for any period of time. It creates a peaceful mindset. It lets you experience first-hand what it is to sit still and be absorbed in an activity that is not too demanding, allowing the over-worked brain to slow down.
The end of one year and start of a new one brings to focus many things. Most people think of this time as one of relaxing and refreshing tired limbs and over-worked minds. What is seen as relaxing varies considerably. Most people have a rather busy schedule of ‘relaxing’. Paradoxically, this attempt at ‘relaxing’ becomes a very busy time. Holidays to an exotic destination sound exciting, but as everyone knows, this requires planning and finance. Entertaining friends at home is another enjoyable but demanding way of relaxing.
Colouring-in.Indian Link
Somehow, staying at home is not an option for most people during the holiday period. Even if you stay at home, doing nothing is nigh well impossible. Hectic work and home schedules for long stretches of time means there is almost a great difficulty in unwinding and relaxing doing very little. People are unwilling to spend quiet time to allow the body and mind to refresh.
Jon Kabat-Zimm, a well-known scientist who initially brought to attention mindfulness meditation as a stress-reduction technique, once said, “Most (people) cannot sit still except when they are on a plane, but then they are going somewhere, aren’t they? They feel they need to be ‘doing’ something.” He introduced the MBSR – Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction – program. In a well-controlled study the results showed considerable improvement in levels of stress after eight weeks of training.
Being in a relaxed and conscious frame of mind is the first step in meditation. Spiritual meditation requires a sense of calmness, paying simple attention to yourself, free of judgment, as an important first step. While the goal of spiritual meditation may not be what most people are after, any attempt at mindfulness in everyday activities can be used as a mind training technique. It can be beneficial as a way to enhance wellbeing and personal effectiveness. It has immense potential for improving personal growth and satisfaction. It helps develop a discipline of entering a sustained relaxed state of being, which allows appropriate discernment of each experience as it happens.
Colouring-in.Indian Link
Colouring-in books are fun and less demanding for adults. They can help us to relax from our busy everyday schedules, but it is important to add to this calmness by making every activity mindful to realise the full potential of this way of living. Being mindful helps us to refrain from harmful thoughts, belittling and hurtful words and instead develop compassionate and helpful actions.
It reminds me of something I read recently, “Mindfulness unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, and confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” Being mindful of the most trivial to the most profound actions in our everyday life can be extremely satisfying.

Dr Saroja Srinivasan
Dr. Srinivasan is a western trained clinical psychologist by profession; has been living in Sydney for over 40 years; interested in wisdom traditions in particular Indian philosophy and how it can inform us to lead a happy life; in her columns she has tried to synthesise her personal and professional experiences in dealing with everyday situations

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