Have you noticed how many articles and news segments, facebook posts and blogs have appeared in the last few months about the phenomenal rise in coloring books for adults? I have and I'm thrilled that the best kept secret in women's personal development is now reaching audiences far and wide!
Many women experience coloring as a meditation that generates well being and a connection to the spiritual self beyond the every day chatter of the every day life.
I have been creating Mandalas and coloring sheets for women for over 20 years and have seen the tremendously positive impact of coloring first hand!
In shelters and prisons I meet many women who give feedback that coloring is one of the best ways to relax because they experience a reconnection to their creativity. The reconnection often opens up old doors on talents and interests that have long been forgotten. As a staff training and development tool colouring pages offer an experience of mindfulness and creativity in the areas of staff training and development and I have been creating and developing them in these settings for many years.
There is debate amongst art therapists over the value of coloring books as "therapy" but what the women who have been making the connection to coloring have told me over many years is that they find it therapeutic, restful and often a catalyst for exploring their creativity and the role that their hands and imagination can play in moving forward from past difficulties.
As Carl Jung said:
Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain.
In celebration of the launch of The Big Girls Little Coloring Book I thought I would share a few of the things that I have learnt about the why part of the Coloring Revolution and some of the reasons we are seeing such a meteoric rise in coloring books for adults.
1.Coloring is therapeutic. In the words of one of the women in our prison group "I've met a lot of psychiatrists and therapists and
counsellors who want me to talk about the things that happened in the past but for me, sitting with the coloring book is one of the most peaceful places I go to".
Coloring a pattern or template is similar to walking a labyrinth. The lines that are followed create a meditative state and within the conformity of those lines, like the labyrinth, the mind and body enter into a soothing meditation that is not confined to or bound by the pattern that is being followed.
2. As children we were very connected to our coloring pencils and often received a coloring book as a gift. In kindergarten we were coloring all the time and then, sometime around junior primary, our colored pencils began to take a back seat to learning processes that were not so much concerned with creativity as academic performance. Many women never found their colored pencils again...until now!
Women are now reclaiming their colored pencils and returning to the fun, relaxing enjoyment of coloring.
3. Many women are tired and exhausted from participating in you can have it all and are now holding down full time jobs as well as running a family full time, pursuing studies and in amongst it "all" are tired, restless and feeling disconnected from their creativity.
Coloring creates a peaceful, personal space that is a form of open eyed meditation. Breathing slows down and the rhythmic movement of the pencils is akin to a mantra that slows the mind and stops its restless chatter.
4. Women experience a great sense of connection and community when they come together to color in circles. This is especially relevant for women who say they are tired of socialising in public spaces and are looking for a return to the Village and the sense of community and belonging that is at the heart of conversation about when the world was a much more simple place.
Gathering in small circles creates a trusting, innovative space where young women and older women can gather. Where we can meet up with friends, make new ones and share food, stories, creativity and laughter together.
The Big Girls Little Coloring Book has 21 Mandalas, each accompanied by an Affirmation poster with a thought provoking message.
It has been a pleasure and a great honour to create a coloring book for women that covers topics such as the power of the mind, the nature of patterns in our life and how to tap into that deep well of creativity that we knew so freely and easily as children and, for many women, are re-discovering again through the pages of coloring books for grown ups!
I worked in women's shelters and human services for many years. The training that was on offer for staff was mostly issue related -dealing with challenging behaviours, anger management and loss and grief.
Most workshops had power points, butchers paper and a predictable format . Creativity as a medium for training and relationship building was foreign to the concept of professional development. The absence of multi sensory engagement sat within a larger empty field where information in human services is delivered as participants sit still, hands motionless in the traditional class room format.
What happened to all that movement and activity, fun and music in the kindergarten space where rapid learning was accompanied to the soundtracks of rhythm, paint brushes, fresh air, movement and a sense of magic and possibility?
Did we out grow the enjoyment of play or was it taken away and replaced with the sit still, stop fidgeting, eyes to the front rigours of the western education system?
I originally wrote The Magical Child in Exile when I was working in homeless and domestic violence shelters and recognised that many of the young people who came to live at the shelter had lost their sense of wonder and creativity but when creative processes were offered to them, becoming hands on and imaginative seemed to ignite an old spark and reawaken a playful, risk taking aspect to their nature that we had not seen before.
The Magical Child in Exile
Once upon a time there was a Magical Child who loved to draw and dance and sing and paint and laugh and play. Some days the Magical Child just twirled and swirled in circles for the sheer pleasure of it all.
The Magical Child even had an invisible friend and all the grown ups thought that was very cute, just as cute as when the Magical Child played ‘make believe’ and “I can do and be any thing”.
When the Magical Child was sad, tears flowed.
When the Magical Child was happy, laughter cascaded.
When the Magical Child was angry there were big yells and sometimes a full-body splat onto the ground but as soon as the moment was processed the discordant energy left their body leaving the cells free to breathe and grow and remain in their healthy natural state.
But by and bye-bye something happened one day.
The Magical Child was in the midst of telling one of the grown up’s (the groan ups as she later called them) about a funny little make believe story when the grown up said, stop being silly! You can’t keep pretending like that! You are a big girl now! They had said the same thing to her brother not so long ago. You are a big boy now. Stop crying. You’re not a baby! STOP IT.”
The Magical Child was shocked and her shock was accompanied by an unpleasant feeling inside of her tummy that took a long time to go away. It was a shaming, a conforming, con-forming moment. A matter of fact moment that began to alter the course of the Magical Childs life forever.
A shaming moment that would seep into the recesses of the subconscious mind and like a noxious weed, eventually choke the fertile magic-making soil as surely as if a nuclear land scape had been dropped in the new’clear landscape of the Childs mind.
And so it began. The artist, the story teller, the dancer , the prophet , the mystic all living and breathing through the imagination - the I~ magi~nation- of the Magical Child was told to stop! Be quiet! Don’t dance on there you’ll fall! Sit down!! Don’t be silly!! Stop asking so many questions! STOP!
On and on the toxic commands continued. All the way through school where the Magical Child was now only permitted to create only between 10 am and 11 am (art lesson), to tell stories between 2 and 3 on Tuesdays..(English lesson). Creating whilst remaining as motionless as humanly impossible. Stop fidgeting! Stop day dreaming! Pay attention!
Facing the front board, bored inside of a square box they called a room, a box where whirling, twirling, playfulness no longer came through the door, banned from ever mentioning invisible friends lest you invite the horrors of medication and mislabeling before you have even learnt how to tie your shoes up properly, the Magical Children sought to become what was expected of them and learn about things beyond their Magical, creative realm.
The Magical Child quickly learnt not to show sadness, anger or confusion and to repress inappropriate eruptions of joy, fear or insecurity in the class room. Making sure instead to h~o~l~d~It~In!! Sit Still! Eyes to the front…STOP whispering, laughing, talking. Stop. Stop. Stop.
Of course eventually the Magical Child stopped completely.
A kind of who-I-Am-amnesia set in.
Forgetting about the art, the magic, the songs, the dances and the stories and instead replaced those Magical currents with learning the things that the teacher insisted was important to their current learning, competing with the other lost Magical Children in the sports yard, in the academic arena and eventually in the work place.
If they were able to still function that is.
Magical Children are resilient and they are able to forget if it means freedom from the shaming, the naming, the labeling and the ire of the grown ups.
But some succumbed to their true self in spite of them self and sometimes became known as disruptive, troubled learner, withdrawn or uncooperative and other such names that reveal an inability to conform to the lost-Magic around them.
So was born the latest generation of leaders, many of them Magical Children in Exile, who will perpetuate the disappearance of magic and creativity in the system rewards conformity and compliance. Some even called it the evil empire.
A system saturated with lost Magical Children, living unreal lives, not even realising – real~eyesing – that who they have become is not who they were meant to be.
Many of the Magical Children, now groan-ups themselves are still h-o-l-d-i-n-g—i-t—-i-n-
After all the word evil is just to live backwardly….
It is not surprising many of the once-magical-minds of the inhabitants of the evil empire became choked with the weeds of mental illness, alcoholism, drug dependency, neurosis, psychosis, anger, depression, boredom and frustration, competition and back biting and preoccupation with celebrity lives and drama!
Magical Children are full of pure, free flowing creative energy and energy can not be destroyed, it simply transforms, turning toxic, creating tragic from the magic.
Millions of grown up’s are lost Magical Children in varying degrees of exile though a few do escape and return to their natural state I hear.
This must be why a nation can be preoccupied reality television and obsessed with the lives of the stars, the gods and goddesses of magic and creativity. A preoccupation with intrigue and adoration, seeing the world of possibility in the magic-mirror of television.
The men and women who did not stop playing and imagining became some of the richest people on earth. What a reward for staying connected to the world of pretend and play!
No longer creating and producing their own stories and art and dance, the need for fantasy and magic nevertheless remains ever strong.
Indeed when Magical Children in exile see others leading a magical life, something within their own self may yearn to return to that place of Magic, creativity and infinite potential for love and connection.
How many people are sighing their day away, feeling that something is missing not realising that ‘Something’ is their free flowing creative Self…
Sadly though the lost story teller may now be churning out reams of tragic-magic, gossip, chaos and unhappy relation
ships, forever telling their wounded story teller tales to friends and family, occasionally plummeting into the deepest chasms of depression and despair, overwhelmed by the tragedy of an uninspired life.
Alas the lost artist may be obsessively cleaning a clean house or weeding a weed less garden seeking to create something of note in their world, processing those ever-flowing creative energies towards their small boxed in life. At its most insidious, the Magical-Child will succumb to the hyper-high, outrageously creative manic energies , ill-fated to become an uninitiated mystic or master creator of chaos and mayhem.
If it is true that in order to experience heaven one must become like a little child then it might well be that the Magical Children no-longer-in-exile, those who have recovered from the amnesia and remembered who I Am will be the ones to remind us all how to begin the wonderful journey back to our true self and to reclaim what was always within.
After all the word reclaim is simply the word Miracle in anagram disguise...
I was delighted to read a couple of articles this week about how French women have taken to colouring in like never before and have embraced it as an "anti-stress" activity
In her article Why felt tip pens are colouring French women happy Olivia Goldhill writes that colouring books are out selling cook books in France and how sales of a low selling colouring book were boosted after the words "stress buster" were added to the front cover.
In one facebook group there are over 1000 French women sharing their beautiful interpretations of colouring black and white pictures that we knew so well as children.
I have been creating Mandalas for women to colour in for many years and Olivia's article and another on the BBC World Service facebook page are a sign that the big secret is out!
Colouring in is a relaxing form of medARTation at a time when many women are yearning to reconnect with their creativity and return to simple pleasures in this highly complex world we are living in.
I began to create colouring sheets for women after I read Carl Jung's writings on how powerful the Mandala form is as a tool for self reflection and personal transformation.
I was working in a women's homeless and domestic violence shelters at the time and it was apparent that whilst many women were not reading books and were too uncomfortable to take on training and education at this stage, most had a yearning for new information that would enable them to break out of the limiting and often self defeating patterns in their life. So I created art work that carried the theme of that days discussion.
If we were discussing how to recognise patterns in relationships, the art work reflected the information that once was given in the form of written handouts and power point presentations.
When the conversation was about overcoming stress and anxiety or healing past issues, I created a colouring sheet that brought Nature into the concrete confines of the shelter walls and opened doors into a world many women had not considered before.A couple of years ago, after almost 20 years of creating colouring sheets for women, I was encouraged by a small group of women to create a colouring book that had both the Mandalas (Circular patterns) and life coaching information so that women outside of the shelters and prisons where I was working could also enjoy colouring Mandalas.
It seemed like a good idea and with their love and encouragement I created The Big Girls Little Colouring Book as a download & self published it as a hard copy.
If you haven't come across the benefits of colouring in before, here are just a few of the things I have discovered over many years and if you work in women's services in any
capacity, I can not recommend highly enough how powerful the process is for women to relax, unwind and connect with their intuition and creative imagination.
It is also a terrific tool for staff development and team bonding and a Vision Statement workshops.
*Colouring in is an open eyed meditation. As the hands rhythmically colour the page, the movement is akin to a mantra that focuses the mind, relaxes the breathing and centres the consciousness into the Present moment. This form of medARTation is especially good for women who find that their thoughts are racing and are easily distracted.
*The colouring in process is a wonderful tool for creating Women's Circles. When women come together to share food, conversation, creativity and laughter, there are enormous benefits for health and well being.
*Colouring in is not restricted to an indoor activity. My Mandalas have travelled in aeroplanes on long flights, gone to the beach for summer holidays and are at the centre of Big Girls Picnics where we head out to Nautre for a day of creativity, fresh air and delicious food and cups of tea.
I am truly delighted to see the growing interest and reclaiming of colouring in as a wonderfully simple tool for relaxation and fun. Although many women hold the belief "I am not Creative" they soon discover that once they put the coloured pencils back in ther hand, like we did so often when we were young, a certain kind of Magic awakens and we are transported into the world of imagination and possibilities we knew so well as children.
If you would like to download The Big Girls Little Colouring Book and experience the fun of colouring the 20 Mandalas with their accompanying Affirmation postsrs, click here The Big Girls Little Colouring Book Store and enjoy what many French women already know...Colouring in is magnifique!
I received a delightful letter from a friends daughter who had received The Big Girls Little Coloring Book for Christmas. My friend had purchased the book for her mother, her daughter and her self and I was delighted when Kiani contacted me with the following message:
Hi Carol, I have a question about The Big Girls Little Coloring Book... More than one question actually!
How long did it take you to come up with the pictures that are in the book? How long did it take to create? Was it hard to do? How did you come up with the idea of having a Big Girls Little Coloring book? What got you interested in drawing?
Kiani’s questions were a welcome opportunity to reflect on the process of the book after months of developing the Mandalas and poster and I told her I would answer them as a blog post with an acknowledgement of appreciation to her.
Thank you Kiani! I have enjoyed your questions and the opportunity to reflect on the Big Girls Little Coloring Book and where I began as a Mandala artist.
Here are the responses to your well thought out questions:
How did you come up with the idea of having a Big Girls Little Coloring Book?
I had been creating Mandalas for women’s groups for many years. I was working in homeless shelters and women’s prisons and wanted to have personal development information available that didn’t need to be read as many women were not into reading or could not read because of low literacy, some came from non-English speaking back grounds so I was looking for creative ways to share information and create a relaxed learning environment.
As my personal development art became known across women’s services networks in our town people began to ask me for copies of the Mandalas for their mum / sister / friend etc and it became apparent that the Mandalas were appealing to all women, not just those who were in shelters and prisons.
I had created a similar book of Mandalas with information a few years ago called The ART of Change but it stayed within the circles where I was working at the time. It was pre-facebook and social media era so there was not the same on line opportunities to share and market self published works like there is now.
How long did it take you to come up with the pictures that are in the book?
It was in March 2012 that I was offered a venue to
launch The Big Girls Little Coloring book at my friend Megs Conscious
Connections Centre a few months later in December, 12/12/2012
I had not even begun the book at the time, although I had many years experience of making Mandalas and women’s personal development art so I wrote out a schedule for the Mandalas of creating one a week for 20 weeks and then a week or so for the posters that accompany them.
I also got married in that time so it was a busy few months and having a clear schedule for creating the Mandalas was very useful.
How long did it take to create?
From beginning the Mandalas to the launch it was 10 months & for the most part, I did stick to the schedule and found that having a plan was very useful. Although I think the book really began almost 20 years ago when I first read about Mandalas in Carl Jungs book Memories, Dreams and Reflections.
Was it hard to do?
The biggest challenge was actually making the commitment to doing the book.
Many people has asked me over the years if I would put my personal development art into a book and I usually said I will one day and will make sure to invite you to the launch. The group of 4 women who encouraged me to actually DO the book and not just talk about it didn’t accept my standard reply, instead they came up with a date and a plan to support me through the creative process. I then became accountable to a group of women who really believe in my work and the importance of sharing it in the larger world.
If ever you want to achieve a creative goal Kiani, I really recommend you find one or two friends or family members who love and support you and can be there during the challenges and celebrations!
What got you interested in drawing?
I was very lucky to grow up with a creative Mum so when most of us stopped drawing and making things as we went on past primary school, I continued drawing. I actually believe we are all creative but many of us stop doing the drawings that we loved to do in early child hood, and then we forget we ever used to do them in the first place.
In my later years I was always doodling during meetings, on the telephone, I discovered that I absorbed information better if my hands were occupied as I talked or listened. This is known as kinaesthetic learning, whereby we learn best by doing, by having movement as we explore new concepts and information.
Even now I see interesting shapes in the clouds and landscapes and am always thinking “hmmm…that would make a good Mandala”.
Thanks so much for your interesting questions Kiani.
You are very welcome to share photos of your coloured Mandalas on The Big Girls Little Coloring Book facebook page and I hope the coming year is filled with fun and creativity for you!