We have been officially grounded, like children! No more play dates until further notice. The safety of the world rests in our ability to self-soothe, while we stay put inside our homes. There are many things we can do to entertain ourselves, but what can we do to avoid feeling helpless like a child?
Rebel like one!
In the wise words of Albert Camus, every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being.
Coloring is a child’s first creative act of rebellion against the world in light of who they are. This empowering break from reality is a welcomed one—something we can all use right now.
I have always had a 64-piece Crayola crayon box laying around, not just for my kids, but for me, a rebellious move on my part! A stern reminder that kids use color to personalize the world. A phase I never outgrew.
However, in all my years of helping people do the same with my paint colors, I never imagined coloring could be a powerful form of meditation and transformation in times of struggle.
In the Spring of 2015, I was released from my position at Valspar Paint shortly after Valspar lost millions of dollars to Sherwin Williams' HGTV Paint at Lowes. I walked away from Devine Color with a five-year non-compete in the paint business. The road ahead was uncertain, and 2020 seemed like an eternity away.
My hands were tied.
Craving to use color in autonomous ways, I added colorful chakra exercises to my meditation routine. Sure enough, like all things meant to be, my path of action was quickly confirmed. A couple of months later, I attended a dinner party, where one of the guests surprised us with an adult coloring exercise!
What's a Mandala?
Mandalas are circular patterns used in ancient spiritual rituals and modern relaxation practices. Like puzzles, some Mandalas are insanely intricate and take a long time to execute. Our Mandalas were more like a 25-piece puzzle for kids,12-and-under. Easy and fast to color.
The plan was to make dinner together, drink good wine, and color a Mandala while waiting to eat.
I was more excited to crack open the box of crayons and smell it like the inside of a new car. I loved lightly running my finger across the tops of the crayons, landing on the right ones, then pulling them out of the box and lining them next to each in a row so I could make a custom rainbow with the label colors.
My enthusiasm quickly turned into disappointment.
I got The Tree Of Life. My plans to make it beautiful went out the window when the line of tree-worthy brown and green crayons began to look drab and depressing. I detected in me a hint of sadness. This reaction was so unlike me; I rebelled against it. I put all the crayons back and began to search for new ones. This time my fingers frantically started pulling colors I would have never chosen before.
The rainbow I ended up with was unexpected and the color orange had hijacked my Mandala.
When I said this out loud, a woman with sincere admiration described it as "a juicy mango, ripe and abundant." I wasn't coloring a mango, I thought to myself. As a kid, orange was my least favorite color. I remember skipping over the orange Lifesavers and being highly disappointed if I ended up being last, with only an orange popsicle left. I like the color orange on mangoes and sunsets, but I didn’t LOVE orange.
When you mix colors with symbolism in a circular bucket, you get a potent truth serum!
Carl G. Jüng was one of the first Psychologists to use Mandalas and coloring as a relaxation technique. They help us center and connect to the unconscious self and find clarity and order when we feel lost or overwhelmed by the outside world. The power of coloring as a meditation ritual can slip you into a child-like trance, make you lose track of time, and tap into emotions and desires to empower us from within.
Being an entrepreneur and living as an expat in corporate-land had me coloring brown and green trees for five years. I felt limited by lines, shapes, and titles that demanded a level of conformity that required no real risks, growth, or greatness. No matter how many meetings I attended or creative briefings, there wasn't a space to experiment, discover new revelations or insights, and then execute them outside of conventionality.
During times of loss, trauma, or change, breaking old patterns and creating new ones can make the difference between life and death. Conventionality is not how you break out of old patterns if they are not working.
The message was clear; the color orange is associated with creativity, courage, optimism, and passion. My hands weren't tied. I wasn't supposed to continue to paint things as they were. There was a juicy ripe abundance inside of me waiting to be set it free.
All revelations were meaningful—some cathartic.
One woman in the group soaked her Mandala in shades of pink, a color she didn't like because she felt it was superficially feminine and child-like. She was a beautiful, strong, powerful woman who loved red. When she connected the pink dots back to her mother, who passed away when she was a child, unexpected tears from her mother's loss flooded the moments that followed. Although she tried, she couldn't stop them. It was as if the power of her mother's love took over her heart and would not stop until a deep cleansing had occurred.
Pink is the color of unconditional love, compassion, and the giving and receiving of nurturing. This everlasting love continued to live inside of her, helping to help her heal, keeping her strong, and reminding her that red, her favorite color, was the strongest shade of pink.
In the words of Carl Jung, "Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain."
When was the last time you colored?
This is a time of loss, stress, trauma, and change. We are in the middle of being forced to break old patterns and creating new ones. It is a matter of life and death. I hope that my story encourages you to color and that the following coloring exercise will bring you joy, relieve some suffering, and open up new avenues from within.
I would love to hear about your twists and turns along the way. Maybe even see a picture of your final destination. Perhaps you will let me share a quote about your experience on this Color Baggage blog.
Hopefully, this course of action will encourage others to do the same. It might catch on fire and become reasons to gather, like Book Clubs and Bunko. Or not. You might want to keep the experience to yourself. Until the day you're ready to share it.
Let the Jungian Games begin!
In all gratitude,
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