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I knew adult coloring books were becoming popular, but it wasn’t until I watched someone happily coloring in one during a conference about six months ago that I became curious enough to try it myself. So for several months now I’ve had a book of basic patterns and a new box of Crayola colored pencils and every so often I’ll sit down and turn another black and white page into a burst of color.
It’s as soothing as they say it is. Several headlines lately have touted the mindfulness and de-stressing capacities of these coloring books, and while this is affirming to hear, I also want to resist the temptation to make this occasional practice into yet another strategic means to an end. Sure, if it helps me center my thoughts and quiet my mind, I welcome that, but I want to appreciate the activity in and of itself, not as another form of production or accomplishment.
What I enjoy about filling in these pages is the simultaneous simplicity and complexity of the process. There are endless possibilities for color combinations and designs, and yet there are no directives I need to follow, no risk of getting it “wrong,” no need to compare with anyone else’s attempts. There’s no agenda, just the space to let some fretful energy flow into something singularly new. I am momentarily free from the need to use words, which has actually helped me pray on a deeper level. While I color, I feel like those groanings of the Spirit find expression.
I don’t color all that often, maybe every couple weeks or so. But at certain times it gives me a lifeline back to a groundedness I know I am missing when I get overwhelmed with tasks and decisions.
I didn’t color this weekend, though maybe I should have. My thoughts haven’t stopped swirling, and my incoherent prayers keep pinballing around my mind. I don’t know what to make of the attacks in Paris this past weekend, and sometimes I worry that I will grow numb at the constant bloodshed in the news. I wonder whether we in the West will only feel appropriate lament and sadness when it comes a little closer to our front doors.
I still want to believe that we all have the capacity to be peacemakers. With the prayer of Saint Francis on my heart, I am searching for ways to be a channel of divine peace. It is hard to do that when I am so preoccupied with ongoing news about the manifestations of stubborn evil that plague our world. When I color, I feel like I am giving myself the gift of half an hour to see possibility and beauty, to believe that God’s peace that surpasses understanding just might really be available to me, to us all. Maybe that sounds ridiculous. But if our species is going to do more than simply brace ourselves for the threats we face, we need space to imagine a different future. We need to recognize anew within ourselves the power we possess to heal and to build, even in the midst of those who continue to hurt and destroy.