Do you have a mindful meditation routine? Some years ago I attended a series of workshops in which we learned to sit comfortably and to clear our minds so that we could focus on our breath as we inhaled and exhaled. When our thoughts drifted to worrying or becoming focused on pain or discomfort, we were to bring our attention back to our breath, without chastising ourselves for that mental drift. This approach sometimes works for me if I wake up at 2 AM but not when I would love to calm my mind during the day.
In my experience, returning to a calm mind when we can is a healthy way to live. I think of it as part of my inner health checklist. Considering only the goal of a calm mind has enabled me to be mindful without the need to observe the natural flow of air through my nostrils and lungs and then back out again.
Any kind of mindful activity involves keeping our minds in the present, focusing exclusively on the here and now in a way that is effective in quieting the chatter in our brains. For me, coloring in a coloring book has always been mindful. I’ve loved coloring since I was a young child. Now, my mindfulness coloring books include complex drawings. This focuses my mind completely on the choice of colored pencils for each area and the care with which each area is colored. It would be difficult to think about what I need to pick up at the grocery store tomorrow when I want to color a flower stem that is only one-eighth of an inch wide.
I keep my coloring books close to my reclining chair, in an area with good lighting. The pencils need to be sharpened frequently, so there is an electric pencil sharpener nearby. An electric eraser rounds out the necessary equipment because it’s more enjoyable for me when the finished page is tidy: no coloring outside of the lines.
It doesn’t matter whether the finished page would be appreciated by anyone else. It doesn’t matter that I might think the page could be improved. What’s important is to understand, within myself, that the result doesn’t matter; it’s all about the process. And if I’m pleased with what I’ve accomplished—as modest as that accomplishment is, I’ll enjoy that feeling. What’s most important is that I can carry out the entire coloring process without a second of self-criticism and without a moment’s thought about how I will fit a trip to the grocery store into tomorrow’s calendar.