Color Yourself Closer to God
As an adult, I am sometimes embarrassed about how much I like to color. When my children were little, I enjoyed having an excuse to sit down with them, their coloring books, and a box of crayons. I loved the relaxing and contemplative motion of filling an empty space with splashes and scribbles of color. In these moments, I felt as if I were allowed to be a child again.
In the last few years, while working with a children’s spirituality program called The Way of the Child, I have discovered the practice of coloring mandalas, which has added a whole new dimension to my coloring. The purpose of coloring mandalas is spiritual in nature, designed to bring me closer to God and to help me get in touch with my heart.
What Is a Mandala?
Mandalas (pronounced, mén-de-les) are designs with a center, based on a circle. The word mandala means “circle” in the Indian language of Sanskrit.
In much the same way that a magnifying glass focuses the sun’s rays into a single bright spot, the circle catches and focuses our attention so that we take less notice of what is outside the circle. Concentrating on one thing produces a general relaxation in our bodies.
We see circles in the natural world: sun, moon, flowers, ripples of concentric circles in water. Our eyes are circles, and we take in everything from a round field of vision. The circle-with-a-center pattern is a basic structure of creation and is seen in biology, geology, chemistry, physics, and astronomy. Living things are made of cells, and each cell has a nucleus—a circle with a center.
Mandalas are used in other religious traditions and were around long before the Christian era. But they have also been used by Christians through the ages. Hildegard of Bingen, a twelfth-century Benedictine nun, created beautiful mandalas to express her visions and beliefs. The labyrinth is a mandala, the center of which represents the heart of God. Many Christians walk the labyrinth as a way of praying with their bodies, walking inward to the heart of God and walking back out into the world. Stained glass windows in churches and cathedrals—such as the rose window in the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, France, and the “Bishop’s Eye” rose window in England’s Lincoln Cathedral—often form patterns like mandalas.
Why Color Them?
In this hurried world, focusing on one thing is relaxing. Even if we are experts at multi-tasking, we all need times when we can allow our minds to rest so we can listen for the still, small voice of God. For some people, coloring mandalas is a liberating way to pray. While the hands are active and creative, the mind has a chance to rest and to focus on God.
Go ahead. Pick up a crayon and color yourself closer to God. It’s really OK; it might be fun!
Give yourself the gift of time and space to color a mandala. Check out the links below to find Mandala patterns. Find some colored pencils, markers, crayons, or pastels. Take your Bible and a candle, and find a quiet spot in your home or outside. Light the candle to symbolize that this is prayerful and holy space, and invite God to be with you.
Begin by reading a passage of scripture (try Isaiah 49:13–16a). Then begin to color. Let yourself converse with God as you color. Think about the scripture you read. Reflect on your life and your hopes for the future. Don’t worry if you can’t finish the mandala in one sitting. Simply enjoy this time of peacefulness with God.
When you are through coloring, think about the time you spent with God. What did you notice about God? Did you feel God’s love for you? What did you learn about yourself?
If you enjoy coloring mandalas, consider making this practice a regular part of your devo time. You can find mandala coloring books at craft stores and bookstores, or download some of these free mandala patterns and coloring pages. If you’re a camera buff, try creating your own mandalas from digital photos!
—from devozine (March/April 2008). Copyright © 2008 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.