Colouring as a Spiritual Practice

Greets from a cool and overcast Seattle.  My beans are growing, tomatoes ripening and squash proliferating.  Last night I was furiously processing some of the produce before Tom and I head out of town tomorrow afternoon for a few days – made 2 Hunza pies and a cheesy tomato bake to take with us.  Dried my first jarful of cherry tomatoes too.  Keep watching the plants anxiously hoping they will be as prolific as last year.  Used squash, tomatoes, chard, garlic and herbs from the garden.  We are heading into Canada so cannot take fresh produce but the pies looked so good I was tempted to eat them immediately but then Tom made his version of BLTs for dinner and I changed my mind.. delicious.

The Book of Kells

The Book of Kells

Today’s post in the What is a Spiritual Practice Series is by Danielle Grubb Shroyer.  Danielle is the pastor of Journey Church in Dallas.  She is the author of The Boundary-Breaking God:  An Unfolding Story of Hope and Promise (Jossey-Bass, 2009) and speaks often on issues of theology, church leadership and emerging communities of faith. She blogs at You might also like to check out this post on her blog Hermeneutics as Art gives another thoughtful perspective on a different aspect of art and faith.

I love to color.  I realize this is convenient when I have two young children who still find it an enjoyable activity while many of you probably cannot remember the last time you picked up a seafoam green Crayola.  But coloring for me isn’t just a mom activity.  I have always found something wonderfully calming about sprawling on the floor with a brand new box of crayons.  The somewhat repetitive motion of coloring back and forth and that swoosh-swoosh-swoosh sound the crayons make on the paper does wonders to clear my head and help me regain my focus.  I remember specifically one instance in college when I was overly stressed about a Hebrew midterm I had coming up.  My roommates came home and found me in the living room armed with cookies and a coloring book and wondered if perhaps I had lost my mind.  Actually, I was trying to find it.  And I dare say it worked.  It gave me a break from the chatter in my own head, the incessant onslaught of thoughts and ideas.  Coloring feels, for me, very much like the beginning of a yoga session when you begin to focus on your breathing instead of your task list.  And wondrously, the intentional narrowing of focus gives freedom again for your mind to return to its work with clarity and renewed purpose.

You can imagine I was thrilled to discover one day while roaming Barnes and Noble a wonderful little book called <em>Praying In Color</em>, where author Sybil MacBeth describes her practice of coloring as a form of prayer.  For someone whose wordiness and word-centeredness often dominates, the idea of allowing colors and shapes (and perhaps, the occasional word or name) to do the praying for me was a welcome balance.  And it helped me realize that all those times I set my bickering children down in front of a jumbo coloring page and smiled as I watched their frustrations melt away, the times when my own stress began creeping up my shoulders and I fought back with aquamarine crayon in hand, these were acts of spiritual discipline.  They were ways of redirecting our hearts and minds toward a more peaceful place.

Recently I went on a weekend prayer retreat and the spiritual director laid out pages of mandalas and boxes of colored pencils for us to use during our down times.  She said the practice of coloring these symmetrical patterns has been used for thousands of years as a way of helping people organize their thoughts, calm their minds and create a sense of peace.  The colors we choose to use also make us aware of how we are feeling, and perhaps more capable of doing something productive about it.  I had not colored with mandalas before, and I have to say they did provide a very prayerful, meditative time.  But if you happen to be in a pinch, your daughter’s Strawberry Shortcake coloring book might work just fine, too.


2 Responses

  1. […] Derek on Top 5 Reasons I Love Moltmann: Part TwoShannon on Top 5 Reasons I Love Moltmann: Part TwoColouring as a Spiritual Practice « Godspace on Hermeneutics as Artdanielle on Top 5 Reasons I Love Moltmann- Part OneBryan on Top 5 Reasons I […]

  2. […] Coloring as a Spiritual Practice by Danielle Grubb Shroyer, Journey Church […]

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