“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”
January 11 2016
― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life
Taking a "breather" and just letting yourself "be" is a much under-rated but very basic human need. At certain times of life, when reflecting on our frantic lives it's necessary to slow right down and contemplate things for while. Reminding ourselves that we live on a little blue and green planet in outer space , or letting time and thoughts drift like a like a cloud can be a very rewarding activity.
The last few years of my busy life as an artist and teacher has brought me to the top of a hillside and I have found myself having to slow down and looking back at the path I took. I have kind of, sat down on a bench to look over the landscape to reflect.
Making my art, gardening, going for long walks and staring at the stars at night provide me with inspiring and peaceful time process the day. You have probably also noticed the proliferation of colouring books for grown ups on the market recently. They provide the same opportunity for a kind of escape from the busy world. You can spend time chilling out by colouring detailed swirly designs using psychedelic colours in order to find that Zen state of mind.
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Stepping into Freedom: Rules of Monastic Practice for Novices
This is a very natural and quite meditative pass-time which people seem to really need and are craving for these days. Mindfulness, as it is called helps us to sit in a nice comfy chair and watch the busy traffic of the day drive past us. It allows a certain distance to be put between us and the hassle of the day - we become observers rather than participants.
Last year, I had an exhibition of my art at the Leicester City Methodist church. I took part in and helped to run a creative retreat where I gave a talk about my work and then ran a practical workshop. Participants were given a chance to try out my technique of making paintings using words. They all made a design using collaged text on a small wooden cross, a 'prayer cross'.
Usually I make my paintings alone in my studio, which gives me time to be me. But on this occasion I was inspired by the way the process of sharing materials, scissors, glue and ideas brought people together, encouraged conversation, and helped us to relax. We just felt ourselves.
At the Greenbelt festival last year, found this a great way to meet people and relax when doing the same kind of activity. People felt comfortable asking questions and chatting whilst being creative together. The weather and location at the tranquil Boughton House was also hot and sunny that day too, which always helps!
Since, Greenbelt I have used this activity at our local church in Irthlingborough with adults and children and plan to do the same at Sunday school too. But whether its colouring, designing , painting or making something else art has a wonderful quality that connects us to our surroundings, each other and importantly ourselves.
The prayer crosses have become something that I enjoy making at home in my studio, alongside my other projects. The Inspiration come from the local nature reserve of Irthlingborough lakes and meadows and the British countryside. The crosses have developed from abstract designs into mini illustrations made using prayers, bible quotes and poems.
If you would like to own your own illustrated prayer cross visit my shop! You can also contact me if you have a specific request for a Baptism, Christening or Confirmation or to decorate you home. Email -
Some ideas that will help you be more mindful when making art or colouring in!
Before you start - sit quietly and notice how you are feeling for a short time. Notice how your body feels are you comfortable or tense? Also are you stressed or relaxed, sleepy or wired?
Physical Awareness -When you have started colouring or drawing or focussing on your creative activity and pay close attention to your actions. Notice how you are physically moving, using your hands, picking up another colour, how you hold a pencil, the direction in which you move a pen.
Colour - How do you make a decision about the next colour you are going to use? Are you choosing colours instinctively or does it take longer to pick the right colour? Could you select colours that express how you feel in this moment?
Doodle - Most people have made random doodles at some time or another. You don't need to be a great artist to do it. I often start with a group of shapes or boxes, then start colouring them in or repeating them. Try to focus on your breathing or physical movements. Try, closing your eyes, scribbling a few lines and then keep going by adding other ideas.