by Belinda Nolan December, 2021
Meditation, these recent years, has become the buzz word as a means to find our way through confusion and fear, only escalated by the pandemic. The Buddhist concept of having an ‘empty mind’ can indeed be problematic for most, as generally mind chatter is the more common experience. This appears as continuous background noise when our Beta Brain Waves, those brainwaves operating in our active, daily lives become imbalanced, owing to constant and oftentimes unresolved stress. Hence, trying to calm the mind without some kind of focus for most is no easy feat.
There are many ways to meditate which include, Mindfulness Meditation, Breath Meditation, Mantra Meditation (the repetition of sacred words) and Walking Meditation. Yet for most, Colour Meditation remains the least familiar practice. Each of these aforementioned practices require a directed focus for the mind to find a state of calm. This begs the question – what is the ideal type of focus?
Studies performed by The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), 2010, tested the benefits of various kinds of meditation. They discovered that ‘nondirective’ meditation, whereby the brain is not fixated on any specific meditation technique, but where the mind is allowed to wander spontaneously, can lead to a greater sense of ‘relaxed attention’.* This is where Colour Meditation can be truly beneficial, especially for those who have never meditated or feel overwhelmed by their ‘monkey mind chatter’ and for those too, who have tried Breath and Mantra Meditation, with disappointing results.
Colour Meditation simply requires us to close our eyes and allow whatever colour to appear, and to give this free reign. Different colours may show up, possibly merge or become lighter, brighter, darker or take on more subtle shades. There is no judgement of what appears, there is just the gentle witnessing, allowing what is, to be. This simple process enables both the mind and body to relax.
As the brain, in our waking and more often dream states sees colour connected to forms, for example, a red beret or pink flower, when attempting Colour Meditation, especially at first, it is most helpful to connect colour with form. This might be imagining breathing air into your lungs and allowing the breath to take on a spontaneous colour, which could then morph into other hues. The main idea is not to restrict or instruct the mind to see in a particular way but to allow spontaneous colour to come forth.
Another means for Colour Meditation is to perceive the outline of your body, or parts of your body, such as your heart area, and allow colour to emerge and spontaneously fill this area. You might also like to perceive a rose in the centre of your chest and see what colour it takes on. Once again, the key is not to consciously choose a specific colour but to allow colour to appear of its own accord and follow it as a witness.
If you find it difficult seeing colour through the mind’s eye in the early stages of your practice, just relax, keep breathing, knowing there is no judgement here. Trust that, with practice the magic of colour will automatically appear, without you trying. Some people respond best with colour and sound. So, you could also play music that relaxes you, close your eyes and see what colours come forth.
As Colour Meditation intensifies our ability ‘to see’, we become more focused on what is before us. This generates presence, quietens the busy mind and allows us to appreciate the beauty of forms and colours that have always existed but perhaps, owing to stress and the consequent mind chatter, we have failed to notice.
One of the most rewarding outcomes of regular Colour Meditation practice is the opening to perceiving the subtleties of colour. The light spectrum – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet can become a panorama of shades and tones perceived both in our external world and within our mind’s eye. The flow on effect is that when we become alert to the outside world, by opening our eyes on the completion of our practice, we can evoke a whole new way of perceiving, one that magnifies colour and light.
Colour Meditation by helping to enhance our imaginations, assists us in tapping into a wellspring of inspired ideas. This inspiration we can then extend outwards through our creative expression as visual artists, writers, gardeners, cooks, knitters, sewers or wherever we express ourselves creatively.
In our daily ‘mindless’ activities such as having a shower, doing the dishes you may find that the perfect colour appears for you to introduce into your painting. In fact, you may see an entire painting in your mind’s eye before it has taken form on the canvas. You may visualise your garden as beds of fragrant, vibrant colour or the jumper you were planning to knit turning into an elaborate array of colours. The possibilities are endless!
My experience having worked as a community arts facilitator as well as teaching undergraduate students for many years, who were studying film and animation, was that those who could easily express themselves creatively – whether it be through painting, photography, storytelling, film-making and so on, were those with inspired imaginations. Creativity first happens in the brain. So, a person with a brain that is free from constraints, that allows whatever surfaces to be witnessed without judgement, has greater access to their creative juices. It’s the self-critic that gets in the way.
The good news is - those suffering from creative blocks or feel they’re just not that creative, can in fact change their brains to encourage their inborn creativity, which is part of being truly human. Colour Meditation is one remarkable tool that can help you tap into your innate expression. Even 5 minutes a day could be the beginning of a whole new world!
* The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). "Brain waves and meditation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 March 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100319210631.htm>.