Laura Cartledge discovers the zen powers of a piece of paper and a pen.
The demands of being an adult often mean we are forced to leave childhood pleasures behind.
Wearing your favourite superhero outfit to work, for instance, would be frowned upon as would having ‘make a fort’ on your to do list.
However, what if one of these pastimes could help us cope with the present?
“It is about going back to the things you have forgotten,” explains holistic therapist Jo Turner, “often because we are too busy.”
As a qualified relaxation, meditation and stress and wellbeing instructor, Jo first approached mindfulness to help with her own classes.
“There are people who say ‘I can’t meditate’ ‘I can’t quieten my mind’,” she reveals, “so I looked into creative classes which almost tricks people into being mindful.”
The recent trends for grown up colouring books taps into this concept too as it forces you to focus but at the same time clear your mind.
As a result it is the process which is important, the intention and getting into your flow, rather than the end product.
The aptly named Zendoodling is an extension of this and turns a mindless activity, and something I am guilty of doing in meetings, into something useful.
“I didn’t want to call my classes mindful art as I would have people telling me I can’t do art, so Zendoodling was the perfect thing,” says Jo. “People realise they can be creative, they let go, it is about enjoying it for you – you don’t have to share it with anyone else.”
The process is beautifully simple and begins with a piece of paper and a pen.
We fold the page into four, to create quarters, and are asked to draw a circle in one, a triangle in one and a square in another leaving the forth free.
It is then up to us to use these shapes to fill the space as we see fit.
“It is not about planning,” she insists, “you just have to decide where you are going to start. It is about how you feel when you are doing it,” adds Jo. “As children we don’t care what we draw. It is only at school when it starts to get judged. People will say ‘that’s a nice rabbit’ when you’ve drawn a dog.
“The reason we use a pen and not a pencil is it encourages you to let go, there are no mistakes,” she reassures. “If I gave you a pencil you would be judging it, thinking ‘I don’t like that’ and rubbing it out.”
This is really highlighted when we move into the final quarter, a space to play by building on the shapes with lines, dots and other marks Jo shows us.
I soon find myself frustrated, wishing I hadn’t put a circle somewhere, but remind myself of Jo’s words – “It teaches you how to embrace your mistakes, nothing is perfect but how you react and adapt is what really matters” – which takes on a new poignancy.
I’ll admit I am surprised by my reaction.
I knew I liked doodling and art, but as one of the ‘busy mind’ people I suppose I had doubts it would work.
But I am soon addicted, finding it hard to put the pen down when the stage is over.
“It’s a different type of relaxation than watching the TV. Some people think that is relaxing but afterwards you can feel more drained,” Jo enthuses. “It may seem mad, if you are busy, to stop and do a Zendoodle.But it will help you focus, when you get back to what you were doing, and allow you to approach it with a creative mind. Just a ten minute break can help.”
As I realise how quickly our two-hour session has gone I find myself wondering if I would be able to do just ten minutes, rather than fretting about how I’ll fit it in – something I can’t help thinking would have been the other way around when I first arrived.
I take up the offer of keeping a pen, and later find myself buying a notepad to keep by my bed. After all, why should the youngsters have all the fun?
The Introduction to Zendoodling class ran from 10am – noon and cost £15 per person.
This article was taken from the June edition of etc, your free, monthly lifestyle magazine. For more stories like this, visit here