“Let me, O let me bathe my soul in colours; let me swallow the sunset and drink the rainbow.”
― Khalil Gibran
There was the most beautiful sunset at the weekend. I became aware that it had triggered something deep inside. Sometimes I am curious as to where my mindful practice takes me. And here I find myself, on another mini mindfulness journey into colour as I explore a little deeper into what’s going on.
The sea cliffs near where I live suddenly began to glow with an amazing shade of red. It was there, just for a moment, before returning to their normal stone colour. I became aware of feeling transfixed; not being able to draw my eyes away from the chameleon like changing sky as if I were watching a magical display. Turning this event into a moment of mindfulness I allowed myself to become aware of how I was feeling. Curiosity got the better of me as I noticed how the colours in the sky were making me feel. Oddly, after what had been a fairly normal day, I felt a wave of peace and stillness overcome me and I noticed that I was smiling. The sunset brought me joy for sure.
In the Level 2 Compassion training there is a practice called the compassionate colour. This is where we are invited to bring to mind a colour which for us has the qualities of kindness, compassion, strength and wisdom. We allow this colour to surround us with a sense of resting in it. It can always be a surprise as to which colour arises, and also the occasions when nothing comes at all, and how the self-critic in me begins to play up when it sees any opportunity to highlight any sense of failure and a resistance to feeling good. These kinds of feelings are normal, but can sometimes get in the way of practices that can make us feel good. So if this happens to me I acknowledge what is happening and then return to opening up to the good experiences again and again.
I have learned that there is no wrong or right way to feel in any of my practice. It is just my experience in any given moment and the goal isn’t to seek for bliss. And yet, on some occasions, such as the sunset, I have to say I did feel a sense of delight and of being filled up with something good.
Rick Hanson encourages us to hold on to moments of feeling good to balance the negativity bias of the mind. For example, research tells us that negative experiences we have had are much more memorable than good ones. Hanson says the trick is to turn the good fact, the sunset is making me feel good, into a good experience and allow it to become a rich experience and fill the body for as long as we are able. We imagine it being absorbed into us. If we do this repeatedly then these good experiences will form good memories and then this will grow. As Donald Hebb says “Neurons that fire together, wire together.”
So, there I was, forming some good memories and vibes into my being as I absorbed the beauty of the sunset. But as always, with my very analytical mind, I wanted to know why these colours in the sky were making me feel good! In fact my interest was fuelled by talking to a couple out on a walk who regularly drive to a hilltop to watch the sunset.
According to a study from the University of California, taking in natures colours and beauty can positively affect well-being by making us feel better emotionally. Furthermore, in the field of psychology, studies have revealed how different colours can influence our moods and feelings, each in their own unique way. For example blue can have a peaceful and compassionate influence, and green can be very grounding. Red can bring about feelings of excitement and passion, whereas orange creates feelings of warmth and optimism whilst yellow generates an air of happiness. The whole experience of colour and natural beauty was having such an effect on me. My intention is to begin to use my mindfulness to explore how individual colours affect me. But that’s for another day.
My mindful journey into colour continued to be played out over the next few days as began to notice a new flower had opened in my garden each day. Suddenly my garden has transformed into a rainbow of natural beauty in the rich colours and forms of the flowers. The colours of these flowers had the same effect on me as the sunset.
Every day, a new little joy of colour and prettiness appeared. I began to go looking for these moments of joy every morning and every time I found this feeling of warmth and happiness fill my heart. It lifted my mood and made me feel good. I have been taking Rick Hansons advice by absorbing all these experiences into my being, hopefully storing good memories for the future and some new positive neurons in my brain. I’ll be mindfully watching out for the impact of this in the future. Maybe I can store it up for the Winter. I’ll let you know.
by Margaret E. Sangster
I love colour.
I love flaming reds,
And vivid greens,
And royal flaunting purples.
I love the startled rose of the sun at dawning,
And the blazing orange of it at twilight.
I love colour.
I love the drowsy blue of the fringed gentian,
And the yellow of the goldenrod,
And the rich russet of the leaves
That turn at autumn-time….
I love rainbows,
And the tinsel glitter
Of every shop-window.
I love colour.
And yet today,
I saw a brown little bird
Perched on the dull-grey fence
Of a weed-filled city yard.
And as I watched him
The little bird
Threw back his head
And sang a song
That was full of gay ripples,
And poignant sweetness,
And half-hidden melody.
I love colour….
I love crimson, and azure,
And the glowing purity of white.
And yet today,
I saw a living bit of brown,
A vague oasis on a streak of grey,
That brought heaven
Very near to me.
I invite you to go out into nature and find some natural beauty. Spend some time watching the sun rise or sun set, or absorb the magical miracles of colours and forms of flowers and notice how this makes you feel. Can you squeeze this feeling into your being? What happens?
I’d love to hear you get on so please do write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jacky will be teaching on the Access to Compassion Course starting 14th September and the new Stillness Through Movement Course on 5th October, 2021.
She has contributed a chapter to the Mindful Heroes Book entitled “Turning Empathic Distress into Compassion – A Hero’s Journey for Family Carers”. You can hear an extract from the chapter where she talks about the results of her MSc Studies in Mindfulness on Compassion & Family Carers. You can download a free sample of Jacky’s chapter here.
Achlim, Yasmina. Color Psychology: How Colors Impact Your Wellbeing. OneGreenPlanet.org
Hanson, R., 2013. Hardwiring Happiness: The Practical Science of Reshaping Your Brain-and Your Life. Random House.
Zhang, J.W., Howell, R.T. and Iyer, R., 2014. Engagement with natural beauty moderates the positive relation between connectedness with nature and psychological well-being. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 38, pp.55-63.