Adult coloring books, including those that have “Zen” in the title, are a truly eclectic mix. Some are just plain coloring books while others encourage coloring as a way to “meditate” via methods more like the mental exercises used in eastern religions than in the Catholic idea of meditation as prayer.
However, in general, adult coloring books are touted as being used to relieve stress and have become a very popular fad among over-worked adults who are looking for an escape from the everyday pressures of life.
One of the biggest names in this field is that of Lacy Mucklow, a highly credentialed licensed art therapist who has been working with a variety of mental health populations since 1999. Her best-selling “Zen” coloring books include Color Me Happy: 100 Coloring Templates that Will Make You Smile and Color Me Calm: 100 Coloring Templates for Meditation and Relaxation. The latter includes a section on mandalas which are used in Hindu, Buddhist and Tibetan prayer and are believed to be symbols of the universe. They incorporate figures of various deities and are used to focus the attention and induce a trance state.
Although Mucklow’s books are aimed more at therapeutic uses than meditation, she does give a rather glowing review of Carl Jung’s work with mandalas. (The Swiss-born Jung was a psychiatrist who dabbled in Eastern and Western philosophy, alchemy, astrology and sociology and was the first person to use the term “New Age”.)
After extrapolating on Carl Jung’s work with mandalas, Mucklow writes on her blog: “Mandala is like a design that triggers something within us, a sacred geometry in which we recognize our self and our place in the cosmos. It is an ancient and fundamental relationship from which we have strayed and the mandala is the key that can help us return to it. Especially, when the inner self is challenged by ego, harmony has to be restored. During such times, mandalas can guide you to listen to the inner voice and find yourself. . . “
The burgeoning new genre of adult coloring books features a variety of creations, some of which are heavily imbued with eastern religious philosophies.
For instance, Buddhist Mandalas: 26 Inspiring Designs for Coloring and Meditation was created by Lisa Tenzin-Dolma who has “written widely on meditation, herbalism, Eastern philosophy, perception and various mind-body-spirit subjects”.
This coloring book is described as combining “Buddhist-style meditation with the power of mandalas. While mandalas are traditionally considered to be highly complex maps of the cosmos, the beautiful examples included in this book are designed to be suitable for today’s Western practitioner, incorporating the most accessible and relevant Buddhist symbols and imagery. With 32 brilliant Mandalas rendered as line illustrations, the act of coloring and contemplating these harmonious images is a powerful way to engage in visually based meditation. A directory of Buddhist symbols, with color images, completes the book.”
However, just having the word Zen in the title doesn’t make the book bad – it is how the book is used that could become problematic. If it is used in the style of eastern meditation which is aimed at inducing an altered state of consciousness, then it should be avoided. If you’re just using the book to relax and create a colorful picture, there’s nothing at all wrong with this.
In conclusion, adult coloring books can be used by Catholics for fun and relaxation, not for indulging in eastern meditation techniques.