While doodling really doesn’t have any rules or require special artistic skill, there are premeditated steps you can take to turn it into a more effective mindfulness practice on paper.
“The art of spontaneous doodling is all about letting go of one’s need to control the outcome,” says Edmonston. “If you fill your mind with certain ideas or expectations, you’re robbing yourself of the opportunity to discover something new that you never imagined. Each doodle takes on a life of its own—they are unique like a snowflake.”
The concept of mindfulness—a type of meditation that encourages you to be aware of what you’re feeling and sensing without judgment or interpretation—can be easily incorporated into doodling to help gain maximum benefit from your sketch time. What follows is a three-step process Edmonston created and calls “sacred doodling” to help you access this transformative state.
1. The Beginning
This step is about preparation. Find a comfortable position in your chair and have your doodling supplies nearby. Start by closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths (inhale for four counts, exhale for four counts). Make a commitment to be present in the moment, even in the midst of outer uncertainty and chaos.
Open your eyes. Now, pick up your pen or pencil, and in the short amount of time it takes to breathe in and breathe out (about five to seven seconds), make a doodle outline by beginning and ending at the same point (or close to the same point) without lifting the pen off the paper (one unbroken line). Go ahead and let your pen wander wherever it wants to go without worrying about what your outline will look like.
Ask yourself how that made you feel. Were you okay with not knowing where it was going? Or did you feel stressed, wondering if you were doing it right? On the back of the page, write down any feelings or stressors you’re having at this moment, or in your life.
2. The Middle
This step is about creativity, freedom and possibilities. Now is the time to fill in your doodle with waves, dots, circles, squares, colors, squiggles or whatever you like. It’s about choices and options. See what paths open or new ideas come into play as you create.
If you notice your mind starting to wander, bring your focus back to your doodle by taking a few deep breaths again. Try to let go of any attachment to the outcome. Just live in the moment of this drawing.
At some point in “the middle,” stop doodling and check in with yourself to see how you’re feeling. Are you at ease and trusting the process? Do you feel your mind slowing down? Are you worried about the end result? Are you experiencing too many distracting thoughts? Take a few moments and jot down any feelings you might have on the other side of the paper before resuming your doodling.
3. The End
Pens up! This final step happens when you’re done with your doodle session. It’s about new perspectives, appreciation and gratitude.
Take a moment and look at your doodle. Let go of anty judgment you may have about it not being “perfect.” Silence your inner critic.
Now turn it 90 degrees. It looks completely different. Turn it another 90 degrees, and you have an entirely new view of the same doodle. It’s all a matter of perspective. “It’s the same in life—you can have two people faced with similar challenges, yet one will find a way to more easily navigate the road ahead while another feels like they’ve fallen through the cracks,” says Edmonston. “Your perspectives can make or break your journeys.”
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