Wednesday 25 November 2015

Making Mindful Magic

Making Mindful Magic written and illustrated by Lea McKnoulty 
PB RRP $14.95 

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

This picture book is quite different from the norm insofar as it doesn’t tell a story and it has no characters, except for the reader. Through its calm text and muted coloured illustrations, its creator invites the reader – young or old – to develop the habit of mindfulness. In the back of the book she describes mindfulness as a practice which makes one more grounded; and, too, it brings inner calm and clarity of thought which leads practitioners to live authentically and happily. All of which sounds like a very sensible recipe that could possibly lead to not only personal peace, but community and even national and international peace!

The mindful experiences include sitting quietly or meditating -- living in, and appreciating the moment. Alternatively, one is encouraged to ‘take as long as you can’, great advice for anyone trying to multi-task and consequently getting stressed. The focus here for the reader is to concentrate on one activity at a time, until it is finished.

In gentle, simple free verse, each page narrates a way of being mindful, whether it is following a bird, walking barefoot on grass, taking the time to enjoy the mightiness of the heavens (finding stars) or watching waves. Exploring one’s creativity – ‘paint’ – helps heal the mind, not worrying about the product but becoming ‘lost’ with paint, brush and paper.

Here is what McKnoulty writes on the page titled ‘go walking in nature’:
‘A track leading somewhere/ The somewhere doesn’t matter/   on-the-way discoveries matter…’                                                                                                                                         
Each double-page spread featuring one mindfulness activity is accompanied by a subdued pastel illustration. The quality of the pictures varies but some are very appealing, such as a child’s bare feet on grass with a cloudy sky background, and a lone bird in a tree. It seems the book’s creator follows her own advice of creating for the experience, not for the product.

Making Mindful Magic is a book which can’t be rushed. It sets out to, and succeeds, in making the reader take her time. One can open at any page and follow that activity or move on to another activity. Or a parent might like to check out the back pages where suggestions are given in prose on how to apply the practices to one’s child.

This charming book is recommended for anyone, child or adult, who wants to remedy a life that is too busy and stressful

The book is available from selected bookstores and Lea McKnoulty’s website

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