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Seeing Purple: On Pens and Paying Attention

It's back-to-school time once again, and purple is IN. I'm not talking about fashion trends--though the September issues of most magazines are singing the praises of plum and berry shades. No, I'm referring to the hottest item at Office Depot, Staples, and other school supply meccas.

Purple pens.

According to a recent article in The Boston Globe, many teachers are giving up their infamous red pens and turning to purple. Although some stalwarts are gripping their crimson felt tips, others are embracing the royal shade in all its jewel tones.

Red is aggressive. It suggests danger. It makes us stop. A returned assignment covered with red corrections is a hallmark of humiliation. If "seeing red" is a euphemism for rage, seeing red marks is a sign of failure.

Bring on the purple. Purple is friendlier. Violet checks aren't as likely to cause cringing. Lavender circles are easier on the eyes. Purple gets your attention without increasing your heart rate, and according to color psychologists, it is therapeutic for those suffering from nervous tension or mental anguish.

I feel like dancing in the streets in my orchid boots, tossing my lilac beret in the air and twirling my dozen iris scarves. You see, I am known as the "woman who wears purple" and I make it a big part of my work.

I use purple to make a statement, but I'm borrowing the idea from Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, who said: "I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it."

Purple makes perfect sense as my color of choice. There's nothing woo-woo about it for me. It's not favored by my guru (I don't have one). It isn't about connecting with my chakras. It happens to be in style this season, but believe me, if I am considered a fashionista, it is purely by accident.

No, I use purple as my black because of Alice Walker and chromotherapy. If boysenberry walls stimulate deeper concentration in monks who spend all day meditating, it's good enough for me. Besides, I look good in it.

I hand out custom-ordered purple M&Ms in my workshops as part of a mindfulness exercise. I encourage clients to consider grape-colored items as triggers for paying attention. Would red work just as well? Possibly, but it's more glaring. Red reminds us of sirens--and blood.

Red says "gotta" while purple says "please". Red means business, but purple hints that there's a party down the hall when you're finished.

Critics of the pen switch say that educators should be more concerned with teaching skills and less worried about bruising feelings. They say that those traditional red pens create tension and that's what motivates students to get it right next time.

Hmm. Tension doesn't help me learn better.

I don't like paying bills, but using purple ink to write my checks makes it all a bit more festive. I'm guessing teachers would benefit from the color switch as much as students.

Purple is the color of mindfulness. I can't think of anything more likely to prevent mistakes than a friendly reminder to pay attention. Purple pens could turn out to be effective triggers for learning, and at the very least, make those corrections more palatable.

Now, where's that party?

Submitted by:

Maya Talisman Frost

Maya Talisman Frost is a former teacher and mother of four teenage daughters. She offers specialized mindfulness training in Portland, Oregon. Her work has inspired thinkers in over 90 countries. To subscribe to her free weekly ezine, the Friday Mind Massage, visit http://mindmasseuse.commaya@mindmasseuse.com





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