The wonderful world of Zentangle
Tried to meditate but just can’t get it to stick?
Heard that it’ll help you heal and deal with emotional eating and binge eating…
And STILL can’t get it to sick?
Then I found Zentangle.
Zentangle is a form of art meditation. I’ve mentioned the benefits of meditation, and mindfulness meditation in particular, before and also admitted that it’s difficult for me to practice, even though the results are clearly and consistently helpful. Zentangle is a way I’ve found that really works for me. It might not work for you, but it just goes to show that there really is no ‘one size fits all’ approach and that if you want to achieve something, keep trying/looking/experimenting until you find what works for you.
The benefits of mindfulness meditation – especially for those of us dealing with unwanted eating behaviors and weight are just awesome. From calming those panicky cravings, to relaxing your way to weight loss, it really is just so helpful.
Zentangle is a way to relax the mind and fall into a state of ‘flow’ while creating something unique and beautiful. I’m going to explain a little bit about it below, show you some examples, and tell you how it’s worked for me.
What is Zentangle – official + unofficial
Zentangle is actually a registered trade mark thing. It was created by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas and you can find all the official info over at zentangle.com. These two combine their training as a monk and a calligrapher, into a unique art form capturing artistic detail and meditation in one activity.
It’s an art form where you draw repetitive patterns, and have no end goal in mind while you draw. So, put briefly, Zentangle is drawing patterns that lull you into a meditative or ‘flow’ state. Officially, you use paper of just the right size, and approved drawing materials, but realistically, I think that’s unnecessary. You can work with what you have, or whatever you like!
Kelly, from Whimsy by Kelly, had an awesome perspective on this in the comments, and I thought it was so spot-on, I wanted to share it here in the main post:
… while CZTs (certified Zentangle teachers) do generally teach using specific tools because it makes it easier for us as teachers and we recommend high quality items, the reasons for it that are more about decreasing frustration, especially for non-artists (pens don’t skip, rarely leak, etc the paper and pen play nicely together) than being about “you have to use this stuff” One of the core secrets is knowing you and your artwork are worth using supplies that YOU personally love, because you never know what that piece you do might end up being the favorite thing you ever did, and it would be a shame if it was on the back of your electric bill. 🙂 So it doesn’t have to be what we recommend, although if you love those things too that’s great, but it should be a pen that makes you smile when you use it, and paper that you appreciate, that feels good to write on, tools that work together and that make you happy to use.
Pens that make you smile and paper that makes you feel good? Sounds great to me. But, if all you’ve got is a pencil and a bit of old mail and you wanna have a go, don’t let anything stop you.
How do you do it?
It’s deceptively simple, but it can be a bit difficult to let go when you first start. If you’re used to planning projects out, then this will be a bit of a change. Basically, you draw a square (or any shape) on a piece of paper, split it up into sections, then draw different patterns in each section. Like this one, where I drew overlapping circles inside my square:
Also: mistakes are totally ok! In official Zentangle, there is no eraser. The official Zentangle site says it beautifully:
The whole idea is to let go of perfection and expected outcomes and just enjoy the process. So grab your pen and get doodling!
Because I’m just starting out with Zentangle, I sometimes get stuck for ideas for patterns, or I don’t know how to draw them. If you do a quick Google or Pinterest search for ‘Zentangle patterns’, you’ll be amazed! There are a huge amount of patterns that you can copy, learn, and adapt. Just remember that mistakes are welcomed as part of the process.
Why do it? Benefits and research
So it looks pretty cool, right?
There’s more to it than just doodling, though. The research into Zentangle specifically is still only just being done, but there are a few studies out there showing some really positive results. For example, Zentangle has been used to help trauma counsellors deal with their own issues brought about through their counselling, which suggests it can be used as a tool to help people with their mental and emotional health.
Similarly, this study looked at Narcotics Anonymous patients, cancer patients, and senior citizens, and found that drawing a simple Zentangle helped the majority of participants in the study to feel less anxious. There are also stories and examples online of Zentangle being used with elderly patients and stroke patients to help their mental acuity and recovery, as well as fine motor skills (like holding a pencil and hand-eye coordination).
Anecdotal evidence also suggests that using Zentangle has helped people sleep better, be more calm, deal with eating disorders, and many of the benefits associated with more ‘traditional’ mindfulness meditation practices.
This is perfect for us emotional eaters! Anything that can help move emotions through your system, calm you down, and make you feel good is a totally rad tool to have in your eating-healing tool box.
Yeah. Rad. It’s still totally ok to use that word in a research-based blog post 😀
Who can do it?
I know it looks fancy, but you really don’t need any artistic flare to have a go at this form of meditation. I’m not saying it will resonate with everyone, but if you like the sound of it, give it a try. You might be surprised at what you can produce and the way it makes you feel.
Some of the things I’ve experienced while practicing Zentangle are:
- Flow (which means time passes and I’m absorbed and content in my work)
- Mindfulness (I’m concentrating on the here and now as I draw)
- Allows me to problem solve while not being consumed with the problem
- Pride and artistic expression
- Meditation with something to show for it – Which may not be the point, but the results happen during the process. By allowing it to be random, there is less attachment to an outcome.
- It just makes me feel happy.
This has all helped me during times when I would usually turn to food for comfort and to ‘fill me up’ with whatever I feel I’m lacking at the time. It’s a real self-care time for me, and I find it a joyful alternative to binge eating or emotional eating. It’s not about distracting myself from my cravings or urges, but about finding a new, positive, and adaptive way to fill he deeper needs behind them.
I’ve found my experiences with Zentangle to be extremely positive. I can do it at home to relax, or take my pen and paper to a coffee shop for a happy hour or so of drawing outside the house.
I have a client who’s started coloring in a Zentangle coloring app on her phone during her brakes at work. She loves the time ‘away’ from her work day, and it really has contributed to a huge shift in her emotional eating behavior – which is so exciting!
So, Zentangle – give it a try!
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