Zentangle Art Meditation


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?

Me too!

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.

Here's how to use Zentangle drawing to help you relieve stress and live better.

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:

Here's how to use Zentangle drawing to help you relieve stress and live better.

Also: mistakes are totally ok! In official Zentangle, there is no eraser. The official Zentangle site says it beautifully:

There is no eraser in life and there is no eraser in a Zentangle Kit. However, in creating Zentangle art (and in living life), you will discover that apparent mistakes can be foundations for new patterns and take you in unexpected and exciting new directions. (( https://www.zentangle.com/zentangle-theory ))

The whole idea is to let go of perfection and expected outcomes and just enjoy the process. So grab your pen and get doodling!


Technique:

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?

Everyone.

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.

My experiences:

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
  • Relaxation
  • 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.

Here's how to use Zentangle drawing to help you relieve stress and live better.

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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About Samantha

Hello! I'm Sam and I'm an Eating Psychology Coach. I work with women who struggle with emotional eating and weight loss to develop new strategies and lifestyles so they can stop using food to cope, lose weight, and eat happy.


Leave a Reply

32 thoughts on “Zentangle Art Meditation

    • Samantha Post author

      It’s just totally freeing, Susie! I get so lost in the moment when doing Zentangle. Whole hours can pass by and I’m happily relaxed and drawing away.

  • karabayleaves

    I’ve been wanting to try zentangle for years, and I don’t know what’s been keeping me from it. It kind of reminds me of how I used to draw when I was in junior high and high school, except this is a little more elaborate. I’m going to be sitting in a hotel room by myself every evening for the next week, so maybe it’s time to give it a go.

    • Samantha Post author

      It is – and it’s super easy to incorporate. I think if you made it a regular practice and dated your drawings, you could use them to look back on and see how you were feeling.

    • Samantha Post author

      It is! I don’t think it’s for everyone, but even people who consider themselves not artistic might be surprised. I’ve also read about it being used in classroom environments for teaching stress-management to children.

    • Samantha Post author

      Yes, zentangles are so beautiful! It’s just such a double-win to have the artistic side and the meditative/therapeutic side all bundled into one easy activity. I hope you get some done (and shared!).

  • Aleesha Sattva

    We use quality products when we create Zentangle. Respecting our art is a big part of what Zentangle is about (respecting our time, our Selves, our bodies…). So when we use quality tools we create something that we honour at a deeper level.

    Taking a class from a certified instructor – CZT – is really the way to go. It’ll give you the tools to understand that there’s so much more to Zentangle than patterns.

    There’s a huge listing of instructors on http://www.zentangle.com

    tangle on…

    • Samantha Post author

      Thanks, Aleesha. It’s great to see someone so passionate about their art 🙂 However, I feel like zentangle as a concept should be open to anyone, not just those with the time and money to invest in tools or training.

      • Aleesha Sattva

        Perhaps if you were making/sharing an educated opinion… If you haven’t tried the Zentangle® Method with a certified teacher (CZT) then how do can you say that it’s not worth the price to take a class?

        • Samantha Post author

          I’m sure it’s awesome to take an class, and will probably really benefit anyone who does it 🙂 However, if you’re like me and live in South Korea, where there don’t seem to be any classes offered, or if you’re on a tight budget, or maybe you just want to practice Zentangle your own way. I think there are so many ways to appreciate this form of drawing and meditation and we shouldn’t feel limited by any lack of access, materials, or training. I’d hate for someone to feel like they couldn’t be a part of a community, or join in with Zentangle just because of their location, finances, or personal preferences.

  • tessa

    I love Zentangle, I started about a year ago. I’ve always been a doodler but now I keep my doodle in a journal and it’s really cool to look aback on.
    Taking it on vacation this weekend hopefully I will get to Zentangle.

    • Samantha Post author

      Hi Tessa! A zentangle/doodle journal sounds like such a lovely idea. Do you think you can tell anything about your frame of mind or what was going on in your life by looking back at what you’ve drawn?

  • Karina Ohara

    Hey Sam ,I have a rare condition that causes a burning pain that is extreme. It has spread to involve a lot of my body . This is not a whinge fest though, just to say that I can’t “officially” meditate through the pain BUT I can zentangle. It has all the benefits you describe ! It even takes me away from the pain ,for awhile anyway ,and at the end I have achieved something lovely. When you are limited in mobility it is wonderful to make something you can feel positive about – also love that there are no mistakes in zentangle! Thanks for a great article.

    • Samantha Post author

      Hi Karina – I am so sorry you have to deal with that. I can imagine that burning pain would make regular mediation very difficult, or even really unpleasant. That is wonderful that you’ve found Zentangle and that it offers you even a little bit of relief. I am sending warm and relaxing thoughts your way <3

  • Kimberly

    Samantha, I learned about Zentangle on Pinterest and I just love it. I started doodling, tangling and art journalling a few years ago after I fell and injured my back and was laid up in bed for a long time with the pain. I love creating bright and vivid backgrounds and then doodling and tangling over top of the backgrounds. It makes for a really nice page and I love sitting there for hours watching my creations come to life. It really is relaxing and it has helped me get through many hours of pain and frustration. It’s also helped with the emotions of it all – when I have one of those moments, I pull out my sketch book or my art journal and get to work. I’ve started doodling in my regular journal and in my planner too! I also doodle on my mail – my mom gets a kick out of it.

    • Samantha Post author

      Thank you for sharing, Kimberly! I’m amazed at how many people have responded to this post with stories of how zentangle has helped them with pain. It’s so inspiring to read about how you’ve taken charge and fund things that work for you and help you enjoy life. An art journal sounds awesome!

  • Kelly (Whimsybykelly)

    As a CZT, I have to say I really enjoyed your post. I love when people are excited about things that I love. I actually wish you were close to me or I were closer to you because I’d love to offer you a class to show you just that little something extra you can get from a class, because I think everyone should get to experience one at least once… but sadly you’re far. (If you’re ever in Buffalo NY though! Look me up!)
    I want to clear up one little bit of miscommunication though if you don’t mind? It’s something said a lot onlineand I think people often misunderstand and I would hate someone to not try because of a simple misunderstanding.
    You said that we talk about “approved” tools and while CZTs 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. I hope that makes sense!
    Thanks of the blog post on the topic, I’ll be sharing your page!

    • Samantha Post author

      Hi Kelly, your comment here is amazing. I thin you are 100% right about the quality of the materials – I’ve experienced that myself… pens that bleed, or poor quality paper really can impact the enjoyment. If you don’t mind, I’m going to qute some of your message back up there in the original post because I think that what you’ve said is not only spot on and important, but you’ve said it in such a beautiful way. Thank you so much for contributing and sharing. And yes! if I’m ever near you, I’ll look you up for a class!

  • Suzanne Moshier

    Thanks much for posting an article about Zentangle meditation. I’m bipolar and use Zentangle as a stress release. It also brings my anxiety level down. Be sure to check your spelling though!–you spelled Zentangle wrong twice and once was in naming the website! ouch. The best of luck to you going forward 🙂