I Thought I Couldn't Meditate — Until I Found Zentangle
I have a confession: even though I'm a yoga instructor, I'm not a fan of meditation. It's not that I don't want to revel in the present moment, reduce stress, embrace calmness, and and all that good stuff. I just have a hard time sitting still and quieting my thoughts, which is probably why I need meditation. But it wasn't until I discovered Zentangle art that I truly found the type of meditation that works for me. Zentangle, in simple terms, is meditative drawing.
While Zentangle drawings can look complicated and intricate, you don't need to be artistic or good at drawing to try Zentangle; in fact, you need no prior art experience at all. The method itself is relatively straightforward, and is broken down into eight steps. As you practice, you can more complicated patterns, or stick with simpler ones. What's great about Zentangle is that it doesn't matter what your drawing looks like. There are no mistakes in the method. The point is to just enjoy the repetition and the practice of moving your pen on the paper. Even just a few minutes of Zentangle drawing can have a calming effect.
What Is Zentangle?
Zentangle was created in 2003 by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas. Roberts interrupted Thomas, an artist, while she was drawing a pattern one day, leading her to remark on how immersed she'd been in her work. Roberts, a longtime meditator, noticed that the flow she described was similar to what was achieved by meditation. They combined their insight and talents to create Zentangle, a fascinating method of drawing easy-to-learn, relaxing, structured patterns (called tangles).
Zentangle art is spontaneous and free-flowing, so you can focus on each stroke and not worry about the result. You can learn different tangles and string them together to create detailed drawings on small squares of paper called tiles. You can move beyond these small tiles and get creative with bigger drawings or different shapes. But again, the end result is not the point — the process is what lets you achieve a meditative state.
What Are the Benefits of Zentangle?
Zentangle is for anyone who needs to slow down, have some quiet time, and just chill. I started doing Zentangle after dinner with my two kids, and it's amazing how our moods transformed even after that first evening. An hour flew by but it didn't feel like the time escaped me; rather, it felt like the hour was healing. It felt similar to how calm, relaxed, and rejuvenated I feel when I wake up from Savasana. And I liked that I had something physical to show for the time that had passed.
Whenever I do Zentangle, I just feel happy. It allows me to use my creative side, but because the emphasis is on just drawing what I feel, there are no expectations about what the finished piece should look like, which takes the pressure off.
The patterns are simple but so satisfying. I just focus on watching my pen move along the paper as the simple dots and lines came together to form intricate-looking drawings. My thoughts quiet naturally because I'm so focused on the present moment of just drawing patterns. I was amazed at how effective this was as a form of meditation. An hour will go by and I still won't want to stop.
Even though I've only been doing Zentangle for a few weeks, it's already positively influenced my mental health. I not only feel joyful while doing Zentangle, but I feel so relaxed afterward that it helps me fall asleep effortlessly and wake up feeling refreshed. Now, I can't help but tell everyone I meet that they need to try it too.
What Do I Need For Zentangle?
All you need is some paper or a blank journal if you want to keep all your tangles in one place. You can use a regular pen or pencil but Micron Pens ($12) are recommended since they're deeply pigmented, waterproof, dry quickly, and they come in different-size tips.
To make your Zentangle drawings appear more in depth, you can also use pencil and a tortillion, which is just a tightly rolled up piece of paper that helps smudge the pencil to create beautiful shadow effects.
You can also add color to your Zentangle drawings. I've experimented with using black ink over watercolor paintings. I've also used colored Sharpies and it just adds to the depth of creativity. I've seen people use white ink used on black paper as well, which creates a truly striking effect.
How Can I Learn How to Zentangle?
There are Certified Zentangle Teachers (CZTs) who've been personally trained by Roberts and Thomas to teach the Zentangle Method, so you can look for a workshop near you. If you can't find or afford one, there are tons of YouTube videos and books about Zentangle. Here's what I've found helpful and inspiring:
Start with some of these resources, practice, and have fun with it. There's no wrong way to do Zentangle.
Easy Zentangle Patterns For Beginners
Every Zentangle pattern has a name and here are some easy patterns you can start with:
- Tipple: draw circles touching each other
- Printemps: draw spirals touching each other
- Static: draw zig-zags
- Knight's bridge: draw a grid and color it in as checkerboard