Pagan Blog Project – Zen and the Art of Zentangles

imageRecently I came across the practice of Mindfulness, Buddhism and Zen being summed up as ten principles:
Mindfulness or being in the moment, Non Judgement, Patience, Awareness, Tolerance, Acceptance, Compassion, Validation, Invitation and Practice.

I know very little about Zen so I hope all those that do will forgive me in this if it is completely wrong but for me it linked closely with the Art of Zentangles which I discovered when searching for information on mandalas.

A Zentangle is an abstract drawing in a 3.5cm square ’tile’ of paper. It should be without orientation and so have no right way up. It should be black ink on white paper and so involve no special tools. Finally Zentangles should be portable so they can be done anywhere, anytime. Creating a Zentangle requires absolute focus and can even be thought of as a form of ceremony.

Zentangles are unplanned, allowing the end result to reveal itself rather than starting with an idea or goal. They are deliberate, yet unexpected with each stroke allowed to find its own form. The creation of a Zentangle is celebratory, like a meditation it is both freeing and healing. They are also timeless and connected to all human endeavour of putting pen to paper.

On discovering Zentangles I cut up paper to make tiles and sat down to produce one. As I did I discovered why the word Zen is part of the name for increasing one I found I was unable to do so without practicing at least some of the principles of Zen.

As I sat with my piece of paper and began to make marks I could only be in the moment as it required me to be still and focus totally on what I was doing. As I worked I became calm and relaxed, completely aware of every mark I was making on the paper, the way the pen moved, the way the mark connected with those around it and determined what came next. I was tolerant of myself and my lack of knowledge for this didn’t matter, not did any drawing ability I may or may not have for this was solely about the process of creating. I found compassion for myself in that space for I could be no way but the way I was and create nothing except that which wished to be created. And above all else it took patience for to rush a Zentangle is to completely miss the point.

When I was much younger it was all the rage to have tiny kits to make Zen gardens. Small spaces that had perhaps one carefully placed stone around which fine sand was moved into pleasing patterns with a tiny rake. The drawing of the rake through the stones produced the same feeling of calmness, of being in the moment as drawing Zentangles can.

There are complicated grids, patterns and rules that I believe can be applied to Zentangles but I have no interest in these. As an aid to mindfulness and to being still though I can highly recommend the art of Zentangles.