7 Important Life Lessons From Zentangling

“Art feeds life and life feeds art.”

I am not a great fan of anything that starts with “Zen”. Honestly, the skeptic in me sniffs the spiritual consumerism alert. So was my initial reaction to “Zentangle”. Is it something similar to adult coloring book I thought?   Until I met Neha, who is a passionate zentangler and I was led into her world of intricate art  – mostly in monochrome, countless strokes of repetitive patterns resulting into a visual treat!

Neha lost in Tangling 🙂


As I understand it – the art of Zentangle is a purposeful, structured form of drawing that is similar to doodling, consists of a series of repetitive strokes—straight lines, curves and dots—drawn on a three-and-a-half-inch square paper tile. Rick Roberts and Mary Thomas are the originators of the trademarked Zentangle method.

My first tangling attempt and I found  myself slowly getting into a state of non -judgmental awareness of the “present moment” – one stroke at a time.

Art feeds life and life feeds art. This experience fed me with gratitude and a few tid -bits that could be applied into our lives and relationships.

1. The expectation of a perfect outcome: What stops us from trying out art or rather anything new in life (including relationships)? Most of the time it’s the expectation of a  perfect outcome that we tend to visualize and the fear of not being able to accomplish it. In Zentangling the outcome is not planned, it is about putting our sole attention on one stroke at a time without worrying about what these strokes would eventually turn to become.  Enjoying the process of tangling rather than focusing on a certain outcome is the essence of this art form.

In zentangling the outcome is unplanned,  one stroke at a time without realizing what these strokes would eventually lead to

2. Errors need not be erased: Life gives us no erasers nor does Zentangling. Mistakes are most welcome. In fact mistakes need to be taken as invitation or a pause that leads to an awareness of  new options.  Instead of erasing a stray mark or “mistake” it becomes a part of the creation. That “mistake” is the basis for an unexpected twist in your piece of art. So is in life – don’t try hard erasing your mistakes. Acceptance of it being  part of what “being you” means is such a big relief.

Mistakes need to be taken as invitation or a pause that leads to an awareness of  new options.

3. Slowing the inner traffic: As I started tangling, I had to learn to slow down my mind. We all have a mind that doesn’t stop thinking. Researches  claim that each day the average person has about 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts. Wow! that’s like 35-50  thoughts every minute (considering all the 24 hours). We city dwellers daily whine about the traffic on the road but tend to ignore our inner traffic. Actually most of our distractions are internal.

Slowing down our inner traffic, lets us into a state of awareness of the moment which is much needed to genuinely connect with someone, tap into our own creativity or simply wonder!

4. Having a beginners mind:  There is concept in Zen Buddhism – Shoshin and it  translates to having a beginner’s mind. Zentangling is about having a beginners mindset – looking at the patterns , boundaries and shades from different perspective with an open mindset that could reveal many possibilities.

Art Courtesy; Neha

As the quote by Shunryu Suzuki goes –

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few. 

5. No two Zentangle art, turns out to be the same: As Neha and I worked on our tiles using the same patterns, we found our end products being very unlike each other’s . We paused for a moment to marvel at their uniqueness.

Each one of us is unique, our lives take various twists and turns leading us to different experiences. So are  each of our relationships – unique and it makes no sense to compare.

Comparison is the death of joy – Mark Twain

6. Gentle boundaries: Zentangle differs from doodling in having some set of constraints – the size of the tile, the patterns etc. Constraints as the word sounds, need not always be considered undesirable. Constraints can force us to step out of our mental comfort zone. For example constrained writing can produce some unexpected results like in poetry. Similarly the constraints in our lives often force us to make choices and cultivate talents that would otherwise go unnoticed. So consider your constraints as opportunities to  transform.

7. Gratitude: As I looked at the finished tile, I was filled with gratitude. Gratitude to me is more than just feeling thankful but rather a deeper sense of appreciation to the present moment and to one’s life overall. It surely happens in a non judgmental state of presence – complete presence. Amen!


If you would like a Zentangle experience check out our upcoming event below.

Event Details: https://www.townscript.com/e/zentangle-deep-talk-410032

zentangle poster

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Sreejit Swamy says:

    Slowing the inner traffic – That’s one thing we always tend to overlook! It indeed reflects most important lessons of life.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great article! I believe you have done an fantastic job of highlighting the life benefits of Zentangle! Thanks for sharing it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sophia says:

      Thanks a lot AngelWhispersArt!!


  3. Sherri Lee, CZT7 says:

    ZENTASTIC article. You really did an excellent job. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sophia says:

      Thank you Sherri!


  4. Anonymous says:

    A lovely synopsis I felt like Zen tangling when I read it.Thanks for sharing


    1. Sophia says:

      Glad you liked it. You surely should try Zentangling 🙂 Thanks for sending this note!


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