We often refer to Zentangle as “A Practice”. We use the word as a noun. As a noun, a practice is something performed or done regularly. It is a method, procedure, process, or rule used in a particular field or profession. We refer to it this way, similar to the way one might refer to their yoga practice. When one has a regular yoga practice, they might have an intention to develop or deepen their experience with the method in a very personal way but is not about perfecting or preparing for competition. It is about building a connection and exploring your relationship with the activity in a way that offers comfort, stability, and a platform for growth. Those that have practiced yoga for an extended time, will know that yoga is both a physical and mental practice. Without the partnership of the two, your yoga practice will be short-lived. This is true for Zentangle too. There is the physical act of drawing tangles, but without that connection to the method, your process might feel empty.
I speak directly from experience on this. When I first started creating with Zentangle I did not have or more precisely, understand the mental part. I got caught up in trying to invent patterns rather than explore them. I insisted on planning each tile and got distracted by what it should look like. I did not see or understand why it was important to work through so called “mistakes” and instead let every unintended or unplanned line stop me right in my tracks. And because of that I struggled to find flow in the artform.
Once I gave myself a chance to let go of the expectations, I had put on myself, I was able to explore the method and enjoy the process. I also started to get more out of my practice when I started to see how the philosophies paralleled how I interacted with my world. Things like approaching things one stroke at a time, trusting the process, finding and focusing on beauty, choosing opportunity over mistakes and slowing down are things that made a huge shift in my overall perspective.
As with any skill, technique, or method: the more you do it, the more it will come with ease and the more flow you will find. With any practice, you will go through periods where things seem simple and times where you have to work through things and stuff seems more challenging. That flow and or struggle will sometimes be in the physical part and sometimes to will be with the mental part and sometimes it will be both.
We call Zentangle a practice because we see the benefit in doing it as a routine, or a ritual, or just simply a repeated activity. We see it as a tool, as a hobby, as a meditation, or as an exercise. A practice is something that is done repeatedly. And it is within that repetition that we gain insight, confidence and enjoyment.
As with any practice, whether it be yoga, dancing, jogging or Zentangle, there are times where we stray from our practice for one reason or another. The thought of starting up again can be daunting. Luckily with Zentangle, we encourage you to tap into that, “one stroke at a time philosophy” and make your practice fit your world for this moment. Instead of deciding to tangle every day, just decide to tangle today. And instead of thinking about the whole tile, just worry about that first stroke and then follow it with another and another. And maybe when tomorrow comes you find time again.
Enjoy your Zentangle practice. Enjoy its ups and downs and trust that it is ok to slow down, take breaks and maybe sometimes totally consume your days tangling. Make it unique to your world. Take chances, find beauty and have fun.