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My Zentangle Tool Box

My Zentangle Tool Box

Julie writes...


As Zentangle artists, we have more tools in our toolbox (pencil pouch?) than just our pens and paper. It has become abundantly clear over the past few months, that our most valuable tools are the philosophies and lessons we learn practicing the Zentangle Method.
Sometimes when you start a tile, you have no idea where it is headed. You just tangle away, taking things one stroke at a time, free to move this way and that. Other times, when you start a tile, you have a plan. Maybe you were inspired by another tile or had a vision of where it was going. However, as you tangle, plans may change. You may put down a line that doesn’t go quite as expected. Fortunately, though, we have the tools to deal with these situations, and no, I don’t mean an eraser.
We embrace the philosophy of “No Mistakes,” and look for opportunities when things don’t go quite as planned. It is this philosophy that has led to so many new and exciting things in the Zentangle world. “Mistakes” on Zentangle tiles have often led to new tangles, new techniques and new adventures.
We embrace the philosophy of “Anything is Possible One Stroke At A Time…” You can’t finish you tile before putting down that first stroke. Or the second, or third. Taking things one stroke at a time allows us to slow down, to breathe, to reflect and to deliberately take that next stroke to progress on our tile.
We practice gratitude and appreciation from start to finish. In Project Pack No.09, each day we wrote down something we were grateful for on our tile, serving as a constant reminder as we tangled away. When you take a moment to recognize what you are grateful for, no matter how small, it is powerful tool to adjust your attitude, your heart and your peace, no matter the circumstances.
The world, and our lives, have been a little bit like a Zentangle tile lately. I don’t know about you, but my plans for this spring looked a lot different than my current reality. Thankfully, I had some tools in my tool box to help deal with the changes.
I have had to miss family events, birthdays, trips and get togethers. Thankfully, I know how to look for opportunities when things don’t go quite as planned. I know that when one door closes, another one is usually opening and while this may not have my first choice, it is an opportunity to explore things I may have not otherwise.
I know how to take things one stroke at a time. I know the benefits of slowing down, focusing on what is in front of me and blocking out the rest, and making deliberate choices.
I know how important it is to find a moment of gratitude and appreciation in every circumstance. To focus on these things whole heartedly to calm my mind and my heart.
And, when I am having trouble with these things, I have pens and I have paper to sit down and draw. An exercise that reminds me to use all of the tools in my tool box.

Update: May 4, 2022

It has been two years since I wrote this blog post and yet I feel like I have written it every day since. So much has happened since then, life unfolds like a Zentangle tile, with unruly and unexpected strokes going this way and that. When new challenges and opportunities come about, I am always grateful for the tools in my toolbox.

We recently held our first in person seminar since 2019 in Newport, Rhode Island. As I got to know all of the attendees, I came to learn that many of them found the Zentangle method within the past two years during the pandemic and they expressed how it helped them get through this difficult time. Even those who had been tangling long before March of 2020, there was this bond among all of us, that the Zentangle Method was a tool that we had to help us through difficult times.

Let us know in the comments how you use your Zentangle tools both on and off the paper and we will choose a commenter at random to send a "gratitude and appreciation" Zentangle MantraBand.

Julie Willand


  • One of those days where everything is going “wrong”, everyone wants you, your feeling like a teddy bear in a sibling fight for it, tugged in all directions. I breathe, let my shoulders relax, focus, and then pick one issue at a time. Hey, it works.

    It also is amazing how much you can deal with without to much stress.
    Then I tangle for my self preservation, because as the saying goes “you must first look after yourself to be able to look after others”

    Gloria (Jo) Flynn on

  • I was lucky enough to be in that in-person seminar, and am so grateful for it! When I first came across Zentangle, it was through the lovely art that others had created. However, it was when I learned about the method behind it that I truly fell in love with it. I believe that is where the strength of Zentangle lies – our ability to calm the mind and be responsive to the situation in front of us.

    Alisa on

  • It helps me a lot in my mission as a caregiver, first of my elderly parents and now of my husband…. It gives me spaces and gratifying and motivating results in the face of a reality that is not. Thank you for giving so much visibility to this very important issue. today

    carmela on

  • It helps me a lot in my mission as a caregiver, first of my elderly parents and now of my husband…. It gives me spaces and gratifying and motivating results in the face of a reality that is not. Thank you for giving so much visibility to this very important issue. today

    carmela on

  • Bless you Julie.

    Karin Godyns, CZT on

  • Since discovering Zentangle I have realized that no mistakes means it’s okay not being perfect, whether in my drawings or my everyday life and learning to accept and appreciate the flaws is more important and more rewarding than striving to be perfect.

    Michele Werner on

  • I am not a CZT, but have been doing art my whole life. I discovered Zentangle in 2010 Read all the blogs on the internet and had the app for awhile. I am a senior. Not only did it help me in a time of life changes and struggle. It helped me get back to the basics of drawing. The size was perfect. I took to it like a duck to water. I bought a kit, the book, and hunkered down with the videos. To me its a shift from left thinking brain , to right creative brain, I often experienced that as i drew. I taught the method at Ben Franklin stores and at some of the local libraries. now i just am happy to do my own work. I follow a few tangler’s on Facebook and enjoy those communities. I appreciate what you are doing. I cannot afford the training or the kits very often , but once in a while I treat myself. I cannot remember the names you give patterns. I am too immersed in the old fashioned way of remembering repeatable patterns that help you recall what the pattern is. stripes, circles, triangle,square, paisely, wave, etc, I am picking a few now and then but they have to make sense for me to remember them. Otherwise it would be like renaming the colors.

    Maxine Erickson on

  • I am so grateful for Zentangle  metodology, It calms, focuses, redirects, open my mind, help to problem solve, show that shadows give form to life, and teaches that anything IS POSSIBLE one step at a time…My husband is ill from several years ago,   Zentangle it has become a lifeline. It helps me grieve, and keeps me positive at the same time. I tangle every day.

    carmela on

  • I found the value of Zentangle 7 years ago when my then 24 year old nephew passed away from cancer. He was the first born and one of those individuals who lit up a room simply by being in it. My grief was poured out into a Zentangle image of a lion, as his name was Aryeh, meaning “Lion of G-d” in Hebrew. Since then, when life is pressing down on me to a greater degree than normal, I turn to Zentangle for relief. Thank you Julie for your words, and to Rick and Maria for all of this.

    Ruth Johndrow on

  • When I first discovered Zentangle in 2007 I was experiencing more sad days than happy days. I was amazed by how quickly I experienced a joy that had been missing in my life. I learned Zentangle with the official kit since there were no Certified Zentangle Teachers yet. I’m as enthusiastic today as I was then and have been a CZT since 2009.

    Bette Abdu on

  • I first came across Zentangle while I was compulsorily detained in a mental health hospital after a serious suicide attempt. I watched another patient using a book with Zentangle instructions in to create the most perfect looking miniature pictures and I was transfixed. I asked if I could joined her and when she was discharged she left me the copy of Joy Of Zentangle. Each time I started to tangle I became calmer and more settled and the nurses noticed and would show the doctors the work I was producing. I was self conscious thinking my art was not very good but as I read more about the method on the Zentangle website and within the 1st book I had been given and the others I bought, I began to absorb the lesson that nothing is a mistake, I learnt to work with the process rather than focus on the end result and my enjoyment increased. I have kept up with tangling most days and right now I am back in hospital again but with Zentangling as my comfort I know I can get through this and that one line at a time, one step at a time, one day at a time, I will eventually get well enough to be discharged again.

    Yet another consultant has learnt about the Zentangle method because they were interested in my little doodles and I explained the one line at a time and no mark is a mistake practice. I hope that in spreading the gift I have found in Zentangle practice I am sharing the gift I was given by the patient who first introduced me to this wonderfully therapeutic process. My severe and enduring mental health disorder has been much easier to manage since I discovered Zentangle.

    Jane A on

  • I totally agree with what you write,Julie. Zentangle has helped me to stay mentally healthy during a really heavy pandemic lock down and to overcome a rough moment at work. I have met great like minded people and found new friends from all over the world. This is what I mostly appreciate and I am very grateful for, besides what you wrote. I have just started volunteering for the senior group afternoons in my church (the oldest one was 94), and two of them whispered to me at the end of my first tangling class that they were going to repeat it at home, as they knew something new to do. I felt really proud! So thanks again!
    Zenful regards.

    Lucia De Franco Czt Eu3 on

  • It is so complex what has happened through Zentangle.
    First of all, it did a lot to me personally. I first explored and enjoyed it. At some point I felt the need to pass it on. Yes, I had doubts about whether I was good enough, but I still took the step. And now I am amazed again and again at how wonderful it is to be an “eye-opener” for creative things. Because that’s exactly how I feel when I see people’s feedback, their amazement at themselves. And to be able to experience that is another great gift.

    Claudia (aka RoseRed on SM) on

  • Thank you all for supporting mental health awareness. The effects can be devastating, not only to the individual, but to their families as well. My mother became mentally ill in 1957, when I was ten, and my sisters were eight and five. We were traumatized by her recurring relapses. She was in and out of hospitals repeatedly well into our adulthood.

    Over many years, I noticed that occupational therapy, (gardening, sewing, needle arts, painting, etc.), had a calming effect on her. As she focused on the task at hand, she became more rational, communicative, and able to get back to herself much faster than with meds alone. I truly wish Zentangle had been available back then. We all could have used it.
    When I lost my husband of 55 years in 2017, I was devastated until I found Zentangle in 2018. It has become a lifeline. It helps me grieve, and keeps me positive at the same time. I tangle every day.

    I am so grateful for this artform, and for your tireless efforts in teaching, sharing, supporting, encouraging, and inspiring the worldwide “family” of tanglers you have created, “one stroke at a time!”

    Jessica Dykes (aka Jake) on

  • The therapeutic magic of Zentangle has been affirmed repeatedly, in your blog update, and in these responses. Mental illness can be devastating, not only to the individual, but to their family members. My mother became mentally ill in the 1950s, when I was only ten, and my two younger sisters were eight and five. We were traumatized repeatedly by her illness. She was in and out of hospitals well into our adulthood. I noticed, over the years, when her treatment included “occupational therapy,” she became much calmer and more rational. Gardening, sewing, needlework, and the arts were very effective tools in getting her back to herself. I only wish Zentangle had been available to her back then.

    Jessica Dykes (aka Jake) on

  • Dear Julie, your post is coming at the right time . Today I‘ll start a new class and so your words will be fresh in my heart. We have truly all the tools we need- thanks to the wonderful Zentangle Method. I hope I‘ll be able to inflame my new students.


    martimari on

  • Thank you for sharing this again. Somehow I missed reading it the first time. I too, am one of the many fortunate ones that found Zentangle during the pandemic. In the center of the storm was the “eye” of Zentangle. It calms, focuses, redirects, opens the mind, helps to problem solve, shows that shadows give form to life, and teaches that anything IS POSSIBLE one step at a time. May the Lord bless you for sharing!

    LLS on

  • Thank you Julie for your posting again. I am so very grateful to have received my CZT -32 Certification before the pandemic. The tools that I have learned from Zentangle has brought brightness into my life. I have learned so much, Gratitude, Opportunity, Optimism and so very much more…. I really don’t know how I would have survived the pandemic without having Zentangle in my life….I try to Tangle every day ….Thank you Julie so nice to see your Blog Again!

    Julie Crosby on

  • Like many others I use the Zentangle method in both good times and in more challenging times. Sometimes when I don’t feel up to doing anything I will watch a video from Zentangle HQ or other CZTs. It is amazing how it takes my mind off my worries. I also use Zentangle to help me focus during (or to make it through) a meeting. I try to have a few tiles around that need repetitive strokes or areas that need coloring in. The philosophy grounds so much of what I do. One stroke at a time.

    Marty Greiner on

  • Thank you Julie. I loved this post in 2020 and love it even more now when probably many of us would like things to be other than they are. Breathing, grounding, and practicing the Zentangle method in day to day life helps tremendously.

    Zentangling is a balm for me and during the past two years I’ve been able to share this balm with my dear nieces, great nephews, and others.
    And who would have thought that not being able to have CZT training in person would provide such a gift. I was in the first online training cohort and feel incredibly fortunate and grateful for that opportunity as traveling to an in person training hadn’t worked out for many years prior. Truly a boon and you all did/do an amazing job! Much gratitude to you all, and to you, Julie, for articulating these gifts so beautifully.

    Molly Siddoway King, CZT on

  • Thank you, Julie, for reminding us to use all the tools in our toolbox – not just in Zentangle but in life. Life had thrown a number of challenges my way prior to the past couple of years, but I was able to keep moving forward using the lessons of Zentangle that truly apply to life – one stroke at a time, one step at a time. Breathe and appreciate each moment. And no mistakes – only opportunities. With the pandemic, we were given the opportunity to truly experience gratitude for all that we do have, even the little things. Living a “Zentangle life” has helped millions of people live better lives. It’s made a difference for me and my mental health. Keep sending us these inspiring blog post. Thank you all.

    Claire on

  • I’ve been a CZT since June 2014. I found that teaching the method was wonderful. Most of all this past few years Tangling has kept me ‘sane’. coping with grief. My wonderful Lewy Warrior~husband lost his battle with LBD on Feb. 8/20.Tangling keeps me focussed and helps me through the waves of grief as they occur. One never knows ‘when’ that tsunami of grief attacks, not so much but it does still happen. So tangling is a relief valve. Thanks so so much.

    H.Carol Schmidt on

  • First zentangle Influence: it helped me find my deeply buried creativity. It was like going back to my lovely childhood. Second: my parents are died and I miss them terribly. They were both very creative. Thanks to my creativity I feel connected with them. (I talk to them about it every day😊🤫)

    Third influence: thanks to the philosophy behind this method, my whole life changed. I have changed. I am calmer, more self-confident and
    have much more fun. Mistake? Which mistake ? Just new opportunities.
    The world is also more interesting and colorful
    I could write a whole essay about my experiences, but who will read it? Anyway, you surely experience it yourself. For me clearly philosophy behind. Thank you sooo much for it.
    Joanna Kohl

    Joanna Kohl on

  • Thank you for bringing this back to our attention. Especially the last two years I have been very thankful for all the tools in my Zentangle toolbox that gave me moments of rest and calmness when the world was upside down.

    Maria Vennekens on

  • Thank you for this. Mental Health Awareness Month means a lot to me, as I have suffered from major depression and anxiety for 45+ years. I have many techniques in my wellness plan, and one of the most helpful for me is Zentangle. I tangle every afternoon and it helps to calm and center me. I love the process and the practice. Thanks!

    William Dennett on

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