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Ten to Zen(tangle)

Molly writes:

I recently came across this list. I was intrigued by it and searched around a bit for an author but kept coming up as Author Unknown.


10 to Zen
  1. Let go of comparing
  2. Let go of competing
  3. Let go of judgements
  4. Let go of anger
  5. Let go of regrets
  6. Let go of worrying
  7. Let go of blame
  8. Let go of guilt
  9. Let go of fear
  10. Have a proper belly laugh at least once a day.
- Author Unknown


Zentangle is not Zen. They are for sure two very different things. However there are some overlaps I see in the philosophies and perspectives of the two methods. I was recently drawn to this list because it so reminded me of the approach we take when we teach Zentangle classes. I was enamored by the idea of letting go. When, as artists, we are able to “let go”, our creative process takes us on a path that is nurturing, supportive, and can lead to side effects such as uncontrollable smiling and in some instances belly laughs.


Here is my Zentangle breakdown …

  1. Let go of comparing your lines, your tangles, your orbs and your tiles to anyone else. After all it is yours. How amazing that we all have our own unique expression. Seeing beauty in yourself and your own work can take time, but I assure you it is there. In fact it has always been there, we just sometimes loose the ability to see it in ourselves. Allowing ourselves to let go of comparing who we are and what we create to others, and trusting that beauty lives independently and is not contingent on others is a powerful thing. Once you see the beauty within yourself, you start to see it everywhere.
  2. Let go of competing with yourself and others. Its art. Can one piece of art be better than another? We love seeing Zentangle themed exhibitions and events, but we always ask that is done for the celebration of showing work and that there is no emphasis on one particular piece being awarded the best. If beauty is seen through the eye of the beholder than there is no way to have a best. Zentangle Art is a platform for all types of artists.
  3. Let go of the negative judgements on yourself and others. Take a moment. Take a breath and look at things with fresh eyes, from a new light, or at a different time. Allow yourself to let go of the “because”, the “if only”, the “it would be better if” and the “if it didn’t”. Look for the beauty in things and you will find it.
  4. Let go of Anger. Some days are tougher than others. Some days your tangles will flow better than others. Some tangles will make more sense than others. Getting mad at yourself will only lead to frustration and anxiety. Take a break. Take a breath. Shake it off. It is just a tile. In many cases I have found that is was the tiles that challenged me most and then revisited later that I love and connect with the most.
  5. Let go of regret. At a CZT seminar a few years ago I was rambling about how I should have done this and could have done that and this lovely CZT stopped me and said, “don't should on yourself.” The words hit me hard. I realized that laboring over what should have happened or could have been done is ridiculous. I thought about how many times I have been stuck in woulda, shoulda, coulda moments that I completely lost sight of what was actually happening. At that point I decided to make an effort to take things as they come. Regardless if it is what I was expecting or not, I remind myself to embrace the journey when it takes an unintended turn. I have realized that if I get caught looking backwards to the past, it gets hard to see where I am and where I am going.
  6. Let go of worrying about what it is going to look like. Let go of worrying if you mess up. Let go of worrying if it will be good enough. What a relief to finally understand why we encourage this in a Zentangle practice. It took a long time for me to grasp this one. I was constantly planning, mapping and correcting so much that I was never able to really enjoy myself. When I finally allowed myself to just focus on where I was and let that stroke dictate the next, my tangles took on a whole different look. I realized that I had to trust the process and myself.
  7. Let go of blame. We can often get lost in blaming ourselves. I hear my fellow Zentangle artists beating themselves up about not tangling fast enough or for not creating enough tiles. I hear words like, “I am so behind.” or “I haven’t tangled in so long.” Whether you tangle everyday for hours or you can only sneak in Bijou tile once a month, it is still “your” Zentangle practice. Your Zentangle practice is a place for you no matter what your life is offering at that moment. Let go of the blame and enjoy whatever moments whenever you get them.
  8. Let go of guilt. We all deserve a little “me” time. For us tanglers, finding moments to sit down and draw is a treat. I have learned to make those times a priority. I know that it calms me and nurtures my soul. I know that there are weeks when I get plenty of time to tangle and others where is hard to fit it in. Whatever time I can find, I know that feeling guilty about taking this time can ruin the whole experience. I try to instead feel grateful for the time and look at all the good things that it gives me.
  9. Let go of fear. I too can get scared. Even when it comes to my Zentangle practice. Scared to try a new tangle, a technique or even scared to teach a class. But like worry, it is a place you can let go of – especially when it comes to Zentangle art. I remind myself to once again to trust the process and that there are no mistakes in creating Zentangle art. I know that whatever bumps appear in road, I can make it part of my journey.
  10. Have a proper belly laugh at least once a day. This one is my favorites. From the start Mom and Rick have included “fun” in the way they describe Zentangle. We try to keep things light and remind our students and ourselves not take things too seriously. There is so much serious stuff that goes on in the world. Feel free to let your Zentangle practice be a place where you can just enjoy the process. Remind yourself that it is just pen and paper. There will be another time and another tile. Be grateful that we can have a practice that gives us break, a smile, or even a laugh. I am always amazed at what can happen in the creative process ... discover how much more can happen when you top it off with a giggle.



- Molly Hollibaugh


Julie Willand


  • Love this! Great reminders. For the regret reminder, I do say “coulda shoulda” sometimes when I hold my completed tile at arm’s length, but I’m never unhappy with a finished tile; it’s usually in the spirit of “next time, I would like to try XYZ instead and see how that looks.” I love that Zentangle has made it possible to experiment with different visual treatments so easily. It’s not like you make a bad decision and you’ve used up hundreds of dollars in paint and canvas, or you’ve made a bad design that costs your business thousands of dollars. The only investment is time and some paper and ink, and it’s really freeing.

    Deb Tjoa on

  • I want to thank Sandy Kelly Jones for sharing the link to this article. We all need to read this weather we do Zentangle or not!!
    I am so grateful for finding this lovely practice that is filled to the brim with positive and very supportive people. I thank all of the wonderful CZTs that work tirelessly to provide all of us out here with so many projects.

    Karen Bunnelle on

  • Thank you for bringing this up . It’s a good reminder for self reflection. Thank you for sharing.

    Poh Yen Ho on

  • Dear Molly Thank you for these wise words! I found this blogpost because Sandy KJ mentioned it. I have read it before though. Reading it again I am reminded of how much these insights has changed my approach to my other artwork! I don’t struggle anymore! And my artwork has become so much more me! Without the Zentanglemethod I don’t know if this had been possible. I just wanted to let you know how thankful I am for all this!

    Anita Aspfors Westin on

  • Funny that I was searching for something else when I found this blog! Ten to Zen was timely and needed! I’ll be referring others to it! Thanks Molly!

    Sandy Kelley-Jones CZT on

  • I really loved this post, it really helped me…sometimes I am harsh with myself and this reminded me a lot. Thank you, thank you, thank you Molly.

    Paola on

  • Love it Molly!Thank you very much !!!

    Alicia on

  • Now, how on earth did I miss this blog when it first came out…..a year ago?!
    It says everything that we need for Zentangle and life. I think this should be printed and handed out to CZT’s at the end of the seminar for them to take away and pass on to their students.
    Working on those belly laughs!
    Thank you , Molly.

    Joanna Quincey on

  • Molly. Thank you for making the 10 to Zen relate to art. Am an enthusiastic photographer and I dabble in art. Am looking at devoting 2019 to a more meditative approach to my activities. Just got two books to help me on my way. Zen camera by David Ulrich and Capturing mindfulness by Matthew Johnstone. If anyone out there is interested and would like to share their experiences on these matters I would love to hear from them.

    Bill on

  • I love this Molly. I didn’t see this when it was originally posted. I will be incorporating these at the a week I think :o)

    Happy New Year!

    Jody Genovese on

  • Great suggestions!

    Sounds like Lau Tsu (spelling?) or Rumi

    Randall on

  • Dear Molly,

    I hope that this e-mail finds you well.

    I noticed that you are hosting a retreat in Kripalu and I am wondering if you might be interested in hosting your next retreat at Xinalani :)

    Please let me know if you would like receive more information.

    Have a lovely day!

    Carolina Cárdenas on

  • Thanks forc Molly.

    林宛儀 wanyiczt18 on

  • Yes, …and thank you, …Ten(Zen) times!

    Laurie Felgate on

  • This post is a keeper. Thanks for reminding us that “the perfect is the enemy of the good” -Voltaire

    Alice on

  • Thank you Molly for writing the 10 to Zen. New to Zentangle & its a great philosophy that we should put to our tangles & lives. Thanks again.

    Julia on

  • So much truth and wisdom in this post. So many times I nodded my head remembering making that discovery myself during my Zentangle journey. Other times where I know I still slip up and need to be gentler on myself. Thank you Molly!

    Jem on

  • Great reminders Molly – thank you so much for sharing. I worry so much about doing Zentangle ‘right’ that I end up not doing it at all. Thank you for reminding me to let go of all that negativity and just put pen to paper, one stroke at a time, with no end goal, and see what happens!

    Gloria King on

  • Molly, I love this. I am teaching Zentangle to high school students at their wellness day next month. I’m going to bring this along! ? thank you

    Sandra Chatelain,CZT on

  • Thank you for these wonderful words and beautiful tiles! I wish you and your family the best for the new year+

    ria matheussen on

  • Oh Molly! Thanks so much for that. I needed a reminder of the great benefits that come to me via zen …. and zentangles.

    Linda Crisp on

  • Molly, you must be clairvoyant! Your words were just what I needed to hear and heed right now! Thank you!

    Jane Rhea on

  • I was starting to get to that point of trying to fit everything in and forgetting what it all meant. What a sign of relief to hear those words from you. I feel better relaxed and can think clearly again and more creative!

    MattskiCZT on

  • Molly, my art has always given me a release from the negative pressures of life, many of which you have listed here. The Zentangle method is the only creative process that I have encountered that provides a structured approach for achieving not only creative excellence but also health and wellbeing benefits as an inherent part of its approach. I am grateful every day to have Zentangle in my life, as well as the wonderful community and family that it lives in. Our family supports us and upholds us and plays an important role in reminding each of us to ‘let go’ when we post our work. Keep supporting each other, Zentangle family, and that will help each of us to ‘let go’ and live in the present moment :)

    Yvette on

  • Oh, Molly this is perfect! I relate to everything you wrote! A wonderful reminder! Thank you, Molly

    Beth on

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