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Ten to Zen(tangle).. Again.

Ten to Zen(tangle).. Again.

In 2007, we started BLOG Zentangle and began our enjoyable series of conversations within our Zentangle community.

In reading through these blog posts with their insightful comments, we decided to bring a few of them to your attention from time to time. It is easy, for me anyway, to sometimes think of old information as stale information. But these insights and conversations are anything BUT stale!

In 2018, 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


Molly Hollibaugh


  • When I went in for 3-month check-up with my oncologist/surgeon, she was concerned that I was “depressed”. I refused ‘happy pills’, but did limit watching the news and tried to list 3-blessings each day. I also thought about starting up Zentangle again. Your “ten-to-zentangle” has provided the motivation to return to this very satisfying and calming process that I enjoyed before my world fell apart 1.5 years ago. Time to find my inner happiness again.

    Kathrine Browne on

  • Molly, what a beautiful message!! So profound. “10 to Zen” can be found in any of my daily activities, especially when it comes to something which needs patience. Zentangle also reminds me of the beauty of my cultural background. I am so grateful to live with this life lesson! (which is endless!) Thank you!

    Kaori on

  • So love this blog I have practiced writing the 10 to zen in calligraphy many times and try to say it once a day along with my jokes. Molly you rock, I have learned so much from you!

    Anita Jones on

  • Dear Molly, Thank you so much for “the list “ and for your elaborations. These are the challenges of my heart and soul in my life and in my art. Thank you for the vision. Thinking about each one individually as they pop up in my living is multiplied when seeing them all together at once. Now I need to reflect on them and figure out how to turn their presence into acceptance, appreciation, and courage instead. God bless!

    Kathy Wright-Starr/StarrSongTanglerCZT12 on

  • Molly, mil gracias, es un decálogo perfecto, para mantener siempre activa la creatividad, dejar de lado cualquier cosa que nos preocupe, acudiendo al método para ver luego con más claridad las cosas de la cotidianidad. Gratitud, relax, entretenimiento, alegría, felicidad!!! Elsa CZT#26 Colombia.

    Dueñas Elsa on

  • love this. thank you.

    Peyton on

  • This is a perfect message. Thank you for the reminder to let go and don’t try to control stuff.

    Jackie on

  • This is just what I needed to see. I must have missed it the first time around, but will now incorporate it in my classes. I usually have quite a few laughs in my classes (at my own expense) so #10 is a way of life for me and my students!

    Kim Kohler on

  • Thanks Mrs. Molly, not a tangle lesson, a life lesson!

    Pili on

  • Ahhh, Molly – just exactly what I needed today! I love the list and your explanations related to Zentangle. After reading I had a smile in my heart. Thank you!

    Donna Ravenscraft on

  • Molly, ever since you introduced this I have shared it with most of my students. I’ve also printed it on half sheets of white notecard paper (8.5"x 6.5) and drawn in a traditional Zentangle square. I’ve then used this as “tile” for students to work on. It is such a GREAT reminder for both CZT and our students.

    Gale Sherman on

  • Molly, what a nice reminder for us all. I was particularly taken by number 5 on your list. I far too often get stuck in that “woulda coulda shoulda” state of mind not only regarding my tangling but pretty much anything in my life’s journey. While reading your 5th I was reminded of last week, after eating a small piece of Dove chocolate, i said to myself, " you shouldn’t have done that and began traveling down that familiar shaming brain game path. Then I mindlessly noticed there was a quote on the backside of the foil it was wrapped in. I have a propensity for saving quotes so of course I read it. “Keep life moving forward, looking backward is only for time travelers.” Interesting how just a few days later I found another reminder in your blog. How can I not make it my latest mantra. Thank you again for the reminder.

    Linda Lusk on

  • Thank you for saying just the right thing I needed to hear right now. I have been tangling for a least a couple of hours a day since the virus changed our lives. It is helping me stay sane or at least less depressed. After the last two project packs, I discovered that I like a multi-tile project and am now coming up with one on my own. I can’t say thank you enough.

    Leslie Hancock on

  • I use this post of “10” when I teach a Beginning Class…it is a wonderful way to introduce the Zentangle method! Thanks again Molly…love to all of you!

    Kim VanZyll on

  • Thankyou Molly. I too will stick it up on the wall. As always love the philosophy as much as the tangles. My walls, doors are covered with zentangle tiles. Originally started as a form of stimulus if I was stuck for a pattern, What now happens is I often come across a tile and think OMG did I do that, I don’t remember doing it. How beautiful. I see from the Zen to 10 list this is another way I have found to practice letting go. Peace and Love to you all.

    wendy tann on

  • Thank you very much Molly for these wonderful words. Sometimes I forget them, so I’m glad to have read them again.

    Ria Joris-Matheussen on

  • Thank you for such great words!! I love the list and appreciate you sharing it!

    Betsy Smith on

  • Well said and a great reminder on how to live life too. Thanks for all the Zentangle love you all are giving us during this strange time in the world. Smiles and hugs around.

    Sue Leslie on

  • Gosh Molly, that was just what I needed to hear. I hope you don’t mind if I share it. Zentangle has been my salvation from COVID. I tangle 3 to 4 hours each day. Having said that, I constantly compare myself to others. It is easy to do if you belong to FB Zentangle groups. So many beautiful pieces are out there. I will try to take your words to heart.


  • Molly, how apropos! Just started a new Zoom poetry class this morning, and your blog message about letting go, is almost identical to the poetry instructor’s message to us…I am grateful for how Zentangle has become entangled and connected to every facet of my life. Thanks for this lovely reminder!

    Jake on

  • What a lovely reminder! Thank you for this beautiful post.

    Brenda Campbell on

  • Thanks for the reminder..I printed out the 10 and put on my board to keep me grounded in why I do art!!!

    Especially my Zentangle practice!!

    Priscilla DeConti on

  • This was just what I needed this morning. I have found these weeks of troubling circumstances slowly allowing me to evolve and this post helps put words to some things I have been feeling. Thank you Molly and all of you folks at Zentangle for putting such positive energy into the world. Looking forward to continuing to grow together.

    Deb M CZT30 on

  • Were you peeking in to my mind, and deciding to post this today? How did you know I really needed to hear this, and read the words?? Like Sabra S., I am going to print this out, as a gentle reminder. Just let go, and trust you will land where you need to be at that moment.

    Ginger White CZT34 on

  • Aloha Kākou… thank you so much for writing this beautiful reminder. ~Lm

    Lydia on

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