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The Meditative Healing of Zentangle

Karen Sandoval wears many hats as a grandmother, traveler, photographer, and zentangler. She shares with us her story of zentangling and how it has become a meditative influence in her life.

Darcie asked me to write a guest blog post about what Zentangle means to me and I hesitated at first and then said YES! I just recently completed training and am now a Certified Zentangle Teacher, brimming with excitement and walking on the Zentangle Cloud.

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Just over a year ago, I was in a rather difficult place emotionally. After playing golf with my husband for the entire 13 years we had been together, I could no longer. I have degenerative arthritis in my hands, and I have a tendency to suddenly lose grip on things. Golf clubs are not good as projectiles when I have a slip of the hands. It was hard to admit first to myself, and then to my husband, that it was time to put away the clubs.

A friend knew I was struggling, losing this “thing” golf. She knew I had a love hate relationship with golf before I finally quit, and she knew I had a void to fill. This lovely lady sent me a message and said “why don’t you check out Zentangle?”


First let me say that before the day my beautiful little Tiffany blue Zentangle package arrived, I could not draw a stick. I say stick because even my stick people were bad. But Denise had said “you don’t have to know how to draw when you tangle” and that was enough to perk my curiosity. I opened the box, sat down and popped the DVD into my laptop.

It was then I realized that this was a form of meditation, a method of art that allows stress to dissolve while creating beautiful art. This gal (me) who forgot to show up the day they were handing out the Art gene, was about to embark on a great adventure in art.

The way you start is with a beautiful little tile that measures 3.5 by 3.5 inches, molded of the finest cotton paper, about as thick as a beer coaster but the texture is different, it’s so yummy. (I still can’t believe words like that fall out of my head.) Then you pick up a graphite pencil and start your Zentangle session by putting a light dot in each of the four corners of the tile. And then the magic begins. Connect each dot with a light line forming a box. This box is not a boundary, rather a place to insert your tangles. If they come outside of the lines of the box, that is ok too. Everything is ok in Zentangle. Everything.

So you have your little pencil drawn box on your tile, then you draw a string. My first string was a Z, giving me four sections of the box to learn the tangles in. At this time, I put down the pencil and pick up my Micron pen. 20 minutes later, I have a piece of art in my hand.

By now you probably have noticed a few new forms of words. Zentangle® is a noun, it is a Method of art, taught by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas. About ten years ago, Rick discovered Maria deep in another place when she was drawing, and they both realized she had actually entered a zone, and they realized what she was doing was a form of meditation. So “Tangling” can be a verb or a noun. But that doesn’t matter. Let’s get back to what DRAWING TANGLES does for me

  1. It calms me down. I have a mild case of anxiety disorder, and sometimes I can work myself into a fast heartbeat and a fright that causes me to reach for a xanax. If I am in a place where I can, I pick up my pen, instead of opening the anxiety pill bottle.
  2. Tangling makes me forget about my pain for a while. I certainly am not claiming that it is a pain reliever, but let me tell you this: Emotional pain, physical pain, chronic pain, I’ve experienced it all in the last year and a half. I’ve tangled through it.
  3. I no longer need a shrink. Ok, maybe I do, but I really feel like I have literally saved thousands of dollars tangling through emotional speed bumps instead of going to see someone for help. Again, if you need help for anything emotional… GO GET IT, this is not a cure. For me, it has eliminated my “need to talk to someone about this”. I tangle through it.
  4. Weight loss. (just kidding)
  5. Friends. I have met the most wonderful people since I started my journey. Truly nice people who give me hope for the world. In my CZT training class, 13 countries were represented, including 22 people who flew 24 hours from Taiwan, to take the training. People from around the world gathered with a common love: Zentangle.
  6. Zentangle Eyes. This is a common symptom of a hooked tangler. I see Zentangles everywhere and try to deconstruct them in my mind. I even take photos of tangle patterns I see now. September 2013, I was in the Louvre, taking photos of the patterns on the floor.
  7. A sudden desire to wear black and white, always.
  8. The desire to tangle on everything. This just started for me so I will have to get back to you on this. I did ask hubby if I could tangle the Corvette, but he said no.
  9. I am an admitted pen snob. And I won’t share my pen with you if you don’t know how to use a Micron. (I speak Mirconese)

 I can now, after 58 years, call myself an artist.

~Karen Lynn

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Categories: Life

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Darcie Cameron is a RYT 200 who believes Yoga is a gift that is accessible to everyone with proper modifications, a patient smile and just taking the time to breathe. One of the greatest presents you will ever unwrap is when you connect your mind, body and spirit in perfect sync with your own breath. Connect with Darcie on Facebook

26 replies

  1. Karen, this is wonderful! Thank you for sharing it. I was just this morning writing my two-three pages longhand (Morning Pages, from Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way”) and bemoaning how it is too much gripping for my just-bordering-on carpal tunnel hands. “What can I do instead, I should ask the universe?” I said to myself. Because it clears the cobwebs from my brain. And then to find this dust-clearer is promising. So yay! I can’t wait to try it.

    1. Yay! I want to try it in the New Year! It looks like it is a great way to open and invigorate the creative spirit.

      Jenn, it is also funny that you mentioned Julia Cameron. I just started the first week of “The Prosperous Heart.” I am looking forward to see where it will lead me.

    2. Oh Jenn, Zentangle could just do the trick for you. The secret is a light touch, you hold the pen as if it was a robins egg. If you hold it too tight, your pen won’t work correctly, and your hand will get sore. I do have some ulnar neuropathy in my left elbow, so if I am doing a long session, I rest my elbow on a pillow so I don’t press it hard enough to make my hand go numb. Please please, if you have any questions on how to get started, just ask away. I love sharing this most amazing Art Method. xo

  2. Karen’s article is spot on. One thing I was quite amazed at is the warmth and supportiveness of tangling community. That’s how I “met” Karen. We’ve never met IRL (in real life), but w’vee bonded over ink and tangles. I’ve never even taken a Zentangle class, but it has become an important part of my life for all the reasons Karen mentioned. She “accuses” me of referring people to my blog in lieu of “talking” to them. I like to think of my blog as ancillary, but zentangle moved me to write a blog post on the subject in my travel blog, which now has a schizophrenic (in the lay sense of the term) identity as a zentangle blog. Here’s a link to my Zentangle post. If sharing a link in a comment is against your blog policy, feel free to remove it. I won’t be offended. I don’t mind if people include links on my blog when they’re relevant to the topic under discussion. Write on!

    1. Dearest Suzanne, we found connection through Zentangle then realized we were connected in real life too through Mr. Excitement and my cousins husband! I am so looking forward to meeting you. AND watching you be amazed and in awe at the CZT seminar. I hope you know that I really Like you.. and am enjoying getting to know you by talking to you. I love your blog, but real time chat is pretty cool too! xo gf

  3. I still have my unopened Zentangle gift box staring at me. One day I may pick it up or one day I may pass it on to one of my beloved granddaughters. She is my artist girl and could use the peace, at times. Please let me know if you ever plan to do instruction with kids. Glad you have Zentangle and thank you for your generous sharing.

    1. Elaine, what are you waiting for? I couldn’t draw a stick before Zentangle. Let’s start with you, then you can pass it on to your grandkids. xoxoxo

  4. You are so generous with your enthusiasm and your gifts. One day I will open my Zentangle gift box and wonder why I didn’t do that sooner. Or, I may pass it on to my sweet artsy granddaughter who sometimes needs a distraction. Let me know if you ever do kid instruction. And, Thank You again!

  5. thank you so much for reposting, I’m going to post a link to the zentangle website here in the comments because I’m not sure if I did above. Anyway… everything you need to know about getting started is there, and if you give it a shot, you are going to see your life change. One stroke at a time. xo

      1. No guilt or shame in tangling. I wish we could FaceTime so I could give you an intro lesson. xo gf. Carving out 20 minutes a day for meditation and relaxation is so good for your soul, especially when you hold that tile out in front of you when you are done and you see you MADE ART!!! 🙂

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