The Zen Tangle

Step 6

This past summer, during a rainy day at the beach, our lovely neighbor Linda introduced me to the wonders of Zen Tangling.  Zen Tangling has its roots in the adult coloring trend which has been steadily gaining in popularity.  It employees a systematic method of doodling that can be meditative, relaxing, and de-stressing.  It also engages a level of mental creativity and freedom that is not always present in adult coloring.

Zen Tangling brings to mind the process of Tibetan mandala making.  Tibetan Monks create these beautiful, intricately patterned mandalas while invoking a meditative process that is meant to focus, calm, and clear the mind.  A mandala is said to bring wisdom and enlightenment.  It is not the mandala itself that perpetuates these properties but rather it is the process undergone in the creation of the mandala that engages and focuses the mind in such a way that further wisdom and clarity may be achieved.

I fondly remember a week back in college when we had a group of Tibetan Monks visiting the campus.  It was their first trip to the United States, and for many of them it was their first time engaging with the Western world.  We were honored by being the first stop in their pilgrimage across America, and the genuine joy, peace, and acceptance that they brought to the college community during that one week cumulated in a truly precious experience (picture a Tibetan Monk being taught how to tight rope walk by a group of scraggly college students). The highlight of their visit was the crafting of a giant sand mandala.  They spent days creating this delicate, detailed mandala only to ritually blow it away upon its completion.  The act and process of its creation had been attained.  It had served its purpose.  The rest is just ephemeral.

The Zen Tangle cherry picks elements from the Tibetan mandala process and repackages them for western consumption.

The key to Zen Tangling is to follow a series of basic steps.  Concentrate on one step at a time.  Let the process flow through you.  Do not over think it.

  1. Draw the outline of a simple shape in pencil – In this instance I decided to go with something seasonal and drew a leaf.  The first Zen Tangle I did was in the shape of a crescent.  Start out simple.  Your shape can be as simple as a circle or a triangle.
  2. Trace the pencil outline with a black pen, and erase any visible pencil markings.
  3. Use the pen to divide the original shape into multiple smaller section.
  4. Using only the pen fill each section with a different pattern – This is the most time consuming step in the Zen Tangle process, and the most meditative.  Just pace yourself, and focus on one block at a time. Your patterns can be as simple as a grouping of poka-dots or a series of squiggly lines.
  5. Once you have filled your shape you can go back and color it in with markers or color pencils – I have been known to skip this step since I tend to find the patterned shape visually stunning on its own, but coloring can be relaxing and soothing in its own ways.
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