It seems like a long time ago, like I'm remembering something from years back. In a way I am, but what I'm actually thinking about is much closer in time than it appears to that delicate place in my mind that might be labeled My Heart. I began seriously thinking about Zentangle last year, if I'm not mistaken – 2016. Also, I began listening to Chillout music on Youtube, more or less for the same reason: stress from work. I don't know if maybe I'm not cut out for high-stress jobs, or if maybe because I didn't get a college degree I didn't get the training that would help me deal with them. Maybe that. I've always thought that there is a lot to be said for a well-rounded education, and I certainly didn't finish what I started there.
What is Zentangle? It is doodling on purpose. It is a way to mix simple repetitive line drawings with meditation. Zentangle was developed by an artist/calligrapher and her husband who is a Buddhist monk. She was doing a repetitive design on a piece of calligraphy and he walked in and interrupted her reverie. She explained to him how her mind had gone to another plane while she worked, and he told her that what she had experienced was meditation. From that exchange, Zentangle was born.
I remember going to an art festival a few years ago, one that is held annually in a one-block town named Edom, up in Northeast Texas. I remember sitting more or less brain dead. I may have been twitching. I know that I was dreaming of and longing to be checked in to a mental facility. To this day I can't tell if it's because I don't handle stress well, or because things were just super-duper bad. A lack of ability to assert myself and to handle manipulative people definitely contributed to the state of mind. I desperately needed Zentangle then, but I hadn't heard of it yet.
If I look even further back I can remember a time when I was really on the brink of losing it, and that was mostly a combination of bad choices and clinical depression. At that time I turned to The Church and I stumbled across a book called The Cloister Walk, which led me to learn about The Litergy of the Hours. Saying a series of prayers based on The Psalms at regular intervals every day – every single day at the same intervals – helped me through a great deal. Later, I let the Hours slip, as I found I didn't need them any more. How's that for a fair weather friend? I don't need prayer now, so I'll just let it go.
I began the Zentangle and the Chill-out music at roughly the same time last year. With the music, I focussed on one compilation from YouTube (produced by Café del Mar), so the repetition was there again. Café del Mar's music is laid back, designed to... well to chill the listener out. Mike G from ambientmusicguide.com writes, "The world of Cafe Del Mar is an oasis of old-school ambient, warm Arabian strings, liquid dub, Latin melodies, nu jazz and lounge. Sometimes there's snatches of filtered vocals amid the relaxed breakbeats and ambient house, even whole songs on occasion." Though I was not partying or drinking on a Spanish island beach, I could use the music to take myself to a different place mentally and spiritually.
I would come home every day and do a Tangle. I would sit in a coffee shop with my earbuds in, tangling and listening to my music and letting it all put me into a trance. I began to incorporate some of the words into my drawings, "Why do we always fall in love?" and "Al conocernos me prometiste, darme tu amor para toda la vida." Those two lines were taken out of their musical context and woven into the Chill-out mix, and then into my brain where they were inseparably associated in my mind with Zentangle. I found myself praying, meditating, escaping more and more frequently with only doodles and strange compilations thereof to show for it. My job was again heating up and again I didn't feel up to the challenge. I applied for other jobs and ultimately found one at the state, so then it was a matter of getting through the hiring process and then giving notice at my current job.
Now, at my new job for a couple of months, I look back at all of the tangles that I did during the transition and the notes that I wrote to myself on the back of them. I love reading those notes. If it was a significant day, or something interesting happened, or just something that I could find to distinguish that day from all of the others, I made a habit of writing something on the back of every card, after I signed and dated it. I notice that I'm not tangling daily any more. Just like the Liturgy of the Hours, I've let them slide. Also, the Café del Mar mix doesn't put me into a trance any longer. I try, but I can't achieve that place I used to escape to, possibly because I no longer feel the urgent need to escape.
I shouldn't stop, though. One shouldn't stop praying because life has gotten better. One shouldn't stop drawing and meditating because they have successfully reduced the stress that the world puts on them. These are healthy habits that should be continued. When you are very, very hungry – starving, even – that first bite of food is like heaven. It is by far the best bite you'll ever take. But, that doesn't mean that we don't need to eat regularly. Likewise, we need to pray/meditate/draw regularly, continually.
The folks who started Zentangle have a course that they offer (for a few grand) to become a Certified Zentangle Teacher. I don't necessarily feel an inner need to have a ", CZT" after my name, but I have thought about taking this course for a few reasons. I believe that doing this in a workshop setting with others would add to the experience. I can vouch for the fact that writing in a workshop with others adds to the writing experience. I haven't been able to find a Zentangle group in the area, though. So, why not learn to teach it myself? I'm certain that they have ideas and methods for running a workshop and an approach to teaching that would be useful for me to learn. Also, being a writer and an artist, I am rather sensitive to the notion of copyright. I do like to pay my part, and teaching this and calling it Zentangle without being properly certified (and paying for it) would not be right legally or ethically. Sure, it's doodles that anybody could do and that the Zentangle folks may not even have created in the first place. But, they did take the time – an artist and a Buddhist monk – to put together a method to help people get the most out of it.
I have the perfect studio space here to hold a workshop, so that idea is still on the table. (It will have to wait until my art pays for it, or until I can be certain that the workshops themselves would.) I envision the Zentangle method incorporated into a larger creative project/workshop involving painting, writing and meditation – a sort of spiritual retreat. Complete with Ambient music. Perhaps we could contemplate why we always fall in love. Maybe taking this to the next step – conducting retreats for others – will help keep me on track with my own praying, drawing and meditating.
And, it is getting late. I do still work and tomorrow is Monday. I don't feel the need to medicate myself any more, but I should probably go ahead and get to bed. I'll write more later.
Thoughts, anybody? Ideas? Suggestions? Does you use drawing as a way to meditate or pray? Please leave a message in the comments section below. I love to hear from you.