Get Your Zen On with Zentangle!

Greetings on this lovely Friday the 13th!  I’m sending some good vibes your way with some very relaxing artwork that I just made in a new art class– Intro to Zentangle.

Maybe you’ve heard of it.  Maybe you’ve even seen it printed on t-shirts or bags.  It’s taking the world by storm, so of course I decided I needed to see what all the buzz was about.

It’s the art form described as being for the non-artist.  Why?  Is it because it isn’t artistic or doesn’t require skill?  Well I guess it depends on how you define art and skill.  It was founded by a couple named Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas.  They wanted to practice art that was both creative and meditative but without all the rules and tools required of most other types of art.

Everything you need comes in a little drawstring pouch.  And here’s something to keep in mind.  One of the tools is NOT an eraser, because there are no mistakes, only opportunities.  Don’t you love it already?  The basic concepts involve focus, framing, creating a string, filling, shading, and signing your work at the end.  We learned just a few tangles, but there are many more and you can even come up with some of your own.

But the best part about zentangle is getting into the zone!  This goes along with coloring mandalas, which I mentioned in a previous post, so you can see why I like it 🙂  It will be interesting to see how I can factor this into my own art.

Even if you aren’t an artist, you might want to give this a try.  It was designed for you 😉  It’s a great way to practice mindfulness–focusing on the present moment.  Imagine what you can create if you put your mind to it and just relax…

Consider their motto: “Anything is possible…one stroke at a time!”

Out of My Mind: A Lesson in Mindfulness

The other day I came across some photographs taken on an old cell phone.  This treasure was one of them.  It’s a photo of my first brain painting, which was a gift to an artist friend.  She and I were having a discussion about “growing old” (whatever that means) and death.  I thought perhaps a meditation on illness and the body/organs through art might bring out the humor of the situation.  We often expect art to be aesthetically pleasing.  As a culture, we have a certain idea of what is beautiful, namely youth and perfection.  But what makes art beautiful and people beautiful are the imperfections.

When deciding on a title for this piece, a lot of different ideas came to mind: I’m Coming Out!, Departure, and The Final Frontier.  After I came up with the current title, Out of My Mind, I had to pause for a moment to consider its implications:  This phrase literally refers to the mental state of being “crazy.”  But what does it really mean to be crazy anyway?  It has such a negative connotation…just like disease and death…and art that is not “beautiful.”  I realized that this title was then quite fitting for this piece which honors the beauty in illness and imperfection.

Actually, the zen practice of “mindfulness” requires being in the present moment and stepping out of your thoughts.  Letting them pass by you like swimming fish.  You can notice them, but you don’t become consumed by them.  One of my favorite mantras comes from my yoga teacher.  Practice saying, “I am not a body.  I am not a mind,” as you breath in and out.  Do that a few times and see how different you feel about yourself and your current situation.  It’s guaranteed to lower your stress levels.  And if you’re an artist like me, it’s a great method to use when you notice you’re stuck in your work.  Mindfulness implies mental focus, but it is just the opposite.  Often when we think we’re stuck in our writing or art, we’re simply too close to it or overly focused on the minutia of it.

So let’s all practice stepping out of our minds.  Take my advice.  Get a little bit crazy!  Enjoy the view from the final frontier.  It’s beautiful out here 🙂

To read more about my brain paintings, click here.

Highlighting the Journey

I’m reporting live from the trenches!  Today we focus on action. Today we take a step towards our destiny. We choose a path and our journey begins. Where will your journey take you? I’m not talking about the destination. I’m talking about the places you fell down and first learned about yourself along the way.  Here are some highlights from my journey.  Keep digging!

calligraphy ink on rice paper

calligraphy ink on rice paper

This is the Japanese kanji character for zen.  I took my first Japanese language class last year, and we practiced calligraphy for the final session.  Everyone had to choose a subject.  Most people started out with something simple like “tree.”  My sensei said I chose a complicated one.  Of course!  What better way to learn than by failing from the start.  This is a zen practice, although I’m not sure I was feeling zen at the time.  We only got 3 attempts.  No pressure 😉  I chose to share this one with you because of its overall feeling.  I actually see it as two entities reaching out to each other, trying to grasp something intangible.  The best part of the class was when our sensei told us that the school was donating the calligraphy kits to us.  I got a stone and a stick of ink.  Now all I needed were brushes!

The biggest calligraphy brush ever!

The biggest calligraphy brush ever!

You can see where I’m going with this 😉  The next stop on my journey was to a brush shop at a temple in Japan.  I actually didn’t buy my brushes here, but I did find a brush stand and another unexpected treasure.  Colored inksticks!

Painting of Horses at Senjokaku Shrine

Painting of Horses at Senjokaku Shrine

Painting of Horse at Senjokaku Shrine

Painting of Horse at Senjokaku Shrine

These are photos I took of paintings I saw while visiting The Hall of a Thousand Tatami Mats, which I mentioned in a previous post.  I became really inspired by these horses in particular.  I couldn’t wait to get home and start painting some of my own!  Just remember, you only get this kind of inspiration off the beaten path.  So get going!  See where your journey takes you….

Stay Positive

Here are two ways of thinking that have changed my life.

#1.  No matter what the circumstance, ask yourself “What good will come from this?”

–from Zen and the Art of Happiness 

#2. “What else is possible?”  –from 3 Tips for Dealing with Disappointment