Zentangle and mindfulness colouring are wonderful practices which can greatly assist people by providing calmness, clarity and stress reduction. These practices are born out the ancient Buddhist practice of mindfulness mediation. This modern, non-religious western spin can have the benefit of introducing to the mainstream the psychological benefits of this practice in an easy to learn and even fun way. It is also taken off partly as it has been able to be commercialized, by created products to buy in a way that sitting on the ground listening to sounds around you or feelings in your body cannot.
Personally I love Zentangle as a practice and find that because it is so distinct from other everyday activities that could also be undertaken mindfully (such as eating and walking) I find it easier, mentally to remain present and focused.
However as a member of many Zentangle and colouring communities online i’ve noticed that overwhelmingly results focused artwork and the desire for technical improvement has overtaken the practice. The mindfulness aspect of the practice is rarely discussed. Too often people are posting pictures of their work online for approval and social media ‘likes’. Many are also posting pictures of their work asking for technical assistance to improve their abilities. Now i’m not against these things in of themselves, the issue is this now dominates what people newly coming to the practice will see and too often i’ve witnessed beginners feeling very intimidated, stuck because they feel they are not artistic enough and even quitting the practice altogether.
You may also find that if you are someone who either practices Mindfulness Colouring or Zentangle you have got caught up in the trappings of results focused work as your skills have naturally improved. I know I have been there with that.
Since i think it is only naturally to want to improve the work and want to learn new techniques and skills that can be implemented in the mindful practice what i’d suggest then is if you are someone interested in ‘improving’ to make this a completely separate activity to your mindfulness practice. Work on your tangles or colour blending and shading techniques but make sure if you came to these practices as an exercise in mindfulness be sure to devote regular times where you are purely focused on the process.
Some tips to be assist Mindfulness while doing Zentangle or Coloring Practices:
- Do not judge yourself or the output. You are doing this practice for the relaxation of being in the moment, it is not about what you produce. Thus never throw things out mid process or use erasers.
- Never intend on having what you draw or colour as gifts or decorations around your house or artwork to sell if you are doing them as a mindful practice. This intention will not allow you to be mindful and you’ll be overly critical during the process.
- Never ask for feedback or comment on your mindfully produced works. If you want to improve your technique do separate works that you can share for this purpose.
- Do not set out to do an enormous work if it is a mindfulness practice. There is a reason that officially Zentangle practice is on small pieces of card that can be finished within a reasonable time period. For colouring this may not be as necessary.
- Do not do your practice while eating, watching tv, watching children etc.. Treat your practice as a form of mediation and as such you want to be in a quite, calm place free from distractions.
- Treat your practice as mediation and thus equally worthwhile. Some people might think it silly for grown adults to spend time colouring in or drawing ‘doodles’. Do not let these people persuade you this is so. Either keep your practice private like you might other types of mediation or explain it to them as a mindfulness practice. Most people will see the value if you discuss aspects of mindfulness like experiencing calmness, lower stress levels and mental clarity that extends into your everyday life (or whatever you have personally experienced).
- If you are having difficulties getting started perhaps take a class from an instructor that emphasises the mindfulness aspect. Make sure you check this is what the focus is when you are enquiring about any classes. Certified Zentangle instructors will always emphases this but other unofficial classes that have popped up or are branded as ‘zendoodle’ may or may not. Colouring in groups will varying widely. Some will just be social gatherings where adults get together and colour and chat. If it is social interaction you are seeking then by all means get involved but realise that if you want a mindfulness practice you may need to do this in addition in the privacy of your home.
- Mindfulness practice is probably not best done with friends. You’ll just want to socialise or even compare your work. You could though have a technique improving get-together.
- If mindfulness and the process if your priority do not feel you EVER need to work on improving or that you ever need to judge you work. You may get the most out of the practice if you destroy your work once it is finished. In this way you can get some of the similar benefits of the Buddhist mandala sand paintings. Then you will never have earlier works to compare recent ones to and you will be less attached to the practice as producing finished artwork.