The Art of Meditative Doodling

Zentangle, an evolving creative form has travelled from the US to Bangalore

Published: 25th June 2014 07:39 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th June 2014 07:41 AM   |  A+A-


BANGALORE: We doodle all the time. We absentmindedly create repetitive patterns when on calls or during meetings. Even as children, some of us have drawn doodles in the margins of our school books to get past boring sessions. But US-based monk Rick Roberts and calligrapher Maria Thomas decided to turn this 'lazy doodling' into a much more serious art form, which would help  people to not only overcome boredom but induce  relaxation as well.

Little did they know then that it would evolve into something  widespread and touch lives in not only the US but across the world. Presently, there are more than 1000 trainers in USA. And closer home, in India and Bangalore, the art form is evolving thanks to the efforts of Dilip Patel, who was one of the first to take to this artform two years ago.

Dilip’s tryst with Zentangle began because of his wife, K H Malathi. He recalls, "My wife had just retired from her job at HAL, and was looking forward to spending her post-retirement days travelling, meeting friends and learning new art forms. But as her mother was ill, she was forced to stay at home and look after her." While surfing the net to look for ways to keep her occupied, she discovered Zentangle. She started spending time meditatively doodling and over time, Dilip started seeing some positive changes in her behaviour. “As I trained people for a living, I was curious to know the reason for the change in her behaviour. I researched further and came across the concept of Zentangle.”

And he admits, he was captivated by the beautiful and intricate patterns and the idea of using just a pen and paper and some quiet time to create a wonderful piece of art. “We explored and learnt more about the art on our own and we started posting our creations online. This is when Rick noticed our work and I was invited to visit the US to learn more about Zentangle from them,” he fondly reminisces.

Zentangle, derived from the Japanese word ‘Zen’ for meditation and English word ‘Tangle’, has a philosophical base. It has been known to improve self-esteem, creativity and to keep you calm and focussed. This is because Zentangle "helps you to stay in the present." And Dilip emphasises that this technique, akin to meditation, offers benefits proven by scientific research as well. He states, “When you meditate, your mind goes into an ‘alpha state’ and your brain is idle and calm. Zentangle has a very similar effect on the mind.”

Dilip recounts a story of his wife’s aunt who was 78. After losing her husband, she was gripped by loneliness and used to wallow in the past. “She was then introduced to Zentangle and it brought about a great change in her,” Dilip says. Another 64 year old woman, who had undergone chemotherapy, has also benefited from Zentangle. "In fact, she was so thrilled by the concept that she started doing Zentangle right after her operation.”

So how do you draw a Zentangle? “The first rule of Zentangle is to start without planning,” Dilip says. You start by marking four dots on 9 cm by 9 cm piece of paper. Then with a pencil, you connect the dots. “The objective is to use your pencil like it is taking a walk, without laying too much focus on how you are using it.” Once you create a frame, you can divide this into smaller spaces by drawing random designs. The last step is to fill this area with repetitive designs chosen from an existing list of patterns, or 'tangles.' "This entire process takes about 20 minutes." And since it is meditative doodling, there is no set outcome, no mistakes, so no critical assessment of the work. "Zentangle turns everyone into an artist."

In two years, Dilip, a certified Zentangle teacher, has taught over 250 students  and he has ambitious plans of going ahead. He wants to reach out to 500 people this year.You can contact Dilip Patel for a Zentangle class by emailing at

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