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It is Just a Suggestion, Not a Demand.

I am very attracted to the philosophy behind the Zentangle Method. Strangely, it was the one thing that was missing in my practice when I first started tangling so many years ago. It was missing because I didn’t think I needed it and therefore I clumsily tried to make it work without it. I think I was in denial that it was perhaps something I did need and maybe something I was subconsciously searching for. Once I opened my heart and let go of judgment and expectation, I started to see and feel things in a completely different way.

One of the aspects of the Zentangle philosophy that really made an impression on me and transformed my practice was the “Elegance of Limits”. It was also one of the philosophies that I ignored the most in my early days of tangling. I didn’t understand the need for the dots, or the border, or the string, or even the need to choose a specific tangle. I thought that my creative genius would simply guide me to create patterns and composition without limits or constraints. That, of course was not the case. Even though I was full of creative ability and confidence, working without any limitations can be daunting and distracting. So, while my first “attempts” at tangling felt forced and empty, and it turns out I wasn’t tangling at all. I was probably doing something that was a little more like “doodling”. Which, I have so much space for in my heart. I love to doodle, and it has its place. I also now understand the two are very different.

When I finally let down my guard and followed the 8 steps, I immediately found that flow state. It turns out, my creativity was fueled by the guidance. There was this one phrase that I remember my mom saying that was pivotal in me finally discovering my practice. I remember her talking about the 8 steps and saying, “they are simply suggestions, not demands.” I remember thinking to myself, oh that is a totally different story. You mean these are not so much rules, but rather comforting guides. That turned it all around for me. I immediately became drawn to the limitations as places to find inspiration. I no longer denied that need for structure, but rather welcomed it. I loved navigating the idea of “suggestion”. It meant that I could welcome an idea, but it also meant I could ignore it or take it in a different direction if I was so inclined or inspired. Still to this day, though, my work has evolved in exciting ways, I still begin with an intention and awareness of the 8 steps. Even if it is a conscious decision to not use a particular step.

It turns out structure allows us to channel our creativity into a more concentrated way. It is the structure that forces us to make decisions and put ideas into action rather than just thinking about them. The concept of using the structure as a guide and allowing that structure to change or modify to fit our creative momentum is a perfect formula for finding flow and creating art. Use that structure to nurture your process if you need to. Lean on it for support and allow it to bring comfort. Also know that when the moment is right and the inspiration appears, you too can go outside the lines, off the script, and beyond the borders. Know that whatever path you choose, you are the creator, you are the artist.

If you are creating with the “Elegance of Limits” to guide your work, then that is what the Zentangle Method is all about. Regardless of what the finished product looks like, it is the process where it all connects. It is because of this magical balance between structure and freedom that we see such beautiful variety and growth in artists and artwork created with the Zentangle Method.

The simple phrase, “it is a suggestion, not a demand,” gave me the permission I needed to either stay on the path, or if it felt right, explore something outside the structure of the 8 Steps. The Zentangle Method has welcomed its practitioners to do the same from the very beginning. This is why we see such change and growth in the work created over the past 20 years. This is why we see many tanglers launching into other artforms. Zentangle doesn’t make us artists, Zentangle reveals and helps us understand the artist within. Zentangle guides us and encourages us to be whatever type of artist we want to be. I continue to be amazed and inspired by this community. I love to watch each artist’s journey, uniquely navigating the 8 steps in their own way. Each one completely right and all of them supported by the structure, freedom, and beauty of the “Elegance of Limits”. Just a suggestion, not a demand.

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The Eight Steps of the Zentangle Method:
Gratitude and Appreciation (again)

Reposted with permission from zentangle.com.