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Monday, January 14, 2013


Some rambling thought and experience ingredients that are coming together . . . 

Ingredient 1
Molly and I recently attended an excellent presentation at Brown University in Providence, RI of undergraduate students presenting their research papers on mindfulness.

Because of recent studies of the Zentangle method as a mindfulness activity, we were interested in better understanding this field. We had also seen a TED talk video by Willoughby Britton, whose students would be presenting papers, and we wanted to meet her.

Ms. Britton is one of the faculty in Brown University's Contemplative Studies Initiative. In her video she describes contemplative studies as "a range of mental training practices which are designed to cultivate positive qualities of mind." She lists some of these positive qualities as attention, patience, compassion and generosity.

Molly and I were interested in what these training practices might be and what role a Zentangle practice might play in contemplative studies. We learned a lot and, after the event, we were fortunate to have a long conversation with Ms. Britton, who was very generous with her time.

A few of our take-aways relative to a practice of Zentangle in this context were:
  • positive impact of mindfulness practice on the prefrontal cortex resulting in improved impulse control
  • varied methods of mental training practices and the time it takes to learn them
  • positive correlation between attention and happiness
  • benefits and impact of an ongoing practice

Ingredient 2
Electricity and radio frequency fascinate me and I am studying basic electronics to understand this area of interest. One facet of electrical theory is induction.

Imagine that the metal bar above is not a magnet. If you run a current through the wire (which does not touch the bar) it induces magnetism in the bar and it becomes an "electromagnet."

It works in the other direction, too. This time, imagine that the bar is a magnet. As you move it inside that coil of wire, it induces a current in the wire.

(Nice aura patterning in those magnetic field lines, by the way.  :-)

Ingredient 3
A local CZT was helping out at Zentangle HQ last week. During a great conversation about her recent classes and the meaning of "mindfulness," she put forth an idea that perhaps the Zentangle method "induces mindfulness."

Aha! Quickly, before I might forget, I grabbed a paper and pencil and wrote, "induces mindfulness."

Bringing It All Together
When Molly and I were discussing our experience after the Brown presentation, we were focusing a lot on the various training practices used to test the benefits and impact of a mindfulness practice. Because, before you can test for mindfulness impacts, you first have to train people in a mindfulness practice. Many of these practices can take a while to learn. Some of these practices also might not align with a person's belief system.

What if you could directly, quickly, and reliably induce the relaxed and focused attention of mindfulness without having to learn or believe anything new?

In our opinion, that is exactly what the Zentangle method allows. And . . . you end up with a beautiful tangible result using skills you already have.

Perhaps one reason people enjoy Zentangle more than they expect to is that, when they complete an eye-hand circuit by making repetitive strokes according to the Zentangle method, they induce a resonant frequency of relaxed focus and attention.

At least that is what this Sunday afternoon's musings suggest.

We look forward to your thoughts and comments.



Diane Lachance, CZT said...

The longer I teach Zentangle, the more grateful I become for two important elements of this mind filled art form - no belief system and physical movement. I would agree that Zentangle induces mindfulness for me, and from there so much more....
Thank you Rick, Maria and Molly!

Molly said...

I have learned more from Zentangle than I ever thought possible. It continues to be a way for me to translate and understand life's complex and unexplainable pathways. And as much as it has made me see ways to conquer difficult times, it has also taught me to enjoy, embrace, and love the beauty that is in all of us. And how this becomes visible in what we create.

Genevieve said...

Last week I taught a one-day Zentangle workshop to 66 ladies at the Canadian Embroiderers' Guild in London, Ontario (click here for photos). It was amazing to watch what I call the "quiet period" when everyone is working on their tile. Even with that many people, it was just the same as with a small group. Total quiet focus.

Margaret Bremner said...

I appreciate anything that demonstrates the interconnection of all things, both physical and non-phisical. It's one reason I like mandalas so much. Thanks for sharing your mindful electromagnetic epiphany!

Carole Ohl said...

I wholehearted agree with what your musings suggest! I am constantly amazed and excited that making repetitive marks on paper could induce relaxation (and more!).

Shelly Beauch said...

Thank you Rick for the link, I became so fascinated I ended up watching more videos. Cheers!