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“Zentangle” Your Way To Less Stress

Life at the office has left you feeling frustrated. It didn’t seem to matter what you accomplished, it felt wrong. Now, you feel stressed and anxious and really don’t know what to do about it. Do you just stew on it and become even angrier? Do you tell your friends? Or…do you try something different called Zentangle?

Michelle Keeley, CZT, suggests taking a Zentangle class will give you the tool you need to handle stress, depression, ADHD, or any other traumas you may encounter. If you can put your name to paper, you can do Zentangle. Impossible? That’s what I thought. But… I was wrong. Recently I took a class from Michelle and learned the process had a soothing effect. And, everyone in class put out something of beauty.

Meditative Art

Zentangle is a method of using simple strokes to create patterns. The act of these repetitive strokes produces a meditative experience that can calm the mind. Focusing on each stroke forces you to be “in the moment.” It’s kind of like when practicing a yoga pose to improve your body. As a lean body is a byproduct of yoga, a lovely artwork is the byproduct of Zentangle.

A Certified Teacher of Zentangle

Michelle’s interest in teaching came after taking a class from a woman in Connecticut who was using the Zentangle method to help the teachers, parents and students work through the grieving process after the terrible shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. She gave the example of one child who had retreated into himself. At his first class he would only make small marks tightly in a corner of the paper. After a couple of classes he opened up and began happily using the whole page. This outward reflection of his inner change was inspirational and made Michelle know she wanted to be able to help others learn to find peace through their artwork.

For Michelle the certification process, though it took a mere 4 days, was intense — and phenomenal — at the same time.

“They would not tell us ahead of time what we were going to be drawing. You just had to work on a position of trust. They would tell us to take out a paper tile, black pen, pencil, and blending sump. Then, they would dictate the stroke to use. You would simply follow step by step and the pattern would unfold. It was interesting to work from that position as opposed to having a preconceived idea about what we were going to draw. It’s really opening yourself up to the process and focusing on each stroke and being in the moment–no thought for the future or the outcome.”

The Zentangle method is deliberately abstract so there is no pressure on “doing it right” or fearing mistakes. In fact, there is no use of erasers as a reflection that there is no eraser in life. This philosophy encourages accepting when something goes awry, incorporating it, and moving on.

The people who have tried Zentangle say that it gives them a sense of peace, calm, forgiveness, and appreciation of self — both from a creative and mental health standpoint.

Stress Management, Depression, PTSD, and More

Like most of us, Michelle’s life has had times when she felt the pressures of stress. In the past she would look to food, shopping or other less than helpful ways to handle that stress. Now, she picks up her pen and paper and feels the stress fall away. Seeing firsthand that it worked for her, Michelle knew it would work for others. She recently had an experience that further drove that point home.

While at a craft store, Michelle got to talking to a gentleman about supplies. He said painting helped him to relax. She asked him if he had heard of Zentangle? He hadn’t but immediately started taking notes. Michelle told him it is really good way for people to cope with depression and PTSD. At the mention of PTSD, his whole demeanor changed.

“It was like I had thrown him a life preserver. We talked quite a bit about how Zentangle could benefit him and his son, who is bipolar. At the end he actually gave me a hug. I mean, this is a perfect stranger. He said, ‘I definitely want to work with you. You are so easy to talk to.’ For me, that made my whole day. To be able to get that feeling of being able to help other people in such a profound way is amazing.”

Classes on Tuesdays

Classes will be held on Tuesdays in May at Paint Your Heart Out, 125 Mill Street, in Occoquan, VA. Fees are $25 per person ($15 for 15 and under). All classes are from 6:00 – 8:00 pm.

May 3 – Beginner 1
May 10 – Beginner 2
May 17 – Beginner 1
May 24 – Shading Basics

For students who are interested in taking classes, you can sign up for them by sending your name, date of the class, and contact information to Michelle is also available for individual, group, or corporate team building classes.

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