Blog Post

Why Do We Need Zen to Doodle?

N writes: "I am an artist. My local art association had 2 women guests come and demonstrate the art of Zentangle recently. It is aform of doodle-ing . They said that it is associated with Reiki, Yoga and New Age. . . .

"They use symbols that the creator of Zentangle created. The names of some of the symbols are Opus, Aura, Bales & Cadent ( cadent is from Canine & Dental).  I did not participate in the drawing of a bookmark. I just observed while about 35 others did try it.

"When I talked to the one presenters afterwards, I asked her if she knew that  Reiki is connected to the Occult. She said no.  A few others that I told this to did not believe it.  When leaving, one woman said that she felt like she was in a trance when drawing!

"The presenters said that Zentangle is being taught to adults & children alike.  To those who need therapy for physical, mental or emotional reasons. It is a so- called meditative & relaxing form of de-stressing from life.

"A man & a woman started it. The man is a former Monk! When they have classes they often play New Age or Yoga music. I felt that someone needed to confront them on the Occult connection .

"What is your opinion of Zentangle? And what else can I say to my fellow artist friends about it? Their website is Or just google Zentangle."

Zentangle is one of those practices that seemed to be nothing more than harmless doodling until I probed a little deeper into the people and organizations who are promoting it on the web.  Sure enough, many of its promoters are engaged in all kinds of New Age and occult activities. For example, check out Meiklem Kiln Works where Zentangle classes are taught alongside Reiki attunements, Reflexology and Intuitive Readings.

For those who have never heard of Zentangles (also known as Zendoodles), they are abstract drawings done with pen and ink that consist of sections of patterns, known as "tangles," which are built with small repetitive strokes. As N mentioned in her e-mail, these patterns have names such as Opus, Aura, Bales & Cadent and dozens of others.   These drawings require no artistic talent and are said to be very relaxing.

I have no doubt that doodling patterns can be a fun escape from the stresses of daily life, and in this regard, there's not a thing wrong with Zendoodling.

But when I found this write-up on the practice by Zentangle co-founder Rick Roberts, a former Zen Buddhist monk, I began to sense something strange about this new art form.

"I believe this world is more than I think it is and that I am more than I think I am. But thinking in words and with concepts I've learned -- that limits and restricts what I can imagine and create," Roberts writes.

"That's why I love Zentangle because it's a non-verbal language of patterns and proportions which opens doors to insights which seemed locked before. Creating Zentangles opens those doors, not because they were locked, but because those doors swing on non-verbal hinges.

"When I create a Zentangle I enter a meditative state and my intuition flows free. I get inspirations, ideas and answers unhindered by expectations or worries.

"With Zentangle I become aware of patterns and their underlying structures. I can create new patterns. Zentangle is both metaphor and means for expanding intuitive awareness and deliberately enabling creativity to flow in unexpected directions.

"As a meditational artform, Zentangle leaves a trail of creativity and beauty I can revisit and recapitulate whenever I want. So many insights and a-ha moments happen when I look at Zentangles I've drawn. They are like dreams that don't fade and continue to instruct and inspire me, weeks or years later. . ."

The fact that some people use Zentangle as a way to quiet down and pray is evidenced by this testimony of a former Catholic who uses it for this purpose.

Like I said, doodling can be fun and relaxing, but why can't we just leave it at that?

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