“You are wrong.” 

I could not believe that those words were leaving my mouth! After 90 minutes of teaching and sharing the Zentangle method and philosophy…

  • Zentangle — It’s about consistency not perfection. 
  • No mistakes — Every line is an opportunity, we embrace every mark that is ours as artists.
  • There is elegance in limits.
  • My place in the circle, everyone’s place in the circle, is a unique perspective. No one else can see the same view.

I had been working with the participants to leave their inner critic “at the door”/outside the room and to develop a calm presence with a relaxed focus. Emphasizing the number of ways there are to use shadow (this isn’t art class), combine patterns or create their “chops”/signatures, underscored the flexible nature of this art form that has a handful of guidelines.

But in fact, the participant was wrong. 

When is the last time you were in a situation in which you needed to deliver the message that something was seriously amiss? What was the context? How did you prepare to deliver the words that feel like a bucket of cold water to the person receiving your message? How did you get back to a place where the conversation could move forward with each person feeling heard and understood? 

At the end of every class, we gather up everyone’s work to create a mosaic. We make time to appreciate the beauty of the individual tiles and the work of the entire group. The participants always remark on the similarities across the tiles and marvel at the differences they created, as each piece is unique.  

Everyone has the:

  • same instructions
  • same materials
  • same process

and yet everyone’s tile is different!

Yesterday, in organizing the tiles on the table, some of the folks in the group were particularly interested in ensuring that everyone’s tile was at the same orientation. Orientation can be discovered through where people put their chop on the tile. As we look at this nonrepresentational art, we search for clues as to how to interpret it, and the chop gives us the clue to the artist’s thinking. 

I never mention anything about how we might organize the tiles, I seek to understand what people want. I embrace whatever arises in the sharing of their work. To me, it’s really the cacophony of the styles and orientations in the mosaic that adds to its beauty. That’s my perspective!

Well, it was almost pistols at dawn! 

The tiles were organized as you see them here, with the chops at the bottom of all the tiles—which was (perhaps) easily understood if you were standing at either the top or the bottom of the mosaic. A woman standing next to me, on one side, was adamant that the tiles were not facing in the same direction and started to move a few around. There was a bit of back and forth about it. The air got prickly! I could sense the energy shift. I was surprised because this was the second set of tiles we were making into a beautiful gathering and the first time had been like butter. 

I felt the need to intervene quickly. And, while I was shocked and amazed—and I did think before saying it— I told the woman who was agitated, “I hate to say this (pause) you are wrong.” She was stunned! It took her back. And that led her to look differently at the tiles. I explained the reasoning again, and this time she was able to hear and see it. I sought to break the tension by pointing to Zentangle philosophy, about how this process helps us to shift and take a different perspective. Happily, everyone just started talking again and all was well. 

The event ended on a high note with people feeling energized and amazed at their own abilities. As I was packing up, one woman said, “I can’t believe I did this! I am not an artist” to which I replied, “You are now.” Then one of the men came up to me and told me this was the fourth time he was tangling with me—having taken classes with me over the years. In spite of our wearing masks, I had recognized him—though I didn’t remember that I had seen him three times previously. I was delighted that he continued to find joy in tangling!

I feel this when I am tangling…

“Fill the paper with the breathings of your heart.”

William Wordsworth


 Just in case you want to try your hand at tangling…

On June 14th, you can discover the joy of Zentangle (or take your tangling skills to the next level) in my free session. Bring a friend to support you in continuing to tangle after our class together!

Learn to tangle!

Begin the journey by exploring the roots of this art and the steps to follow to draw your own beautiful patterns. In the very first class, working with creamy white tiles, a black Micron pen, pencil, and a tortillon/smudger*, you will learn how to create your own beautiful Zentangle tiles and leave with a hunger to learn even more!

6.14 at 8 pm EST/7 pm CST/6 pm MST/5 pm PST

Register here.

*When you register you will receive information about the Zentangle materials to have on hand. I also provide a list of alternate materials that everyone has around the house. 


A deep dive into tangling!

If you’re ready to explore more deeply, join me for Zentangle Project Pack No. 14, a special tangling event to recognize the importance of Mental Heath Awareness. Look here to discover more! It’s going to be amazing!

I hope you will join me!

Just a few ideas about finding and maintaining equanimity…

May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the US…

How are you taking good care of your mental well-being?

While it’s always been important, the past few years have highlighted the need for giving consistent attention to our own self-care. The direction to, “Put on your oxygen mask first” is critical for us and all those around us. (I don’t even need to draw that visual right?) If we do not take care of ourselves we cannot work with the challenges in our own lives, much less care for and help others. 

In the early summer of 2013, I discovered Zentangle during my search for resources for high school students engaged in the college admissions process. My coaching clients wanted and needed tools to support them in moving through their feelings of anxiousness, confusion, and overwhelm. I wanted to provide methods that would help them feel agency in their lives— something they could do on their own, developing their confidence, giving them pleasure, and engaging their creativity.

The Zentangle Method is a way to find calm and focus using simple steps and basic strokes to create beautiful designs. 

In November of 2013, I became a Certified Zentangle Teacher. Since then I have taught over a thousand students around the world — in Australia, Canada, India, Nepal, Singapore, South America, and the United States, in person and online (even before the pandemic). It is a practice that brings me, and my students joy, and nurtures relaxation.

What do you do that nurtures your well-being?

Okay, maybe walking and resting…

There are so many possibilities! I love the idea of a vacation—really getting away from the daily routine. And yet what supports me consistently is the small actions I take on a daily basis.  Enjoying a cup of coffee and reading for 20 minutes or so before walking Gus in the early morning, making art of some kind—tangling, watercolor, painting with acrylics. Getting out and walking a mile every day, in all kinds of weather, or working with crafts—knitting, quilting or slow stitching. And, there are those weekly “musts” of connecting with friends around the world over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.

I’d love to hear what you’re doing to find equanimity. I hope you will share your methods and resources with me.

 Just in case you want to try your hand at tangling…

On June 16th, you can discover the joy of Zentangle (or take your tangling skills to the next level) in my free session. Bring a friend to support you in continuing to tangle after our class together!

Learn to tangle!

Begin the journey by exploring the roots of this art and the steps to follow to draw your own beautiful patterns. In the very first class, working with creamy white tiles, a black Micron pen, pencil, and a tortillon/smudger*, you will learn how to create your own beautiful Zentangle tiles and leave with a hunger to learn even more!

6.14 at 8 pm EST/7 pm CST/6 pm MST/5 pm PST

Register here.

*When you register you will receive information about the Zentangle materials to have on hand. I also provide a list of alternate materials that everyone has around the house. 

I hope you will join me!

Reflecting on the Shape of Our Lives

Two weeks ago, I posed these questions…

🌀 What experiences have nurtured and shaped you throughout your life?

🌀 Who has inspired and supported you over the years? Who might do so in the future?

🌀 As you view and reflect on all these answers, how have these “nutrients” formed your essence? (Another metaphor may be, “What is the foundation you are standing on?“)

🌀 What more do you want to bring into your life? And, conversely, what will you let go of or re-shape to better serve who you are now and want to be in the future?

I am wondering if you made the time to answer them. I hope so! Here’s the overview of my thoughts:

As promised, I devoted time to reflecting on the people in my life—past and present—who have helped me grow intellectually, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. While my drawing identifies few folks by name, I took a walk through my memories, from childhood through to the present. The revisiting of my life experiences—from relationships to schooling, travel, work, and more has led me to appreciate the successes and challenges that have, in part, formed who I am at this moment in time.

Happily, I have an ever-widening circle of friends and colleagues who continue to inspire me. Interestingly, I am letting go of just a few of my projects (though I love them) to make more time for what I am deciding matters most to me.

I hope that you have savored your journey from the past to the present too.

Opportunities for learning and growing—oh my!

Gosh, it’s been an amazing couple of weeks! I’m stretching in new and unexpected ways!

What’s your spring been like?

  • In March, I began a course of study that requires me to use new processes and formats. Part of the work is writing/drafting, submitting, revising, submitting, revising, and sending off finished papers about all of our courses. It’s a rigorous (and lengthy) process! 
  • I’ve started working with a mentor. Deciding on the shape of that experience with a person completely new to me is both exciting and challenging. I am at the beginning of a two-year journey and there is much to consider… my background, interests and goals, her expertise, our styles of interaction, the nature of such a relationship—it’s complex!

  • Just last week, I offered a joint coaching session to the two participants who had most successfully followed the guidelines I created for assessing graphic recording work, (from my session for the Visual Jam). It was such a delight working with these women who came in with high-quality visuals and helping them to make their pieces even better. Another set of eyes, a different perspective, it’s a gift.
  • I’m developing a visual storytelling piece to present at a conference in July. While the concept is really clear in my mind, how it comes together on paper/my iPad is still a work in progress. I decided that I needed support and so reached out for an accountability buddy—to get the work and play of it done—and to offer me feedback. It’s been awesome! My colleague, who is an accomplished author, shares ideas that would never have occurred to me. Happily, I do the same for her current project.
  • One of my clients is seeking to dramatically change her approach to digital recording. Each coaching session we review recent pieces together, identifying what’s working and why, then we discuss alternatives to the options chosen re: layout, use of color, lettering hierarchy, iconography, and the harmony of text and drawings. (This is the type of work I do for myself too. At the end of almost every project, I look at what I have created and think of at least one other way to do it completely differently! It is both a blessing and a curse to have those insights.)

What projects are on your plate?

How are you gaining perspective about your work? 

Who are your mentors, guides, or coaches as you continue to learn and grow? 

How is the “feedforward” you’re receiving supporting your goals?

As you can tell, I always believe that it’s possible to do things just a bit better! Old dog, new tricks!

Reach out to me if you want to explore your next best steps.


Postscript: In honor of  May as Mental Health Awareness Month, I am going to post again tomorrow with my visual from two weeks ago and one of my favorite resources for taking good care of myself. 

A gift from the heart…

How can we show our love for our mothers?

Here’s a Mother’s Day gift idea filled with planning, preparation, kindness, compassion, and wholehearted love.

I believe that the reality of our mortality is the most powerful tool for inspiring us to live and love fully. There is only now, this moment, we cannot be certain of the future. With these ideas in mind, it is crucial for all of us to prepare for our inevitable death. We may be able to be more present, compassionate, and supportive during our loved one’s time before death if we enter into the work of talking about death and dying, and love and living. One of the greatest gifts I can give to those I love is dignity, presence, and following their wishes at a time of great vulnerability, in the dying process.

Having the conversation(s) about how you (and perhaps others) will care for your mom and how she wants to live the remainder of her life—the quality of life she desires— is a very special experience. I believe that it’s one of the most important discussions you’ll ever have with her.

I understand completely that there may be challenges to engaging in this dialogue:

  • Making time to think through which questions you need to ask to become clear about your mother’s wishes
  • Imagining how to have the conversation—from the introduction of the subject through to a successful conclusion
  • Answering the questions you are asking for yourself too, as your loved ones need to know those answers (and your answers may provide ideas for conversation with your mom)
  • Deciding together who else needs to know about your mother’s wishes so that all who might be called to act on them are clear and will honor them

(This intimate exchange may also be the time to share your thoughts about what you desire—or it may be too much for either one of you, and better left for another time (soon). Are you clear in your own mind about what you want? Are you able to explain it to your loved ones? Having legal documents (a will, power of attorney documentation, and Advanced Care Plans) is critically important. Of equal import is the conversations that make the documents come alive and provide clarity through specificity for those who may be placed in the position of making decisions.)

While we don’t want to think about life without our loved ones, we know that we need to be prepared for it. How would you feel if something suddenly happened and you didn’t know what your mother wanted you/your family to do?

Preparing for the conversation

Remember your purpose in creating the space for this conversation, it is the desire to learn about what your mother would want when, not if, her body fails her.

Speak from your heart. Listen from your heart too.

Here are some questions that may help you imagine this conversation. I have provided answers that I give about my wishes, in the hope they will be of support. 

“What would you want me to do for you if you got so sick that you couldn’t talk to me? What would you want from your medical care? What would be important to you at that time?”

“I don’t want any aggressive treatment, I just want you to let me go.”

What exactly does that mean?  

“If it was something temporary, reversible, and I could resume my life, communicating with others, being awake, and alert, then that type of measure would be acceptable. But no tracheostomy, ventilator, no nursing home. 

You know I am a very active person, I love that about my life. My family and friends, my art, travel, volunteering, my connection to my spiritual community, and my work are everything to me. I would hate a prolonged dying process and drawn-out dependency on others. I seek to live life well every day.”

While I can understand that those who love me might want to care for me and yet I could not do well without my independence. If I cannot care for myself and enjoy my life then I would want only comfort until I die.”

“I will never leave you. I live on in you.

If you want support in this delicate and important process, please reach out to me for conversation and resources.  

* This gift is meant for everyone. Think of the special people in your life and consider having these heart-opening conversations about living life fully and planning for the end of life.

Find the right time—but don’t wait for the perfect time.


PS: Next week I will circle back and share my completed visual from last week’s post!