How often do you have the tools and resources to do your best work?

Just this past week, I had the experience of thinking deeply about the tools and resources I have available at my fingertips, how I use them, and what else I need to accomplish my work or play in the way I believe to be best.

On Monday, I read a post in a thread I’m following for my graphic memoir work, that proclaimed that groups can’t make decisions. I then watched the cascade of comments and gifs that appeared to reinforce that statement. My response was,

Totally disagree! Groups can be effective at decision-making – they/we need the tools to do it. I totally believe it because I am a graphic facilitator helping groups make decisions. 

This group didn’t use any tools and it was messy!

Can you relate to this scene?

How many times have you experienced the effects of a lack of planning and preparation? The process takes longer, sometimes feelings are hurt and the result is often not optimal. 

Another opportunity for reflection came about as I was rewriting the description for my basic Zentangle class for a new, and very different audience, Zen Peacemakers. As these folks don’t know me, probably most are not familiar with Zentangle, and the majority are from a contemplative, Buddhist practice, the invitation to join the session had to be particularly compelling from their point of view. I went back to my source material and thought it through. The task required that I make time to shift perspectives and voices, in my desire to craft the best possible session description. 

My thinking and practice around all of this are influenced by one of the tenets of Zentangle: Use the best materials at hand, whatever that may be.

I reminded that in all of my public sessions people come either having purchased the suggested (best) materials or some people work with what they have on hand at home. Both are fine because we are doing the best with what we have available. 

It brings to mind my experience in Nepal, at House with Heart, a nonprofit organization that provides a warm and loving family atmosphere for up to 30 children by providing nutritious meals, education, enrichment activities, and healthcare. I happened to meet a board member from HwH in the US at an environmental fundraising event. Knowing that I would be in Kathmandu several months later, and wanting to share this fun, relaxing, and confidence-building practice,  and teach “tangling” to the children. I had brought the “official” materials for the older girls, yet the three, four, five, and six-year-olds wanted to be part of the experience too. We found crayons and notebook paper and they tangled with us beautifully and joyfully. 

When is the last time you worked with materials you had available and did your best work?

Just last week and I completed my work with a coaching client. She came to me with a desire to dramatically shift her digital graphic recording skills and style. We started our journey together by appreciating what she was doing well and built on that foundation, with an eye toward what she wanted to achieve. We co-created her path and I provided her with a variety of ideas, tools, and resources. 

She stepped up, broadening and deepening her knowledge and skills both in her work between our sessions and in the sessions we had together. She discovered new ways to appreciate her work and also discerned opportunities for further growth. This client showed up for the work and play of pushing her growing edge.

This week I attended what I thought would be a meeting like many other meetings—one in which people would share their thoughts in an informal way and little would be done to move forward to meet the challenges we face. I was happily surprised to learn that the meeting method, a Circle, would be used by a skilled facilitator. It was a great example of planning and preparing to have the best experience possible. Our conversation was both heartwarming and difficult. With a safe container and processes, we had the opportunity to go deep. Serious obstacles were revealed. I left the meeting with a mix of emotions. Happily, one of them was hope. 

I believe there is opportunity in crisis — the chance to move forward in a transformational way. 

My question for you is, how do you ensure you have the best materials, resources, people, and more available to you? Of course, the nature of the task, time available, energy, resources, coordination, and collaboration with others are variables to consider, yet the question remains for you. 

What is your philosophy and practice that enables you to do your best?

I would love to learn new ways of bringing my best to every situation. I hope you will share your strategies, tactics, ideas, questions, and resources.

Creating my universe

Just the other day I was talking with my VEOLI buddies (Visualizing End-of-Life Issues) about where we are in our development as a collaborative/group/organization. We’ve been engaged in a low-key version of the 5D Appreciative Inquiry Design process…

  • Defining what are we seeking to achieve—our topic and scope
  • Discovering what we appreciate about our work to date—as individuals and as a group
  • Dreaming about what we want to become (knowing that we have different interests and perspectives)
  • Designing some experiments (social media, collaborations, offering workshops)
  • Delivering what will be

What about you? 

As the half-year mark approaches, what are you appreciating about what you are doing and where you are in your universe?

We began discussing how we fit into the existing professions, organizations, and niches that comprise end-of-life care and work. I volunteered to draft initial ideas and then ask VEOLI members to review, add, change, delete or re-imagine the draft. Initially, I thought I’d start with all the organizations and professions that we had been naming and see how we fit into what they do. When I put the pencil to iPad, I started instead with us, and all of our capabilities and interests. I have created the first draft, though I may completely re-envision it before sharing. We’ll see!


If you were going to create a visual about yourself in your universe, what would it look like?

What is your foundation? What do you appreciate about your work?

What ideas will you explore to determine in what ways you will move forward?

I decided to dig into the question of my current universe… as I’m feeling so many changes afoot in the work that I do. My first draft was completely literal, black and white (so I just had to add a yellow background!)—just get the ideas out of my head and onto the canvas. It is informative and rather uninspiring. Of course, as I was drawing it, I started to think of another way to represent my ideas that felt fun and exciting… so that’s next up for me. Here’s a sketch of the ideas I am going to draw out in the next few days… My path for moving forward—even if that path is in the stars!

“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.