Cue Zentangle, the art of meditative doodling is a big hit with senior citizens

A circle here. A squiggle there. A few more furious pencil strokes. Most importantly - peace. Who would’ve guessed that our ardent scribbling in the last page of that History notebook in school, was actually meditative? That our seemingly meaningless doodles, that we would later wield proudly as art, reinstated a tantric tranquillity in us, each time we lost ourselves in those bizarre shapes?

Cue Zentangle, the art of meditative doodling. Part of a series by the online Silver Talkies Magazine on Learning Something New, the Zentangle workshop at Atta Galatta, conducted by Dilip Patel, was quite refreshing. Armed with a marker and a white board, Dilip Patel adeptly got everyone present into the groove of doodling, and serenely, at that. As he gave everyone an activity and watched them doodle away, he explained the deeper purpose of the art. “The mind cannot keep quiet — it just needs a small trigger and it will take you places. This needs to be brought down. That is meditation,” he says. “So asking you to do something nonsensical and repetitive like doodling ensures that the mind does not receive a trigger. All Zentangles are nonsense — but they’re beautiful! It’s the same concept as a mantra — focusing on one activity that you lose yourself in.”

So what’s the difference between normal art and Zentangles? Patel says, “The number one rule of Zentangle is no pre-planning, and no post-judgement — there is no right and wrong. This is an activity that keeps you in the present moment.”

Everyone was provided with a pencil and paper, and the atmosphere is indeed tranquil as everyone, of all ages, works away at their Zentangles, under his guidance. There’s a short break of 20 minutes in between for coffee, and I catch up with the truly young at heart senior then.

Dilip Patel is a certified Zentangle teacher. He says, “When I came back from my Zentangle course abroad, I wanted to give back to the society what I had learnt. It is beyond art. Art is just the outcome of something, while this also has the power of learning and stress busting.” Did it personally help him? “Definitely,” he says. “It helped my wife, though. She was stressed after her retirement, times got tough for her and she was always snappy. But after discovering this, she became so much more pleasant and started doing beautiful pieces of Zentangle. With the whole world going crazy now, this really helps you spend a few sane moments!”

So what inspired Silver Talkies to start such an initiative? Says co-editor Reshmi Chakraborty, “There are so many retired senior citizens who truly find it challenging to keep themselves occupied. We started this series on learning something new in the hope that it exposes people to interesting new concepts”.

The Zentangle workshop certainly did expose us to the interesting concept of meditative doodling. For something that requires no special skill, it was an eye-opener for many a senior citizen. And now, this just gives us more reason to go forth and doodle!