Sunday, August 18, 2013

Guest Post: A Tangled Life

Do you ever feel like your life is a tangled knot and you are trying to find the right string to release the mess?  It seems schedules, obligations and family have a way of getting twisted and turned until we find that we have to put everything back methodically in its right place.
When unknotting strings, more often than not, we find that we just need to relax the tension to make the knot easier to unravel. Likewise, if we keep pulling ourselves in too many directions, we just pull our knotted lives tighter.

It is a constant task for me to find ways to give tension, worry and busyness less control so I do not create the knots that drain energy.   I find there are two ways that help keep my life calmer. One is for me to do some creative act, which explains my obsession with needlework and paper crafts. Another, which is more important, is to spend time in scripture and meditate on what God is saying to me.  This is harder because it requires a time of quiet.  My goals: Relax – Reflect – Renew – Replenish.

Time in scripture, both reading and journaling, is easy for me.  The difficulty that I have is finding the quiet time, the time to listen and allow God to speak to me. One side of my brain says “be still” and the other side of my brain begins making lists of what I should be doing.  Do you ever have this problem?  I have found that when I do crafts, my hands are busy, but I am not concentrating on completing the craft.  And when I meditate, I am concentrating but also looking for something to do with my hands.
To counter this brain argument, I have added Zentangling (the formal name for the art form) to my mediation time.  I think it was the name that first attracted me. Zen is a Buddhist idea that emphasizes enlightenment through meditation and insight. Zentangling is like doodling, but is more meditative.  Everyone can do it; there is no wrong way and it is entirely your own.  Even if you try to copy a Zentangle, it ends up different.  Like walking a labyrinth, it is quiet time; like a rosary, it is structured repetition; like a walk on the beach, it is refreshing.  If you doodle at all – you can Zentangle.  I think of it as a way to minimize the tangles of life.

It does not require training. You can find inspiration in the art of others, nature, or your own imagination.   You can also find helpful information on the internet.  Most people start with a small scrap of paper, a pen and pencil.  The pencil is used to draw a line called a string – the only purpose it serves is to break up the white space into smaller areas. The pen is used to draw repetitive lines and shapes in areas of the string.   I  Zentangle by free hand or use stencils for outlines.  You can also use coloring books, which provide large, open pictures.  I sometimes use geometric shapes -a favorite because they are like mandalas, plus I finally find a way to use the geometry I took in high school!

Zentangling helps me relax and reflect.  I note scripture verses or quotes, and then begin to draw. Because I will be leading a workshop on MeditativeTangling  in January and do not want to miss any of the benefits of my quiet time, I have drawn a few outlines in advance so I can simply pull them out when I need them.
It is easy to do the repetitive lines while listening to God and contemplating a quote or verse. Letting God in to ease the knot of life allows me to experience a sense of peace and energ y to go forward with the day, or to silence all those things still demanding attention at the end of a long day.  I have found that,  without much planning, the Meditative Tangling begins to take form and my time with God provides a lasting gift not only of renewal, but of art. After all, it is God who is the great Creator.

Renda Brinson is the Director of Christian Education. She lives in Matthews with her dog, Daisy. Renda has four grown sons, and is expecting her fourth grandchild any minute now! If you enjoy her writing, you should check out her blog at

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