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Pen, Paper and Peace: Finding Zen with Zentangle

November 26, 2020 | Story by Megan Trexler | Commander, Navy Installations Command

WASHINGTON -- Zentangle has become an international phenomenon that has applications in stress reduction, education therapy and even motivational training. Trademarked in 2003 by Rick Roberts and Mary Thomas who drew inspiration by ancient Zen philosophy, Roberts and Thomas combined their insights and talents to create the method of drawing easy-to-learn, relaxing, structured patterns, often in black pen on white paper.

In honor of Warrior Care Month, Navy Wounded Warrior hosted three virtual Zentangle classes during November 2020 to promote stress reduction healing for it’s community. Participants learned how to create Zentangle patterns and arrange them in pleasing geometric layouts.

Elizabeth Smith, who has been enrolled in Navy Wounded Warrior for about two years, was encouraged to attend the virtual events. Smith is well-familiar with Navy Wounded Warrior events and opportunities, having participated in many adaptive sports events and represented Team Navy during the 2019 Warrior Games. However, this was her first non-adaptive sports Navy Wounded Warrior event.

“I really enjoyed the Zentangle class. It’s not something that I thought I would ever try, but I am glad I did. It was calming on not too physical on my body,” Smith said.

Zentangle art is spontaneous and free-flowing, which allows the participants to focus on each stroke, rather than being caught up on the end result. Described by many as meditative doodling, people can learn different patterns and string theme together to create detailed drawings.

Smith shared that even after one session, “Zentangle helped me to reduce stress, calm me down and focus on one thing at a time. Not only did I feel joy while doing it, but I also felt relaxed afterwards.”

Zentangle practices have been attributed to helping people entering a meditative state and is often referred to as “yoga for the brain.”

As the virtual Zentangle class went on, participates followed Zentangle’s mantra of one stroke at a time” and is the practice of mindfully creative beautiful images from repetitive, structured patterns.

Smith said, “It means quite a bit that Navy Wounded Warrior offers virtual events. A lot of us are either alone or have only seen our immediate families during the pandemic. Seeing familiar faces and meeting new people during the virtual events has been great. It gives me an outlet with everything going on.”

Navy Wounded Warrior is the Navy’s sole organization for coordinating the non-medical care of seriously wounded, ill and injured Sailors and Coast Guardsmen and providing resources and support to their families. Through proactive leadership, the program provides individually-tailored assistance designed to optimize the success of the wounded warriors’ recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration activities.


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