Let’s Tangle – Creative Meditation for Valentine’s Day

Let’s Tangle – Creative Meditation for Valentine’s Day


What do you want to Grow or Let Go from your heart?

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I’ve been thinking about Valentine’s Day for a while – the cards, the decorations, and the advertising that began well before the start of the month of February. It seems the targets for the deluge and hype of commercialism are romantic love for couples and platonic love for kids. The message we see over and over is buy jewelry, buy chocolates, buy cards, buy flowers, and make reservations for dinner. When my children were young, we baked heart-shaped cookies and addressed cards to classmates. When my daughters became parents themselves, they followed this tradition with my grandchildren. Having been single for more than a dozen years, I have pretty much ignored the modern world’s connotation and celebration of love on February 14.

Historically, Valentine’s Day was started to celebrate love, fertility, and new beginnings. Today, the pressure to be in a relationship and to buy stuff to prove love has led to much psychological distress and even depression for both couples and singles. Not being able to take part in a single day collective ritual results in unmet expectations and amplifies irrational emotions of anxiety and worthlessness. Our self-dislike and disappointment grow within our sense of isolation.

This year, I decided to explore rituals that would have meaning for people like me, so that I wouldn’t feel isolated or alone in the love department. Perhaps you feel broken hearted, perhaps you are tired of watching couples from a distance or perhaps there is something, some spark, you want to grow or a painful hurt you wish to discard. What is missing for you this Valentine’s Day? Are you aware that what you may be missing is love for yourself? Let’s recognize self-love, family love, and love of friends. We don’t have to be in a romantic relationship to celebrate love and new beginnings.

There are movements in communities to broaden our understanding and give depth of meaning to the ‘day of love’. A church in Minneapolis organized an event to create “broken heart valentines” to deliver to state legislators on February 14th as a reminder of the cost of gun violence. Others flood social media with Valentine’s Day status for singles or plan singles Valentine’s Day parties to celebrate friendship. Some decide to spread their love in other ways, like sending a financial valentine’s gift to comfort and care for broken-hearted donkeys around the world. See more.

I have love in my life – lots of awesome friends and colleagues, caring and generous family members and my furry granddogs. I just don’t have a committed relationship, and that feels fine for me at the moment. Valentine’s Day should equal love awareness day. Love of all kinds. The ancient Greeks had six distinct words that describe different types of love: philía, éros, agápe, storgē, pragma, and philautia. It is the latter, philautia, love of oneself that is paramount. One must love oneself before one can truly love another. Valentine’s Day can mean exactly what we want it to mean. Believe that each of us is responsible for making ourselves feel both loved and supported. Love is within each of us. Some examples of showing yourself that love is to write feelings of what you appreciate and cherish about yourself and put it where you will be reminded of how special you are; buy yourself a necklace featuring a key reminding yourself that you own the key to your happiness; treat yourself to flowers, a special dinner, a soak in the tub by candlelight sipping your favourite wine or a love potion (your choice), or experience a mani-pedi and/or a massage – you deserve it!

You may also try the Ceremony of Zentangle®, putting pen to paper, like I intend to do this year. Zentangle® can be defined as focused active artistic meditation that anchors and memorializes an event. It empowers individuals through a calming process and has been used as both an educational and wellness resource.

The philosophy, tools, and ritual of Zentangle® started about 15 years ago by two people who put their talents together – artistic elements from Maria Thomas and meditative process from Rick Roberts. I discovered that when doing Zentangle® or tangling, it is important to remember two things which are also metaphors for life: there are no mistakes and ‘anything is possible – one stroke at a time’®. Before the 14th, gather the tools you need: the 3.5” square high-quality paper, a pencil and black ink pen (research your choices online or ask at the office or art supply store of your choice). Tangles should be composed of very simple elemental strokes. A line, a dot, a circle, a squiggle, or an oval are all acceptable.

Create a comfortable Zen space for yourself, perhaps with low-level background music and set your air diffuser with your favourite scent. Ensure uninterrupted time for yourself (silence your cell phone) and choose a beverage for sipping. The following 8 steps have been used by those who practice Zentangle®, taught by the founders. More detailed information can be found here: and here.

  1. Appreciation/gratitude – tools, time, space. Take the time to set your intention, to touch the tools you will be using and to center yourself in gratitude for this moment in time and space.
  2. Four corner dots, pencil. Slightly in from each of the four corners place a dot in pencil.
  3. Connect dots to form a border. The lines do not have to be perfect – no ruler allowed.
  4. Draw a string, defined as a random line within as if a string was dropped within the border. This divides the box into sections.
  5. Tangle – using a black pen draw a repetitive pattern within each section created by the ‘string’. Google the basic patterns in advance. I suggest checking out the heart patterns in advance here:
  6. Shading – using a pencil, shading adds depth and drama.
  7. Initial/sign – create your unique initials to mark your work.
  8. Appreciation – Feel the gratitude for your creation and the process. This moment has never happened in the past, and will never happen in future. This experience is a one-time event.

Zentangle® is a therapeutic ritual that values the journey as a treasured opportunity to meditate and create. It teaches us to see and understand patterns in the world around us by seeing parts of the whole in design. It has been used in ceremonies like Rosh Hosanna, where observing the cadence of tangling projected on a screen helped people stay focused and cleared their minds for the message of the service. Beautiful artwork to be displayed and remembered was created around the theme of the ceremony.

The artful meditation quiets our minds, promotes spirituality and holds hidden lessons for us. Each blank 3.5” tile represents a new beginning of mindful meditation. The beauty of Zentangle® within the contemplative process and environment allows spirit to move in surprising ways. A friend of mine who introduced me to tangling told me a story about a workshop she attended. Several times she was moved to tears thinking her tiles were substandard, not good enough and that she was out of her league. At the end of one session, everyone placed their tiles on a table in order to appreciate each other’s work. After a period of time people were instructed to find their own – she did not recognize that a piece she loved on that table was actually hers!

Learning about the profound uses of tangling has lit a fire for me to consider ideas about incorporating Zentangle® art into events or ceremonies. The creation of a Zentangle® is celebratory, has no orientation, is portable and timeless. As a Life-Cycle Celebrant®, I am accustomed to writing rituals primarily for weddings and celebrations of life and am always looking for something unique to pitch to my clients. What if each attendee was given basic instructions just prior to the ceremony while they were waiting and then given the tools to tangle a single tile during a ceremony? The abstract memento for the couple or family members when all the tiles are gathered would be an awesome keepsake!

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