Imperfect meditation...

Sometimes I just feel like drawing...

I've never been particularly good at it. When I was in middle and high school, I would draw crosses and big block letters and fish and tombs... I think I was a little obsessed with Easter. Then I would draw spears and swords and shields, surrounded with very rustic, warrior-like lettering. Let's call that my militant phase. These days, I've discovered zentangling.

For my birthday, my in-laws gave me a book on Zentangle as well as a container filled with tiles, a pen, and a pencil. I learned later that, instead of buying pre-cut tiles, they bought paper and handcut every single tile, making sure to round off the corners. I think my in-laws share gift-giving as one of their mutual love languages, which is nice since it's one of mine as well.

I'd seen some of the tangles that each of them had done. I thought they were cool, but I didn't really understand the concept until I received my present. Zentangle is less about perfection and more about process. In fact, every book I've looked at on the method says that there is no such thing as a bad tangle. You can do no harm, no wrong.

...They must have never met me before

I know what they mean though. But still, I'm a perfectionist, which is one reason I'm learning to love zentangle. It gives me a chance to make what my gut instinct would call mistakes. It challenges me to breathe, to relax my grip on the pen, and to let my heart do the drawing. Normally, when I'm watching TV, I can't focus on anything else. Lately, however, on the nights where I pull out my kit and book, I find myself getting lost in the flow of the ink on the paper before me. In fact, I even bought a large Moleskine sketchbook just so I could have something with me all the time, some way to track my progress.

With how busy the past few weeks have been with schoolwork, internship, increased blogging opportunities, and officiating my best friend's wedding, I've had a hard time being intentional about prayer. I still try to sit down with my Anglican rosary and Merton's Book of the Hours as often as I can, but honestly, there are times I don't want to talk. I don't want to hear any sound. Sitting down with my pens, my pencil, and my tiles and book, I'm able to let my heart rest for a little while. I'm able to let my head take a breather. I'm able to take what I see around me and put it down on paper in a different way than I'm used to. Lines but no words. Dots but no letters. Thoughts but no sentences or paragraphs. It's different, but it's good.

Being in graduate school, there is a huge emphasis placed on perfection, on getting it right. As we near the end of the semester, the pressure intensifies and the stress levels rise. It's harder to rest and easier to become anxious or worried, even for my friends suffering from a severe bout of senioritis. In fact, I think life for most of us is tiresome. We work hard. We spend a lot of time commuting. We struggle to make time for those relationships that are most life-giving for us. Worst of all, we rarely have time to ourselves that is not filled with chores, bills, responsibilities or other fluff.

Find what works for you...

Meditation doesn't have to be perfect. It's not about comparing what you do to what someone else does. It's not about who's better at it or who's more intentional or deliberate. It's just about you. It's about taking time to engage that part of your soul that tend to be forgotten when all you are is busy. It's about breathing, about being aware of your body, your breath, your heartbeat. Pay attention to your joints and muscles. Notice your eyes—are they straining, do they burn, is it hard to keep them open? I know we live in an age where we are constantly surrounded by screens of all sorts. Be intentional about turning them off: your phone, your TV, your computer, your Kindle or Nook. Turn off the music. Turn down the lights (unless you're drawing or reading - you want them on for that). Make time for yourself. You're be better for it, both for yourself and for those you love. And remember, it's ok if this time is imperfect. After all, aren't you?