Zentangle your way to happiness

Cover of Joy of ZentangleI first came across zentangles when I was searching through the library new titles lists. I was fascinated. Could there really be an art form I had never come across before?

Well, yes there is. Zentangling is new, it’s fun and (truly) anyone can do it.  It’s a simple process. You take a pencil, draw a frame, add a string then fill in the spaces with ‘tangles’ or patterns using a black ink pen. There’s no rubbing out. You have to trust your intuition and let the design evolve in its own way – very Zen. The results are striking and it’s easy to produce a good looking piece of artwork in a short time.  I guess you could call it doodling with purpose.

Zentangles have been developed by calligrapher, Maria Thomas, and her Buddhist partner, Rick Roberts. One day Rick observed Maria drawing background patterns on a manuscript and noticed she was in a calm state of well-being similar to that achieved through meditation. The couple decided to develop a system that would bring this good feeling to others and zentangles were born.

You do need to become a Certified Zentangle Teacher to teach the system correctly. There are beautifully textured cards to tangle on, micron pens and pencils to buy through the Zentangle website but if you’d like to give zentangling a go without investing more than a couple of dollars – grab a notebook, a black pen and one of the titles available at Christchurch City Libraries. These books will teach you the basics and set you on the path.

I’m Zentanglethoroughly enjoying the process. I’ve heard of many creative types who’ve struggled to produce any work recently. If you’re like me and are finding it hard to concentrate, this may just be the way back to the creative zone. Limiting colour and size simplifies your choices and you never feel the need to produce something impressive or ‘worthy’. Time disappears and each line takes on its own dimension and purpose.

A zentangle is a puzzle of your own creation and only you know how to solve it. Highly recommended creative escapism.

Happier at home

Cover: Happier At HomeThere really is no place like it, and with Gretchen Rubin’s help we are all about to become even Happier at Home.

You might remember Ms Rubin as the author of the hugely successful The Happiness Project. In that book she tackled her overall life happiness. Her book took the self-help world by storm, even though her approach is not like falling off the nearest log, and in no way subscribes to the “To-day is the first day of the rest of your life” school of thought. Ms Rubin’s makes you work for your breakthroughs and we seem to love her for it.

In this, her next offering, Ms Rubin focuses her attention on being happier at home. There are over 600 titles at Christchurch City Libraries that purport to help us become happier, wherever we are. Yet Gretchen Rubin’s books rank amongst the most popular of that genre. I’m only really going to start worrying about her if her next book is entitled Happiest at Work, and even then I’ll probably read it.

So, why have we taken to her in such a  big way?

It’s that “happier” that is the key. Because Rubin is already happy at home. She has a supportive husband, two lovely daughters, a very good job, no money problems, is more than passably good looking and appears to be in robust good health. Some of you nay-sayers out there will already be thinking: “V for Vomit – she is altogether too perfect for my poor tattered little life.” (In which case you may prefer How to be Happy, Dammit  or the palate cleansing The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking).

But think about it: if we are totally honest with ourselves,we really aren’t all that badly off. But, like Rubin, we just yearn for more. And who better to turn to than someone who has already got most of what we want?

Eventually – after you’ve read both books – Rubin boils it all down to eight “Splendid Truths” (I know, sometimes you do just want to give her a bit of a slap!). But I’m not going to spill my gut here by telling you what they are, because, since reading her books, one of my personal happiness projects is to become better friends with silence (this is fancy-pantsy-speak for shutting-up), in the hope that I will no longer have that desperate need to fill all conversational pauses.

I don’t know if it’s going to make me any happier at home, but so far no one else is complaining!

Little pieces of happy

ImageLast week I got my handbag back.  Retrieved from my library by brave team leaders, it contained a number of important things like my driver’s licence and wallet and cellphone.  But the thing that made me happiest was the unexpected rediscovery of a ring in one of the pockets.  It’s ridiculously huge, shaped like a star, and covered in rainbow diamantes.  Every time I look at it, it makes me smile.  And I figure that’s a pretty good deal right now.

Like standing in a busy library (even if it’s not my regular one), and watching people hang out and spend time with friends and family, borrow books and music and movies, and have coffee together.

Like hearing librarians say they are finally beginning to enjoy reading again, and discussing their books choices (Barbara Trapido’s Sex and Stravinsky – mostly great but with a less-than-average ending; Rachael King’s Magpie Hall – a great read; F G Cottam’s The Waiting Room – beautifully written ghost story).

Like unpacking boxes of shiny new books and sending them off to people who have been waiting for them.

Like reading on a national news website that the Australian Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book is being re-released.

Like … well, what’s made you happy recently?