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Art for Therapy: This Bengaluru Couple Is Using Doodling to Help People Heal

Dilip and Malathi, who have the credit of being India’s first certified Zentangle teachers, organize workshops and classes across the country, helping people with no artistic background find peace.

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Different people turn to therapy for a plethora of reasons, and over decades, a range of therapeutic practices have developed that can help one cope with different forms of unease.

One such method is the incorporation of art, or more precisely, doodle art.

Courtesy: Dilip.

Remember doodling on your school and college notebooks? It was the escape from boring lectures and seminars, wasn’t it? Well, it felt good because it’s therapeutic.

That’s what the art of Zentangles is all about – a therapeutic method discovered in 2004 that has been helping people boost their self-esteem and concentration through art all over the world. One Bengaluru couple is on the pursuit to extend this practice in India.

Dilip P. Patel and Malathi Karpur, who have the credit of being India’s first certified Zentangle teachers, have been organizing workshops and classes across various cities in the country, helping people with no artistic background find peace through this simple technique.

Zentangles, derived from the Japanese word ‘Zen’ for meditation and English word ‘Tangle’, was discovered by a US-based couple Maria Thomas and Rick Roberts.

Dilip with some of the Zentangle enthusiasts. Courtesy: Dilip.

While filling up blank spaces on her calligraphic assignment with simple pen strokes, Maria experienced a sense of timelessness, freedom and well-being – losing the track of time and being completely engrossed in what she was doing.

Terming her experience as being in a meditative state of mind, the couple found the simple and elegant system called the Zentangle Method, where one got a sense of satisfaction through the repetitive pen strokes that have the potency to arrest the mental activity or thoughts in the brain.

The method is as simple as it gets. Meant to be completed using black ink on white paper, none of the Zentangles are created with a rock-solid plan in the mind, thus, allowing the pattern to reveal itself as you draw.

The entire process is intended to be without judgment, where the mind is free to traverse a path free of any sort of inhibitions.

Some Zentangles by participants in a workshop. Courtesy: Dilip.

“The classic Zentangle art piece would flow out on paper without any intervention by the mind. Something that was created without any planning (by the mind), would never require any criteria for judgement during its creation”, says Dilip, who had the privilege of learning the method directly from the founders.

Meant to be abstract, a Zentangle does not have a start or an end point. With each deliberate stroke, one is encouraged to refrain using erasers so that stray marks end up creating interesting, unexpected patterns.

“Learning from one’s own mistakes can be foundations for new patterns and takes one to unexpected and exciting new directions”, he explains.

So how does any of this fit into therapy?

Dilip and Malathi (centre) amidst a group. Courtesy: Dilip.

Dilip clarifies that just the way practising traditional meditation could work as therapy, so would the practice of making Zentangles.

“Therapy is different for different people with different needs. To tackle stress, dejection, depression, or even pangs of loneliness, the mind requires snapping out of its reverie constructed out of negative thought processes. The more one dabbles in the Zentangle method, the more easier it is to pull out of the constant negativity buzzing in one’s head,” he elucidates.

Anyone can create a Zentangle, including those who shy away from art, feeling not talented enough. Something that seems intricate and complicated at first glance, its creation is more like a magic trick that seems to be mind-racking at first, until the moment you learn of its secret.

Owing to its meditative qualities, the Zentangle Method is slowly being adopted as a means for therapy worldwide, helping liberate people with an increased sense of personal well-being while providing artistic satisfaction all along the way.


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Among many people who have been part of Dilip and Malathi’s workshops, one of the most enriching experiences for the couple was in 2015, when they came across a group of young girls at a remand home who were hapless victims of trafficking.

“The first time we met them, they looked more like zombies with no absolute interest towards living. But as we progressed with the sessions, we could see them blossoming in front of our eyes – disassociating themselves from the grief they’d experienced and reaching a greater state of mind while dabbling with Zentangles”, Dilip reminisces.

Starting with the home city, the couple has been invited to conduct workshops in cities like Mumbai, Pune and Hyderabad since 2013.

To know more about Zentangles or the workshops, you can write to Dilip at dilip.patel@gmail.com.

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Written by Lekshmi Priya S

Shuttling between existentialist views and Grey's Anatomy, Lekshmi has an insanely disturbing habit of binge reading. An ardent lover of animals and plants, she also specializes in cracking terribly sad jokes.