IMG_1505I have never considered myself an artist or artistic, but the trauma (and drama) of breast cancer has brought many gifts… surprising me with a heightened awareness of the beauty and patterns the Universe surrounds us with daily. Everything is so much more than it was previously. Cancer has truly amplified the lens through which I view life.

Following surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, I met with Dr. Alessandra Colfi, an expressive arts therapist at the San Diego Cancer Research Institute. I’ve always been attracted to simple line drawings and fractal patterns; so she demonstrated some examples of a drawing method called Zentangle®. I was completely hooked within the hour — I’d found an outlet to express that which I hadn’t even realized was within me. (Visit for more info.)

This art form is a fun way to create seemingly intricate and beautiful abstract images by drawing simple, repetitive patterns.  Since Zentangled art is not meant to be a recognizable picture of anything, you quickly stop worrying that you cannot draw.   In addition to creating beautiful imagery, it’s an eyes-open meditation that increases focus and creativity, along with a deepened sense of personal well-being. Psychology Today calls the Zentangle Method “yoga for the brain.”

It’s fun and easy to learn. The tools needed are few and portable: pen, pencil, paper. You can tangle just about anywhere. I frequently tangled while waiting for medical appointments, which helped me relax to lower my white-coat anxiety blood pressure numbers. (Please note that I’m not a doctor and this should not in any way be construed as medical advice.)

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While I’m fairly new to this art-form, I love sharing the peace and magic of this meditative process, and have deepened my own learning by teaching it to other cancer survivors and caregivers, beginning in early 2015. If you would like to explore this further, please contact me for a class schedule.

Donna M. Freher-Lyons