23 February 2011

In-between places

Today I had a lovely afternoon at 'Tuesday Tanglers' sitting at the café tangling in-between two dear members of my tangle family,  Michele Beauchamp and Melissa Hughes.  Together with a number of other Tuesday Tangler friends, we chatted, sipped coffee, ate desserts, tangled, shared Zentangles and ZIA, drank more coffee, ate jellybeans, and tangled some more.  What a wonderful way to spend four hours!

That was a very fun 'in-between' place to be. In fact, when I began to ponder this week's Challenge (#10) from I am the Diva – entitled, The Space Between – I realised there are many 'in-betweens' in Zentangle land.

"In-between Places" – © Kit Murdoch, 22 February 2011.
(Click on image to enlarge.)
There's a moment between deciding to tangle and picking up a tile... between putting pencil in hand and touching it to paper... between thinking of a tangle and beginning to draw it... but (here comes another metaphor for Margaret) one of the most liberating 'in-between' places of Zentangle is that magical place we inhabit when we tangle – a place that is neither right nor wrong.  Zentangle is not really even 'in-between' right and wrong (at least, not in the sense that it is half-way between one and the other),

A Zentangle simply IS.  
  • No judgement.  
  • No right. 
  • No wrong.
  • No decision to be made one way or the other.  
Zentangle is a process that exists independently of the 'right or wrong' pendulum swing that seems to proscribe much of our lives.  Sometimes, more so in some aspects of life than others, things may appear to be very black and white. A is right, B is wrong. C is good, D is bad. Or perhaps: X is unpleasant (I experience aversion) and Y is pleasant (I experience attachment).

However, the more I learn about walking the Middle Path in my own life – the more I realise that equanimity (neither aversion, nor attachment) is an important step on the path to objective, self-aware living.  And the best way to achieve equanimity?  In my experience – to live in the present, to experience Reality, to
Be. Here. Now.

Zentangle helps us to live in the Present Moment.  Neither the past, nor the future – but betwixt and between.  When we worry about the future, or fixate on the past, we cease to live in the present.  How can we enjoy all that is real —right here, right now— if we mentally inhabit either past or future?§

For example, I have previously heard the word, fear, analysed in terms of the acronym F.E.A.R. = Future Events Appearing Real. So many of our fears exist only in the (not real) future, in the 'what ifs' and 'maybes' of..... okay – this is karmic in some way, I'm sure!

This Huntsman spider was over a hand span across, from one
leg tip to another. (Clicking image to enlarge is not advised.)
My partner and I just ran around the room (me squealing, at intervals, like a little girl) as a large spider ran across the carpet.  Once he was safely relocated to the outside world, I asked J, "so what wasn't present moment about that particular fear?"  He thought for a split second and replied, "It was clearly a fear based on 'what if the spider crawls on me?' – a future event that did not, in fact, come to pass." Okay... suitably chastened, and having to admit to you all that some future events seem a little closer (and therefore scarier) to the present moment than others, I shall continue.

Before and after shading. (Click to enlarge.)
The reason Zentangle helps us achieve moment-to-moment thinking is because, in the art of Zentangle, our world (our focus) narrows down to, and concentrates on a 3½" (9 cm) square... and then to the pencil string on that 3½" tile... and further, to a segment of the string of that 3½" tile. And then, focussing still more closely, we see just the tangle in that segment of that string on that 3½" square tile. And finally to each individual pen stroke of that tangle in that segment... And so on. 

Where – when our world becomes that simple, that focussed, that meditative – is there room for doubt, fear, worry, or tension in our minds?

All but This Moment in time disappears from our thoughts. The stress and worry we carry, the pain or suffering we push away, the addictions we crave, all of these things evaporate (the past that is gone, and the futures that do not yet exist) – when faced with the Now of tangling, as in meditation.

We reach a seemingly magical place, a place that defies the rules of the ordinary, where we are able to experience our Lives, even if just for a time, Moment to Moment,
BEing Here Now.

In-betweens are often magical places. In Celtic mythology, the in-between places were places of transition, neither one thing, nor the other. Doorways, shorelines, the forest's edge, dusk and dawn are a few examples. These were places of power, where the extra-ordinary was possible, and where the bonds of reality and the every-day were shed.  The transition from sunshine to rain, for example, is often marked by the magic and beauty of a rainbow.
Between sunshine and rain, a rainbow appears.
(Photograph © Kit Murdoch, February 2011. Click to enlarge.)
When I first discovered Zentangle, I was on just such a border between one part of my life and the next.  I didn't, at the time, realise how important that 'in-between' moment was.  But there are many moments of transition and change in our lives when it is a Good Thing to pause, to breathe, and to appreciate. (Does that sound familiar?)

Mary Jaksch writes,
In old houses there is a stone or plank at the bottom of the front door. It is the threshold and marks where ‘home’ begins. It marks the edge of intimate territory. The threshold itself is neither in nor out. It is an in-between place. When you inhabit the place or the moment that is betwixt and between, you inhabit a mysterious realm. Something new, something unknown, is about to open for you. The word ‘threshold’ is a poetic word which conjures up dreams and images and I want to speak of them in the hope that you in turn will begin to dream and that out of your dreams a new awareness will arise.
Begin to dream today.  Zentangle opened up a new world for me.  One more incredible than I could have imagined.  If I never receive any more from Zentangle than I have already, it is a bountiful treasure still.  And yet, I believe – in the deepest reaches of my heart – that my feet have only begun to tread this path.  I have crossed a threshold into the entrance way of Zentangle, and am Positively En-tranced (in the truest sense of both words).

And, this year (in October), I hope to cross yet another great in-between (The Pacific Ocean, between my home and the home of Rick and Maria) to continue on to new Zentangle discoveries, friendships, and family.

The Weepies - Can't Go Back Now (Walk On)
"Go where you want to go, BE what you want to BE!"

One of my fave songs about letting the past be the past... and
walking forward into our lives as they are now.
(Don't click on the screen – it takes you to another song.)


Having tangled away the day, I did not learn until this evening of the devastating earthquake that hit Christchurch, New Zealand today.  I hold in my thoughts tonight all those who, after today's tragic events, wait in-between knowing and not-knowing.  Since I am, for now, unable to do anything other than hold them in my heart, I will – once again – tangle.  Let us hope that, for at least some of those who wait, there will be a rainbow's promise of hope between tonight's grief and whatever tomorrow brings.


*There is a book, Be Here Now – that is worth checking out for the illustrations, alone. And, if you find the ideas attractive as well – have fun exploring (you will soon discover that this book, like Zentangle, also subscribes to the 'there is no up or down' principle [grin]). From Wikipedia: "Be Here Now is a 1971 book on spirituality, yoga and meditation by the Western born yogi and spiritual teacher Ram Dass. The title comes from a statement his guide, Bhagavan Das, made during Ram Dass' journeys in India. The cover features a Mandala incorporating the title, a chair, radial lines, and the word "remember". The book is sometimes referred to as Remember, Be Here Now. The numerous illustrations, including the cover art, are not credited."

§The subject heading of this article amused me (Hobbies and Interests » Good Self Esteem), since it would seem to me to be more than a hobby or interest... but what Phillips writes, particularly in her two opening paragraphs, illustrates the problems of inhabiting the past or future quite well.

Jaksch, M. J. (1999). The threshold. Retrieved February 23, 2011, from http://goodlifezen.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/11/the-threshold.pdf


  1. Wonderful post and fabulous between tangle!

  2. Wonderful post. I like what you said about Celtic mythology and its view of in between spaces. Lovely. Nice back-and-forth-ness in your tile!

  3. wow...all I could do when I read your post today was sit and smile. It made me feel so good about everything, everything that I have, everyone that I care for and know that life is good. Zentangling is so good for those times we need absolutely nothing to worry about, be fearful of or not even have to think about. I am so glad that I have found my way to Zentangle and all the GREAT people I have been meeting along the way. Even though we have many, many miles between all of us, we are yet so close, we have things in common and "get" each other. Love that...

  4. As ususal love your zentangle - such a good expression of recognizing the space between - and thank you so much for your post - it helped me to reflect on all my "inbetween moments" - I think I'll look at those moments in a more positive light now. Wow! coffee and tangles - our schools were closed today due to snow overnight - so I'm home - wish I could've "beamed" down to join you!!!

  5. Oh, Tana! Talk about smiles. Your comment brought out the sunshine in my heart as I read it tonight ('today' on your side of the world!). Thank you for your lovely note. And Ptrish - thank you too for a beautiful, thoughtful comment. I wish you could beam down and join us too. But - tangling on one side of this globe or the other - We Breathe the Same Air! ♥ you all, Kit

  6. Beautiful tile Kit and I love that you showed it, pre-shading. Thanks for your post!

  7. Great seeing this finished, Kit. It really is lovely :)

  8. What a beautiful post, and lovely tangle! :)

  9. Sensational Kit! That goes for your Zt (your string worked perfectly) and your post, reading it was a wonderful start to my day!

  10. Thank you everyone for the phone calls, the personal email messages, and the encouraging comments in general. I feel lifted on the strong shoulders of our tangle family today. Your words and responses - wow! and thank you!

  11. Excellent, Kit! And the most liminal time of all--for mother and baby--the moment of birth.
    (As a midwife, I just had to add that!) While I don't see too many women wanting to tangle in labor, I think it will be a great tool for pregnancy.

  12. wow thanks Kit.. thought provoking post and great tangle..

  13. Thank you, Kip - you're 100% right, of course -- a transitional time and place for mother and child. (I felt under-qualified to discuss birth, never having given birth myself, so thank you so much for your comment!) Hugs, Kit

  14. The very best thing about allowing for 'space' are the surprises that might pop in to give us joy. Your thoughtful post and challenge #10 ZT have done that for me today, and i am so grateful ;-0

  15. I love your tiles...but more than that... I truly love this post. Thank you for sharing yourself with us.

  16. Love the post! LOVE the tangles!!!!! <3

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  18. Oh Tana! The tile and the post are amazing. It is really nice to find a group of people who are all on the same page...in the present. We all seem to be going on this journey hand-in-hand. How great is that? I also love the Weepies! Thanks!

  19. Beautiful tile and wonderfully written post! You have described everything I've felt about Zentangle and more. To really live in the present moment is something to strive for. I will need to check out "Be Here Now". Thanks again, I really enjoyed this great post, you have a talent with words too!

  20. Very enjoyable post, Kit...and I love the tangle. :-)

  21. I thank you for putting all your feelings in thoughts and words… I sat there reading your post and found myself nodding in agreement to every line that you´ve written so beautifully.
    Thank you very, very much.


All comments welcome...