The Tattoo Stories
Every tattoo has a story to tell.
This is not news.
Many people get tattoos just to tell their story, or a piece of it.
A flower for the death of a loved one.
A picture of a favorite place.
Words they must never forget.
Some just want to be a canvas for beauty – that is the story itself.
(I am quite in love with these ‘watercolor tattoos’ lately.)
But no one tells you how the ink will sink into your skin and begin to tell its own story.
Or to shape your story and your life.
The Wrist Tattoo
Fourteen years ago I got this tattoo:
It started with just the text, which says “always and all ways connected.” I added the flower motif on top (although it looks like it’s underneath), a few years later.
I wrote those words as a way of commemorating something I was learning at the time: that I was connected to the Divine in all ways. And for all time.
(Lots of people assume it’s for my husband. But, no.)
I thought I was getting the tattoo as a marker for where I’d come from.
What I had learned.
Oh, silly child.
I was just beginning my foray into knowing the Divine.
Just a drop in the ocean.
An ocean I will never leave or entirely know.
The tattoo sank into my arm for a year and then I started seminary.
Seminary was a wild ride into faiths and spiritual paths of all kinds. Many of which I tried on for size. I found ideas and practices and holy-days and texts that thrill me and inform my journey to this day. (Also, I learned about Goddess religion from two gay guys. What more could I ask for?)
I thought my tattoo was an ending.
But it was a doorway.
The Back Tattoo
The letter ‘J’ in the upper part of this tattoo was the first part of this tattoo. It was something my husband I both got on the eve of our wedding. (He also has a ‘J’ name.) That means it is nearly 18 years old.
There is script around the letter. It is from one of my top 10 favorite songs: U2’s “Mysterious Ways.” The text says, “Lift my days, light up my nights.” I got that part three years ago.
It was intended as a tribute to my husband, who does those very things. (His tribute to me, also in song lyrics, was Erasure’s “Angel” – “My electric symphony in blue.” I’m an electric symphony to someone, who knew?!?)
But as the tattoo was being completed, I knew it wasn’t finished.
There was more to say.
More to know.
I looked for clues about what was to be inked into my body.
I knew now that what I put there could change my life.
The answer sprang out at me from Jack Kornfield’s Bringing The Dharma Home and it said, “Loving within the boundaries of our practice brings freedom of the heart.”
When I read it, I simultaneously knew it was exactly what needed to be in the tattoo – in me – and I was also deathly scared of what it meant for my marriage.
At the time I was going through a huge hormonal upsurge and wanted Someone Else. I didn’t want to leave my marriage, but I sure wanted a Weekend Pass (to go Get It On with this other person). My sexuality and my soul were at odds with each other. Or so I thought.
I gave a little nod of acceptance to the Inner Guide: yes, I would take this on in my tattoo.
[This is a mirror reflection of the tattoo so you can read the text. I had the text tattooed in a mirror image – seen above – so I could read it in the mirror. I can’t read the song lyrics for that reason!]
In quick order, the more decorative pieces fell into place.
I had the tattoo finished.
And for the next three years, I went through a rigorous school that taught me how to love vibrantly within the confines of my marriage. And that my sexuality might not be separate from my spirituality. And that my soul must always win out – even when I choose the opposite of what it asks. And how to surrender every level of something to the greater good of my soul. And that hormones fuck with your lady-brain sometimes. And also how to love myself.
It was a dreadful and joyful school.
And I am still in it.
The Hip Tattoo
I got a new tattoo recently.
In part because I was drawn to it. And in part because I want to become it.
I want to walk the path of this tattoo.
I know now: the tattoo will sink into me and become me. And I will become it as well.
It is this:
This is sanskrit for ‘dakini.’
(Everybody has a sanskrit tattoo, I know. So much for rebellion!)
Dakini are a class of goddesses. Different from specific goddesses, like Quan Yin or Mother Mary, dakini show up in many forms and walk the path of fierce enlightenment and sexuality (quite often, fierce enlightenment through sexuality).
The interesting things about the word ‘dakini’ is that there is no male counterpart. ‘Dakini’ is not some kind of ‘female Buddha’ (although several paths speak of them in this way, it is not the correct representation). She is not some ‘lesser’ version of a male diety. There is also no such thing as a ‘male dakini.’ Dakini only come in one flavor: girl.
Dakini is translated as ‘light dancer’ and I certainly feel that is part of my spiritual path right now.
Earlier this year, I also took on the challenge of learning to see Life as my Lover, to see God as my Lover. I wanted to know more about everyday ecstasy and so I have set about exploring just that.
I also wanted to learn more about understanding how my sexuality and my spirituality are one and the same. This has been a challenge for me to intellectually understand (with a conservative religious background), and even more so to physically understand it. But I want to know it, in my heart and in my soul.
So, yes, I took this as my tattoo.
This is what I want to explore.
This is what I feel I am being called to.
I dedicate myself to the path by painting it into my body.
It will tell my story. It will write my story.