I believe that in this world all matter is interconnected - what influences the inner influences the outer, and vice-versa.  My new tattoo is a perfect example of this principle.

Last shot of my un-inked arm

Last shot of my un-inked arm

I feel as if I have undergone an initiation of sorts.  I am marked for life.  So many experiences have marked me for life in the inner sense — all of which I believe I have chosen, whether consciously or unconsciously.  I wouldn’t take a single one of these experiences back.

Now I am marked for life in the outer, physical realm.  

Kwan Yin, Bodhisattva of Compassion, holding a baby boy, now lives on my left arm, closest to my heart.  

I learned on a deeper level last night that actual painful experiences are rarely as difficult as I make out in my mind (natural childbirth being the exception to that rule). There is so much hype around the pain of getting tattooed, but the experience for me was merely one of sensation — at many points in the two hour session, I could not tell if I was experiencing pain or pleasure.  I had a broad smile on my face for much of the experience.  I couldn’t help it - filled with joy and peace as I was.

Susan remarked that this was a bit unusual, in her experience.  

I am aware that I probably have a high pain tolerance, but I was so pleasantly surprised at the absence of fear and suffering during what is supposed to be a very painful experience .  Like childbirth - though getting tattooed doesn’t even begin to approximate the level of pain of labor - this was pain with a purpose, pain with a happy ending, a new creation.

Susan’s drawing turned out even more gorgeous than I imagined.  I knew that she was an incredibly talented tattoo artist, and found out tonight that she’d been doing this for 15 years.  But the creative liberties she took with the picture I took just blew me away.  The tattoo organically flows up to my shoulder and equally organically frames the crease of my elbow.  The outline is now all filled in, and it will take another six hours or so until it is completely filled in with color.  I have two more 3-hour sessions booked, and at this rate, it should be finished in April.

I thought about my mom all day yesterday.  This tattoo for me symbolizes the power of motherhood so clearly, the power of learning to hold oneself.  I felt her spirit with me constantly throughout the session, her fighting spirit, her compassionate unconditional acceptance of me, and the task ahead is to learn to mother myself.  That’s in progress.

But I feel strong, powerful, perhaps still a bit high on endorphins.  I feel an inner sense of groundedness.  Grounded in the midst of essential groundlessness that characterizes my life.  The law of impermanence reminds me that this too shall change, and of course I will get swept up again in this or that tide.  But I hope I can look at my tattoo, look inside the chambers of my heart, and remember the it’s possible to feel just this connected, just this steady, just this peaceful, awed and humbled.  

Marked for life.