I haven’t always loved tattoos. In fact, when I was little, I thought they made people looked scary. And kind of dirty. I grew up in Utah, where I was presented with two extremes: a majority LDS culture (a clean cut, modesty-loving, family-values culture) and a tattoo-sporting, ski-on-Sunday, booze-and-cussing counter-culture.
And, of course, I didn’t fit in to either one of them. My family and I were somewhere in the middle. We skied on Sundays, cussed rarely (well. Except for Dad) and kept our skin free of ink.
I learned that I wasn’t part of the mainstream culture of Mormons, but I also wasn’t part of the counter-culture of tattooed gothic kids who hung around the coffee shop. And I learned to lean heavily away from both sides, isolating myself in the middle. As I matured and moved out of Utah, I saw that people could have tattoos AND not be gothic. Have tattoos AND embody peace and beauty. And I realized that my previous ideas about tattoos were perpetuated by family programming – ideas and beliefs I received at an early age from my parents and other influential adults.
What a relief! I thought, and my beliefs surrounding tattoos changed. I started to be drawn to them, especially those that were worn well by the person. Those of you who like tattoos might know what I mean – the kind of tattoos that look like they grew onto the person, a representation of their personality, their grace, their beliefs, the lightness in their soul.
In my personal life, I am continually in a process of transforming old beliefs and patterns into new ones, of bringing more and more consciousness into my life, to my beliefs, to my habits and actions. I’m always asking the deeper questions, looking for the reason behind the reason. Which is why someone recently called me a mystic. Which fits perfectly. Except that I don’t like the preconceived ideas about the new age mystic – always ungrounded, scattered, unbalanced. In fact, in my work I try very hard to make the mystical practical, to make esoteric information relevant to my human body, to bring it down to earth. To urbanize the mysticism. And so I work with these two extremes, the mystic and the mundane, which are really just another of the many great paradoxes of life (according to yoga philosophy).
In 2002(ish), I received my first tattoo. A tree, which is also a woman, represented my ontology (and still does) of a living earth. Of the intersection between faith and science. Of the idea that if we could all understand that we live on a living earth, that we may treat it a little differently, that we may start to see it like any other living being (like a kitten. Or a tea-cup pig. And act accordingly). In 2007, I had my second tattoo created, a snow fairy that represented my love of winter and the time to draw within, combined with my love of the ethereal world.
My ex-husband hated my tattoos. During the placement of my 2007 work, he didn’t speak to me for two days after it was finished. He probably disliked my tattoos almost as much as my mother does (I can see her cringing as she reads this. If she’s even made it this far). So I didn’t get any more tattoos while I was in my first marriage. And I didn’t tell my mother about my plans for this one. And I get it – those beliefs I held as a child are the beliefs my parents still hold. “But you’re so beautiful!” she’ll exclaim. “Why do you need a tattoo?”
Well, I don’t need one. I wanted one. I’m pretty clear on that. This isn’t life and death; it’s not a survival thing. But it was something I wanted, and something that means something to me, and something that makes me feel more at home in my own skin as I do this work of bridging the mystic with the mundane.
The work that I do is incredible. I feel so blessed every day that I work with clients – helping people blow through old, sticky energy that has kept them stuck in patterns. Helping people explore their behaviors, understand symbols that appear too often to be coincidence, and release trauma in the body that they thought was long past. It my work, I walk the line between the light and the dark (the light being the places we gladly, bravely go and the dark being the places/issues we’d rather not look at; the taboo). One moment I’ll be exploring the imagery of the White Buffalo Calf woman, the next I’ll be plunging into graphic childhood trauma. Exploring the majesty and power of a woman’s creative energy, then helping a soul prepare for the journey of death. In my work I regularly go to magical places, and I also trod to areas where no one else wants to go.
It can be isolating work. It doesn’t lend itself to the luxury of decompressing to coworkers (of which I have none)after work, beer in hand.
Long ago, I was told that I would draw clients with difficult cases, devastating illnesses and terrible trauma. And whether it was my belief in that message or that the message carried truth, that has been the case. And I absolutely love it. From the darkest places comes the most light, or so they say. The depth of my work is incredible! It’s like deep-sea diving and flying through the clouds on the same day (without the bends to slow you down). At times the work is freeing and inspiring, and at the same time it feels as though I am the keeper of secrets, the caretaker of symbols, the reader of ancient scrolls, and the author of a new language. I am a translator of the ancient, the mysterious, the obscure. And it is my job to translate well so that what is mysterious and obscure can be made known, can create change, can help cultivate growth and, above all, joy.
This newest tattoo is a symbol of that. The two mandalas represent my job as a translator of the ancient symbols and of the patterns that make us human and connect us to the great Beyond. The crescent moon represents how light is filtered into the darker places of the soul so that they can be healed and prepared for what is next. The flower of life represents how everything is sacred, everything is holy, even your tears, your frustration, your fear. The phoenix represents transformation – my own and the process I facilitate in my work with others. My life has become one transformation to the next. As a Scorpio, astrologers say I was born for this. Sometimes I’m not sure, as one process cartwheels into the next. The phoenix is there to remind me that this is my strength, that I can bear the symbols, that I can translate, bring light to the darkness and transform gloriously.
So you see, this tattoo isn’t because I’m defacing my body. This isn’t because I think I’m ugly and the tattoo makes me feel better about myself. It’s that sometimes I need a reminder that I have a body, that my body is made for this work like my 6th chakra is, and that I can do the job I am called to do. It’s the outward symbol of my hand in the obscure, the ancient, the symbolic. It’s yet another way that I bridge the mystic with the mundane. I want this tattoo to remind me of the mundane, to pull me back from the darkness and from my journeys into the light, to help me find my body and to remind me why I’m here and how strong I am.
There will be a small amount of color added to the phoenix in a month or so (teal in and a burgandy pink) to help it offset from the symbols it carries.