The Big Tattoo

It came to pass. It did not come to stay.

This statement lives on the right side of my torso. It was beautifully painful to get. People with large tattoos in tender spots know what I’m talking about. The experience – it’s a special kind of high.

I got it in the fall of 2011. I was about 18 months into my healing journey. I was still in a place of deep pain, but I was trying new things (like holistic nutrition classes) and reading a lot of Buddhist inspired teachings (like Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha and When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times). I was discovering who I was and what I valued. I was also drawn to toxic people and dark, dramatic situations. There was a whole lot of two steps forward one step back going on.

Forward steps included exploring impermanence – the Buddhist belief that existence is always changing, always evanescent. This brought me much relief. It helped me reframe my suffering. It allowed me to accept that how like joy is not a constant state, neither is anguish.

This tattoo is quite clear in it’s message to myself. That emotional states will change just as the material aspects of life will change. That the people in your life may come and go, live and die. My tattoo is a meditation of sorts on loss that makes me feel grounded to the reality of constant change and experience equanimity no matter what life throws at me.

A Silly Story About This Tattoo

One time I was with some new acquaintances – a couple. I clicked with her, but not so much with him. I think he was not very bright in terms of emotional intelligence or vocabulary. At one point we were talking about tattoos. He said he wanted to get one along the lines of live hard, die young. I mentioned what I had and when he heard about my larger piece he looked puzzled and said he didn’t understand what it meant. His girlfriend explained it to him and then a light went off for him and he said he would get that one too.

I wasn’t impressed before and I certainly wasn’t impressed then.

I bumped into them another time and he told me he got a tattoo saying no regrets.

PS – Here is a lovely post by Leo Babauta (Zen Habits) about impermanence because I have to leave you with some optimism not cynicism.

Simple Yet Glamorous?

My life is simple in that I discovered some mindful and minimalist life strategies that bring balance and serenity to my day-to-day. It’s glamorous in that I love burlesque and I adore creating dazzling, silly performances and shows. Having both in my life brings me much satisfaction and pleasure.

It also means that I find bobby-pins by the door and glitter most everywhere, but that is OK by me. They remind me I’m living the life I want to live.

Perhaps SIMPLICITY & GLAMOUR is an odd combination, but it’s my version of Yin and Yang. They help me embrace LIFE in a BIG JOYFUL way  and I think bringing both into my life is an important part of my journey.

Life is complex.

My simple living and compassionate mindset allows me to meet life’s challenges, express what’s on my mind and in my heart. It’s what keeps me grounded yet able to fly free. It’s what helps me connect to those I love.

Keeping certain things simple lets me bounce around in the complex with joy, gratitude and authenticity. Bounce around in the unpredictability, uncertainty and vulnerability knowing I have a safety net. Having a toolbox of strategies and skills makes me more resilient when sh*t hits the fan – because it will.

So, what do I simplify?

Everything involved in my everyday is structured in a simple way. This took some time. I had to reflect on what I owned and what owned me. I had to think about my possessions and my space and how they made me feel. Yes, I used the Marie Kondo Method. While I’m not a 100 item minimalist, I have downsized in a BIG way. I know each and every one of my belongings and where they live. And I love them all.

My burlesque costumes may have sequins and fancy fringe trim, but they also are chosen and made with simplicity in mind. They are easy to store, maintain and to perform in (and out of). Streamlining my burlesque life means I don’t tear through my space last minute looking for a costume piece or have to create something last minute. I have just what I need. Not more, not less. When I have a show I know I can focus on my performance, deliver as best I can and be present for the entire process.

My internal life?

I simplify that too. It’s absolutely essential in fact because there is a part of my mind that likes to tell stories  – often attaching shame, guilt and fear to them. Then there is my gut that likes to do somersaults. And of course, my heart that likes to race.

I’m betting this all sounds terribly familiar.

Thank goodness there is a solution to this mess of stress and struggle. Mindfulness meditation – it’s the simple antidote to the busy mind poison. Sure, it’s a popular buzz word these days but there is a reason for that. It’s incredibly powerful. It’s an active way of thinking that helps calm the mind. For goodness sake, it creates new neuro-pathways! So freaking neat!

In a nutshell, it’s about observing yourself, your body, your mind’s stories, you name it and not trying to change anything. Experience them without judgement. Let all the weird, uncomfortable and painful sensations and thoughts just be. Then approaching it all – especially yourself – loving kindness. So simple yet so radical.

One of my favourite meditation resources is the work of Tara Brach. She has a wonderful weekly podcast aswell as incredible books I refer to. My therapist suggested I read Tara Brach’s book Radical Acceptance and helped me immensely in developing some equanimity. Something I had been seeking since I was a little girl.

And of course, there is Vietnamese Buddhist monk and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. His books on finding peace within the present moment are some of the most accessible and beautiful out there.

I am sure I will write more about these topics in the coming weeks and months (maybe years – who knows!). If there is something specific you would like me to write about with regards to my exploration of simplicity and glamour, let me know!

Thank you for being a part of my journey.