The Urban Yoga Den

…where it's all yoga.

The Yoga of Getting Tattoos August 21, 2012

I WANT IT NOW and TRUST THE PROCESS don’t exactly go hand in hand.

That’s why it’s important to practice yoga and get tattoos.

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Lately, I’ve been grieving…OK, OK…I’ve been whining in self-pity about what I don’t have.  I have completely forgotten: Be Grateful For What You Have; Time Takes Time; Everything In Its Own Time; Patience Is A Virtue; Good Things Come To Those Who Wait.

Because I want it now.

Thankfully, on my arm is a new, half-finished tattoo that is cracking and flaking all over the place.  A new tattoo forces me to be patient, accept things exactly as they are, and yes, trust the process.

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“DO NOT PICK OR SCRATCH YOUR TATTOO.”

Tattoo aftercare instructions are simple and clear.  Wash it a couple of times a day to keep it free of infection.  Avoid soaking it.  Moisturize with a light lotion to support a healthy peeling process.  And do not pick or scratch it.

No matter how tempting it is to speed up the process.  No matter whether that one little piece looks like it’s about to fall off so I might as well help it along.  No matter how gentle I think I am.  No matter if one eye has completely flaked off and the other is still caked with ink.  No matter how gross it looks to have deeply crevassed, nearly indistinguishable blobs of color on your arm.  No matter how much I want to cover it up during its ugly stages.  No matter how badly I want my tattoo to be finished and pretty and picture perfect.

LEAVE IT ALONE.

DON’T FORCE IT.

LET IT HAPPEN.

Not that I have to completely disengage from the process.  As mentioned, I have to take good care of my tattoo.  I have to give it space and air to transform properly.  I have to prioritize its good health and nourish the skin.  But under no condition and in no way may I rush its natural development into the beautiful piece of artwork that lies beneath a sometimes messy outer layer.

Yup – the healing process of a new tattoo is just like the process of life.  Few things happen overnight.  I must do the footwork – then surrender, trust and be patient.

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Practicing yoga is also a great remedy for self-pity and “I want it now.”  Yoga’s Eight Limbs are designed to cultivate peace of mind through any of life’s challenges, including desire and dissatisfaction.  In fact, the ancient text of Yoga Sutras promises, “Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodhah” – yoga restrains disturbances of the mind.

Regarding desire, it’s easy to make a literal comparison to the process of developing an Asana (yoga pose).  I have reached few goals immediately in physical yoga practice.  Over two decades of practice, it took many years to build proper strength or proper mechanics for certain poses.  Currently, I am spending a month trying to improve my Bakasana (Crow Pose).  My version feels heavy and low at the moment; and I’d like it to feel lighter and liberated.  Although “I want it now,” I can’t rush this transformation.  It will take dedicated time, energy and practice.  I have to let it evolve, day by day.

Still, after a month, my Crow Pose might not be what I wished for.  And I will have to accept it and move on – either toward more Crow practice, or if an improved Crow is not accessible, to another pose altogether.

From yogic ideology, the concept of Samtosha means practicing contentment.  Instead of dwelling on what I don’t have, I am invited to embrace things just as they are at this very moment.  Dissatisfaction is erased, and “I want it now” becomes “I have it now.”  Samtosha requires a deep acceptance of the infinite factors affecting any given situation – factors beyond my knowledge or control.  Rather than complaining, I can choose to be curious as I live in present circumstances and stop wishing for something different.

Do I want to dwell on (and in) dissatisfaction, disappointment and the “have not’s?”  Or do I want peace of mind?  With the acceptance, curiosity and trust that come from practicing Samtosha, I can be serene despite circumstance.  No more pity party.

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And so, if I don’t accomplish my vision of the perfect Bakasana; or, if my tattoo looks flaky and strange; or if I don’t have the life I am envisioning (yet) – I have to trust that the present state is serving the best purpose for my journey.  Even if the outcome looks nothing like I imagined.  Even if it feels unfair.  Even if it hurts.

Both yoga practice and new tattoos reinforce my long-held belief that life’s process, although ugly at times, leads to great beauty.  If I surrender my impulse to rush things and allow life to happen, that is.  At the very least, the current influence of both yoga and tattoos guarantee that this phase of whining and self-pity will be short-lived, and I can return to gratitude for the abundance that I should be enjoying day in and day out.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti.