I have visited death. In multiple meditative, psychedelic, plant medicine, and actual life threatening experiences I have sat in a vastness, in emptiness, that I have come to believe was a “death space.” And it wasn’t that bad. In fact, in some cases I didn’t want to come back. Not in a “I want to die” sense, more in a “I am so curious to push the boundaries and see where this takes me.” Leaving me with one fooit "here" and the other in multiple "places." There has generally been a presence or calling that inspired my choice to come back. I have come to note more recently that tattooing has been in some ways one of those calls to return. A safe space where I could share my experiences through just being, without blatantly blaring my experiences to the world. Experiences that have for many years been carried behind the “armor of the strong silent type.” Worded perfectly by and borrowed from a recent inspiring writing by a magical friend.
Connecting with that realization, brought to light more clearly through my most recent tattoo experiences out in nature surrounded by supportive entities, I felt inspired to honor that call, that space of safety, and write this blog.
If you know me you will have noticed that I rarely use such words as healing, spiritual, shamanistic. I feel so many of these words, like so many mind altering experiences, have been abused. So I tread consciously and compassionately in the hopes of being able to speak in a way that crosses bridges and illusory boundaries.
For the sake of this honoring I will be crossing over my own illusory threshold of resistance, using terms I rarely use. Bear with me.
Through many personal mindfulness experiences, including meditation, psychedelics, plant medicines and traditional therapies, I have come to believe that there are many alternative routes up the same mountain with the same end goal in mind. Tattooing for some is one of those routes. An honoring, acknowledging, accepting, and marking of that self initiated journey.
The phrase Integrated Tattoo Healing refers to the practice of translating intentions through urban shamanic ritual, into totemic glyphs/symbols and illustrations to encapsulate and imprint the essence of those intentions into the body, heart, and mind. Integrating intentions into the entire holistic system of physical and non-physical form.
This requires presence. Something that most mindfulness practices require and tattooing is yet another potential platform in which presence is innate. A type of presence that is helpful to further the growth of the self. Of course not everyone practices that. Some do all they can to avoid being present to certain processes and experiences. Some guiding the tattoo experience undervalue the set and setting. Further agitating the desire to dull the senses in order to “wake up with fresh ink.” Rather than encouraging the embrace of the whole experience and welcoming it as a friend, ally, and a rite of passage.
Through empirical and experiential study I have come to feel that like a psychedelic, deep meditative experience, or traditional therapy, tattooing releases, reveals, unearths trauma, shadow sides, light aspects, and a deep sense of connectedness to all.
On a physical level, an example that has been described is a sensation similar to what some experience in acupuncture. As tattoo needles puncture certain points on the body, especially when there is attention put on design placement, there can be a physical, mental and emotional release.
Akin to meditation when there is attention placed on set and setting, some have reported experiencing similarly deep states of “no-mind.” Trance like moments of calm where the pain is embraced, invited to teach, welcomed as an ally in revealing the personal journey of the experiencer. Resulting in release being felt, alternate states being reached, shifts noted in the mental, emotional and physical being. Thusly like meditative practices or psychedelic journeys set and setting is equally as important to those seeking a particular type of tattoo experience
Physical and non-physical experiences reported indicate that there is, or at least there could be, the potential for deep shift and integration of healing through the physical and meditative experience of tattooing. Such outcomes can be generated with more attention placed on certain steps. Steps such as, but not limited to: paying attention to one’s breath, breathing into or with the needle rather than away. Consciously accepting the pain. Acknowledging the fact that the choice was made to undergo a tattoo experience. Communicating with the physical form and gently reminding it of its safety when fear and resistance is felt. Reciting personal mantra. Releasing control, trusting, and leaning into the process and the guide chosen to facilitate the experience.
Through Integrated Tattoo Healing spiritual aspects are considered. Using steps and processes inspired by family esoteric and shamanic practices, as well as my own studies and practices in multiple mindfulness platforms including Buddhism. Set and setting are prepared to create a safe and supportive environment to allow for whatever comes up and out. The goal being to acknowledge and nurture the reality that just as we seek to be healthy through food, exercise, meditation, etc., we should do the same with the markings we put onto our skin. Touch, let alone permanent markings, can have a major effect on the energetic system and human being.
To conclude, tattooing alters. It alters and shifts the heart, body and mind in whichever way we choose, based on the choices made for each personal experience. It is potent medicine through traditional practices, resulting in beautiful body art that can encapsulate deep meaning and intention. Integrated into the heart, body and mind to be carried for a lifetime and possibly beyond. In ways tattooing is a return to something deep and connecting. Like putting our limbs into rich earth, rooting, grounding. It is a reminder of unseen but felt realities that affect us, guiding us to a deeper understanding of past, present and potentially future.