The Scars On My Arms
I can’t say that the scars on my body don’t bother me, but I can say that I no longer ruminate in the stories behind the scars.
For example; when feelings of shame and guilt bubble up, instead of festering in those feelings based on past experiences, I take deep breaths and cultivate a sense of gratitude for the present moment. Or, when I see sharp objects and the scars on my arms ache as if I’m reliving the trauma, instead of getting caught up in the whirlwind of why Why WHY???, I take deep breaths and send compassion to myself, and the person who made the deepest inflictions on my arms.
There was a time, about twenty years ago, that I considered getting plastic surgery to cover up the wounds, but I’m glad I didn’t. I’ve learned to accept the scars as part of my story. In a way, it’s a sad part of my story, but it’s an experience that put me on a path of embodying gratitude and compassion.
I started down that path in 2009 when I decided to add meaning to the scars on my arms and I got two new tattoos.
I got one tattoo on my left arm that is an inscription of the mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum”. It’s believed that all of Buddha’s teachings reside within this one powerful mantra. It is known to invoke the loving and unconditional qualities of compassion and I chose this tattoo to remind me to embody compassion.
I also got a tattoo on my right arm of a cherry blossom tree and it reminds me to embody gratitude. There’s an interesting story surrounding my decision with this tattoo.
Initially, I asked a tattoo artist to replicate Osho’s signature. I began practicing Osho’s Active Meditations™ in 2003 and I felt deeply connected with his teachings. His signature was like art, it looked like this:
The tattoo artist said she wouldn’t do it because it would end up looking like she had an accident with the tattoo gun and she didn’t want her name attached to it… I understood her point.
She suggested I design a tattoo that represents my connection with Osho and I came up with the idea of getting a cherry blossom tree. This decision was inspired by a Zen story captured in my most treasured Osho book.
The story is beautiful, here it is:
When your heart is full of gratitude any door that appears closed can be an opening for an even greater blessing.
Very few women have attained to the Zen ultimate; Rengetsu is one of those rare women.
She was on a pilgrimage, and she came to a village at sunset and begged for lodging for the night. But the villagers slammed their doors. They must have been traditional Buddhists in the town, and they wouldn’t allow this Zen woman to stay there; they threw her out of the village.
It was a cold night, and the old woman with no lodging… and hungry. She had to make a cherry tree in the fields her shelter. It was really cold, and she could not sleep well. And it was dangerous too – wild animals and all.
At midnight she awoke – she was very cold – and saw, in the spring night sky, the fully opened cherry blossoms laughing to the misty moon. Overcome with the beauty, she got up and made reverence in the direction of the village.
Through their kindness
in refusing me lodging
I found myself beneath the blossoms
on the night of this misty moon.
With great gratitude she thanks those people who refused her lodging, otherwise she would have been sleeping under an ordinary roof and she would have missed this blessing – these cherry blooms, and this whispering with the misty moon, and this silence of the night, this utter silence of the night.
She isn’t angry, she accepts it – not only accept it, welcomes it. She feels grateful.
Life is immense, and each moment it comes with thousand and one gifts for you. But you are so engaged, preoccupied with your desiring mind, you are so full of your thoughts, you refuse all those gifts. God comes; you go on refusing.
A man [person] becomes a Buddha the moment he [a person] accepts all that life brings with gratitude.
Anytime I sit down to write I like to get clear about my intentions. This blog idea came to me when I read a quote from Diane Ackerman “We are all shape-shifters and magical reinventors. Life is really a plural noun, a caravan of selves.”
This quote made me smile as an image of my own life caravan came to mind. I started to reflect on how often I’m reinventing myself, shedding, shaping, shifting, etc.
I realized that my embodiment of gratitude and compassion is what drives my work today as a communications coach and advocate for mental health. So, the intention of this blog became that I wanted to connect with readers through sharing an insight I’ve learned about how my life stories can either drag me down a rabbit hole into the past rumination and feelings of guilt and shame, or the stories can become a lifeline to the present moment and evoke a sense of gratitude and compassion.
I encourage you to reflect on your own life stories and note what experiences trigger shame and guilt. Consider the strategies you use to help yourself steer out of old story rumination and into present moment inspiration.
Until next time!