These days, not having a tattoo almost seems more rebellious than getting one. For a long while, I debated whether or not to ink my body, not simply for the fact that it’s a permanent commitment, but also because I hadn’t found anything that called to me in ways I’d feel proud to display in my older age. Until now.
When I graduated from my 300-Hour Advanced Yoga Teacher Training Program, I was given a Sanskrit name by the director of the program. Mo, as I affectionately call her, is a beautiful master teacher who devotes her heart to knowing each and every student to her or his very core.
On the day of our graduation, Mo looked at me with genuine eyes, "You are such an intelligent, beautiful, and creative woman. You never cease to amaze me with all of the things that you do. Everything you touch, you bring such wisdom and grace just by your being. And,” she smiled, “you know I just love your teaching."
Then, she paused. "The thing is, you don't even see it yet." In one sentence, Mo revealed an entire lifetime of my being perpetually hard on myself in a way that was palpable in the room.
She then continued softly, “Parvati. That’s the Sanskrit name we’re giving you. Parvati is the goddess of all goddesses, the creative force in the world. She is Shakti."
Over the next few weeks, I ruminated on this name and what it meant. My quest for perfection, and the ways in which it skewed how I saw myself and my place in the world became clearer than ever. I used to wear many bangles and bracelets on my left wrist, as reminders love and compassion. Now, Parvati holds that space.
That’s the tattoo, I realized. Then, I went and got it.
My tattoo is a reminder that the person I’d like to become one day is how people see me now—a lovely force to be reckoned with. Parvati embodies the darkness of Kali and the warrior nature of Durga; she’s the wife of Shiva, the mother of Ganesha; she brings into the world passion, compassion, and unconditional love. Parvati is essentially WOMAN embodied.
One website describes her this way: "The goddess Parvati is the animating force that brings skill, power, prowess, and genius while she infuses the world with her magic."
I have magic within me! My tattoo removes the blindness to my beauty. It uplifts my thoughts from falling into a black hole of loathsome critiques and shame. It illuminates the understanding that my physical form is a costume, an organic container on loan for the duration of this lifetime, and that it's already perfect because it allows me to grow and thrive.
What I mistakenly believe is something “wrong” about me that I need to fix is actually what makes me wonderful, and any “imperfections” are what make me unique. My soul is much more important than whether I gain five pounds here or gain a couple of scars there. What matters is that I'm approaching myself with loving kindness.
The most surprising part about getting my tattoo is that I feel like I finally took a stand for ME. A few months ago, a friend told me that what’s transformative about a tattoo is the process of getting it as much as the end result. And she’s right, because I now feel stronger than ever.
Years ago, I learned that when I’m trying my best to not feel anything “bad,” I’m also tamping down everything “good.” There's no way to selectively squash my emotions, because shutting off to any one thing creates a blanket effect of smothering everything. I intellectually knew what this meant, but somehow, after getting inked, I truly understood it.
This beautiful marking on my wrist is me, finally showing up for me. It is my deep declaration of, “YES, this is who I am!”
All of me. The light. The dark. The beautiful, the bold, the brilliant. The ferocious, the kind, the one-of-a-kind. This is all of me. Letting go of preconceived notions and embracing what is, finally giving myself permission to relax into myself.
I have never felt so in my skin and in my life… and, it’s permanent.