As those of you that have been following Urbanyogamonkey Facebook will know, I recently got my first tattoo. It was done by Manu at Divine Canvas on Caledonian Road, London.
However it was the incredible artist of Tibetan calligraphy Tashi Mannox that created the design. He took my original idea and blew completely out of the water, in fact it rocketed it beyond the stars! I was in awe of its power, precision of line and overall effect when painted onto my spine. (See pic below of the original painted version.)
The astonishing Tashi frequently works with ‘Zed the Head’ at Divine Canvas in relation to those who wish to have his unique designs tattooed. I saw Manu, at Divine Canvas instead, which worked out just beautifully. Manu was incredibly patient, kind and generous and put me at ease for my first yet HUGE tattoo. His artistry and speed with precision was more than I could have hoped for and I’m even considering returning for a peacock, a common symbol relating to my Burmese heritage. My tattoo has only taken three days to heal, the whole process seemed so fluid and easy. (See pic below for stage one of permanent tattoo.)
Want to know the story behind my Tattoo?
I had never wanted a tattoo before because I never felt strongly enough about one thing, neither felt one thing would be permanently in my life. During my time in India, I saw an advert for henna (non-permanent) tattoos, and thought of getting one expressing the Green Tara mantra, written phonetically. I had been expressing/ chanting the Green Tara Mantra for several years as it resonates within me deeply. Once back in London I had this painted in henna on me on. I loved it, and had it done on several occasions and got to the point where I started to consider a permanent tattoo. One of my students saw the henna tattoo on me and recognised the Green Tara mantra as his brother Tashi, used to be Tibetan monk. (Green Tara is a Tibetan goddess and very much part of Tibetan Buddhism). My student mentioned that his brother, Tashi, was also a Tibetan calligrapher whose work was often used for tattooing, should I wish to consider them for my own tattoo ideas. I saw his website and was blown away! The artwork was incredible and amongst it I found the Green Tara mantra in Tibetan and felt more connected to this than the one in written the phonetics of the Sanskrit. I originally had written the word: ‘Om’ on my back, instead of the symbol. Purely by coincidence, Tashi was in town that day and joined us after a workshop for food. We got chatting and I mentioned my connection with Tibetan Buddhism. Having been raised a Burmese (Theravada) Buddhist, the Mahayana practices were unknown to me.
Just to explain the background further to this connection, when I was 18, I had a very strong vision/ dream that presented the design of my bedroom in a very specific and precise way; from the curtain colours, to the wall paint, the flooring, the stencil/patterns running across the top and middle of the walls and a small shrine structured in a certain way. I proceeded to go about re-decorating immediately. I could not find the right stencil so had to make my own to the image in my mind, as best I could. Once it was finished, a part of me felt rested, relieved and settled immediately into the new space. Months later, my father said he wanted to join him on a visit to a Tibetan Buddhist temple as it was run by a Danish Nun and mostly European Nuns and Monks which may make asking questions a little easier. I must make clear that a Burmese Theravada shrine looks very different from a Mahayana shrine, in fact the entire practice is very different. I arrived at the Tibetan Buddhist centre: Samye Dzong and felt a a wave or quiet happiness come over me. It’s not unusal for a Buddhist temple to elicit this, but there was a strength in this that was markedly different for me. On entering the Shrine room, I gasped. It was designed exactly as my room at home was, even the down to the stencil/ patterns. I then remembered two different spiritualists, from Burma and Hong Kong over my life, that had said they saw Tibetan guides around me. Once also a Thai monk had walked up to me in a temple, looked around me and said the same thing too and then walked off. At the time, it meant nothing to me, and the Burmese Theravada Buddhists pay no attention to things that may be superstitious or unscientific. I started to shed tears in the shrine room, I can only describe it as a feeling of coming home, to something you recognise and love, that you have been away from for an unknowably long time. Samye Dzong became my refuge from this point onwards.
Returning to the present, I told Tashi this, he listened and then informed me he had designed and painted that room himself! I then knew that this was the man to design my tattoo and expressed my desire for the Green Tara mantra. He asked what dialect I would like, at which point I told him my blood heritage as Burmese but I had such a strong link with Tibet. He proposed he use a script that had geographical links between Burma and Tibet and showed me it. I loved it! He designed a tattoo that was very different from the one I’d had done in henna before but it was so striking and beautiful there was no doubt that this was the one for me. I then called the his tattoo colleague and the rest is history…