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Tat’s Funny!

14 May
koi dragon tatoo

Tatoo: Ink180 http://www.ink180.com

Daugther, husband and I were walking down the street together not too long ago and the conversation turned to tattoos. My husband hates them and finds all of them ugly. Our son can’t wait to get one. I think some of them are just fine and have toyed with the idea of getting one myself. Here was the conversation.

Me: I don’t know. I think some tattoos are ok.

Husband: Hmph.

Me: Maybe I’ll get one across my low back, you know, right above my butt.

Daughter: And it can say “Kiss This.”

Note: Ink180 is a tatoo parlor located in Oswego, IL, not too far from my home. It is a non-profit ministry, founded by tatoo artist Chris Baker, dedicated to “transforming gang & human trafficking tattoos into something beautiful.”

While I knew about gang tatooing, I had no idea that pimps would tatoo the women and men who work for them as a symbol of ownership. Ink180 donates coverup tatoos to help former gang members and sex workers leave their past lives. When son turns 18, I’m suggesting he go to Ink180.

Here’s an example of a coverup tat’ . . .

cover up tatoo art

Cover up tatoo by Ink180. http://www.ink180.com

The world in a grain of sand? How about your soul in an atom of hydrogen?

14 Sep

My son has a new girlfriend.

The young lady is lovely, though my son initially described her as a Smurf. She’s tiny, except in certain places where tiny is less than desirable, and she has blue hair. Well, not completely blue, but the Farrah Faucet-y bits around her face are definitely blue.

But before he described his lady love’s appearance, our son told us, “She’s an atheist.” I didn’t realize how important his religious stance was to him, though, until he started preparing us to meet Girl Friend for the first time. He repeated the “she’s an atheist” bit and then said, “I told her you guys are atheists, too, and she thinks that awesome.”

“You told her what?” I asked.

“That you guys are atheists.”

“But we’re not,” I said.

“Dad’s an atheist and you’re a Buddhist. That’s the same as being an atheist. You told me yourself, ‘Buddha’s not a god’.”

Now, I can tell the kid to start the oven for the pizza, or move the wet clothes from the washer to the dryer, or bring our entire collection of drinking glasses down from his room and he forgets within minutes. I have no idea how he hung onto “Buddha isn’t a god” but I was definitely wishing he hadn’t. Some days you want to help your kids with the big ideas and some days you don’t.

I took a deep breath.

“Ok, you’re right. Buddha isn’t a god, but that doesn’t mean that I’m an atheist.”

“Do you believe in God?”

“You mean white guy on a cloud god? No.”

“Then you’re an atheist.”

I sighed.

“Yes,” I said, “I suppose you’re right.” He smiled the smile of those who believe they’ve won the argument and the subject is closed, so he didn’t really hear, “but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in a spiritual life, that I don’t have a soul.”

But the subject isn’t closed. Not by a long shot. Since that conversation, I’ve mulled the idea of soul and spirituality on a daily basis. I now have a headache.

I’ve thought about soul on my runs, which has led me—consistently—to finish them singing, “R, E, S, P, E, C, T!” Not a bad way to end a run, but not the resolution I’d hoped for.

So, I asked other bloggers what they thought about soul. The G’nat at G’nat’s Eye View is an existentialist. His response made me realize that there are some seriously deep people in my virtual world. G’nat said:

I don’t think there is a difference between the soul and the self. Purpose? Purpose is our creation. Life is a blank canvas, and the self (or soul) holds both the paint and the brushes. The self (soul) not only has the freedom, but also has the responsibility to paint its own purpose.

I took philosophy in college. I really liked it, back when I had a lot of time and a young brain. I’m not saying I’ve gotten slow, but I had to read G’nat’s very thoughtful response a few times before I really understood his view. I think there’s a reason I read mainly trashy fantasy novels these days.

But the G’nat doesn’t get at the spiritual component of soul that nags at me. I’m not the only mom prodded to address religious issues because of her kids. Dinnerversions, who happens to publish a pretty wonderful food blog, said:

My own feeling is that our ‘soul’ is the energy within us. Neurons firing, chemical messengers moving across a gradient, the electrical potential between the cells of a heartbeat, the positive or negative charge of an amino acid….All of that is energy and when we die, that energy leaves us. That’s about as deep as I get.

I think that’s pretty deep. And she seems to be on to something. Hello Sailor has a similar view:

I believe everything has a soul and a soul is a type of energy, or a life force. Logically my brain wants it to know that it is just neurons and chemical messages, but in my heart there is something mystical about it, because where did that energy come from in the first place and where does it go when we are finished?

Maybe the energy gets recycled? Nevercontrary believes in reincarnation. I’ve tried; I’m not sure I don’t. It certainly explains having an immediate and intense reaction to someone, as I’ve had on meeting several people in my life. Mad Queen Linda at The Magic Bus Stop, equates the soul with consciousness and I like that, seeing as how it leaves room for lower and higher levels of consciousness. My cat, for instance, is on the same level as, say, Adolf Hitler and is likely just as irredeemable.

A few bloggers thought I was over thinking, which is really nothing new. Racing thoughts of all sorts kind of go with the bipolar territory. (Am I doubly bipolar if my thoughts are racing while I run? Does that make me quadripolar? Are my thoughts racing right now?)

Courtney Hosny of oneweektocrazy considered her immortal soul and decided whatever is at the end is at the end and figured the point of soul-searching was moot. Societyred once had a discussion about whether or not a rock has a soul. My kind of guy! He gave me a lightbulb moment with his retort to someone asking if he cared where we spend eternity: “I told him I had too much to think about in the here and now. Isn’t this time part of eternity?”

This time is, indeed, part of eternity. Certainly, some things feel like they take an eternity, like pre-school Christmas holiday pageants.

In the end, I believe that there is something beyond our physical bodies that makes us wonder about things like, is there something beyond our physical bodies. Areyoufinishedyet offered an explanation for the “something beyond” that she promised would blow my mind. It did.

Our bodies are made up of about 50% hydrogen atoms. When the universe was born, ALL of the hydrogen and helium atoms were formed. And since matter can neither be created nor destroyed, that means the hydrogen half of you is 13.7 billion years old. I think that definitely speaks to the idea of soul, and the continuity of the soul. Maybe the soul is the collective experience of those hydrogen atoms. We are imprinting our own story on the atoms inside our body as we live and breathe, and that story will be taken with those atoms once our bodies are gone, transformed into something else.

I would like to thank everyone who so thoughtfully responded to my call for input on the idea of “soul.” They all certainly have it.

Bad Buddhist! No Nirvana for you!

17 May

I am just an angry middle-aged mom. Or is it I’m a bitter old woman. Either one has more than a grain of truth to it, but I didn’t come up with these descriptions. No, these proclamations came from my son, an angry, young man or a bitter (older) teenager. Whichever way you want to look at it, there’s a grain of truth there, too.

My son didn’t say these things in anger; if he were angry, there would have been lots of vile, disgusting words followed by a good, solid grounding. I’d also take away his wireless mouse and keyboard. Technology makes it so easy to remove technology privileges from a young man’s cave now. My son said these things quite calmly, in the middle of the snack aisle at Target, after telling me I am no kind of Buddhist.

Lest you think my son is prone to blurting unflattering statements about me in the aisles at Target . . .wait . . .he is. Ok, he blurts. This time, I probably deserved a good blurting. My daughter had just walked up to me with four packages of candy that she proposed to buy. These were not the cute little one-person servings of candy that I bought with a quarter when I was nine. These were the big honking Halloween bags of candy. I said the first thing that popped into my head: “You’re high if you think I’m going to let you buy that much candy.”

Apparently a good Buddhist wouldn’t say, “You’re high” to her nine-year old anywhere, any time, let alone in Target within earshot of all the other discriminating shoppers. I’m thinking it might be ok at Walmart, but I don’t shop there, so I can’t be sure.

My son is constantly telling me I’m the world’s worst Buddhist and I will give him that, frequently, I am a bad Buddhist. The worst? Nah, but bad a fair amount of time. When I’m feeling particularly charitable, I can convince myself that in recognizing I am a bad Buddhist, I am being a good Buddhist. But then I realize that I am congratulating myself for being a good Buddhist, which certainly makes me a bad Buddhist. Then I realize that I am self-flagellating and I might as well go back to being a Catholic.

I am an especially bad Buddhist behind the wheel. It’s not that my driving is aggressive, but that I don’t have a particularly peaceful attitude toward other drivers. If I don’t like the way you’re driving, I’ll tell you while also calling you a nasty name. Holding up traffic so you can turn left in the “no left turn” lane? I’ll be saying something like, “Oh! I get it! The rules don’t apply to you, asshole!” Of course, you won’t hear me but my son will and he’ll say, “You’re a terrible Buddhist.”

If my son were a Buddhist I could have nailed him with his badness the other day. He just got his driver’s permit so he’s been driving us around on our afternoon errands. Recently, a driver pulled into his lane unannounced. His response? “Nice turn signal, asshole.” I didn’t know if I should be proud or appalled.

I was a better Buddhist before I had kids. I had time to meditate. I was actually pretty good at it. I could drop into a meditative state just about anywhere, even on the bus to work. I read Buddhist teachings. I went to a Buddhist conference.

When children entered my life, meditation time became scarce. My practice moved from meditation to mindfulness. It’s so much easier to parent when you let go of trying to have your own way. Of course, being in the moment can mean sitting on the floor in the aisle of a certain not-Walmart retailer with a two-year old’s face cradled in your hands calmly explaining why screaming “I hate you” is not a constructive way to get one’s needs met.

Lots of mediation instructors tell beginning meditators to focus on the breath. Count one. Breathe in. Count two. Breathe out. Some have you count one for the whole breath cycle, but you get the idea. The trick is to not let your mind wander as you count to ten. Any mental misstep gets you back to one. So, when I started meditating it would go something like this: count one; breathe in; think about cute shoes I saw at Field’s. Back to one. Count one; breathe in; think about what to have for dinner. Count one; wonder if I’ll ever get to ten. Count one. Realize I forgot to breathe on the last one. Breathe. Count one. Count one again to get back in the “count one, breathe” sequence.

Lately, being a Buddhist has been more about staving off panic than finding any sort of peace. My son is failing history but no need to panic; the semester isn’t over today. My father is dying but he’s not dead today.  Money is an ongoing concern, but we’re not broke today. Ok, maybe we’re broke today but we’re not broke broke. It’s a constant struggle to not add the “yet” and slide into that place in my head where everything is crap and we’re all going to hell in a hand basket.

I’ve been trying to focus on my breath again, but more often than not, it comes out in a sigh. I don’t even try to do the counting thing. If being a Buddhist means anything to me, it means cutting myself enough slack to allow one breath to be enough. It’s what a bad Buddhist—and Buddha—would do.

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