07 December 2010

zhong fu

It's not a martial art. I'll get to that in a moment.

One of my students said to me today, "you know, Amelia when I come to see you it's like coming to see the Great Oz." I'd be lying if I said that didn't please me some.

[insert second non sequitur here, once i remember it]

I wanted to write tonight about my tattoos. Not all of them, just the two most recent, which are now over a year old. They warrant explanation, and represent a pet postulate of mine.

There are two, they're reddish brownish in hue. Sanskrit characters (yeah, yeah the yoga teacher has a total of three sanskrit symbols tattooed on her body how cliche). They mark a direct line running front to back on my upper-right chest area. Meaning, if something were to travel straight through my body from front to back it would hit both symbols.

The one on the front is the character for "ma." In this image of the marisyati mantra in Siddham script (="I AM GOING TO DIE" very Buddhist), the character "ma" is the first and last. This is the exact script that I have tattooed on me (just the script, not this mantra), so you now have a visual. It's just the one character, which has a variety of possible meanings. I meant it as the universal mother. In the year I got these tattoos I became a mother. It was also to honor my own mother in my life in general, and also because of her lung cancer diagnosis in the same year.

The placement of the front tattoo is located on - you guessed it - zhong fu, or the lung-1 ("central treasury") acupuncture point. This point governs conditions of the lungs, but I feel also like I read somewhere that it helps the process of "letting go." I have noticed over the years that I hold my stress here and also in the corresponding point on my back, under my right shoulder blade. I've known others to hold their stress there as well. The interesting thing for me is to watch the ball of energy that lives in this spot change, expand, contract, move, ache, throb, burn, evaporate, and reappear. I know that sounds kinda kooky. I don't know what else to say other than once you notice your 'injuries' as clues instead of as some things to work against, have surgically removed, medicate, or ignore, an entire world of possibility and healing opens up. When I first got the tattoos I mentioned to some people I was with a theory I have about us as a generation making our soul wounds manifest. I mean yes sometimes people tattoo the Tazmanian Devil on their calf because it just looks bitchin'. But maybe some of the markings with deeper meaning, those that arise less from the consciousness or vanity and more from an inclination, are just ways that the self is attempting to heal.

Maybe in my past life I was a hawk, shot through the chest with an arrow and killed, and I carry my mortal wound with me to this day. Maybe I was a Sioux sun dancer and the spot marks where my flesh was pierced and I was hung (not bloody likely, although that is the spot). Maybe it's just because I'm a righty and hold my pen too tightly.

I had a consultation with the wonderful Paul Pitchford some years back. It was winter, and I had gone to visit him at his hotel room in New York. He is the most vata person I think I have ever met, just a softspoken wisp of a man. He took my pulses and looked at my tongue, and when he was taking the pulse of my left wrist he saw my tattoo there. He then asked if I had any others, and I showed him what I could show him without disrobing or removing my boots. He mentioned offhandedly that the work of a tattoo needle stimulates the related meridians, should the artist run into one (and the likelihood of that is high). This is why I chose to mark this spot right beneath my right clavicle, in an effort to stimulate and heal. It is not a particularly aesthetically pleasing place. I don't find it to be a sexy or decorative part of the body. But man, when Kurt at Pino Brothers Tattoo was working on that spot it felt soooo good (drool...). He said, "I am drilling your clavicle right now." and I said, "yeah, I knowandIloveit."

On my back (which Kurt did in the same sitting) sits the character "am":
The root of this letter is "a" (same character minus the dot on the top), which is basically the mother of all sacred syllables. It is my understanding that this vowel "am" means "to honor" or "in service of." So if you put them together one way to understand the meaning is "to honor the mother." My own version of a heart with a scroll reading "Mom." I am actually only just now putting together the fact that the first two letters of my first name are "Am" and the first two letters of my middle name are "Ma." That's pretty amazing to me that it wasn't even something in the forefront of my mind. Or in the back of my mind.

And of course you all know Amma the hugging saint.

And ama is also a verb form of "to love" in several Romance languages... you get the point.

I cannot begin to address all of the life events that have transpired since I got these tattoos. Lots. Big ones. All relevant to the topic of motherhood, honoring self, healing, love, breath, mortifying pain, and connection.

I do have designs on at least one more (who are we kidding, I'm sure there will be several), but right now these for me are the most important, and are still working. I've had some kind of congestion in my chest for the past few days. Hasn't allowed me to take a full breath. As the congestion breaks and moves (from laughing of all things) that one spot in my upper chest is still dull and present, aching and thick, like a grumpy guinea pig lodged in my chest. Some days I really begrudge it and want it out. Some days I thank it for giving me the heads up about a person my mind didn't have the capacity to see through. Most days I just take deep breaths and push up against it, hoping it will pop. Some days, on the really bad days, it reaches up my neck and like a hand, grasps at my throat, or jumps into my back for an incapacitating day of limping and wincing. I bet one day I will wake up and notice its absence, give thanks for whatever peace in my life has allowed it to pass, and miss it, just a little bit.


  1. I have the exact same spot under my shoulder blade. It's never extremely painful, just always achy and sometimes tingly and I notice it most when I'm feeling compelled to reach past my comfort or am overwhelmed by the MOUNTAIN OF THINGS to do in my life. It also it just makes everything else in that area-- shoulder, clavicle, neck, slightly out of whack and I feel like I'm walking sideways.

    I want to hire someone to reach under my shoulder blade every day after work and stab at the knot with their thumbs-- squishing at it until it's back to being a pea instead of a golf ball. Know anyone who can do that for me?

  2. ...hmmmm every day? i don't know about every day (can you train peter?) but there is a really sweet shiatsu practitioner at the acupuncture clinic where i used to work (her name is edie, the clinic is pathways to wellness http://www.pathwaysboston.org/) and she will use her elbows to inflict all kinds of delicious torture. getting off of her table you are usually about three inches taller...
    interesting how we share those internalized wounds, right? makes you wonder.