“I am a canvas of my experiences, my story is etched in lines and shading, and you can read it on my arms, my legs, my shoulders, and my stomach.” ― Kat Von D
I got my first big tattoo in April and I couldn’t be more in love with it... the actual tattooing part…not so much, but I did take away some new insights and cool life lessons from the experience.
I waited patiently for almost a full year to get tattooed by my friend Alana Rempel from Bloodline Tattoo Company. I have three small tattoos already, a spiral turtle on my foot from when I backpacked Europe at 19 by myself; a tattoo of three buttons on the cuff of my wrist for my sisters – the three of us hold each other together; and my banana mustache finger tattoo that I got with my sweetheart Chris Kendall on a whim in Brooklyn last year that reminds me not to take life too seriously. I love my little tats and I knew that I was ready to go for something bigger.
I love mandalas and decided to get one on my back to celebrate my spiritual journey. I wanted it to look like henna and to incorporate sacred geometry with hints of fruit and other hints of my spiritual story. I had to have fruit in there because eating a fruit-based diet opened me up to spirituality and my higher self. The cleaner and clearer my body and mind are the cleaner and clearer my connections. It’s a beautiful thing. For the sacred geometry I wanted two symbols: the flower of life and the heart chakra. The heart chakra symbol reminds me to live, act and speak from my heart space, to do all things with love. The flower of life has been a powerful symbol for me on my spiritual path – we are all connected, we are all one. There are other little symbols in there that are important to me as well. This tattoo means a lot and I couldn't have been more excited (as long as I wasn't thinking about the pain!)
But wait! You're Naturally Ashley...tattoos aren't natural or healthy!...
While it might not be physically healthy for your body to get a tattoo I found there were definite benefits! Here are some of the insights and life lessons I learned through my experience:
My first lesson: Letting go of control
I started sketching out my tattoo design and halfway through the drawing I turned it over to Alana. This was a challenge for me. I like having creative control over every project I do. When forced to do group projects in school, I preferred to do all the work myself, so that I knew it would get done ‘right’. The old me would have drawn every line of the tattoo to perfection, but I had so much faith in Alana and our collaboration that I asked her to finish it. I was actually inspired to book the appointment with Alana after seeing one of her paintings of sacred geometry. As an artist I respected her artistry and wanted it to be a reflection of the both of us. It wasn’t easy to let go of control, but I was so happy that I did. When she sent me the drawing, I jumping up and down with joy I loved it so much. She finished my vision better than I could have imagined. Lesson one - letting go of control and trusting in the universe... and all was perfect.
Lesson 2: Pain is temporary (and sometimes in your head)
I was scared of the pain. All my other tattoos took no longer than 15 minutes and they hurt! I didn’t know how I was going to sit through hours of tattooing, but I knew where to start... with my breath. I learned from yoga and watching pregnant ladies on TV that you can let go of pain, at least a little, by focusing on your breath. So I did just that; breathe in, two, three, four - breathe out, two, three, four. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. There were times when I could let go of the pain completely by going into breath and meditation, especially during the first 2 hours. The pain became more numb feeling. My sister and nephew thoughtfully came into to see me but I just wanted to stay in my meditation where the pain was not so painful. The second half was a bit more challenging as my back was getting pretty tender and sore as Alana moved up my neck. The neck was the worst! I found solace in my iPhone, distracting my mind from the pain with Instagram and Snapchat. That only worked for so long before I went back to meditation. I had to kick it up a notch and really tell myself over and over that I was ok, that pain is temporary and that I can choose my experience in this moment. The more you think about the pain, the more painful it is. Negative/worried thoughts are your worst enemy here! Focus on your breath... and when it’s all over you’ve got a beautiful tattoo to keep!
Lesson 3: You are stronger that you think you are
I did it! I sat for almost 5 hours with a constant needle going in and out of my back and I was ok! What a powerful lesson in strength and endurance. I was exhausted after lying on that table, I felt sick, my face was puffy, my mind was cloudy, I was weak and just wanted to go to bed. But I did it! And it was worth it. I survived and I didn’t even punch Alana (believe me it crossed my mind a few times!) On the other side of fear is freedom. What are some other things I think I can’t do?... I bet it can do those too!
Lesson 4: We are spiritual beings having a human experience
Do you ever have the ‘what if’ thoughts? They come up when getting a tattoo. What if I don’t like it in ten years? What if it gets wrinkly and saggy? What if I didn’t pick the right placement, what if, what if…. For me, getting a tattoo is a great reminder that our bodies are only temporary vessels in this human experience. Our souls live on long after we exit. There are no mistakes in this life, just beautiful experiences to be had and lessons to be learned. My skin is now a beautiful canvas for my life experiences. Yes it's for as long as I live... but I’m not going to waste my life worrying about the ‘what ifs’ that prevent me from living it!
Lesson 5: Do what you want!
As a Holistic Health Coach, I advocate living a natural lifestyle for health and happiness and some would say that getting a tattoo isn’t natural at all. I wondered, 'Would others judge me for getting a tattoo?' For 5 hours I sat in fight-or-flight mode having a foreign substance injected into my skin. (I did make sure to ask beforehand and Alana uses plant based vegan inks of course!) Before getting tattoos I did the research, weighed the pros and cons and the pros won out. I'm an artist baby! Who cares what others think anyways! It’s my body and my canvas to decorate as I please. LIfe isn't about being perfect. I could have backed out and worried about how it would affect my future, career or my wedding day having to hide or cover it up, but guess what? I want it to be seen! And I wouldn’t choose to work in a place where I would have to cover up my tattoos anyways. Be true to yourself and live your life…it’s the only way to be happy!
Lots of love and fresh squeezed hugs,
Ashley Clark is a Holistic Health Coach, artist, photographer and the owner/operator of Naturally Ashley Nutrition. This prairie girl from Saskatchewan Canada loves to nourish her body positive thoughts and ripe seasonal fruits! She wants to share everything she knows about holistic living to inspire others on their journey to create a happy, healthy lifestyle naturally.
Ashley received holistic health coach training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and has been following a raw vegan diet for three years. She has healed many health issues such as candida, gallbladder inflammation, chronic hives and allergies, sinus problems, digestive issues, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic urinary tract infections and more. She now feels lighter and brighter with abundant energy to pursue her dreams!