Tapas is Sanskrit can mean heat, and in classical tantrik usage, it refers to the fire of penance. Penance in this context is not the typical western definition: (punitive measures inflicted by the oneself or the pious to atone for sin or wrongdoing)… It is a heating up of the inner “hearth” with acutely applied focus to bring the practitioner into alignment with godhead: the spark of spirit that enlivens us; our divine nature.

For those familiar with South Asian societies, this may conjure up images of Sadhus or monks practicing rituals (often painful or difficult on the flesh ) that are used as a catalyst to bring the mind in control of the body and, as a matter of course, bringing about a more complete unfolding of spirit within the human matrix.

Present day, the practice of tattooing is becoming a much more visible and acceptable practice and occupation, as is wearing permanent marks in the skin. This is a practice that can be found farther back than written record on nearly all continents of the earth. Some form of scarring or marking the body has been practiced everywhere and while many now see it as simply a new signpost or accessory, there are some who have found a deeper wellspring within, while undergoing such physical rigors – (i.e. tapas) of a tattoo.

For many thousands of years these types of practices have led some aspirants to the ultimate goal, and others into the depths of insanity, neurosis, psychosis or simply anchoring them deeper and ever more fixedly to the world of Nama and Rupa (or name and form), where the five senses are continually fed and allowed to run roughshod over the higher faculties, leaving them dormant, unexpressed and unrealized. Since we are presently in the astrological period of Rahu, this type of insatiable grasping is expressing itself to the extreme. See my friend Dr. Robert Svoboda’s comments on Rahu World here.

The teachings of the Tantrik masters of old, the Siddhas or “Attained Ones” , are remarkable precisely because their beginnings are so very ordinary. The cobbler, the hunter, the thief, the stonemason, the gambler; these were laypersons leading very mundane lives and quite ensconced in the 5 sense world before they met their teachers. Quite unexpectedly however, they were shown how to use their particular station in life as grist for the mill of practice, thereby transmuting their mundane consciousness into the most rare states of realization in embodied human existence. This is not to imply that they quit what they were doing after this auspicious encounter with divine providence – Not hardly. This new teaching, empowered and enlivened by the Guru’s grace and the passing of the spiritual seed of power, or Shakti, allowed them to see with new eyes the work that was before them. This new clarity gave many a renewed vigor and presence in their work (Rita or later, Dharma), becoming a useful tool by which to enact an alchemical process.

I often tell my clients that the tattoo experience is 90 percent mental. This is true of almost anything, but it bears itself out in process of being tattooed in the most primal of ways. We are in phase of society where many of us have forgotten that we are still human animals. The human organism’s ability to engineer technology has not changed the state of our mental, emotional and spiritual dis-ease and disconnectedness. For most, the common response to pain is that it must be mitigated quickly and medicated away. Still less do we make the time to stop in our daily grind to appreciate the amazing interconnectedness of the body, it’s capacity to heal, the dermis’ magical capacity to hold ink for our lifespan, and the mind’s gymnastics and methods of coping when we willfully put ourselves through a painful ordeal.

The mental focus one needs to employ when sitting for several hours of tattooing is substantial. The body-mind matrix’s response to this type of pain can be overwhelming and indeed, does cause some people to hyperventilate, go into shock, tense the body and fight against the work being done. This becomes very different when a person becomes reasonably accustomed to this process. The needles hit, endorphins rush into the system and the body can be controlled with proper breath-work. Now there opens a door for deeper level work. Dharana, one of Patanjali’s eight limbs of Yoga, is a Sanskrit word meaning one-pointed concentration. This is often taught much later in terms of yogic practice, though, with effort, anyone can obtain some experience the fruit of this practice.

A Simple Dharana (concentration) Practice:

  1. Begin by finding a safe and somewhat quiet place to sit down and begin observing your natural breath.
  2. Sit with a candle or imagine one in front of you, burning brightly.
  3. Focus your mind on the flame itself, envisioning it in detail until it is all you can see in your mind’s eye.
  4. Continue the imagining/envisioning process until all of your senses are engaged – i.e. the heat can be felt as warm, the brilliance of the light seen, the smell of the burning wick and wax, and hear the sound of the flame as it continues burning. You may even taste a bit of carbon monoxide in the air.
  5. Continue focusing on the flame and the above sensations for a few more breath cycles, until all else fades from your awareness. Make the concentration complete.
  6. With seven more breaths, imagine becoming one with that flame. You are it & it is you. There is nothing else but a burning flame in your awareness.
  7. When you have fully become the flame, Hold it for as long as you are able. When you feel finished, slowly relax your focus and awareness back to your body. Thank your body and the elements for being such a useful and supportive vehicle.

The practice of concentration (Dharana) can be applied to many things, thus making seemingly ordinary events extraordinary. To learn more useful techniques for transforming your reality, please sign up for a Tattoo Vinyasa Intensive Workshop www.tattoovinyasa.com And use the gift of your life wisely..

Om Shanti

– Jon Osiris