Melinda strolled into the tiny tattoo parlor tucked in between the Chinese restaurant and the pawnshop. She twirled one of her blond pigtails around her index finger, checking out the pictures plastered over every inch of wall space. She stopped in front of a block of Chinese dragons.
“Howdy there little lady, my name is Enza. What can I do for you?” asked a burly man covered from head to toe in tattoos. Streaks of gray poked out from the long black ponytail hanging down his back. The colors of his beard and mustache were reversed, with only a few strands of black left. The wrinkles and laugh lines that textured his face were all but hidden by his wide grin.
“I want a tattoo,” replied Melinda. “I think I want a dragon…or wait a minute, what are these?” she asked as she stood in front of a block of squiggly designs.
“Those are Sanskrit symbols, and a few are Tibetan characters,” replied Enza.
“I like the Buddha over there too.”
“Check these out,” said Enza as he rolled up his sleeve. “This here is Green Tara, and on this side is Milarepa.”
“Wow, they’re awesome!” Melinda began to wander again around the shop, unable to keep her feet still. Finally, she stopped for a moment and pointed. “What does this one mean?”
“That’s an OM. Some monks say OM is the sound of Eternity. The monks chant it to help empty their minds and open up to Enlightenment,” said Enza, his eyes twinkling as if he had drifted into ecstasy.
“Enlightenment, huh? Sure, let’s try that one.”
“If you’re certain that’s what you want, we can get started.” Enza motioned towards the chair near the back wall.
Melinda practically ran to the chair, then suddenly stopped. “I thought I wanted it on my arm, but now I think I may want to put it above my ankle.” She rocked back and forth, shifting her weight from one leg to the other. Her finger continued to twirl her hair as she cocked her head to one side, and then the other as she debated the placement of her tattoo.
“It’s an important decision,” said Enza patiently. “A tattoo is a permanent feature of your body; you may be able to alter it, but it will always be there.”
“Ok, Ok,” squeaked Melinda. “The ankle it is!” She plopped down in the chair. She kept shifting her leg and foot to get a better look at where the new tattoo would soon be.
“You’ll need to stay very still, or I won’t be able to work,” Enza gently reminded her as he laid a firm hand on top of her knee.
Melinda continued to squirm in excitement and anticipation. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t stop her foot from twitching and jumping. Enza tried to press the stencil onto her leg, but with each flinch, he would have to clean off the temporary ink and start over.
“You know, the monks seeking Enlightenment have the same problem,” said Enza quietly.
“How’s that?” Melinda replied, her eyes darting across the floor. A deep frown reflected the fear that she wouldn’t be able to get the tattoo she desperately wanted.
“Enlightenment is already here, but to become aware of it, you must sit very still for a very long time. All of the experiences a person has in the world create conditioning, a sort of autopilot that runs the person’s reactions to life. Over time, the ideas of how the world operates build up structures within the mind. The mind jumps from structure to structure, concept to concept, thought to thought. It’s always moving from here to there, just like your leg does every time I get near it.”
“So how do I make it stop moving?” asked Melinda.
“The same way the monks do: meditation,” replied Enza. A soft light grew around Enza’s head, and soon spread to cover his entire body in gold. “Close your eyes and concentrate on the OM symbol. Keep focusing until you can see it clearly in your mind’s eye.”
Melinda thought about leaving and finding another tattoo parlor. This guy obviously had a few loose screws. She loved the symbol she had picked out, so she decided to humor the old man. She looked at the symbol on the paper for a minute, and then closed her eyes to concentrate like Enza had suggested.
“A part of you is always dissolved in meditation, in the clear light of Enlightenment,” whispered Enza. “Some people think they meditate; in truth though, no one meditates. All you need to do is stop thought and get out of the way. Concentrate until only OM exists, and you’ll discover Eternity is already meditating through your being. Stay still long enough, and She will cut away the concepts binding you to this world of suffering.”
Melinda imagined the OM symbol in her mind as Enza’s soothing voice calmed her chaotic thoughts. She felt her body completely relax as her mind filled with feelings of bliss and peace. In this place of silence, nothing mattered. All that existed within her was endless radiant light.
Enza worked quickly and quietly with his ink and needle. Golden light spilled out from his being and into Melinda as she floated in silence, a smile curled upon her lips.
“In the sacred space of meditation, sensations sink into the background. Thoughts arise and fall away like the waves of the ocean, not leaving any impressions. Here, everything is perfect,” said Enza, slowly withdrawing the Light from the room and pulling Melinda back to physical awareness. “The tattoo may be sore for a few days as the skin heals. Be sure to keep it clean and out of the sun,” continued Enza as he helped Melinda stand up.
Bewildered, tears of gratitude fell from Melinda eyes. “It’s beautiful, simply beautiful,” she sobbed, standing in front of the mirror admiring the new artwork shining above her ankle. “Exactly what I wanted. How could I ever repay you?”
“The tattoo costs $250. The meditation lesson was free. I hope you’ll want to continue the practice, and find your way back into the silence by yourself. If you don’t want to, though, that’s quite alright too.”
Melinda handed Enza cash to pay for the tattoo. She didn’t want to leave, but there didn’t seem to be anything else to say.
Enza grinned as he held the door open for her. “Have a great day!” he chimed as she walked out into the world, the new tattoo a larger part of her than she had ever expected.
by Jenna Sundell, 2006