As an artist, I do love tattoos. Especially when they are well-designed creations painted with skill.
However, this isn’t quite how I would describe my initial four small tattoos which were impulse purchases between the ages of fourteen and eighteen. Absolutely no thought went into them whatsoever. I literally would just rock up the nearest tattooist and with a few quid in my pocket, pick out something from the book of designs and go for it!
Fast forward 30 years and things have changed dramatically in the UK.For a start, it is illegal to tattoo any minor under the age of eighteen and conditions of the studios are subject to stringent health and safety regulations. A far cry from when, at age fifteen, I popped my boob out of my bra in front of a waiting room full of people and told the old tattooist to paint a rose on it!
I want to be a painted lady. I love tattoos
Last November, in Goa, I decided it was time again to make that mark on my skin . This time, however, it was going to be different. This time, I wanted my skin to be permanently painted with a design which meant something dear to me. A design which demonstrated who I was. A reflection of my inner mind, of what makes me tick.
The child of Shiva and Shakti, The Remover of Obstacles. The elephant headed God.
Understanding the metaphor of Shiva and Shakti is an understanding of great spiritual wealth. Adam and Eve, Yin and Yang. Parusha and Prakruti. The Divine Feminine and Masculine energies from whenceforth we have all been created are Universal Truth and I wished to have this truth etched on my skin whilst I am alive and living in this 4D reality we call life.
I browsed various tattoo studios in North Goa but they were all shit. Less of a studio and more of a back ( or front ) street hovel. Side by side, these tattoo parlours line the tourist drag with nothing new or authentic to offer. The shop fronts all display the same photoshopped images of models with incredible tattoos which the artists can only dream of creating. One guy in a shop was so fucking stoned he couldn’t even make eye contact. I wasn’t going to let him loose on my arm!
And then I found Mandala Tattoo in Arambol. I noticed the painted sign hanging from up high so I climbed the stairs and entered into a proper art studio. Painted designs of manadals adorned the walls and I knew I had come to the right place.
I talked with Suraj, the beautiful Nepalese guy and the creator of the designs. He spoke with such creativity and with such passion for his work. I was hooked. I was in. This was the guy for me! We discussed the initial Ganesh design but what followed flowed from Suraj’s own beautiful and creative mind. He is a true artist.
My initial sittings were of Lord Ganesha. I slept. I actually SLEPT whilst being tattooed. I felt sooo relaxed! I knew I was supposed to be feeling pain but I didn’t. The sound of the gun and the pulling sensation on my arm was hypnotic.
During the mandala sitting I experienced a higher state of consciousness. Suraj tattooed my mandala with dot work.
I layed on the bed and felt the pain of that needle making minute dots into my skin. I knew I could overcome this pain, Instead of fearing this pain I knew I could make peace with it. And at the moment I decided to do that, at the moment I released my egoic mind, at the moment I decided to be completely present with this pain energy and to view it as my friend, I overcame it. I became one with the pain. I realised the pain as pure energy. And in the moment I did that, the energy of pain ceased to exist. The pain became an entity which I knew I had control over. And with this realisation, wonders happened.
Suraj and I became surrounded by pure light. It was Divine. My senses became extremely heightened. I could hear people talking on the balcony of the studio. And then I could see them even though a wall divided us. White light burst forth from my hands and fingertips.
And then I felt nothing, No pain. I could feel the tugging on my skin but the pain was completely numb.
Mandalas are very powerful energy forces. When we think about them, draw them, create them, we are, energetically, allowing ourselves to tap into a Universal truth. The Universe wants us to experience these truths. The Universe wants us to align with it’s forces because those forces are OUR forces because we ARE the Universe. Every single cell in our body is a mandala, is a Universal Truth. We are the microcosm of the macrocosm.
Please enjoy the photo’s of the unfolding of my tattoo.
For the fact that I’m here. Living. Breathing. Experiencing. Loving. Working.
Last week, someone I knew eighteen years ago, died. It hit me surprisingly hard. He was a good man and a very dear friend to me. More like a surrogate father really.
We drifted apart and, now he’s gone, there will never be the chance to connect again. He leaves a loving and devoted wife, a son, two daughters and many grandchildren.
Christmas this year will be a sore time indeed and I shall be praying for them with my love on that day.
Today, I am thankful for my family.
My sweet adult children who have grown into the most wonderful adults. My beautiful granddaughter whom I adore so much, words simply can not express. I’m am blessed indeed.
Today, I am thankful for where I live.
I am blessed to have miles of countryside around my home. Just one house separates my us from the fields, which we walk the dogs through regularly.
On Saturday, I was returning from dropping my daughter at work just as the sun was rising. The sky was clear and the fog was rising above the fields. It was a beautiful sight so instead of going straight indoors when I got home, I felt compelled to go and stand in the fields and breathe in the fresh, crisp autumnal morning air. It was incredibly life affirming.
Goa. The little state in West India, famed for the long stretches of beaches, sweeping palms, full moon raves and the oldy woldy Portuguese charm.
For me, personally, though, itmeans so much more than that. I’ve been visiting Goa for 20 years and I love, love, love the place!
Here’s what makes me go crazy nuts with excitement every time I have a visit planned.
Family and Friends
Fifteen years ago, I rode my scooter down a gorgeous little leafy lane in search of rented accomodation. I was directed towards a beautiful house where I was met with a typically Goan warm welcome from the family who lives there.
All these years later and I’ve never stayed anywhere else! We have all watched each other’s children grow into teens and adults and seen marriages and new children born into the family.
The members of this beautiful family are amongst my closest friends in the world.
When Im there, I get so well cared for by my lovely Goan Mum. At home in the UK I am a carer and as a lone parent, everything is on my shoulders. As soon as I walk in those garden gates, I go from being full time carer to the ‘cared for’.
I love to play with the kids and I adore them all, including the neighbours children. We hang out together and do arts and crafts and play games. They’re all such beautiful kids.
I tend to put on a ton of weight when I’m staying as Mum feeds me enormous amounts everyday. Sometimes I just want to sit and chat in the kitchen but then the next thing I know I have a plate of food in front of me which, by the way, is magic. No matter how much I eat, that plate just refills!
I love hanging out with my ‘sisters’, chatting about stuff and putting the world to rights.
I live in a room in the treetops overlooking a field. Each morning, I look at my window and wait for the light to come. As soon as it does, I open my balcony door and am met with a sight which fills my heart with happiness and contentment; trees. Palm trees, teak trees, bamboo, banana trees and more. I step outside and look over at the field and listen to the sounds of my little neighbourhood waking up and feel blissful in my heart. What a way to rise in the morning! To be surrounded by tree energy almost as soon as Ive opened my eyes!
I love the sense of community in the little neighbourhood where I stay. People are very friendly and I’ve known a lot of them for many years and am good friends with one particular woman. We have such a laugh together. She’s a sweetie.
When I’m riding my scooter I love to watch people standing by the side of the road and just chatting. People always give a smile or a wave and more often than not, someone is shouting my name from a doorway, or as they too pass by on their scooters.
I know more people here than I do in my own village in England. More people take the time to stop and chat with me in one day here than in one week, or even one month at home!
Extended Families and Strong Family Ties
In India and Goa, when a marriage takes place, the woman leaves her own family home and goes to live with the husbands family. Im not going to pretend that this situation is always rosy. It’s not. Women all over India are suffering abuse at the hands of their husbands and his family. A mother is always going to support her son over the wife and this leaves her with little or no support.
However, this obviously isn’t always the case and millions of families live very happily together. My lovely Goan family included.
I marvel at the way the children are surrounded by adult relatives; aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmother and grandfather. This is so good for them and it teaches them to get along with people of all ages. There is always someone around to attend to their needs so they never have to feel neglected and from this comes a sense of security. I think this must be where their strong sense of identity stems from, thus preventing them from ‘going off the rails’ in their teen angst years. All parents become stressed at times, that’s a given, but when you know you have someone else there to share the load with, life becomes a little easier. And I should know, having raised all my kids myself for the past 20 plus years!
The strong bonds between the family members is so apparent and I admire the way the kids have such respect for their elders.
Living together = sharing together, helping one another and respecting one another. And let’s face it, no one is going to get lonely in their old age!
Ahhh, the Arabian Sea! Be it wild with monsoonwinds or as calm as a lake in the dry season, sitting on the beach and staring out to the ocean is one of my favourite ‘go to’ places for quiet time.
During monsoon, the sea can be ferocious and when I hear the roar of it from my room in the treetops, I am drawn to it like a moth to a flame.
In dry season, sometimes the sea can be so calm that, save the slow, lazy slopping of the shoreline tide, it appears not to even be moving at all.
Whatever the weather, when I’m leaving the beach, I always have a quick glance backwards and silently say, ‘goodbye sea, Il see you soon’.
Flora and Scooters
One of my favourite pastimes is driving my scooter slowly down little back lanes lined with electric green leaves of all shapes and sizes. I just kinda meander lazily as the sun beats down on me, occasionally stopping to let some cows or water buffaloes traipse past me as they cross the road from one field to another. Or to pet a stray dog and maybe throw it some biscuits from my bag.
I drive past stunning displays of brightlycoloured flowers, all contrasted beautifully against the green of the leaves. So dazzling and striking in the sunlight!
Sometimes, I just stop. I want to sit quietly on my scooter and just breath in my surroundings. I marvel at the sheer size of some of the leaves. So tropical! The bright green paddy fields, the roaming pigs on their way to nowhere in particular, the distant barking of a dog or the quick beep of a passing scooter. But it’s the sound of the coconut trees leaves in the breeze which flirt with my heart the most. As the long, thin leaflets brush together, it makes the sound of gentle rain. This is the sound I take home with me, nestled in my heart like a cosy memory, a sound which nourishes me through the long days and lonely evenings until I can return again to my beloved Goa.
Hospitality and Friendliness
There’s no welcome like an Indian welcome!
No matter what caste or religion a person is, or whether they live in an mansion or a hut, I’ve never met anybody as friendly and welcoming as an Indian. I rarely make eye contact with someone without receiving a smile. People are just friendly. It’s that simple. Friendly, chatty, approachable and helpful. In fact, from my own personal experience, people go out of their way to assist me. Here are just a two examples of so, so many.
If I’m having problems starting my scooter, there will always be someone who notices and comes over to lend a helping hand. Let’s check the petrol levels. Is it a faulty starter motor? Let’s try and kick start it instead. I have honestly had this happen multiple times and each time the kind soul who is assisting me has not given up and gone on with their day until Im ready to drive away.
There was one occasion when I dropped my scooter key down a hole in the ground outside two shops in the local parade. It was a really tiny hole as well. Not much larger than the key! It landed on a platform far down below!
The pair of shop owners and their staff came to my aid. It was a real team effort! Someone disappeared and came back with some wire, someone else bent it into a hook shape, another person held the phone torch and finally some other guy, oh so very carefully, hooked the key right up out of the hole again! It took many attempts, however, but not one person gave up on the task. What a beautiful group of guys! I showed my heartfelt gratitude to them by buying goodies from both their shops.
Homes Past and Present
Following four centuries of Portuguese rule, in 1961, at the order of the Indian army, the Portuguese finally departed and Goa was awarded its freedom. However, remnants of a time-gone-by remain in the way of beautiful old world heritage houses.( the following photos of the old houses are taken from the web).
These gorgeous homes range in size from very modest to enormous mansions, from unkempt with faded and cracking paintwork and overgrown gardens to highly decorated with huge well maintained grounds.
Either way- I love them! In fact, I used to rent one from my Goan mum years ago, many moons before the room in the trees was built.
Apparently there are no other buildings the same in the world. Not even Portugal!
So this post is about my personal loves of Goa and driving past these old heritage houses is definitely one of my favourite things to see. I need to take more photos….
The other houses which, at times, literally stop me in my tracks, are the majestic new builds. Huge and colourful, these houses come in many different designs, shapes, sizes and colours. Some are literally stunning beyond words. It’s very interesting to watch the building of them over time. It’s almost as if you can order this balcony, that doorway and different shape structures which eventually fit together like a jigsaw to make one huge house specifically according to your own personal design! If I had the money……..
They need no words…..
So, yeah, I could probably go on and on about what I love about Goa! Needless to say, I urge you to visit if you haven’t already. You won’t be disappointed.
The abundance of wildlife in and around the ashram where I am staying in North India. I am surrounded by deer, fireflies, bugs galore including many species of ant, caterpillars, centipede’s and more dragonfly’s than I can possibly count, not to mention the butterflies in all their array of different colours. The sheer amount of birds species is incredible! I also saw a peacock wondering around this afternoon. I adore the sweet squirrels with their stripy raccoon style colouring. They’re so tame. Always scampering everywhere but not really running too far away.
I was eating my fruit in the kitchen this morning and I found I had a lizard for company. Not a gecko ( I do love them and they’re everywhere), but a very long tailed green lizard. It was wonderful!
Everywhere I look there is some creature, running, scampering, playing, flying, or crawling. Or in the case of Holy the old dog, lying down having a belly rub. 🙂
The silence. Besides the many different bird song, there is just…. simply… silence.
My breath. Bringing awareness to my breath during meditation. It’s sweetness, the force with which I am being kept alive, fills my heart with gratitude.
I have recently read Autobiography of a Yogi and it is the most remarkable and spiritually moving book I have ever read. Here is an excerpt from this profound, life affirming book. There will be many more excerpts to come.
Taken from page 171.
The knowledge of ‘good and evil’ promised Eve by the ‘serpent, refers to the dualistic and oppositional experiences that mortals under maya ( illusion) must undergo. Falling into delusion through misuse of his feeling and reason, or Eve-and Adam- consciousness, man relinquishes his right to enter the heavenly garden of divine self sufficiency. The personal responsibility of every human is to restore his ‘parents’ or dual nature to a unified harmony or Eden.
“And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed” – Genesis 3:23. ( Bible)
The divine man first made by God had his consciousness centred in the omnipotent single eye in the forehead ( eastward). The all creative powers of his will, focused at that spot, were lost to man when he began to “till the ground” of his physical nature.
The ‘Adam and Eve’ story of the Hindus is recounted in the hoary Puranas, Srimad Bhagavata. the first man and woman ( beings in physical form) are called Swayambhuva Manu ( ‘man born of the creator’) and his wife Satarupa (‘true image’). Their five children intermarried with Prajapatis ( perfect beings who could assume corporeal form); from these first divine families was born the human race.
Never in East or West have I heard anyone else expound the Christian scriptures with so deep a spiritual insight as Sri Yukteswar’s. “Theologians have misinterpreted Christ’s words, “Master said, in such passages as ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me’ ( John 14:6, Bible).
Jesus meant, never that he was the sole Son of God, it that no man can attain the unqualified Absolute, the transcendent Father beyond creation, until he has first manifested the ‘Son’ or activating Christ Consciousness, identified himself with it inasmuch as his own ego had long since been dissolved”.
When Paul wrote: “God……created all things by Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 3:9, Bible), the sheer essence of the words is impersonality.
A form of spiritus, cowardice leads many worldly people to believe comfortably that only one man was the Son of God. “Christ was uniquely created,” they reason, “so how can I, a mere mortal, emulate Him?” But all men have been divinely created and must someday obey Christ’s command: “Be he therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” ( Matthew 5:48, Bible.)
Understanding of the law of karma and of its corollary reincarnation is displayed in numerous Biblical passages; e.g., “Whoso sheddeth mans’ blood, by man shall his blood be shed”( Genesis 9:6, Bible). If every murderer must himself be killed “by man,” the reactive process obviously requires m in many cases, more than one life-time. The contemporary police are just not quick enough!
The early Christian church accepted the doctrine of reincarnation, which was expounded by the Gnostics and by numerous church fathers, including Clement of Alexandria, the celebrated Origan (both 3rd century). The doctrine was first declared a heresay in A.D 553 by the Second Council of Constantinople. At that time many Christians thought the doctrine of reincarnation afforded man too simple a stage of time and space to encourage him to strive for immediate salvation. But truths suppressed lead disconcertingly to a host of errors. The millions have not utilised their ‘ one lifetime’ to seek God, but to enjoy this world – so uniquely won, and so shortly to be forever lost! The truth is that man reincarnated on earth until he has consciously regained his status as a son of God.
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When my children were younger, I think probably the twins were around seven years old and Hope nine, Peter and I used to take them down to Colva beach just before sunset for a bit of a play. Colva had a small, pretty unremarkable, play park which the UK health and safety department would’ve had a field day with. Just over the bridge, there was a little stream which wound it’s way across the sand and into the ocean. The children used to like to try to catch the tiny fishes in old mineral water bottles before immediately releasing them again.
One afternoon, we noticed a young scruffy lad sitting on his haunches and watching my kids play. He seemed all alone in the world and looked wistfully on at my kids playing. My children were never shy and always welcoming and approachable with other children so they offered him a bottle one day and he began to play with them. Peter and I looked on until it was time to leave but the boy always seemed so sad when my children said goodbye to him. And me being a sucker for a sad face, broke my own heart each time too.
It was on the fourth consecutive evening that my children and this boy were playing when I asked Peter to speak to him ( assuming he knew no English) to see if he could get the lo-down on this kid. He was clearly homeless, or at best, a slum kid. That much was obvious. He had long matted hair, a filthy face, and wore dirty, oversized clothes and flip-flops which were a large man’s size.
This kids’ story went that he was originally from Karnataka. His name was Brumm- something, Brumm for short, and he was 10 years old. A few years back, his father and he had left their home village and travelled to the bright lights of Goa hoping to find work on those glittery, gold paved streets. A common story. Anyway, it didn’t happen, the dad became a drunkard and had buggered off somewhere and Brumm was left alone to fend for himself. He had the occasional washing up job in one of the beach restaurants but mostly he was just alone. And hungry.
Well, it was more than I could bear. I imagined his mother, probably desperate in her wondering where he was and if she was ever going to see him again. I had to do something. Peter relayed to him that, if he liked, he could come home with us where he would be fed, washed and have a warm bed. Obviously, he jumped at the chance. He rode on the back of Peter’s scooter, my kids on mine, and on the way home we stopped to buy fish at the roadside. When we got home, we fed, watered and bathed Brumm and gave him a safe space to sleep. In India, sleeping on bamboo roll mats on the floor is the norm and there were only enough beds for my kids, so he slept in the lounge.
The following day, Peter took Brumm to the barbers for a very short haircut. You could literally see the bugs jumping in all directions as they fled the deforestation of their home. Next, it was clothes shopping. Nothing costly, just some basic shorts, tees, trousers and sandals from the local market. It was all as cheap as chips but Brumm looked great!
The highlight of the day was our visit to the train station where we booked Brumm his ticket back to Karnataka! It wasn’t due to leave Goa until three days later and you can imagine how interesting it was to have a VERY excited boy staying with us. Those three days must’ve seemed very long to him but we managed to fill the time constructively. Although Brumm didn’t speak any English, he was always interested in my children’s homeschool lessons and projects. A lovely game they used to play together was Picture Pairs. For anyone not familiar with this game, it’s a simple picture card memory game. All the cards are laying face down at the start and the players take turns in turning two cards at a time over. If they match, that player gets to keep those cards. If they don’t match, the cards get turned down once again and the next player takes their turn. It became a game of languages as well as memory. Whenever the cards were turned over, my kids would tell Brumm what the English word was – bus, car, house, dog etc – they were very simple pictures. And Brumm would teach my kids how to say the word in Hindi. Many games of picture pairs were played during those three days. And Uno, also.
I really enjoyed having Brumm to stay. I took great pleasure in feeding him and watching him eat. I liked the way he now looked. That whole transformation from being a street kid who was all alone in the world, to being loved in a family and playing games and just generally being a kid, was a beautiful thing to witness.
On the morning of Brumms departure from our house and the state of Goa, he was restless, as you can well imagine! He was so eager to leave that at one point he burst into my room and spoke very fast in Hindi about getting a move on! Peter told him off for speaking that way to me and entering my room in that way but I told him not to worry, don’t be cross with him. He was simply unable to control his excitement, that’s all.
On the way to Margao station, we stopped at a local cafe and bought Brumm packages of snack foods. Veg patties, drinks, sweets, that sort of thing. We also gave him money to buy food on the train, should he need to, and a little bit extra for the end of his journey.
At Margao station, we found a bench to sit on and waited for the train. I was worried about Brumm because he was just a kid and the fact that he had fended for himself as a street kid for years on his own, made no bloody difference to the way I felt about him. He was a vulnerable child and I was about to let him go off by himself! A man was sat on the bench reading his newspaper and we asked him if he could keep an eye on Brumm, and he agreed to. He probably didn’t in all honesty. On Indian train journeys, the seat number is written on the ticket and Brumm might not have been seated anywhere near that guy!
Now, the end of the story is a mystery to me. Looking back, I don’t know why I didn’t just buy tickets for us all and physically travel with Brumm and deliver him to his mother. But I didn’t.Nor did we see him safely onto the train and wave goodbye as the train left the station. Again, I don’t know why. I certainly would do either one of those things if I was faced with the same situation now.
What actually happened was that, for some reason – maybe I had to be somewhere with my kids – we left Brumm with his pocket full of money, his hands full of food packages on that bench, waiting for the train which would take him back home.
To this day, I never knew what happened to him. But this is what I hope happened. I hope and pray he arrived home safely. I have this lovely vision of him walking into his village/town, or wherever he lived and him and his mother seeing each other again. Can you imagine that moment? Can you imagine how they both must have felt?
I can’t be sure that’s what happened but I’m happy to leave the story with that vision.