Tattoos and the Art of Distraction

I got a tattoo.

Rather I added to the one I already had. If you’ve been with me a while you may remember my first tattoo experience with my Dad… Father Daughter Bonding over needle and ink. This time I went on my own.

Hawaiian tattoo isn’t like your normal tattoo experience. Instead of going in and picking what you want out of a book of tattoos, you tell the artist your story… Where you were born, your parents and siblings, ancestors, land you come from, things you love, animal protectors, kids, deaths. Then you lay down on the table and away he goes. You don’t know what your tattoo will look like until you get off the table and take a look in the mirror.

It requires trust. (And a certain level of pain resistance).


I tried ALL the jedi mind techniques I could think of to deal with the pain.

I tried distraction… Energy work, watching clouds, counting slats on the closet doors.

I tried embracing the pain… breathing deeply, relaxing my muscles or gritting my teeth or focusing on the sensations with curiosity

If numbing was an option, I’d have gone with that. It was a no (something about blood not clotting).

It still just hurt, but somehow I made it to the end of those 90 minutes.

Can you relate? (Hint: not to the tattoo part)

There are things that pop up that are painful and uncomfortable. You might be fighting with a friend, care taking your parents, battling with your kids, feeling ignored by your partner. You may feel lost and wonder about your purpose or be beating yourself up about your weight.

When it gets painful, what do you do?

I’ve done (and do both extremes)… distract myself and embrace the pain.

Years ago I’d opt for a couple glasses of wine or sit down and watch a movie and go through a pint of Hagen Daz. I didn’t feel the pain during that time but afterwards I’d either beat myself up for gaining weight or have a headache and feel foggy the next day. These were things I saw my family do. One side of my family were alcoholics and although I didn’t drown my sorrows, I certainly numbed them. From another side, I got the message that if I was having a hard time, I should “treat” myself. I equated treat with excess and that gained me 10 pounds.

Nowadays my distraction is a little less self sabotaging… I choose Jane Austen movies with dark chocolate (which I can’t eat too much of because its SO sweet).

Over the last few years I’ve been trying the other option… embracing the pain and discomfort. 

There are two ways I embrace my pain… art and dance.

When I’m feeling hurt or angry or intense grief, I will DANCE it out. Sometimes pain gets stuck. I can feel it in my throat or my like a punch to my gut. I turn on a song and close my eyes. I bring my awareness to my pain and start letting it move. Sometimes it will sway and be soft like it needs to be gently rocked. Other times it turns into utter chaos, hair flying tears streaming. I follow my sensations and let them guide me, let them move me, move my pain.

Gabrielle Roth talked about “Sweating your prayers.” This is sweating your pain.


The other way I work with my pain is through ART. (No surprise, right?)

Sometimes I’ll write an intention and get my emotions out on my journal or canvas. I’ll tap into that pain then choose colors that speak to me. Layer after layer will go on my canvas. There are times I’ve beat it with my brushes, mixed my tears with paint and ended up a heap on the floor. I don’t know how to describe it, but something shifts in the color and image.

I am transformed.

The pain is still there, an echo, but its not so bad. There is hope. There is movement. One of the scariest things about pain is the fear it will never end. That it will be there day after day and never change. But somehow it does…

If you are in your pain right now, I want you to know I love you. I know that hurt and I know it will shift. Dance it, paint it, pray it, sing it. What do you need to do to embrace and transform it?

And if you want to re-write your story and start embracing it, consider joining me for LEGEND. We close the doors November 2nd…


Share. What ways do you distract or embrace your pain? 


Facebook Comments