There's nothing quite so inspirational as having a permanent reminder to keep you motivated through all of the hard times; especially when that reminder is a Zen proverb tattooed on your arm :)
I have to admit that I really love that feeling of satisfaction when you are able to achieve something you really want by simply using your power of choice, of free will. Doing something for no one else but for yourself.
My first tattoo was a Christmas present from my children, two years ago, and I absolutely love it. A beautiful angel with the name of our baby, that we never got to hold in our arms but loved just as much as our other children, followed by the names of my six children. Surrounding their names are six footprints representing each of them and a beautiful Celtic endless love knot and the letter A cleverly interwoven into the tattoo as a symbol for my husband Andrew. A beautiful representation of all those that are important to me, a permanent reminder of all that I love!
I had always felt that I would like to get another tattoo but waited until the time was right. As much as I absolutely adore my first tattoo which is on my lower leg, I really wanted to get a new one somewhere on my body where I would be able to see it often and it could inspire me.
I wanted a phrase that was short and simple yet said so much in only a few words; the Zen proverb 'The obstacle is the path' did that for me. It sums up my life so far and reminds me of the future, of where I should be heading when I lose my way. The meaning is obvious yet hidden within, it means that those big obstacles that keep interrupting your life are supposed to be there; don't think of them as something you need to avoid and put you off, see them for what they really are. The obstacles are placed in your way to give you the opportunity to conquer, allowing opportunity for growth and reaffirming that by doing this you ARE on the right path. The obstacle IS that path. So profound, so succinct, so true!
The 11:11 figures have been special for both my husband and I for many years now, it became a strong symbol of hope for us when we lost our baby Amelie. It has consistently remained a strong symbol that has helped with so many decisions over the years and acts like a pointer in the right direction for us. I chose an ensō circle or Zen circle to surround my 11:11 symbols. The following article explains the meaning behind ensō circles more eloquently than I could:
Ensō (circle) is a sacred symbol in the Zen school of Buddhism and is one of the most
common subjects of Japanese calligraphy, even though it is a symbol and not a character. You may hear it called the Circle of Enlightenment, the Infinity Circle and even the Lost Symbol of Reiki. If you actually took the meanings of the two Kanji symbols that make up the word, ensō would translate as Mutual Circle or Circle of Togetherness.
In the the sixth
century a text named the Shinhinmei refers to the way of Zen as a circle of vast space, lacking nothing and holding nothing in excess. At first glance the ancient ensō symbol appears to be nothing more than a miss-shaped circle but its symbolism refers to the beginning and end of all things, the circle of life and the connectedness of existence. It can symbolize emptiness or fullness, presence or absence. All things might be contained within, or, conversely, excluded by its boundaries. It can symbolize infinity, the “no-thing”, the perfect meditative state, and Satori or enlightenment. It can even symbolize the moon, which is itself a symbol of enlightenment—as in the Zen saying, "Do not mistake the finger pointing at the moon for the moon itself." In other words, do not mistake doctrines, teachings or explanations, which are intended to guide one toward enlightenment, for enlightenment itself. Ensō can also represent the moon's reflection on water, thereby symbolizing the futility of searching for enlightenment outside oneself.
Ensō symbolizes many more things including: strength, elegance, the universe, single mindedness, the state of mind of the artist at the moment of creation and the acceptance of imperfection as perfect. It also represents the oneness of life and all things contained within it, the spirit of harmonious cooperation, personal development and refinement of character, the visible and the invisible, absolute fullness in emptiness, simplicity, completeness, endlessness, perfect harmony, the circle of infinity and the cyclical nature of existence. The ensō is a manifestation of the moment, an expression of absolute enlightenment, a visual manifestation of the Heart Sutra and a representation of our true and innermost self. The ensō is a universal symbol of wholeness and completion; "form is void and void is form." When viewing ensō, one can see that that form and void are interdependent and, in fact, define each other. There are so many definitions available, that each of us is truly left with the responsibility to select or create our own definition of ensō.
An open ensō may express the idea that the ensō is not separate from all that is; rather, it is a part of something greater. The open circle reflects that the ensō is not contained within itself: but opens out to infinity. It might also speak to imperfection as an essential and inherent aspect of our existence. Ensō can be the open circle of emptiness in which the self flows in and out while remaining centered; or it can be closed and express a mandala or cosmogram. Leaving the ensō open is like leaving room for the spirit to flow in and out of the circle of emptiness; allowing it to breathe. Breath and emptiness are essential ingredients for meditation, contemplation and the creation of a spiritual life.