By Kellie Schorr
As a child (and even now) I was entranced by kaleidoscopes.
Swirling patterns of different colors, shapes and possibilities pleased my eyes and my mind in a way other things could not. My parents happily gave me kaleidoscopes because they were quiet, cheap and didn’t cause too much of a mess when I inevitably took them apart to see how they worked. Yes, I was one of “those” kids.
Turns out, all it takes to make a kaleidoscope is a touch of light, some shiny reflective bits and an angle. The rest of the magic, the delight, the patterns, and the meaning, all happens in the eye and mind of the beholder. Writing for the Tattooed Buddha for the past 18 months, and being an active part of its community, has given me not only the joy of a kaleidoscope, but the incredible chance to be a part of one.
If I’m not diligent, my practice of Buddhism becomes largely an intellectual pursuit. I’m now the adult who likes to take apart ideas to see how they work. I meditate, chant, visualize, and bow, bow, bow, but my awareness can be easily dominated by the academic accumulation of concepts. My teacher is a scholar and the wonderful group of people I learn with are more like a study group than a sangha. It isn’t a black and white existence. There are shades, colors, and beautiful images, but it lacks the magic of community—of connection.
The Tattooed Buddha has become a kaleidoscopic sangha for me.
Its diversity of writers, practices and backgrounds are those shiny reflective pieces each coming to this space of light with their own angle, and the magic happens inside my being. It’s important that so many different views are represented. Any sangha, lineage, or school of Buddhist thought is prone to “group think” because we are all centered around the same defining ideas. At TTB, the only defining idea is that it is a space to reflect individual experience and wisdom.
Sitting in a group of Vajrayana practitioners, I hear things one way. In any given week on TTB I’m challenged by thoughts from Zen, Insight Meditation, Secular, and “I’m just tellin’ it like I see it” Buddhism. It is not our common ideas, but our uncommon connection that makes it powerful.
The writers from Tattooed Buddha are indeed a cherished community I never expected to find. We can celebrate milestones, uplift each other in times of challenge, and share not just “what we think” but who we are—off the cushion, away from the keyboard, where a lot of the work of awareness is done. Not every writer from TTB gets involved in the community, but those who choose to make my world a wider, better place.
Buddhist media has largely fallen into the same vat of success driven, star-struck decision making as the rest of the culture. You see articles from popular self-help writers, high profile lamas and super-star teachers (should there be such a thing?) which tend to pander to the common denominator of “create something as quotable/meme-able as possible and look good for the picture.” On The Tattooed Buddha you get to hear people who have something to share from where they are in life. It is an authentic platform for ideas, not just metric-measured content.
The most profound impact TTB has had on my life happened on the worst day of the year.
My 15-year-old beagle died, and through eye-stinging acidic tears I put her picture on my Facebook page to let people know my partner and I were hurting. As expected, there were lots of “sending love” and praying hands. A number of my Christian friends made comments about “dog heaven” and Jesus. It was all appreciated.
A TTB writer whose work I respect and enjoy sent me an inbox message. It said simply, “There are no words for this. It just sucks.” I burst out in a fresh round a tears, this time healing/cleansing tears. “He gets it.” I told my partner, “He gets me.” And it helped. That’s the power of TTB. It gets me.
If you throw a rock in a pond it will send ripples across the water. In time the water levels back out and looks the same on the surface, as if nothing happened. Still, that new rock is down there somewhere, adding a home for fish to hide behind or changing the way the sand bed forms. Though it may not appear so, the pond is forever changed.
At the Tattooed Buddha, articles come and go. Some give a wave of inspiration or information; others barely make a splash in my world. The presence of TTB, that diverse, open-source, generous space, means my heart has an amazing kaleidoscope it can look through any time it needs and so my world is forever changing. For that, I am truly grateful.
Happy Anniversary, TTB. And, thank you.
The Tattooed Buddha is celebrating our 5 Year Anniversary! Please let us know if we have made an impact. Send us your words (500-1500 words) to be published and we will enter you in our giveaway! Contest ends January 11, 2020.
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