The Women of TTB is a series where we focus on some of the women who helped get The Tattooed Buddha off and running and also continue to keep it growing! We sent out a few interview questions to some of these writers and artists so that we could find out more about them and highlight their many talents!
Tell me a little about yourself. Where do you live? What is your living arrangement like?
Living in the Driftless area of southwestern Wisconsin, I am in the country—just a couple of miles out of Rising Sun and just 12 miles south of Viroqua on 25 acres of land; some open, some wooded. With the gorgeous rolling hills and valleys around me, I live on a ridge top where I have a distant view of about 20 miles.
My home is my refuge. We moved here 20 years ago and homeschooled our two now-adult children here. Living here with my partner of 35 years, we live a pretty simple, quiet life. Since childhood, I have wanted to live in the country, so I feel quite blessed!
How did you get into the arts/writing?
I have always been the creative type, drawing since I was very young. My home has been described as an ADD explosion of color, with bits of nature tucked everywhere: rocks, nests, feathers, skulls and skeletons. I spend hours in the kitchen cooking and experimenting with vegan dishes and recipes, and while I will tell you I really don’t like cooking, my behavior says otherwise—and I LOVE amazing food! Living in a small, rural community, I cook it myself or I don’t get any.
I am a process person. It wasn’t enough to learn to knit (I flew to Russia, and only took a knitting book, yarn and needles to force myself to learn on the plane), but then I taught myself to spin on a drop spindle and then a spinning wheel (both made by my partner for me). Then I wanted to process the wool from the sheep to spinning, cleaning, dying, etc.; after this, I decided to see what it was like to shear a sheep; and then, of course, I raised one. I’m not an expert by any means, but I take great satisfaction in the process of it all and still do general knitting and simple spinning. I have homemade inkle looms, do beadwork (which I have done much longer than I have been knitting) and can find my way around a sewing machine though I really dislike doing it. Sewing is a means to an end.
As a process person, I of course gravitate to the creation of things start to finish: homemade artist charcoal; black walnut ink; and egg tempera Byzantine iconography. This winter I plan on finishing an icon of St. Raphael of Brooklyn, two of archangels, a larger and smaller one of Ganesha, and hope to start one of Green Tara. I am considering playing around with making homemade watercolors as well…but think I should maybe learn to actually paint with watercolors first!
All that being said, I do not consider myself a writer. I don’t necessarily like writing. I don’t think I do it well, and don’t actually like the idea that anyone is reading what I have written. In fact I am a bit embarrassed when someone brings up reading something of mine. I have always written, keeping journals when I was young, enjoying writing papers throughout my studies in (but those were assignments!). I do love telling stories as well as hearing others’, but would prefer to do it in person, talking. This probably explains my rambling writing style, as I ramble around when I talk…
I have always loved editing other people’s work, which is how I ended up meeting Dana, who was my editing mentor, when I did a stint at elephant journal. Once I got accepted as an editor at EJ I found out I was also required to write, something I hadn’t anticipated. I probably wouldn’t have applied had I understood that. It was pretty awful, to be honest. In my own way, I like to keep a low profile and under the radar, so it was a great practice in vulnerability. Ever since then, it is something I force myself to do upon occasion.
Do you meditate? What is your practice like?
Yes, I meditate most days. For awhile it was five minutes a day. For a year it was a practice of doing the Four Purifications, bandha work, the before and after hand mudras (all Baba Hari Das pieces) and then my meditation. I mostly do mantra meditation with the mantra given to me when I was initiated into the Himalayan Tradition of yogi meditation followed by passage meditation, as described by Eknath Easwaran in his book Passage Meditation. I also spend some time working off and on with a meditation technique in my tradition that I studied for a week in India, but find the other way I meditate easier to access.
Over the last few months I have just been doing a 10 minute daily practice as I was having some breathing issues coupled with too much busy-ness, but am getting ready to step back into the full practice of the Four Purifications, bandha work and hand mudras with my mantra and passages.
Very cobbled together, but it works for me!
How did you get into meditation?
I did my first meditating during my grade school years, about 45-50 years ago. It just came up out of me, as no one I knew did it. Someone had given me a brass Buddha incense burner (sitting on my shelf still as I write this) and I would light incense in it on a tray in my room, with a lit candle and some of my favorite rocks (always the rock hound) and I would sit in silence until…I wasn’t me/wasn’t real/was somewhere else…wondering if I was real? Was God real? Was I just a part of God’s dream? This, I decided as a child, was the true reality—and most days still I really do default to this and think maybe I am just a part of God’s dream.
I did this type of meditation off and on over the years, eventually beginning a more formal practice after training in something called Ascension. I dropped this for various reasons, but again got serious and picked up a mostly-daily practice six years ago, and have been mediating ever since.
Do you identify with any specific spirituality? If so, how did that happen for you? What spirituality I were you raised in?
I was raised in a weird and creepy Presbyterian church that my mom now describes as a fundamentalist church (of rich people), I have always been very spiritual. I went to a Christian college by choice but challenged their beliefs. I quit and became hardcore Wiccan, and still honor my priestess-hood (is that even a word?) but started focusing more on general paganism and still do my own nature magic and immersion.
I have always had slight Buddhist leanings, fell in love with the incense, ritual and art of the Eastern Orthodox Christian church, and got baptized into it. Though I rarely go to church, I still love it. I am studying more of the Hindu tradition, as I am honestly really at home spiritually immersed in yogic philosophy and tradition and have been my whole life. Eclectic, to say the least. Agnostic, to be honest, as I believe everything and nothing and don’t think it really matters what is right.
My veganism is inseparable from my spiritual world view and personal practice (as well as general health, both physical and emotional). Being vegan has also taken my personal spiritual practice to new, deeper levels. Going further down the rabbit-hole of ahimsa (non-harm) to myself, I chose to live an alcohol free life last January, and have found I am more grounded spiritually as a result. Those Hindis really knew what they were talking about with their prohibition of alcohol.
When asked, I self-describe as Eastern Orthodox Christian-Hindu-Buddist-Pagan-ish.
What are your goals in life? What do you hope to do someday? Do you have a bucket list?
I don’t know that I have any…I have done everything I have wanted to do. Maybe? I still want to travel through Viet Nam but that feels like something that may not happen. I would like to return to MacLeod Ganj, where the Dalai Lama’s temple is (no, he does not live in Dharmsala), traveling a bit more in that area—and this time hope to be there when he is actually there.
Travel more is the real answer, I guess. My partner is going to help me turn my little SUV into a tiny camper so I can drive around the US some in the spring because I am getting a bit stir crazy. Maybe I should drive up to Ohio and have tea with Dana Gornall….
What do you do for a living?
I am a certified Yoga Therapist. I was doing it part-time, quit my day job to focus on it full-time and was growing my practice, opening a yoga studio March 1—two weeks before our Covid shelter-in-place orders. Needless to say, that was a bit of a debacle, and now that I am out of that six month lease, I am regrouping. While I work with many conditions, I specialize in Pelvic Health and Chronic Pain.
How long have you done that?
I have been teaching SomaYoga for six years and a certified Yoga Therapist (over 1000 hours of training) for three years, since December 2017.
How did you get involved with TTB?
Dana Gornall! We became friends in our elephant journal days, and she pulled me in… While she started it with Ty, honestly I have always seen it as her baby. She has carried it since the beginning.
How long have you been involved with TTB?
I was one of the first editors, and helped launch TTB that first New Year’s Eve almost six years ago now. I don’t edit now as I got too busy in life, but still try to keep involved in small ways because I feel it is something of great valuable.
What would you like to see TTB do in the future?
I want to see it grow and grow and GROW! In my dream world, I would love for it to be able to pay Dana for all her time and effort. She is a rock star, and none of it would be here without her.
Anything else you would like to add about yourself?
Why, yes, indeed I do!…. When Dana and I became friends, I was very skeptical of her veganism. I had been a vegetarian for 13 years at one point but gave that up due to a lot of sad things that happened. A while back I became vegetarian again overnight after working for a weekend in a cadaver lab—but vegan? NO WAY.
I am ashamed to admit I was judgmental enough to think all vegans had eating disorders and/or were extremist nuts and/or must be terribly unhealthy. BUT…Dana I liked a lot and she didn’t seem (too) nuts, and was always gracious enough to answer all my questions over the years, because I was curious. At the same time, I was deeply immersed in studying yogic philosophy, especially ahimsa, and then my son made me watch Cowspiracy.
Damn. I was in tears. My shadows were all laid out in front of my, the blinders pulled away. I called Dana, confessed my shitty anti-vegan views and became vegan myself and never looked back. She was a great support (and forgave my shitty-judgments…ha!) and is one of my few vegan friends to this day.
I love her for that!