Japanese Tattoo - Victoria, BC (Vancouver Island)

With my recent move to Victoria, BC I hope to continue to have the privilege of creating large scale Japanese tattoo work.  During my decade in Vancouver I was able to carve out a niche in which the predominant style (and scale) of the work I produced was in the Japanese realm.

My imagery is not always strict and traditional, I hope there's a bit of me in each piece ... finding that balance between the past and the present, between the rules and the freedom of creation. I look forward to seeing the new projects which Vancouver Island will bring into my path.

There are a few styles which I love to tattoo.  My first love of tattooing is (and always has been) the Japanese style.  Even when I was in art school studying printmaking I was enthralled by the Japanese tattoo.  This is perhaps where I began to see the crossover in artistic styles, from printmaking to tattooing ... there is a long history which these two forms share.

While living in Taiwan I was honored to have large parts of my body covered by master Diau-An.  This was a few years prior to my getting into tattooing but those long hours spent in his studio still hold sway more than a decade later.  Watching how the pieces were formulated, how they grew and were finessed with each session ... I had no idea how much knowledge I was being exposed to at that point.  I don't profess to be a master as I was not classically trained by a Japanese master.  There are some rules which I may bend and others which I'm likely completely unaware of.  At best I try to bring my own Western aesthetic to a tradition and set of imagery which I consistently try to learn more about.

Victoria, BC Tattoo Studio - Paradigm Tattoo Company - Tattoo Artist - Cohen Floch - Vancouver Island - Tattoo Shop - Japanese - Mandala - Traditional - Tattoos

Always willing to learn, each project is an opportunity to improve.  I aim much gratitude towards all of my clients, past, present, and future.  Thank you all for being a part of this journey.

 

Dotwork - Mandala - Geometric- Blackwork Tattoos in Vancouver, BC (now Victoria, BC)

My sporadic attempts at writing seem to have very little to do with tattooing.  So here goes, a blog entry about tattoos on a tattooer's website, what a novelty.

There are a few styles of tattooing that I'd love to do more of.  I learn through doing, this is how I've always been.  I'd much rather have a tangible experience that hypothesize about it.  That's not to say I don't do my research and preparation before diving into any one thing.  Be it plant medicines, mountain biking, travelling, or yes, even tattooing, I tend to do my prep work.  But nothing beats experience.  The preparation helps to guide the experience somewhat but the knowledge comes to the forefront through the doing.

With that in mind I've entered a very privileged point in my tattooing career.  I now get to hone in and focus on a few certain styles.  When beginning my career I felt as though it was best to take in all projects, work on as many different styles and subjects as possible.  You'll find some strengths and weaknesses in there.  Some likes and dislikes as well.  If there were enough hours in the day and days in my life then maybe I'd say yes to absolutely every tattoo that comes my way.  Somehow I find myself booked well into the future (I express a huge amount of gratitude to those who seem to be enjoying my work) and my one solution to curbing this incessant booking has been to try to refine the types of tattoos that I'm working on.  

My first love of tattooing has and always will be the Japanese style.  It's what drew me into this art form and it's forever got my heart.  Beyond that I've come to love the American traditional work as well.  I am definitely not a traditional tattooer (be it American or Japanese) but I'm heavily influenced by these clean simple forms and trying to do my best interpretations of each style.  Again, I'm always trying to learn.  Thus, by doing more and more of any one style the more I can learn and hone in my skills/interpretations.  It's always a process, always a journey, never perfect but aiming towards something is what keeps the drive.

There is a third style that I tend to enjoy.  I'm not sure exactly how to classify it.  Be it dotwork tattoos, mandala/geometric tattoos, blackwork tattoos ... these names all seem to aim at the same general theme.  There's a lot of variation therein but it's another tangent I'd enjoy exploring even more of.  Through doing more and more of this work I do find myself getting more interest/clientele in this realm.  Pictures say a lot more than words so I'll keep the words to a minimum today and add a few extra photos into the mix.

So, if you're interested in some form of dotwork, mandala, geometric, blackwork inspired tattoo and you're in the Vancouver area, feel free to be in touch.  

 

Victoria, BC Tattoo Studio - Paradigm Tattoo Company - Tattoo Artist - Cohen Floch - Vancouver Island - Tattoo Shop - Japanese - Mandala - Traditional - Tattoos
Victoria, BC Tattoo Studio - Paradigm Tattoo Company - Tattoo Artist - Cohen Floch - Vancouver Island - Tattoo Shop - Japanese - Mandala - Traditional - Tattoos
Victoria, BC Tattoo Studio - Paradigm Tattoo Company - Tattoo Artist - Cohen Floch - Vancouver Island - Tattoo Shop - Japanese - Mandala - Traditional - Tattoos
Victoria, BC Tattoo Studio - Paradigm Tattoo Company - Tattoo Artist - Cohen Floch - Vancouver Island - Tattoo Shop - Japanese - Mandala - Traditional - Tattoos
Victoria, BC Tattoo Studio - Paradigm Tattoo Company - Tattoo Artist - Cohen Floch - Vancouver Island - Tattoo Shop - Japanese - Mandala - Traditional - Tattoos
Victoria, BC Tattoo Studio - Paradigm Tattoo Company - Tattoo Artist - Cohen Floch - Vancouver Island - Tattoo Shop - Japanese - Mandala - Traditional - Tattoos

Novelty Seeking Recording Machines of the Universe

Of the myriad of topics that pass through my mind quite regularly I keep coming back to this thought about waking and sleeping. Moreover this idea of “wakers” and “sleepers”. There seem to be two modes of being in which all of us exist, constantly vacillating between the two; at times more awake, at other points more asleep. We've all had those spine tingling awe inspiring moments of oneness. This can come in so very many different forms. Think for a moment and I'm sure you'll have some memory of feeling so very awake, aware, at one. On the flip side we've all had moments of slumber, engulfed in our pyramids of comfort, filling ourselves with non-food and numbing our minds in whatever fashion we see fit. I suppose the question is where does our existence fall in the balance of things? Are you more awake or more asleep most of the time?

I think about this and initially I leaned towards the idea of waking through the gathering of information. The more one is exposed to the more they wake up. This might be true, but the finer detail of it would be that there are certain types of information that can help to awaken and other types that can help to put us to sleep. An easy target would be mass media. If you're filling yourself with the fear mongering vitriol of most major news networks you might believe that you're becoming aware of the world and the events therein ... to a small degree this is true. But I feel the overarching effect would be that your mind is being numbed and bottlenecked towards shutting down from experience, fearing the outer realms, rallying for an “us against them” mentality. This is not awakening. The effect of removing this open invitation into your home and your mind is subtle at first but after a year or two suddenly most television, radio, or any other form of forced consumption media starts to take on a very eery feel. Commercials baffle me in their vapid emptiness. Pandering the lifestyle of consume, consume, car, house, beer, electronics, comfort, consume, consume, consume. Many of us are inviting this spell of slumber into our homes and minds day after day, hour after hour. For me, this is all pushing towards a population full of “sleepers”. I don't think there's an overarching conspiracy of a few individuals pulling the strings. Somehow I think we've just ended up here through small steps and time. We're programmed to take comfort and ease over effort and the difficult path. This seems to be the default setting for the human hive mind. On the other hand we have access to so much information, media, experience which would lean far more towards the “waking” side of things. Connecting with most anyone anywhere, hearing opinions, being inspired by thoughts and creations, it's never been easier ... the internet can be a wonderful tool. But there is an element lacking in all of that. Connection, true connection, I think most of us are missing this. Be it with nature, with others, even with ourselves, with our bodies, with our minds, with that other element which is so hard to pinpoint ... once we begin to connect with that then the waking begins, or ramps up, or accelerates.

A “waker” must be tested. A "waker" must be tested regularly. This seems so very true to me personally. Over the past couple of years I've had a few experiences in which I couldn't be more awake, in awe, at one ... this is my own personal subjective experience so there is no questioning of these events. But even so, after a few months these feelings and thoughts begin to fade somewhat. It feels as though we need the contrast. Slipping into slumber and catching ourselves, striving for wakefulness once again. Somehow these tests need to escalate in order to keep us from falling into the “sleeper” mind state. At the core of it the driving factor may be novelty. As we grow up almost every experience is novel and new, we are aware and engaged. There's nothing quite like that childhood feeling, how we viewed the world, how exciting most everything was. As events become routine our sleeper mind can take over. We autopilot through life, not testing ourselves. Comfort and routine take over. So shaking things up seems to be the answer. Novelty can exist in so many forms. Travel, psychedelics, falling in love, falling out of love, moving, meeting new people, finding new ideas, art, music, death, birth, illness ... the list can go on and on. It's those out of the norm experiences that wake us up. Life starts to feel like it's really happening. Think of the past number of years, which experiences stand out the most? I'm going to guess it's the ones which were somewhat novel, not the sitting on the couch doing the same, the same, the same. Once we begin to see this pattern we can begin to seek the novel, leave behind the pre-programmed comfort mechanism and delve into the muck, the tests, the difficult paths which give us so much more once we've experienced their twists and turns.

We're the novelty seeking recording machines of the universe. A means in which the infinite can experience the finite. I love the Hindu thought that we're all just a dream, God's dream, Source's dream. A dream so deep that we forget that we are in fact Source. We are infinite. We are the sum total of all being and all energy expressed in a singular form. Not even that. Correction. We are the sum total of all being and all energy fooled into thinking we are a singular detached form that we express as “I”. It's quite the trip. And the further we get from this trip the more far out and engulfed in the dream we get to be. For those wrapped up in the consume-consume-hoard mentality where all is about the physical, man, you're on a wild ride. So far into the dream of God that you've really detached from the Source and think these words and this writing are so very very full of shit. And hey, that's awesome in it's own way. I feel like all of the shitty acts and “sleeper” mind states will be congratulated at some point. We'll all wake up at the end of this dream and shake our ephemeral heads, thinking and knowing that it was such a wild ride. Thoughts like, “Man, can you believe I worked a job I hated to pay to live in a house that I didn't really want, all the while too tired and stressed out to do anything but stare at a rectangle and be fed more and more slumber propaganda telling me that I'm doing the right thing and I need to do more of it to consume-comsume-hoard until I finally hit a ripe old age where I get to sit back and drink Nabob coffee on the deck as the loons sing and death is all but tapping me on the shoulder??? Shit, that was such a wild dream. What did you do with your trip?” And that's just one example of an infinite number of ways to exist and to dream the dream of life and Source, they're all completely valid in their own fucked up manner.

To go back to the beginning, I do feel like most of us edge back and forth between waking and sleeping. It can be a daily or even momentary flip flop between the two or it can take years to swing from one mode of being back to the other. Having said that I also feel like there are benchmarks of wakefulness that once reached set a new default. Some experiences can't be unexperienced. Let's seek out these level up scenarios and keep trying to swing that pendulum farther towards the waking state of being. To all of you out there actively seeking to wake up, I commend you, I congratulate you, and I love the path you're choosing. It's the more difficult path, the one that takes effort and endurance. But in the end we all know that it's the more enriching path. It's living, engaging, actively guiding your meat body toward novelty and growth, if not that then what else are we here to do?

I see no better way to end this than with a quote from the always eloquent and amazing Tom Robbins. We can easily insert wake and sleep instead of hide and seek.  Thanks for reading, much gratitude for taking the trip and bearing with the tangential nature of my thoughts.

“How can one person be more real than any other? Well, some people do hide and others seek. Maybe those who are in hiding - escaping encounters, avoiding surprises, protecting their property, ignoring their fantasies, restricting their feelings, sitting out the pan pipe hootchy-kootch of experience - maybe those people, people who won't talk to rednecks, or if they're rednecks won't talk to intellectuals, people who're afraid to get their shoes muddy or their noses wet, afraid to eat what they crave, afraid to drink Mexican water, afraid to bet a long shot to win, afraid to hitchhike, jaywalk, honky-tonk, cogitate, osculate, levitate, rock it, bop it, sock it, or bark at the moon, maybe such people are simply inauthentic, and maybe the jacklet humanist who says differently is due to have his tongue fried on the hot slabs of Liar's Hell. Some folks hide, and some folk's seek, and seeking, when it's mindless, neurotic, desperate, or pusillanimous can be a form of hiding. But there are folks who want to know and aren't afraid to look and won't turn tail should they find it - and if they never do, they'll have a good time anyway because nothing, neither the terrible truth nor the absence of it, is going to cheat them out of one honest breath of Earth's sweet gas.”


The Magic of Love

  If you don't believe in magic this may not translate. If you interpret the world as fully explainable we may have a disconnect. If your way is the only way this will make no sense; for this is just one thought, one way which can coincide with an infinite number of other ways of perceiving existence. And in the end, isn't this all we ever really have to go on? The way in which you interpret reality is yours and yours alone, we don't really get to glimpse inside the views and perceptions of others. Of course they can try to tell us how they see the world, how it feels to them, how it smells, tastes, and interacts with them. But we never truly know. Theory and hypothesis are not true understanding or knowledge.

And this is the crux of the matter. We navigate through the world in our own little meat vehicles, seeking out connection and novelty and new experiences (or at least I hope that's what we're all doing out there). That feeling of isolation can be a strange one, surrounded as we are by others but never truly knowing what any of the others see, think, feel, and so on. How does my colour red translate through your eyes? How does love feel in your heart? How does that spine tingling awe of one moment translate to you? Did you miss it? Are we on the same page? These are the questions that we may not actually formulate into words but I think most of us will admit they're there somewhere below the surface from time to time.

So what of love? I think this is where the magic and awe and wonder comes in. This is where the questions can all be silenced. The mind chatter calms and the ease of being overwhelms. For love, when it is, when it truly “is”, is something far more formidable than I've ever fathomed. First off it must be equal, and this is far harder than one might think. A balance of give and take; of radiating love and accepting it at the same time ... it has taken me a very long time to get to the point of emotional maturity in which I can finally accept as much as I give. And suddenly all of the questions are silenced. I can look into the eyes of love and see a perfectly reflected mirror image of all that I'm thinking, feeling, radiating. There is no mind chatter, no distraction, no “what if”. It is pure and simple and the easiest thing I've ever done. Knowing what another is actually thinking, feeling, and experiencing ... this is a huge portion of what we have come to call love. The universe connecting in a small part with itself, recognizing that it is one, that these separate organic bodies are but a slight hindrance, a distraction from the fact that we are all one. The blinders are off and when you are fully engaged in love and existence that rush of connection is by far the best part of being human. Impenetrable, immoveable, and timeless. It is the strongest force, the one that cannot be fully told, not to be broken down to its constituents and explained in dry scientific jargon. This is not how it works. It is magic, it is the un-Englishable. It is the most psychedelic state, fully natural and there for the taking if we only accept and give equally. The secret is hidden in plain site.

We all think this is what we want, through media of all sorts this is what you would believe the aspiration is. But it's also the scariest point one can bring oneself to. The open and raw nature of love takes a strength many will not find. It is a precipice where many are unwilling to tread. For it is the most vulnerable place one can be. To expose one's heart fully and openly takes a bravery and calm resilience that we are not taught about or prepared for. We protect and coddle and close off from the fears and possible hurt that an exposed heart is so very open to. That razors edge of bliss and despair, this is where we must walk the line of love. And when you find it, when you immediately know that you can trust another with your heart, with your life, with all that is you ... this is what it's all about. For you know that you will do the same, and with that perfect reflection and clarity of heart and thought there is such immense safety in that point of complete vulnerability. It's the perfect duality. The balance of all things. It's magic, plain and simple.

I hope we all get to experience this at some point in our lives. For me it's a sense of coming home. I haven't felt “home” since I was a teenager, the calm and ease and knowledge that your family and loved ones are eternal and unquestionable. This is what I've been seeking, this is what I've hoped for. And finally, the chatter has ceased, there are no questions. It's the easiest thing I've ever done. But it took every event, every misstep, and every confusing turn of life to lead to here, to “now”. I am thankful for the entire trip, the path looks very clear and direct when looking back upon it all now. It's not as though I've met someone new and am in a period of bliss in finding that connection and figuring out who they are. It's the overwhelming sense of remembering this person, for I've known her many times before and in this current dance of life I've recognized her once again. The sense of time falters and the linear nature of interpreting events all but falls away. Again, if you don't believe in magic and awe and wonder I've probably lost you somewhere along the way. And if I have, I'm sorry for that. But for me, “lost” is the direct opposite of what I now get the privilege of feeling. For the first time in very long time I know exactly where I am. I am home.

I love you Lauren Fortuna.

Forever grateful for this life.


Huachuma - The Resistance Had To End If I Was To Begin

How do I begin this?  How do I attempt to describe the ineffable?  I suppose I just start.  That seems appropriate, especially given the messages I’ve been ingrained with over this past month.  Begin, move forward, live life "now".

There is talk of a “calling” that one receives.  I firmly believe in this.  When I look back at each and every step from my past to present it seems like a perfectly choreographed dance of lessons, interactions, ups, downs, and everything in between.  I feel as though I’ve reached the apex of a peak and can now finally look back and see the entire path and its intricate meandering route.  This is a testament to “now” I suppose.  For to be able to look back at life in general and have no regrets, just awe and wonder at how it took each step to get here, this is something special.  And I’m fully in love with “here”, with “now”, with life, and ultimately with me.

Last June was my first step into the world of shamanism and plant medicines.  It was a necessary step but somehow it wasn’t the huge plunge that I may have been hoping for.  Somewhere in me I was still resisting, still holding on, and still trying to outsmart the process.  Within a month or two of returning I felt the pull again.  Life wasn’t all that perfect at home and there was this feeling of, “I need to make a shift, something has to change”.  So this time it was Huachuma (aka San Pedro - although according to Don Howard this is definitely different from San Pedro) that called me.  When you know it’s time you just know.  I booked my journey for January.

Many things were coming to a head.  A lot of anxiety and heartache and an overall sense of constantly living in limbo … this had become a large part of my waking life.  Something had to shift.  My parting note to life in Canada was the great Heraclitus quote, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man”.  I knew there was a change on the horizon, I just couldn’t have imagined how dramatic it was to be.  Through taxis, airplanes, and buses I rapidly ended up at the SpiritQuest Sanctuary outside of Iquitos, Peru.  It felt as natural as could be.  Of course there were still some nerves as to what might come but overall it couldn’t have gone smoother.

I could go on about the setting and the minutia of each interaction and so on but I think I’ll just get to the big messages and changes as quickly as I can.

We were to partake in three ceremonies over the seven day retreat.  Each ceremony having a feel or theme to it.  The first being water, incorporating a sense of levity and birthing.  The second would be earth, in which Don Howard alluded to the fact that there may be some heavy times and if need be we’d have to acknowledge and sit with those feelings.  The third and final would be air, in which we’d have a chance to connect beyond our earthly confines and go into the astral realm.  I wondered how three ceremonies with the exact same medicine could have three very different effects.  Huachuma was also described as hitting you with a feather rather than a hammer.  Let me tell you, it’s one very very heavy and slow feather … it’s tough to describe this in words and metaphor. This medicine is known as a heart opener and the mesada (initiation) is an introduction to the jaguar spirit (no fear) … from what I will write next, it couldn’t have hit either of these points more perfectly.

In the past I always tried to be the recorder.  I tried to take the experience, outsmart it, and create wordplay to describe it and bring it back to others.  This time, things became truly ineffable.  I’ll be writing about this and thinking about it for my entire life but there is a core to it that will never be described properly.  It must be experienced rather than relayed.

The first ceremony (water) began.  Each individual was called up to the Mesa (altar).  Two fingers on each hand plugged into the edges of the table.  Don Howard cleansing and protecting us with his mapacho (smoke) and rattles.  When the music stopped you drank.  A not too bitter brew, a large cup.  Once the medicine was down it was just a waiting game.  What would happen next?  For me that first session was quite light.  My intention going in was to be an open vessel to the universe, ready to accept love … I also aimed at connection to all and a sense of safety.  Before I drank Don Howard says to me, “You’re here for a reason aren’t you brother?  It’s all about love and connection here, you are safe.”  And with that he had read my mind and I knew I was in good hands.  The first of many mystical experiences and I hadn’t even drunk the brew yet.  

Almost immediately after drinking we gathered out belongings and headed out for the day.  A boat ride down the river. Listening to headphones to drown out the motors it began to get quite beautiful.  Everything slightly enhanced.  The music became an impressive soundtrack to the beauty of life in the Amazon.  The entire time I was processing what was going on.  Trying to gauge it, trying to hold on.  Well, my ego was trying to hold on I suppose.  I felt a sense of buoyancy, but still I couldn’t let go.  We visited a tribe.  Smiling faces and joy were all around us.  Children with the best smiles I’ve ever seen.  We watched a ceremonial dance and song and then were free to wander as we would.  Again, this first session was not quite as deep as I might have imagined … I wouldn’t let it get too deep.  There were some very beautiful moments but overall I began to wonder if this was the right path for me.  The boat ride home was quite glorious, I chose the ideal music for the trip and as the sun set I started to catch a glimpse of what this medicine could be.  By the time we returned to the maloca (ceremonial hut) I was all but back to myself.  There were others who were directly plugged in that night but for me it had already faded to a mere whisper.  The first ceremony was complete and I still had many questions.

That night I couldn’t sleep at all.  I had the most excruciating headache.  It felt like things were being shifted and torn out in there.  Like long stands of pain were being dragged across my mind.  I know not what to make of this but it seemed like and important step.  Something had to be rewired if I was to continue.

The second ceremony (earth) was still filled with the unknown for me.  I hadn’t gone deep enough in the first so I knew not what to expect.  Through the same ceremony we drank our medicine and again headed out for the day.  This time I knew immediately it was going to hit me harder.  There was that sense of levity but there was something deep and heavy intertwined in there as well.  Another glorious boat ride.  Music has never sounded so perfect to me.  This time we went on a hike of about forty minutes.  It felt good to move, to be in the jungle, to feel very much connected to nature.  Still, my mind held on, I was resisting but beginning to lose that battle.  We ended up at a clearing with a small pond for swimming.  Through the circumstance and having recently had my back tattooed I couldn’t go for a swim.  So I stood and watched.  There was a moment when the rain began to fall and the sun was shining on the water … the staccato of light, reflection, and ripple … there was a moment there that still feels as though it’s reverberating through eternity.  I felt stuck.  Physically and mentally.  I was at an impasse and something had to give.  We went back to another small clearing and the tribe was about to do a ceremonial dance.  At this point everything got extremely heavy for me.  I felt the earth pulling me down, engulfing me.  It was eternal and immense and I knew not what to do.  Every negative thought began to fill my head,  “this is bullshit, look at us, just a bunch of drugged up foreigners in the jungle, this is scheisterism not shamanism, fuck it I’m never doing this again”.  On and on these thoughts went.  I felt heavier and heavier.  It was the closest to death I think I’ve ever felt.  I cannot describe it better than that.  And it was a death of sorts.  There was a part of me (or my ego) that had to die.  The resistance had to end if I was to begin.  And so I let go.  I let the medicine finally take hold in full effect. I surrendered and accepted what was given.  From there everything became glorious.  The tribe did a ceremonial song and dance and with each moment I began to feel my power return.  We hiked back to the boats and that boat ride, man, that was something else.  The most miraculous sunset set to music.  My heart was so wide open by this point.  I’ve never felt such an immense sense of calm, of peace, of love and belonging.  Returning to the maloca we partook in more ceremony.  This time I was plugged in, this time I was beginning to get it.  

There are moments which are beyond words.  As Terrence McKenna would say, they are “un-Englishable”.  From here on in that rings so very true.  But nonetheless I’ll give it a try.

The third ceremony (air) was filled with excitement for me. I had a sense of what was to come.  The fear had subsided and all that remained was wonder and awe.  This time we drank and then immediately went for a hike.  It was a matter of minutes before I was tuned in and vibrating with an energy of connection that I cannot describe.  The jungle was me and I was the jungle.  A shared experience by almost everyone in the group … the trees were whispering all around us and the earth was breathing.  Yes, breathing, I would sit and watch and it was undeniable.  Everything else would be perfectly still and I’d see a small pocket of earth calmly inhaling and exhaling.  It was beautiful.  And that’s what I was told of Huachuma, it’s a clarifier.  It doesn’t alter what is there it just allows us to truly see what is going on all around us all of the time.  This time it was so very different.  I had plugged in completely.  There was no resistance on my part.  My intention for this day was, “Accept what it given.  Respect all things”.  And this mantra rang so very true for the entirety of the process.  Again, there are moments which I cannot describe.  I was given the knowledge that the universe is infinite and eternal and at the core it is all just love.  To know this rather than think it or theorize it, this is something different.  The hangups and fears that we create, they are so very bizarre.  All that we are here to do is be the best person we can possibly be.  The universe wants me to fully experience it through the best possible Cohen imaginable.  For that’s what we are, the universe playing hide and seek with itself and when this incarnation ends we get to go back to the whole and repeat and repeat and repeat.  I love the analogy of Alan Watts, the idea that we are all waves in the ocean.  When one wave crashes it is not sad, the ocean remains the ocean and is not individuated into single waves coming or going.  A sense of strength and calm continued to grow in me throughout the day.  

Eventually we made our way to the sky deck, a platform at the highest point for as far as the eye could see.  And this is where most of us got stuck in time, or stepped out of time perhaps.  It was just pure awe and bliss.  Staring at the sky, just above the canopy of the jungle.  Again, no words for this.  But I do know that most of us had a shared experience there.  It was difficult to move for I didn’t want to disturb the perfection of “now”.  At one point I laid back on the warm concrete.  Eyes closed and the rain began to hit me.  It was total synesthesia.  Each drop was a staccato burst of light on my body.  I could see each point where it hit me and touch, sound, sight … it all melded into one perfect harmony. I know not how long we were up at the star deck, it felt like eternity, it feels like I’m still there to some degree.  Eventually we began to make our way down to the maloca.  This time I was still so astoundingly plugged in.  I would sit with eyes closed and see very clearly the energetic pattern of what was going on around me.  It was so much brighter inside my head with eyes closed than it was outside with eyes open.  Vibratory patterns of purple and green on a matte black background.  Just pure bliss and connection.  It felt as though my head had opened at the top and the dome of the universe was one and the same … I was everything and everything was me.  The edges between everything had completely dissolved.  The separation of self had completely obliterated.  I was surfing the cosmic sea and it was so very very perfect.  Again, no words to describe this event.  At one point Don Howard approached from behind, my eyes closed I could still see him in perfect detail.  He crouched over me, his being arching over the view of the eternal and it was so very gentle and tender and loving.  There isn’t a doubt in my mind that he was viewing straight into my core, seeing all that I was seeing.  The ceremony eventually ended but my journey was still going strong.  Some of us remained in the maloca for quite some time.  Watching as the candles burnt out one by one.  There was a part of me that watched that last candle flicker and dance, a part of me that fully believed that when that candle went out so would all else.  I would be extinguished and return to the ocean, my wave cresting and falling.  And perhaps this happened to some degree.

Something amazing shifted over these three ceremonies.  Every little fear I’ve ever had, I left it there in the Amazon.  There is this sense of calm and warmth that pervades everything now.  There is an overwhelming love and awe for existence.  My head and my heart have both been opened so wide that there is no chance they will ever begin to close.  For those of you that know me, well, I’m sure you’ve seen this … the shift is so very real.  There’s a glow to life that I’ve never experienced before.  Each interaction becomes more exciting and important. Each connection a new opportunity and adventure.  For the first few days I’d wake up worried that this feeling might be fleeting, that it might fade. I’m glad to say this is not the case.  I truly have returned from the river a different man.  Suddenly everything in life is so very exciting.  And the perspective shift, man, it’s something else.  All of those hangups and forms of resistance, they’re all just gone.  Fear is such an anchor and I’ve become untethered.  Without a doubt this has been the most important month of my life.  The reverberations of which will be felt for the rest of my days.  

There is far more to this story but I feel as though this has been a small taste of what I’m thinking and feeling.  It’s tough to describe that which is beyond words but I’ve given it a try.  That feather of Huachuma, it hit so very slow and so very heavy, an impact which I didn’t even see coming.  And now my life is virtually unrecognizable.  I feel so very loved and cared for by everyone around me.  Connections which I may have ignored due to fear and the unknown, they are springing up at every turn … the community I’ve always dreamed of has been sitting there for me to grasp all along.  The life I’ve wanted to lead, I’m getting to lead it now.  I have said aloud many a time over the past few weeks, “This is the life I get to lead?”  I’m in utter awe of the universe and my place in it.  Yes, this is the life I get to lead, this is the life I will navigate with an open heart and a calm mind.  

Accept what is give.

Respect all things.

I have so much gratitude for life and connection and all of those who have played a role in this.  

Thank you.

SpiritQuest Sanctuary - Huachuma Mesada - Iquitos, Peru

Preparing for my next journey ...

As my next journey to Peru looms in the very near future I feel myself closing in. Concentrating my energy, focusing, instinctually doing what needs to be done.  There is no set manner in which to prepare, it is quite unconscious.  There is something just over the horizon and I'm already beginning to feel it beckoning back through time.  As for my last journey all I can say is that there are very few experiences in my life which resonate for so very long. It's been over six months and it is still a daily thought, a teacher, a puzzle I'll likely never fully piece back together.

With that being said I'll revisit June 8th. This was after my third ayahuasca ceremony (I think it was the 3rd). It's very much unedited and open. If you're interested, here is what I wrote in my journal that day:

I feel as though I need to write more about vibrations and energy. I may repeat some of what I've already written. I can see how most everything can be applied and integrated into this theory. From the little flowers I see each day, opening their satellite petals to take in the energy/vibration of the sun, following it so as to get as much as possible, of course the same for all of the leaves and most anything nature based. They take in one form of vibration, take what they need, tranform the rest. For example, if you eat a plant you take in its vibrations, use what is needed, and excrete the rest. Some of the waste can be actual shit but it can also come out as emotions, moods, words. Bad diet = bad emotions.

On a more personal/human aspect, it's not just what we ingest. It's who we are around; the emotions, words, and thoughts that we take in. We can use it all as sustenance ... love and friendship. Or, we can take in contradictory vibrations and these create blockages. We can even run into those who solely exist to take in vibrations and give nothing back. Those are the people who leave us drained and confused after every interaction. It all comes down to flow. Does the energy/interaction help of hurt? Are the vibrations in sync or in contradiction to each other? If they're not in sync are we able to shed the bad vibrations? Most of us will hold on to them, secret them away in our depths of self. We hide them. Some people will choose substances/alcohol to keep those hurts deep down and at bay. Others will form a shell ... the harder the shell the more painful it will be to let that pain go eventually. If we can't let that pain go it comes out in so many different ways; anger, contempt, self-destructive thoughts and actions. We sometimes aim it at those we are closest with. We put our hurt out into the world just to get it out, more often than not we aim it at another person. This is not a good cycle for then they must deal with it and perhaps repeat the exact pattern of internalizing and externalizing.

The self-regulated purge. This hurts no one. We need to learn to discard our negative and out of sync vibrations without putting them onto/into others. A state of flow is the goal. Loose flow. Let them come in (for they surely will) but let them pass just as easily. This is a note to self to do more yoga more often. It's in our muscles. It's in our societal norm to hold on to the tension, to “deal with it”. It all manifests in so many ways; physical pain, mental pain, sickness, disease ... it's all a part of the same pattern of holding on to the negative vibratory patterns. I can visibly see the pattern of taking in other's emotions and vibrations and how this can be so very positive and/or so very negative.

I can see how we create a new being. We strip it down to the smallest personal vibration and merge it with someone else's. They form a new pattern and learn to adapt and grow together as a new life, a new version of our history of vibration. We pass it all on to our children, we are all the sum of the entirety of the patterns that have come before us. Hopefully we learn a few things along the way.

The icaros are a reset. A re-stabilizing pattern. Jostling the old out and allowing room for the healing and the new patterns. So very many people need to let their deep pain out, open up and stop the shielding and coping. Just let those pains out and you'll find room for you, for love, room to to express and accept love.

This was my primary message last night. I never ask for help. For my entire life, I very rarely have asked for help. This is why I did so well in school. If I take care of all of it by myself I don't need help. This is why I take so much on and never put myself first. I can cope. I can handle it ... but I can't in the long run. From a very young age I never wanted to disrupt the flow. I felt as though by expressing my needs I'd disrupt the pattern of family life and possibly lead to a bout of depression in my father. And I can follow this thought through to some of my relationships. I choose people who I'm scared to agitate and therefore I am never able to ask them for help. I've give and give but I don't want to ask for much as I might piss someone off or throw their pattern into a bad spiral. I need to work towards letting it out, feeling safe that I'm allowed to let it out and move forward.

I feel as though last night was very much focused on me. I felt pretty shitty for the most part; emotionally rough. Nothing was very supernatural but it helped to connect a lot of dots. Seeing my life in a way which I've looked at it before. It was necessary.

The only visual from the entire night, just outside the maloca, for hours stood a stoic African looking warrior. Shield, staff, and garment, all very real. I couldn't focus on his face ... the rest was very clear. His facial features were constantly morphing. I know he was there as a protector, I felt very much safe. Then, on the walk back to my tambo, I was positive there was someone behind me. Positive. I paused, heard a shuffle, then turned to see a lanky and immensely tall silhouette. So close we were almost touching. I looked up, felt comforted and said, “oh, hello”. The being didn't want to pass, just walk behind me. So I smiled and continued my walk home. There's magic out here. It's real.



Let Challenge Be My Compass

Give me struggle. Give me challenge. I will seek it out, I will create it if complacency creeps in. The mundane will attempt to engulf and pacify. The comfort of modern life will attempt to hypnotize us all into stasis. At times we all fall prey to this but in realizing it we can shake it off, find new goals and aspirations, new hurdles to overcome and new hardships to endure. This is where the growth can happen, this is where the learning transpires.

I've known the other side of it all, existing without living for years on end. Uninspired routine of getting by rather than moving forward. Hiding from life and watching it on tv rather than experiencing it firsthand. It's taken me this long to come to a conclusion, I will not settle for the mundane, the normal, the safe. This does not excite me and even though I've had periods of slumber through this lifetime there is a common thread of challenge, meeting said challenge, then creating a new one. This game will not end, there will always be a next, and another, and another ... this is my life. This is the life I will choose to lead.

I do not want the generic holiday of beach and drink. I want the busload of locals and chickens jammed so full that the roof is an optimal seat for sixteen hours with no bathroom and far too much vomit. I want the path less travelled not for the story to regale others with but for the experience of now, embracing a perspective shift which would be impossible through the comfort and normalcy of home. The blinders of routine are far too limiting, they can be shattered by so many different ventures.

I seek out the shaman's brew, exposing the self bare and seeing what truly remains. I will leave behind all that I know as safe and see how I can thrive. At times I will even leave “I” and see what else is contained within. Facing fear, experiencing the pain as the fear leaves the body, this is a choice. What remains is stronger and more concise, unburdened by the patterns and vibrations of negativity and worry. This is my aim, this is my present and future.

Rather than bask in comfort I will choose to sit beneath the tattoo needle for hours on end. I will choose the trial and I will learn about myself. I will learn how to cope and how I will react. I will run most every day, not for love of running but for the test of will when I am the only one who has a say in continuing or quitting. I will sit in silence, allowing thoughts to invade and pass, waiting for the mind to quiet and the eternal to arise. I will find new tests and venues for challenge for I know that there is much life to be lived.

There are those who will read and scoff, but why do we belittle, complain, negate ... we turn away for we do not want to face the uncomfortable. Most do not even begin to question themselves, their actions, their autopilot lives in which each day passes into the next with no growth in between. In the end we will either have a life well lived or a huge burden of regret. This is the beginning of my taking a stand against mediocrity. There is far too much to be done, seen, experienced ... I constantly feel the push for more. Time, my greatest resource is the one attribute I cannot earn or hoard or save; my only option is to be mindful of it and waste as little as possible. There's something growing and changing here, it's been years in the making and will take a lifetime more ... but I will take notice, catch myself when I slip, aim forward and inward, find that which is difficult and head towards another small victory knowing full well that another valley lies just beyond each peak. This is the life I choose.

 

Response versus Reaction

I've been having a few different thoughts rattle around my head as of late. Those special tangents of thought can be identified as they reoccur and seem to be broadcast back to you in various forms. Suddenly those thoughts are being voiced or discussed in the books you're reading, the podcasts you're listening to, or the conversations you're overhearing and/or having. These are the ones I try to be mindful of, the ones that seem ready to be explored further. It's a lesson, just waiting for you and sometimes the world can't make it more clear ... almost blaring at you “pursue this, go deeper into this”.

That being said, I continue to come back to the idea of responding versus reacting. Once you begin to be aware of the difference between these two ways of being life gets all the more interesting. This is not to say that mastery comes quickly with this realization. Moreover it just makes one take notice of how very often we are on autopilot. The reaction occurs far before any real mental faculty takes over; be it anger, sadness, retaliation, self-aggrandizement, boastfulness, or most any other emotional reaction. Actions occur outside of our selves, we react in a programmed manner, thus creating more external actions and reactions ... I feel like this is what so very much of daily interaction boils down to. There is little time given to taking in the external situation, processing it, and responding in the manner we might truly wish to respond in. To take this further it begins to erode the idea of free will or freedom in general. We are amazing reaction machines, boxed within the confines of “this happens therefore I do that, that happens so I do this”. We can all relate to the idea of having bad habits, bad patterns, negative issues which arise again and again, caught in the loop of our programming, caught in our own reactive personalities. We begin to question how we always end up back at the same point, having the same issue. At the very edge of making headway into all of this one can start to take note of the reactions, the patterns, the pitfalls of personality. This is a slow process. At the moment I find myself at the point of reacting, then in a split second taking notice of the reaction, trying to slow down and process, and then perhaps recanting on the reaction and coming back with an actual response. The aim I suppose would be to internally have the reaction and externally produce the response. Take a moment to digest the outer situation, and then portray the self that you wish to portray. It's far more difficult than we might think. After decades of simply running on auto-pilot now there's a glitch in the continuity, but in that hesitation, in that internal dialogue, this is where change can begin to occur.

All of this boils down to mindfulness. Taking notice of the self and the situations we inhabit. I've begun to meditate regularly, this is my ally in the battle of reaction versus response. Taking twenty minutes or so each day to be still, be quiet, and be with myself. There is no guideline, there is no perfect way to find your way. But ultimately this is something all of us can benefit from. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with media, interaction, distraction, noise, sensory overload, lack of nature, high stress, demands on time, deadlines, and so on, it seems all the more important to take that time within. The outer world gets so much of your energy, perhaps it's time to cultivate the inner world just a bit. This is work. It is not easy. I foresee decades ahead doing this work. But this is what I respect in others, a consistent attempt to better oneself. I do not mean bettering ones position in the external world. Make all the money, climb the ladder, acquire objects ... this is not the wealth I'm aiming at. Becoming a better person, more patient, more loving, more nurturing and understanding ... these are the riches I seek. Strengthening the core, strengthening your individual vibration ... this is not a selfish game, it is for the betterment of the whole and it's the only change which we truly have control over. Such control of course being contingent upon taking the time to be mindful, process, and respond.  

Creation, Complexity, & Living the Imagined Life (Recycled Thoughts)

What follows is another post I wrote quite some time ago.  In the process of discarding my Tumblr blog I'm trying to salvage a few of the thoughts/writings which still resonate with me.  So here is another of those recycled blog posts:

Lately I’ve had a few thoughts that continue to rattle around in my head. I’m definitely not the first to have such thoughts but maybe I can add something, pass it on, and keep adding to a larger/expanding bank of people having similar thoughts This may not be related to either tattooing or biking, but it is my blog and I’ll make the rules around here.

I keep thinking about the act of creating something, creating absolutely anything. We’ve reached this evolutionary point in which we can have a concept, a thought, something that has no physical form, and we can manifest that non-physical idea into the physical world. This simple concept blows me away when I really think about it. We are living in a world created by our imaginations. For the most part we’ve separated from nature and live in these small thought experiments known as cities and towns. Within those cities are our homes, within them are all of our belongings … all of these objects/structures began as nothing at all; nothing more than a firing of electrical pulse somewhere within our little brains. Through all of our human ingenuity these ethereal ideas are now existing in the physical realm. What is going on here?

We take it all for granted. We pass things off as “oh, it’s just your imagination”. What does that mean? It’s all “just our imagination”. And now we’re testing the waters and manipulating nature on a more intricate level. Modifying plants and animals. We’ve taken control of our immediate human environment, what comes next?

There’s been a long standing idea of separating humanity from nature. We can be down on humanity all that we want but it all pushes towards more and more complex systems. Our human brains are by far the most complex creation of nature on this planet. We’re taking the abstract and making it physical. We’re evolving at a bizarrely fast rate. The gene is no longer the quickest form of coding out there. The thought has taken over. The idea of Dawkins’ meme as the vehicle for transferring information is a far more direct and explosive passage of information than the physical process of reproduction. The gene is the physical transfer (which takes generations), the meme is the non-physical transfer (which takes the time for light to reach your eyes or sound to reach your ears). And the ideas can be passed on quicker and quicker (through all forms of media) to an ever expanding audience, which continues to speed up the process exponentially. We take it for granted and just accept these changes but let’s take a step back and look at life ten years ago, twenty years ago … could we have imagined where we are now? We can communicate our every thought instantaneously to people on the other side of the earth through text messaging, the internet, the telephone, facetime, and so on. We’re all getting more and more connected, the hive is buzzing at an ever increasing rate.

Still, our technology is cumbersome in comparison to nature but we’re getting smaller/faster at an ever increasing rate. Nature has it down far more than we usually give credit … DNA is by far the greatest information storage device out there. A single human contains an astounding 200,000,000,000,000 meters of DNA (that’s 2 x 10 to the 13th power). That is the equivalent of nearly 70 trips from the earth to the sun and back. We usually feel as though we have a pretty good understanding of what’s going on but truly we only understand 2 or 3 percent of what that DNA is coding for. The other 97 – 98 % is known as “junk DNA”. Our technologies unconsciously mimic the structures seen in nature, the patterns are eerily similar. It all seems to be heading somewhere. Not in the sense of a master plan orchestrated by one mind which is conscious of all the results/possibilities. We all play out little role which ends up adding to something far greater.

The idea of humans versus nature is a common one. Ultimately we are a creation of nature. The ever increasing complexity, the manifestation of physical forms stemming from non-physical thought patterns, the speed of transferring information. These all seem to be the unconscious aims of humanity, they also seem to be the unconscious aims of nature. Of course there are uncountable ills created by our incessant urge to move forward … in a lot of ways we are destroying our planet. It all starts to seem like a race. The evolution of our thoughts is racing against the greed for resources (which out thoughts have created). The optimistic view would be that at some point our knowledge will surpass out greed and we’ll be able to exist in whatever utopia our thoughts create next. It’s a stage of transition and it all seems to be ramping up at an ever increasing rate. This life things continues to get more an more interesting.

Having said all of that, I’ll go back to creating on my own very small, very personal scale. From mind to paper, it’s such a perfect and rudimentary example of all that I’m talking about.  

Ayahuasca and the Vibratory Nature of Existence

Perhaps my tattoo page is not the proper place for this entry but perhaps it is.  I'm quite open about all that consists of the idea of "me" and this is most definitely a part of it all.  So here you have my first attempt at bringing to light something which is quite difficult to describe.

I've been attempting to write a sequential story about my experience in the Amazon. It will eventually be completed but somehow the linear timeline doesn't seem all that important. It's not the sequence but the experience itself which I continue to try to make sense of. Perhaps the best way for me to tackle this is to just write about certain aspects one at a time and then perhaps the ordered storyline can come out later.

For me the seven ceremonies all make complete sense when viewed as a whole. My first ceremony was perhaps my most intense in the knowledge and information department. I feel as though I was given the entire class syllabus and everything which came after was an attempt to clarify and make sense of a copious amount of information.

I had read as much as I could, watched as many documentaries as I could find, listened to podcasts, and thought very long and very hard about finally making the journey to Peru to partake in ayahuasca. Even after many years of thinking about it there was no way to know what would actually happen. With all of that my anticipation of that first ceremony the moment was very personal and very immense. I knew nothing when all was said and done.

The entire ceremony seemed so very new but also so very natural right from the start. Sitting in the maloca in a large circle each passejero came up individually to drink their introductory cup. The first night was quite dark. As the days passed the moon ramped up towards it's full cycle but I recall that first night to be the darkest, the most full of mystery. I took my cup, drank, and returned to my mat. What would happen? How long would this take? Am I feeling it yet? Am I supposed to feel it? Why am I sweating? Will I ever be the same? On and on the questions rambled through my head.

It was hot, I was hot, the sweat ran freely as much due to nerves and wonder as to the actual physical circumstances. After some time the whispers of the first icaro began. By this point I was definitely beginning to feel a different state of being. My fears would creep in. I'd start to see beautifully intricate geometric patterning and almost as if set on a stage a character would enter from the periphery. Faces, smiles, gentle figures then transforming to very macabre and disturbing clown/circus imagery. I know not where this was coming from. I'd try to laugh it off (internally) and smile at these disturbing figures. Without fail, as soon as I did this they revealed their true faces, pulling off the disturbing masks and showing me their gentle playful faery nature. It was a game. A game in which I was letting go of the negative thoughts and fears and seeing them in a different manner. My anchor through this introductory light show as the thoughts of home and my beloved Nikki. The hug we shared just before I entered the airport, that transaction of love and energy was enough to get me through most anything.

Once this first phase began to come to a close the icaros were in full effect. I believe we had four maestros and maestras that first night. Their voices alternating and coalescing into a perfect symphony of sound and vibration. And now the information download began. Very flat geometric patterning rolled and spun its way through my visions. Like the clockwork tick-tock gearbox of the universe I felt like I was being shown how all things worked. Indescribable patterns which were fractal when I looked close enough. The deeper I went the more intricate the interrelation between the patterns. Predominately black, white, brown and yellow ochre along with some other muted earth tones. I was definitely communicating with some other form of intelligence. The patterns, the light show, the variations, this all seemed to be different attempts to find a language of symbol which I might understand.

As I laid back and was overwhelmed by the symbols and their meanings the maestras and maestros began to make their counterclockwise rotation around the maloca. Each maestro and maestra would sing to each passejero individually. Twenty four songs each. Four individual songs for each of us newly initiated into the ceremony. At this point I began to look around the room. And now the information download began to make a bit of sense. I could see the vibrations of all things. The maestros and maestras were conjuring amazing patterns with their icaros. The vibrations of their songs would strengthen into these very concrete very real patterns and these would be passed into the individual being sung to. The unnecessary or bad vibrations were being released and the positive patterns/vibrations were filling the hole left by the absence of what had just been jolted outward. This is the crux of all that I learned that first night. All things are energy. All things are vibration.

That which follows is taken directly from my notebook the day after that first experience:

***

Every “thing”, at its core, is a vibration. From my skin hitting this page, to words, to emotions. We “feel” when these vibrations bump into each other. Some vibrations can be integrated, others contradict each other and bounce off. If a vibration begins to find allies it gains gravity and can grow. Those vibrations become symbols. From the simplest object all the way to the planet and all else, they are vibrations. Much like any other vibration they hold resonance for a while, eventually dissipating and dispersing. We know this as aging and dying. We, as individuals, are attempting to strengthen our own vibrations. So when they eventually begin to disperse we can maintain enough of “us” to again gain gravity, pull more vibrations in, and begin the “life” process again. If one wanted to put a word on that it might be reincarnation.

Eventually, in the case of the Earth, that vibration/collection of symbols becomes so strong it turns inward on itself, the friction of this inward turn creating more and more vibrations, creating LIFE. The other planets in our system are grand beings to say the least. But our Earth, she is something else, a fractal creation machine for newly assembled vibratory beings. We gain knowledge (through vibrations), we pick up speed, improve. Think of how powerful a learning tool the human voice is. We have mastered the use of small mouth movements in order to convey one idea from one mind into another. These voices are vibrations as is the written word (in a different form) and so on. As long as we are receptive and choose to only take in the positively aligned vibrations we continue to strengthen that which is at our core.

Humanity has figured out how to align patterns to some extent. We can make “things” which at their essence are certain sequences of ordered vibration. The problem, we create these “things” only to serve us rather than the whole. These are dead ends, their vibrations take a long time to disperse and therefore they are difficult to reintegrate into the whole. We create separation rather than cohesion. Mother nature ... she's all about cohesion and interconnectedness.

This is why I'm here right now. To strengthen my own pattern and resonance. To discard the conflicting patterns which I've taken in and restructure the proper flow of my pathways. We allow room in our bodies/being for those vibrations which we do not need. We hold on to them. They do not want to leave. Pain, of all sorts, is that vibration holding on for dear life, trying to create a niche on which to grow. Sleep helps to reorganize our patterns ... ayahuasca does it even better. Ha. So if we start with the a small vibration (let's say a sperm or an egg), eventually, if it is to grow, it finds an ally. That ally fits in perfectly and you have a slightly stronger vibration, and thus slightly more gravity or attractive force. The compounding or multiplication begins to speed up. We grow physically, turning into strings and interconnected nets of vibratory resonance. Eventually these resonances are better described as patterns. They have a more concrete flow and presence, a certain frequency. When our frequency meets and ally we can take some of it in with us, in exchange we give out a bit of our own vibration. These are interactions of all sorts, emotional/physical/hypothetical, they are all exchanges of energy. The same can be said for conflicting patterns, we can allow them into our flow. The key is to let them go from that flow, not to hold on. Allow them in but just as readily allow them to pass through. We do not need conflict. Clear the negative and allow the positive to hold strong and true. That's what all of this is, an inward focus of my own energy. Keeping it to myself for a while and cultivating a better flow and a better pattern.

***

Please excuse the excessive use of commas, run on sentences, and or poorly executed sentence structure. As I said, that which preceded was directly from my journal. Trying to grapple with a huge information download and trying to form coherent words and thoughts out of it all. That was all from my first experience with mother ayahuasca and I'm still integrating it and making sense of it all many weeks later. I had six more ceremonies, all of which had their own flavor and path but all of which also looped back to this idea of vibration and energy. I made many more notes about the subject. Many analogies and so on. It all seems to work very well in my mind but I know not if I'm conveying it properly. I'm sure I will write far more, think far deeper, and perhaps bump up to an answer or two somewhere along the way. Ultimately there are those things which are far beyond words. This is my meagre attempt to convey just a bit of it to a few people out there who might have taken the time to read through.

Final notes, which were mantras in my mind throughout the twelve day experience:


Every thing is sacred. Every action matters.


Respect all things.


It's all a game. There are no rules. Just play.


maloca


Sporadic at best ... but grateful nonetheless

My blogging intentions are always good but somehow it's one activity that always gets lost in the mix, shamefully lurking at the back of the line marked priority.  At the ten month mark of opening my own studio I continue to have a surplus of gratitude for all of the individuals who I've spent time with in the new space.  I have amazingly loyal clientele, many of whom I've spent far too many hours alongside to merely deem a "client", I'm met some wonderful friends when all is said and done.  You've all shaped me and my work.  It's a slow moulding and shaping, more like erosion or perhaps the growth of moss in arctic conditions, but it's a constant growth which I'm witnessing when I get the change to pull back and view my life and career.  I thank you all for that.

Also, I'd like to thank Mikel (www.mikel.ca) for sharing the space with me.  As someone who has approximately a decade more experience in the tattoo world than I do there has definitely been much to learn and observe.  I thank you for the generosity of knowledge, the conversations, and the ease of working alongside another artist.

I tend to put my head down and work.  It's good to once in a while look up and see what's changed, what I need to work on, where my priorities are or may be in the future.  In the past year I put my head down and somehow I went from being booked three months in advance to close to six months in advance.  It's a time of contemplation at the moment.  Again, I'm nothing but grateful for having such a loyal (and patient) clientele.  You're all very impressive.  

As the scheduling continues to mount I begin to toy with the idea of specialization.  I tend to have a passion for a few styles, still a somewhat broad spectrum but a bit more paired down from taking on each and every project.  My heart has always been with Japanese style work. This was my first passion of tattooing far before I myself began to tattoo.  Alongside that I have a strong affinity for American Traditional imagery (or at least that which is inspired by such imagery).  And thirdly, I've come to enjoy mandala and/or geometric type work, especially dot-work as an aesthetic which seems to be gaining steam in the tattoo realm.  

It becomes a thin wire to tread as in no way am I ever wanting to disregard any individual's tattoo ideas or aspirations.  I tend to feel as though I have strengths as well as areas I'd love to work more within to become stronger in said areas.  So, having said all of that, this is where my aim tends to be taking me.  There are a few analogies I like to use.  One being, if you had a chef known for his French cuisine you likely wouldn't ask him to cook Indian for you ... he might do an excellent job but it's not the ideal.  I will continue to take on many/most projects but my aim is a slight bit more direct these days ... Japanese, American Traditional, and Mandala/Geometry ... this is where I'm headed at the moment.  

And finally, thanks to my wonderful partner.  Nikki, you've been alongside me in the years which seem to have shaped me the most.  You've played an immense role in all of this, consciously or unconsciously our partners open so very many doors in life.  As long as the doors keep leading to growth and adventure I'll continue to try to do my part in this journey.  Thanks my love.

I write this and ask the question, "why am I sharing this most anyone willing to take a few minutes to read it?"  Well, the mere fact that it's full of positive sentiment is reason enough to put it out into world.  And a final thank you to any who have made it all the way to this final line.

Merchandising myself ...

It's been a long time coming but I finally had some shirts printed.  Somewhat in preparation for the upcoming Vancouver Tattoo & Culture Show, somewhat because it was long overdue.  So there you have it, my first shirts are available in Women's S, M and Men's M,L,XL.  They're a slim/long fit (American Apparel Summer T), a quality shirt that get's better with time.  I'm selling them for thirty dollars as they're sold for twenty-five as blanks off the rack.  Feel free to grab one then next time you're in the shop, or not, no pressure.  Thanks for taking a moment to read my small sales commercial/shameless advertisement.

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We all benefit ...

The longer I tattoo the more my gratitude increases.  I get to cross paths with so many individuals whom I might never come into contact with under any other circumstance.  There are a lot of talented and interesting individuals out there, a lot of inspiring people, a lot of stories, smiles, and thoughts.  Most every day I get to have a conversation with someone I barely knew before, I get to learn, I get to share.  In the end we're there to tattoo but more often than not we both get to walk away with something new; be it artwork or ideas, we all benefit.  Vancouver, you've got a lot to offer and I'm glad to gain insights into lives I may never have encountered otherwise.

While working on a piece for Laura her partner Matt took some time to wander around the shop snapping a few photos.  As it turns out he's a talented fellow.  Here are a few images he sent my way.

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Something From Nothing (Recycled Thoughts)

I formerly had a Tumblr blog which I sporadically updated with bursts of thought followed by long lulls of nothing.  I'm in the process of consolidating some of the information I've got out there in so many forms.  Here's an old post, likely in a string of posts which I'll eventually upload here:

 

So, let's suppose it all began from nothing. An unfathomable explosion of material and energy. Expanding at an unimaginable rate. Let's just agree that magic occurred, just this once. Things cooled, coalesced, and expanded further and further apart. Cosmic dust formed stars, gravitational pull clumped elements together, things cooled, planets formed, and somewhere along the way the Earth came to be. To the best of our knowledge at the moment the universe it said to be 13.75 billion years old and the earth a mere 4.54 billion years old.

Then, about 3.8 billion years ago simple cells (prokaryotes) began to form. Suddenly we've got life on Earth. It took a while but about 2 billion years ago we end up with complex cells (eukaryotes). After another billion years we end up with multicellular life, 600 million years ago we jump to simple animals, 500 million years ago there were fish, 475 million years ago there were land plants. As you can see, this timeline seems to be increasing it's speed. The jumps and changes start occurring more frequently. At 400 million years ago there were insects and seeds, 300 million and we hit reptiles, 200 million and finally we've got mammals. At 150 million years ago there were birds and roughly the same time flowers. The dinosaurs dies out 65 million years ago. 2.5 million years ago our genus came to be. Then, only 200,000 years ago anatomically modern humans arose. Only 25,000 years ago Neanderthals disappeared.

If we look at these figures there definitely seems to be a pattern of acceleration. Now that we've agreed that a magical explosion created all that exists can we agree that there is a constant drive towards complexity? I for one am going to agree with that. And, as that complexity gets more complex (for lack of a better word) the speed at which it evolves continues to accelerate. The building blocks get more and more complicated and can then help to create that next even more complex block at an even faster rate. Makes sense doesn't it?

So, up until a certain point this creation/change/move towards complexity was all very unconscious. Even at its ever increasing pace it still took very long periods of time (by human standards) to make leaps from one point to another. Then there was a shift from unconscious creation to conscious creation.

At some point our minds made the leap that we could shape/change out surroundings to better our situation. This must have been monumental. For the better part of 4.5 billion years things progressed and moved forward without cognitive guidance. Then, if we are to use tools as the benchmark, about 2 to 2.5 million years ago the changing of elements to fit our needs came into being with certain Homo habilis specimens. There's no definite date or occurrence but at some point someone made the leap from just being a part of the process to actually influencing the process. From there the acceleration gets bizarre.

A shift occurred. From unconscious evolution through extreme lengths of time to consciously manipulating the world around. Is this what the drive toward complexity has been aiming at? And we are not the only species to be doing this, crows and primates are great examples but dolphins, elephants, octopus, and many others have been witnessed using tools and manipulating their environments. Perhaps we just got there first, there may be more on the way.

This, in its essence, is an act of creation. Changing your surroundings. Using the mind to figure out how to change those surroundings and think ahead to how this will benefit you. A rudimentary form of creation by our current standards but it was a major step to be sure. The first acts of creation were for the betterment of survival. Eventually we reached a point of comfort wherein creation could become a pastime. Be it the creation of myths in attempt to explain this wild ride, to cave painting, to adorning the body ... these all seem like acts of creation motivated by something else. Creation for the sake of creation rather than the sake of survival. I hypothesize that the act of creating is an integral part of what makes us “human”. Without it where would we be? In the grand scheme of things, from the prokaryotes of 3.8 billion years ago to our complex human brains I see a straight line aiming toward instilling the drive to create.

As the human brain has evolved even further we are no longer bound by the physical restraints of evolution. With the creation of language we've dissolved the synesthetic boundary. We can create images and sensations in others just by making sounds with our vocal chords. I can describe an event, an image, something you've never seen, and you can create a mental image based on my sounds. I can transfer what's in my brain directly into yours. I'm doing it right now with these words. Take a moment to digest what we take for granted most every moment of most every day. Language, both spoken and written, is awe inspiring when you really think about what's going on. We can transfer ideas to each other, there is no material here, just the transfer of information. But we can also take that information and create objects in the physical realm. Plucking objects from the ethos and manifesting them into this realm. If we look at what we're manifesting and the rate at which its complexity is increasing the whole concept seems limitless. In my short lifetime the changes that have occurred are mind boggling. With the advent of the internet we can now communicate and exchange ideas with most anyone in most any location. A hive of thought has been created and we're all plugging into it. The pace increases, the complexity accelerates. The acceleration gets compounded to the point where it almost seems instantaneous. As the growth curve moves ever towards vertical it will eventually verge on a point of singularity wherein as soon as it's thought it is manifested into physical reality.

And this is where I make an even greater leap. We, in our rudimentary human mind state have the ability to create all that is around us by beginning with a thought. A thought, which has no physical form and is essentially “nothing” somehow turns into a computer, a car, a building, all of which are astounding creations. Of course there are many steps between the thought and the final product but those steps get faster and the creations get crazier. So what are we doing here? Essentially we are creating “something” from “nothing”. Does this sound familiar? Kind of like what we describe as the beginnings of our universe? All that exists began as nothing at all and by some magical factor came into being. Could this magical factor be based on a thought and an act of creation? If we look at the pace in which our minds have evolved it's not as though that pace will slow or that the pinnacle has been reached. A lot of us like to think that the goal has been scored, it's done, we are the ultimate. We may be the top of the heap on Earth, but that's just at this instant in time, it's not as though 13.75 billion years of movement towards complexity had the end game set at 2012 the land of iPhones and internet porn.

So, would it be so preposterous to think that the end game of our ever evolving minds and mental capacity to manifest the immaterial into the material realm just might be the creation of universes? Why would it be unfathomable that this ever increasing complexity and ability to manipulate reality may not eventually reach a point of wherein creation gets so very grand as to bring into being other dimensions/universes/realms in which the thread of creation and complexity can then grow and move forward in a never ending fractal miasma of thought and love and creation? I'm not proposing that you or I have this capacity, but as the mind evolves, given enough time the possibilities are truly limitless.

There you have it, a thought experiment encompassing all that exists and all that may exist. No big deal, just figuring out the unexplainable here. Hope you've enjoyed the ride, like it or leave it, at least I got to put ideas directly from my mind into yours. Keep on creating in your own way, you might just be participating in the essential act of existence, or maybe not, but it's definitely fun to think about.

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Glacial Progression Towards the Unattainable

First and foremost I want to acknowledge that this is opinion based.  From the limited number of years I've spent in the tattoo world I don't profess to know much of anything.  I simply have ideas and opinions and more than likely such opinions will morph and change as the years pass.

Tattooing is an interesting craft.  Somewhere in the realm of art and creativity, teetering on the brink of very orchestrated design work, it's a tough medium to describe properly.  We as tattooers are never creating "our art".  We're taking instruction from a client and we're also taking instruction from the past.  In academia you have individuals referencing books and articles and knowledge of the past, it's books about books about books.  There may be a new idea in there somewhere but it's all built on the foundation of past knowledge.  The same could be said about "fine" art; movements of art reacting to past movements and so on.  I suppose the idea of commissioned artwork has always been around as well but somehow I view tattooing as slightly separate from all of this.  We can take small chances, slight attempts at working outside of the box or expanding the proverbial box if you will.  But ultimately there are formulas which work in the world of tattoo.  Although I am seeing more of a dabbling of "abstract" tattooing going on out there I have a tough time believing that a smudge or drip is going to take on a timeless aspect in our craft.  Concrete lines, identifiable shapes, easily read imagery, these are a few of the aspects which I personally am coming to realize as being at the forefront of our medium.  The confines are relatively small to begin with and once given direction by our clientele those confines become even smaller.  In a way this can be refreshing.  If I had to sit down at my table each day and come up with the idea of what to draw as well as the drawing itself I would quickly be overwhelmed.  The idea is always there to begin with so it just becomes a matter of executing rather than pondering.  So we sit upon the edge of art or design, perhaps it's all semantics and truly doesn't matter much one way or the other.  In the end there is something beautiful about taking the small steps, refining things over the years, slight glacial progression rather than immediate and abrupt change.  

If anyone out there has watched the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi you might have a better idea of what I'm writing about.  Dedicating years (or a lifetime) to the slightest detail, the subtle change, the aspiration toward the unattainable perfection.  This mentality can be aimed at most any endeavour and I especially see it closely related to the world of tattooing.  This is a stark contrast to the instant gratification which out culture seems to be breeding on an increasingly faster rate.  The years of trying to get the proper curve to peony petal are unfathomable to the selfie riddled fast food brain of the "I want it now" population.  This is one of the most important aspects which I noticed in master tattoo artist Diau-An.  He embodied the work ethic and dedication on a daily basis which few others out there might dare to even dabble in.  For this, he became a huge inspiration and a major reason as to why I pursued tattooing.  This one mindedness can be seen in many forms of tattooing but for me it has always been the Japanese tattoo (and the Japanese inspired tattoo) which embodied the mentality most evidently.  I recall trying to track down a very few books from the Saskatoon public library in an attempt to see a few bodysuits in an age where the internet didn't offer the immediate gratification which it does today.  These were powerful images and for me a love of large scale Japanese work was born.

Beyond this there are a number of artist who have inspired me on a regular basis.  Just like Jiro aiming for the ceiling of perfection these individuals seem to constantly push the edge of what is possible.  In the end we all realize there is no ceiling and perfection will always be just out of reach.  Again, this is all opinion based and for me these are my personal tattoo heroes.  In the coming months I'll get the privilege of beginning a back-piece by one of them and the roles get to be reversed, me in the chair quietly accepting the pain as the artwork grows.  I'll keep my list short as it could go on for quite some time.  For now, here are a few of the most inspiring artist which I've come across.

Filip Leu for consistently blowing my mind and pushing the boundaries of tattooing.

Mike Rubendall for his powerful imagery, dedication, and attention to detail.

Aaron Bell for the balance and easy on the eyes imagery and such a great understanding of the body.

Shige for going beyond and making the average artist feel inept at best.

Stewart Robson clean and smooth and always impressive.

One might notice that there is only one Japanese artist on my little list.  Perhaps this is due to my lack of being Japanese.  In the end I'm working in the realm of the "Japanese inspired tattoo" rather than the firm traditions of the craft.  Thus, these are the artists I tend to be drawn towards the most.  Of course we owe so much to the past and the building blocks that have been set down especially in the not so distant past by Ed Hardy and Horiyoshi III.  Without the foundation the growth and exploration wouldn't be possible.  There are those who stay even closer to the tradition, much respect to them as well (Chris Trevino, Horitomo, Horikitsune, and so on).  The past informs the present and the future is unwritten.  Again, the slow progression, the harkening upon past imagery and rules, the aim to perfect something (anything), this is something at the forefront of my mind most every day.  

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Another new beginning for 2014 … this time it comes in the form of a website.

After almost a year without an image update on my old site and close to six years with said old site it's time to change things up just a bit.  I ended up doing the site myself using squarespace (yes, I may be a member of the Joe Rogan army if that means anything to any of you out there).  It's been a relatively easy process even for someone who doesn't profess to be all that savvy with the ol' internet.  In the end I went for ease of use and a format in which I can have a venue to consistently update work and keep things current from here on in.  That's the plan and I'm sure it'll never be another full year until I get new work floating around out there in cyberspace.  Hopefully it all works out and I didn't forget to cross any t's or dot any i's.

A new shop in 2013 and a new website in 2014.  There have been a lot of changes in the past year and it has all gone as smoothly as one could hope for.  Taking a risk, putting oneself into positions that might be a bit nerve racking … this seems to be a theme running through my mind these days.  Not that a new website is a risk, it's just a change and change is always an opportunity for growth.  A few weeks into the year and already I've begun some great new projects with far more on the horizon.  With so much growth in 2013 I'll be pressing myself to do the same over the next arbitrary number of rotations of the planet.

Much gratitude to all of those who have been tattooed by me in the past and those of you who will be tattooed by me in the future.  It's been quite the ride and it continues to get better.  

Hannya Chrysanthemum Cohen Floch Tattoo Artist Vancouver

Here's one that I completed the other day … I do have better images from my actual camera but for now the iPhone photo will suffice. 

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Consultations

The consultation process is far more important than you’d think.  This is where the framework for your new tattoo is set.  If ideas are not communicated properly here it can lead to numerous redraws, frustration, and wasted time for both the client and the artist.

Before the Consult:

Have a solid idea of what you’re looking for.  This can include reference materials of any type.  From rudimentary drawings on a scrap piece of paper to jpegs on your laptop, it’s all helpful in guiding the artist in the proper direction.  Think about how you’re going to explain your idea as words can often be interpreted differently than intended.  This does not mean that every detail has to be worked out, just the general parameters of subject matter, style, and placement.  Images tend to be the clearest form of communication, don’t limit your search solely to other tattoos.  For example, if you’re thinking about a bird, going to the source (nature photography) can be helpful.  Photos of other tattoos can be helpful as to giving a sense of what you’re looking for but don’t expect to get a direct one to one of another person’s tattoo.  This would be disrespectful to both the artist and the recipient of that preexisting piece.  Do your research, have a firm grasp on what you’re hoping to get and let your chosen artist create the best piece they’re capable of.  Remember that there is a level of trust involved.  Some things will work well on paper but they won’t work well in the skin.  There are adaptations to be made and if you’ve chosen an artist I hope you’ll respect their opinion as they should be knowledgeable as to what will look best.  Trust your instincts.  If things don’t seem right from the beginning then perhaps it’s not going to be the proper relationship of artist/client that you’re looking for.

During the Consult:

A discussion will take place, ideas are related and images are looked over.  Notes will be taken and perhaps a small (and rough) sketch will be made.  A tracing of the body part/general size of the piece is made.  Photos are taken if necessary (as in the case of cover-ups or placement next to preexisting pieces).  Feel free to ask any and all of the questions you’re thinking about.  Once the idea is clear to both artist and client a date can be set for the actual tattoo appointment.  A cash deposit is required to book the appointment.  Currently a deposit is paid in the sum of the first hour of tattooing ($160).  This deposit protects the artist against last minute cancellations or rescheduling and simply prepays a portion of the tattoo.  The deposit can be used as partial payment during the final tattoo session.  A card with the time/date/deposit amount will be filled out and the consultation is complete.

Note:  The consultation process can differ from artist to artist, this is simply how it seems to work best for me.

Cohen Floch Tattoo Artist Vancouver, BC Scheduling
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