It hit me over the head while I was knee deep in what was essentially my yoga teacher homework.
Knee deep in ancient readings and modern-day people’s analysis on them, scanning through the Grand Pronouncements from the Upanishads, and stumbling upon a simple phrase:
Tat tvam asi.
You are that.
It hit me over the head like only one phrase had ever done so before. It struck deep, leaving a loud and reverberating message:
“This is my next tattoo.”
I stopped everything — the homework, the reading, any type of productivity — and went to work researching this phrase.
The first time this happened, I was knee deep in Neruda poetry, attempting to better my Spanish by reading his work in the original language, when I stumbled across a phrase: pura heredera del dia destruido — pure heir of the destroyed day. I stopped everything and said to myself, “This will be a tattoo.”
I gave both time to marinate. I knew what a tornado my impulsive side can be. I can dive headfirst into the pool without even checking to see if there’s water. It needed time to settle, time for the fervor to go down, for the calmer side of my mind to take stock. And then blind rush gave way and the resonating message stayed.
And that’s when I knew. I had long since learned just how powerful force it is when that impulsive fervor gives way to soul determination. Something in me becomes cemented, and it takes an outright sledgehammer to ever crack it back open again.
I got my Spanish line in September (alongside a long-planned Celtic knot) and my Sanskrit line the Saturday before Easter Sunday — nestled just underneath that Celtic knot, as if that had been its home all along.
Tat tvam asi. You are that. As part of the Grand Pronouncements, it means you are one with Brahman. You are united with the supreme. You are one with God, one with the universe, one with supreme consciousness. You are part of the infinitely complex cosmos and creation. You are one with the Force and the Force is with you.
A belief system that I slipped into like a pair of shoes I never realized I had. One that came about in piecemeal after waking up one morning and finding that my beloved childhood faith had abandoned me in the night. A New Age universalism before I even understood what New Age was.
God is the universe and made the universe. You are a drop in the ocean and yet the entire ocean. You are a creation and part of creation. I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together. I am the eggman, he is the eggman, I am the walrus.
You are that. Tat tvam asi. Goo, goo, ga’joob.
The day after I get my newest tattoo, I head into Boston. I’m first thrown off by how busy the area is, but within moments, I remember that Easter Sunday this year falls just before Marathon Monday.
The bleachers and finish line have been set up. Gates neatly line the sidewalks up and down Boylston. I’m surrounded by marathoners, their plastic check-in bags slung effortlessly across their backs. I’m surrounded by fans and out-of-towners and townies and all walks of life, all anticipating the event tomorrow.
The energy is electric. People are preparing for one of Boston’s gems — a gem that has only shone brighter in light of recent events. An event that jarred every Bostonian and runner, but also shook us into unity — an event that reminded us that we’re in this together, and the love we have for our city and its inhabitants and for people at large is palpable and bigger than ourselves.
Our marathon was bombed and we responded with We Are Boston. We are that.
Down in Cambridge, we stumble upon a marching band parading down the sidewalk. We quickly go over to enjoy the music. The group is eclectic and quirky and large. They radiate positivity and beauty in waves. My smile is beaming as they walk past, before they congregate around a cement park and play a few numbers. I get closer to where they had congregated and listen.
Positivity and beauty. It’s all I can think about. I stand there, taking it in, and, for a moment, I lose myself. I am surrounded in the music and vibrating along with it. The energy is overwhelming. I’m on the verge of tears. No — it’s more than that. My lip is quivering and I’m ready to start sobbing. It takes reigning it back in to avoid a scene — steeling myself, coming back into my own body — but I know if I had just rode with the feeling, I would’ve burst into beautiful and embarrassing and unstoppable tears.
But, for as long as I could stand it, I felt boundless and boundary-less in the face of this simple and positive and beautiful energy.
You are that. You are part of all of that. You are one with your fellow man and one with all of creation. We fight like mad for survival and we fight even madder for what we mistaken as survival. We feel alone in this universe and yet we are part of this universe and the universe itself. Even if the New Age ideas don’t strike the same chords, we lose something dear once the walls come up. Something is lost when we decide we are separate from our neighbors, separate from the mountain ranges and the setting sun and the pain and beauty and love that this world is capable of. And we gain something back when we remember.
You are that. Tat tvam asi.
Goo goo, ga’joob.