Monthly Archives: December 2008

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes. . .

I should really be sleeping.

Its so late that its become early.

I should really be sleeping. i have to get up early and do a three way call with the retarded ass phone company so we can keep the same phone number for Black Cat as we had for Eye Candy. Its one of the last things to do to get the shop fully transformed into my baby.

The other thing Im doing tomorrow is handing Brian more money than ive ever had at one time in my life, Im stoked! Its funny, the amount of money we are talking about really isnt shit, but its still a lot to a guy like me. I mean you couldn’t even buy a halfway decent used car, but Ive lived so much of my life being broke that somethings just seem like a fantasy to me these days when money is involved. People actually buy cars and houses? Fuck, some people even buy jet planes and picassos!? It blows my mind, i think i would be terrified to wake up and have that kind of loot at my disposal. Literally terrified.

So tommorrow im buying the shop, it wasnt exactly the way i planned on owning a shop or the timing I would have chosen but so much of life is like that that. The ‘perfect’ moment never comes, so we deal with this moment instead, whatever it brings. And it wont be perfect and it and you will never have all your plans in perfect order, but somehow you get through.

When i found out about this whole deal i was nowhere near ready to make the kind of commitment that I have and yet I somehow knew that if i bore down and kept my head in reality that i would pull it off. Even if i get hit by a bus tomorrow or the place closes in a week (heaven forbid!) I could go out happy with the knowledge that I saved all the money i needed, that I organised the website, the bills transfers, the information, and all without having made one enemy, without having burned one bridge, and without having let down any of my morals.

I remain more convinced than ever that having the right intention and motivation and concentration will work miracles in our lives. The biggest one might just be that you see these ordinary, everyday blessings as miracles! I dont need the hand of god to descend from the clouds and pat me on my head to feel like im being taken care of, all i have to do is look around my world, to realise that Im  a really lucky guy. I feel so sorry for people who let the stupidest things ruin their world. I also feel a little angry at them, unfortunately.

Stuck in traffic? got a douche for a boy/girlfriend? your boss a jerk? These things seem so terrible to people! well, i try to always remember that I was one of the lucky minority who were born into the wealthy western world, that I dont have family members killed by tribal conflict, diseases that are easily curable or that i dont have to walk 5 miles for clean water or live on subsistence farming. If you are reading this then the chances are you are blessed with a life that the majority of the worlds inhabitants cant even imagine. The worst day of my life probably looks like heaven for a million people living lives I couldn’t hack for a day let alone 50 or 60 years.

I dont feel guilty in some politically correct form of self-hating penance. Im just awake to the facts of my life and the world; and it helps me to keep everything in perspective. I want Black Cat tattoos to succeed and I will try my hardest to make it happen, but if it doesn’t ill always have my awareness of how little that failure really means in the rest of the world.

Ive been blessed with some extra fun customers lately and I feel like Ive started to get better again after a month or so of plateauing. Tomorrow Im going to be mad at myself for not sleeping, but its still going to be a kick ass day!

My soon to be co-worker, Cara, has been really stepping up her game. She tattooed some blue whales on a co-workers girlfriend and I have to admit that when i saw the healed product I was surprised and impressed!I hate to sound like a know it all, but something about her made me believe she was gonna rock from the first.

We were talking today about our relationship, not in a serious way but just how our way of dealing with each other is so gentle. There are plenty of disagreements and some little arguing but it seems to last like 10 minutes and then its over. For the first time in my life Im with someone who when we do disagree take the time to try to understand my point of view, honestly, and it makes a world of difference! In return I try to do the same and always remember that this is a real live human being with her own hopes, dreams, feelings, and hormones just like me and it really keeps me from letting my ego get in the way of an honest relationship. I feel like Cara is a not ‘just’ my girlfriend and the love of my life, but a partner, and equal in every sense of the word, someone who challenges me to be the best version of Jason i can be, its inspiring and liberating in a way that words cant convey.

Did i mention im a really lucky guy?

Categories: Buddhism and life, Tattoo stuff | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

I got it!

Got one of the decks I designed from TNS Industries

Got one of the decks I designed from TNS Industries


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Gut Shot!

Over on Brad Warners Hardcore Zen blog (link off to your right there) his latest update discusses his decision not to do something that pretty much everyone he knows and his ‘rational’ mind tells him to do.

He also makes mention of a curious fact ive noticed over and over in my life. Namely, that the old saying that “hindsight is 20/20 ” is really only true because we are too distracted/deluded to see with 20/20 clarity right now! Fortunately, its beginning to take less and less time to see the ‘right’ path and to see the results of those decisions without having to wait years  or month for those results to sink in. Which isn’t too say that I don’t make dumb choices all the time (I do) but that the really big ones seem to fall into place in a way that works for me much more often. Maybe its just being older and having all that collective experience at my memory banks beck and call, but i believe that to a much greater degree it stems from trusting my natural instincts.

Part of my philosophy of life is to consider every single thing that has happened in my life was the best possible thing that could have happened. Yes even the really shitty stuff. So I cant really recall many of those ‘bad’ decisions with regret, rather I look at them as learning experiences (“experience is a harsh mistress, but she raises strong children” goes one old saying. . .) Also, that person who made those choices and lived through the consequences is no longer the person i am now. I can recall them (as well as our faulty, all-too-human,  memory can recall anything) and in so doing hopefully keep from making harmful repeats of those times, but I cant really say that that person is still around anymore.

All this is a verbose way of saying Ive learned to really trust my gut. Especially when dealing with those rare, but huge life changing choices we all get (must?) make here and there. It takes some pretty strange forms compared to what I’m used to, too. For example I spent the previous 10 years convinced that I never wanted to have children of my own. Sure I love kids, come from a big family, and like any human animal would like to pass on some of my (hopefully) good traits to another generation, but with my ex-wife neither of us wanted kids. So a year or so ago when Cara and I first started talking about a relationship she asked me flat out if i still meant that, she understandably didn’t want to get too invested with a guy who flat out didn’t want kids because she herself did eventually want a child. To my utter surprise and with not hesitation i told her that actually i did want to have children some day. I wasnt saying it because i wanted a relationship with her, in fact at that point i still wasn’t sure I wanted a relationship with anyone, but when i just opened my mouth and let my gut do the talking all the stories I had been convincing myself of to appease my ex went *plop!* and my true feelings came out. No one was more surprised than me to hear it out of my mouth and yet in all the time since then I haven’t regretted saying it once, at all! My instinct, it turned out, knew me a whole lot better than my ‘rational’ mind.

That lack of back peddling, regret, self-doubt, buyers remorse, whatever you wish to call it has become something normal in my life these days. I simply trust my gut and instead of worrying about what is the smart thing to do i simply do the right thing for me, lo and behold it turns out that the two are one and the same! I sometimes feel like its only when my pesky brain gets in the way that I end up putting a foot in my mouth or choosing to zig when i ought to zag, but its not really my brains fault, its just trying to be too clever for my own good.

Maybe our sub-consciousness is so connected to the rest of the universe that it knows the right way to go, maybe we just feel better about decisions when we decide to accept whatever comes of them instead of wanting our favorite little result only, or perhaps when we let god (in whatever form we understand it to be) run the show we don’t get steered wrong. I really don’t know the mechanism behind it and I’ve found that it really doesn’t need to be understood, but somehow there is that small, but strong voice within us that will speak up when we really really need it, sometimes what it tells us is counter-intuitive, but in the end Im now sure that gut instinct is the closest to being ‘right’ we can be.

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Time flies when your having fun

I got to do this bad boy today.


An hourglass with some wings and autumn leaves. We had the hourglass stencilled  on and drew the wings, halo and a few leaves on with marker to get it in with the already existing tattoo smoothly. If  I would have stencilled the whole thing on I’m sure it just wouldn’t have had that clean fit behind the old tattoo.

The customer was a really nice kid who knew good work from bad, he told me the general idea he wanted and let me go crazy with the rest, its the kind of teamwork that usually results in the best tattoos i do. He sat for about 5 hours and didn’t complain once.

As I was working on this piece it occurred to me that even when i do fairly ‘traditional” stuff like this I tend to get obsessed with tons of little details and bits that are never on the drawing, I just love adding little touches that push certain elements of the design out at the viewer. I’m not even sure if half of it makes a difference but i like to think that it at least separates my work from the pack a little bit.

I’ve felt like i was in a bit of a down cycle lately, doing tattoos that i still appreciated but that didnt feel like they were pushing me to get better. Well, the last couple days has ended that. Today was fun, I’m really lucky that most of my days are.

Categories: Tattoo stuff | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments


. . . or maybe just hang it on your wall heh heh heh. the fine folks at TNS Industries ( asked me to be a participating artist in their tattoo art series of skateboard decks. I was flattered to submit this piece l_4385b4b0c1814e7383445ea8318550c9

This is awesome for me on so many levels. For one thing my art is in with some amazing company, and for another I was a crazy avid skater back in my younger years and skateboard art was one of the main influences in my early artistic years.

I would have probably been happy to do some Japanese style art but they specifically requested traditional black and red stuff, I hope it hold up next to the other artists work in this series!

The actual artist ones are going to be sent out Monday apparently, I cant wait to get mine!

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Days like these. . .

. . . make it great to be alive. If it were May or June, a 45 degree day would feel like a punch in the balls, but in december its like a little neck rub from god. I walked to work with the wind blowing through my hair. . .er. . .scalp. There was even a wisp of sunlight peeking through the slate sky.

Its amazing how little things like that can set the tone for the rest of your day. I think i can understand why people want to live in the tropics or the southwest, i really begin to miss the sun this time of year.

Categories: random dumbness | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Delusion pt.2

If there is one misconception that people (including myself) have about Buddhism its the concept of emptiness. Its been used by fundamentalist types for years to insinuate that Buddhism is nihilism or advocates people turning into emotionless, ego less drones. Anyone who has met a group of Buddhists or listened to a zen teacher can tell you that they may be a lot of things, but emotionless isn’t one of them!

The problem is that the Buddhist definition of ’emptyness’ is far far more nuanced and subtle than our western definition of the same word. Unfortunately language, even when sublimely applied, is a crude tool to try to show something as delicate as a concept that, by definition, is beyond conceptual thought.

But ill try anyway heh heh. . .

When speaking about Buddhism emptiness is used to describe several different concepts, what has several definitions in Chinese, Sanskrit, and Japanese like Saotori, Kenshin, Nibbana, etc are all lumped into that one general word ’emptiness’ in English. So when we read someone talking about ‘achieving emptiness’ it sounds  a little frightening as if you are giving away or rejecting some part of yourself. Maybe even your personality or soul! Of course Buddhism isn’t about giving up anything that isnt actually part of the real you.

In fact one of the main definitions of Emptiness in Buddhism is simply the state where you see things as they really are, minus all the accumulated biases and fear and desire and modifiers that we have gathered in our lived up to this point. it means to be ’empty’ of false views, of looking at the world with greed, aversion or ignorance. A state the Chan/zen Chinese used to call ‘seeing with your original face’, the you that exists underneath all the layers of junk we have learned to call ‘me’. When we strip that away and just experience the moment as it really is we are empty of delusion. Does that sound scary?  It sounds pretty sweet to me.

When we live in the world this way we are not devoid of emotion, we are FULL of feeling! Rather we let the world (including how we feel) arise and pass away naturally. We don’t cling to the momentary happy bits or try to run away from the momentary sad bits.  The result is a way of being in the world while empty of the suffering we cause to ourselves and others by that clinging. Its deciding to get off of the roller coaster of joy which turns into fear, its trading chaos for contentment.

The other kind of emptiness that is discussed is the ’empty your mind” bit which really seems to frighten folks. The truth is that no form of Buddhist meditation will tell you to ’empty’ your mind, actually its the very opposite! In zen sitting we are there to see things as they are, to experience the moment as it occurs, you cant do this by trying to have an empty mind any more than you could taste soup out of an empty bowl! What we do is to let the thoughts come and pass away without playing with them, we watch and feel without trying to make them go away or change them into something else. The trick isn’t to be free of all thoughts, its not to get caught by one thought over another, its like watching trees go past as you ride a train, we want to watch them go without one particular one catching our attention so fully we have to turn our heads completely around to keep it in view. What we learn is that our thoughts are just thoughts. they are not ‘us” and we don’t have to believe something just because our brain coughed it up, by sitting an observing our thoughts without trying to avoid some or hold onto others we learn to let them come and go without having to act on every single one!

It took me many many years of meditation to understand this. We think of ’empty’ as such a negative thing that to ‘seek emptiness’ seems dangerous and bizarre, once you see beyond the word itself and the idea most of us have grown up it goes from sounding like something exotic and strange to simply the natural way things really are.

An old zen story tells of a famous zen master who was illiterate. A nun asked him to help with some literature she couldn’t understand.

“well, i cant read,” the Zen master said “but if you read it to me maybe i can help”

the nun was astonished, “If you cant read, then how can you understand what its about!?”

the Zen master simply pointed at the moon. “If I point at the moon this way you don’t mistake my finger to be the moon do you?”

“of course not” the nun answered

“well then, why do you mistake writing for the truth that it is pointing at?”

In other words, dont get hung up on the words, try to understand what they are pointing to. Sit zazen and you will see what we mean by emptiness, it wont happen overnight, but it will happen. Hell, it only took me 5 years to understand what that story about the illiterate zen guy meant! (then again, im pretty dense . . . *sigh* )

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Delusion pt.1

“Comparison is the lowest form of thought.” -David Chadwick

Im afraid that I labored under some very mistaken notions about Buddhism for quite a long time. Of course, the more I feel I understand the more reasonable this seems, after all one of the most basic teachings of Buddhism is that we are deluded. This delusion doesn’t mean we dint ‘get’ things as they really are,but rather that the WAY we try to ‘get’ it is fundamentally flawed. The way that no amount of using more force will let you use a shoelace to pound a nail, no amount of trying to think harder using our deluded minds will make things any clearer.

For me several things that seemed so difficult to understand or make sense of now seem so simple that I have to laugh at myself a little for having so much trouble. For example, the whole “God” question. One of the things that appealed tome about Buddhism was that I believed I could remain an atheist and still be Buddhist. i suppose this is true, the same way a fundamentalist christian could be a Buddhist and still remain a fundamentalist, but the reality is that if you spend any amount of time meditating and living the dharma the less likely you will be able to hold onto your old views no matter how cherished! The problem with my atheism was that it relied on too small a definition of what ‘God’ could be ( which, ironically, is the same problem with trying to remain a fundamentalist and a Buddhist at the same time). In my delusional mind I was arguing against a judeo-christian idea of what god was, and so I believed I had no faith because their version was something i couldn’t accept. Needless to say that once you open your eyes and see “God” as just another word for ‘everything in the universe’ then it becomes quite a bit more sensible and ‘believable.’ The other part of being deluded about God this way is that its worrying about a question that a0no one can know for sure and b) doesn’t really matter! As Ive written before, i was amazed to read over and over that when the Buddha was approached with questions about whether there was a god or a heaven and hell his answer was “The question does not fit the case.” which is simply a kind way of saying “why are you wasting your time worrying about shit that doesn’t matter to your real life in this moment!?”.

Or as a great Zen Koan put it once, a king once asked a monk “what happens after we die” to which the monk replied quite reasonably with “I have no idea”. the King was surprised and said “How can you not know ? You’re a monk!” The monk turned and left saying “yes that’s true, but I’m not a dead one.”

My other problem was with the concept of Karma. Like most folks my idea of Karma was like a bank account. You put in a ‘good deed’ and eventually the karma came back as something ‘good’ and if you did something ‘bad’ then your karma would punish you later. It made me mad to think that someone like Hitler didn’t seem to suffer much ‘bad karma’ while perfectly innocent folks got shafted by life without having seemingly committed any ‘bad deed”. Once again, i found that my concept of Karma was sadly inaccurate. To start with Karma simply means ‘action’ and the concepts we have of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are constructions of our deluded minds. On top of this Buddhists generally don’t believe in a past or a future that exist. To be brief, the future is a concept, and the past was a moment that is never again going to come back (or even be able to be recollected accurately) so the only moment in existence, ever, is this moment right now. How is my deluded idea of Karma supposed to work if the future never occurs and the past doesn’t exist!? The answer, finally after years of wrestling with this, was that our Karma is arising and falling the exact moment the action that ‘creates’ it does! You don’t do a bad deed, wait a while and then suffer some consequence, you reap that bad news instantly, its only our delusion that makes it take so long to see the results! The more i sit and the more I become aware of the present moment the less time it takes for me to see the results of my actions both good and bad! Karma, it turns out, is the commonsense fact of cause and effect. No magic required!

Buddhism has taught me that not only was my view of the world fundamentally wrong (and thus a source of much suffering) but that the very method I tried to use to observe it was flawed. once my understanding began to develop all the sudden the world started to look recognisable to me, in fact the first few months I got almost giddy telling my friends that for the first time in my life I felt like I ‘fit’ in the world. The amazing thing was that nothing ‘really’ changed, i didn’t adopt sopme systems of belief that required me to ignore facts or to pretend to believe the unbelievable or miraculous, i simply wiped a little of the dust on my perception away and saw an iota clearer than before. i have a long long way to go still, but I have also understood that Buddhism is a path not a destination, I’m content knowing i will never “arrive’ because the journey has been so amazing.

Categories: Buddhism and life | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

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