“I want to know your heart,” Mr. Tung averted his gaze to my shoulder quickly, where he was wiping an alcohol wipe across my skin’s fresh canvas.
It was 2012, and I was in Bangkok, Thailand, visiting on a three-week vacation from my job in Afghanistan.
Mr. Tung is the owner and operator of Angel Art Tattoo, and he has been ranked as one of the top 10 tattoo artists in the world due to his unique style, individualized art, and profound wisdom. His shop is extra small, but jam packed with the most enticing art, objects, colors, and visual displays that you can imagine.
I remember feeling a bit shy, sitting in this foreign country and having such a direct, intimate statement spoken directly to me. It's not every day that a near-stranger tells you that they want to know your heart, afterall. I did the nervous laugh that women tend to do when they are vulnerable and taken aback, and I asked him to clarify.
“You say everything is perfect, I want to know why.”
Mr. Tung was referring to the tattoo I had requested: Thai script on my shoulder that means, “Everything is perfect.”
Everything is perfect and we are surrounded by grace.
I had just come to this spiritual realization and wanted to remember the lesson forever. Everything is perfect. How is that even possible? How can we believe that in a world where refugees flee war, people starve in the streets, women are forced into sex slavery and marriages, and people, in general, are subjected to daily suffering? How could anyone possibly live without blinders on and believe that everything is perfect?
This question tormented me when I first began traveling. I went to third world countries and saw unimaginable suffering first hand. I saw how hard people worked to simply have daily bread, let alone have materialistic wealth. I saw the teenage prostitutes in Thailand, the starving children in the Dominican Republic, and the illiterate girls in Afghanistan. I sat with them for such brief moments, basically as a tourist, selfishly indulging on my own vacations and seeing only snapshots of the constructs of their suffering. I started to question everything I had ever learned and began to understand that cultivating our inner selves is SO much more valuable than growing external wealth. I realized that by the virtue of being born in America, I was among the elite of the world. After all, I never feared war, or was refused education, or tried to hustle a tourist to make a little money for dinner. My life’s struggles paled in comparison, and I gave thanks for that and resolved to help others in whatever capacity I could with the resources I had.
That realization is not and does not undermine the personal challenges I faced, up to that point. Simply, it amplifies their necessity. The anxiety, depression, and fear I had previously felt were all real, and the emotional reactions I had were needed on my path to growth and self-awareness. I started being able to look back on life events that seemed like catastrophes, and I could connect the dots. I could see the lessons woven into the pain and I understood the benefit that I received from each “disaster.” It was my choice to continue to resist things that happened, or to move forward powerfully by accepting them as they were. When I chose to accept them and resolved to be more conscious moving forward, I relied on this manta- “Everything is perfect.” I remember whispering it to myself as I ran around the 8-mile loop on base in Afghanistan, wondering what the hell I was doing and why I was in that war-torn place. “Everything is perfect,” I closed my eyes and let the words hug me as I’d feel that familiar sadness creep into my spirit. Those three words, through belief and repetition, became my truth. I thought it, I said it, I believe it, and so it was. Everything was- and is- perfect.
Deepak Chopra has described this as the law of least effort. The idea is that we need not put up a struggle or resist the natural course our lives unfold upon. We need not fight against the reality of our circumstances or wallow in our own pity for what we believe about those circumstances. Instead, we simply accept. We acknowledge that everything that has ever happened in our lives has led us to this very moment, and we can either continue to move forward unconsciously, or we can accept and take responsibility for our own destiny.
As we awake, we learn to be intentional about all of our choices, our interactions, and our paths. We learn to take a deep breath and think before we choose. We practice responding instead of reacting, and we deliberately put health and well-being at the forefront of our consciousness. Alas, we live from a centered place of love and compassion, instead of a learned place of ego and fear. When we move into this realm of understanding, we contend that yes, everything is perfect; it always has been, and…it always will be.