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EP71 - Ritual Tattoo and Somatic Healing Through Art with Jai Knight





Did you know you can explore your own creative processes as pathways to healing and self-discovery?


Creative practices can be powerful tools for processing trauma, moving through somatic programming, and fostering resilience.


Today, I’m excited to have Jai Knight, who offers a unique perspective on the healing power of art and embodiment practices.


In this podcast episode, Jai takes us through:

- Their journey as an artist and their discovery of ancestral artistic connections

- The role of art in processing trauma and personal transformation

- The transition from recreating trauma through art to healing and presence

- The practice of ritual tattooing and its healing potential

- Somatic awareness in artistic practices and daily life

- The importance of grounding and embodiment in creative and spiritual work

- The integration of Hanna Somatics in Jai's tattoo practice and personal life


And so much more!


Jai Knight is an interdisciplinary artist and ritual hand poke tattooist. Their work integrates metaphor and symbol as a tool for communicating deep messages that expand beyond the verbal, the subjective, and into the collective narrative. The work they create is an intimate processing with an individual or group, slowing down time into the kairos.


Through Jai’s own investigation of slowing down through intensive wilderness emersion, 9-year meditation practice, lifelong art practice, crafting their own artistic material including paper, paint, ink, and fibers, and training as a regenerative land and social systems designer, emotional cpr practitioner, and somatic movement junkie informs the work and experiences they share with the world. Their work has always dealt with transforming trauma into creative action.


Their most recent project as channel, creator, illustrator, and author of House Oracle Project weaves together intimate and shared experiences of processing how to be at home in a changing world. This resulted in hundreds of collaborative meaning-making sessions, transformative paper-making workshops, a collaborative publishing project, and more.


Their projects have recently been supported by Arcosanti foundation, CA Artsconnection, and the public arts advisory council of 29 palms.


Jai’s work was also invited into several residencies including High Desert Test Sites, Lookout Arts Quarry and Ute mountain studios. Jai currently resides in Joshua Tree, CA where they regularly offer ritualistic tattoos and live simply comnected with land.


Connect with Aimee Takaya on:

Instagram: ⁠@aimeetakaya⁠

Facebook: Aimee Takaya

And watch the podcast on Youtube ⁠@aimeetakaya⁠


To learn to release your muscle tension and pain to experience greater success and vitality, go to www.youcanfreeyoursoma.com



LISTEN WHILE READING!

A: Have you noticed that creative blocks aren't just a mental thing? Did you know that your body holds on to previous experiences? There is an art to moving through these experiences and making what's internal powerfully externalized. 


Today, on the podcast, I'm talking with Jai Knight. An interdisciplinary artist, ritual tattoo artist, and someone who I've worked with on their personal somatic journey in the last few months. We are going to explore art as a powerful practice for moving through somatic programming, the transformation that comes from ritual tattooing, and how we can become more resilient and intentional as we process trauma and pain that can be held in our bodies. So stay tuned. 


A: Every day, there is a forgetting, and every moment, there is the possibility of remembering. Remembering who you truly are, awakening to your body, to the inner world, to the experience of being alive. Here is where you find the beauty, the joy, and here is where you free your soma. I'm your host, Aimee Takaya. I'm here to help you move from pain to power, from tension to expansion, and ultimately from fear to love. 


A: Hi, Jai. Nice to see you. 


J: Nice to see you too. 


A: Yeah, we've spent quite a bit of time together in the last few months. I feel like I've gotten to know you, but I'm so excited to share things about your work and about what you're up to in the world that I might not know yet today. I might get to learn something more about you today. 


J: Yeah, thank you so much for having me. It feels like a really important relationship to be building, and I've learned so much already. So happy to share. 


A: Thank you. Thank you so much. You do some very unusual and extraordinary things. The first question that I want to ask you here is, when did you first recognize yourself as an artist? 


J: I think when I came out of the womb, or maybe even before. Yeah, it's always been really important and really innate for me to create. I feel like even before I could speak with words, I was making art, or just, I don't know, it's almost like it's a mindset that I was born into of just creativity. 


Yeah. Not something that was necessarily passed down to me by it wasn't necessarily like, I wasn't guided by my parents to become an artist. Yeah, and it's interesting because later on discovering my actual blood family, like, excavating and like, finding who my like, my dad's birth mother and father are, it turns out that they're actually also artists. 


So there's been this huge thing for me recently in realizing that what is passed down genetically is way more than I could even imagine. Like these creative impulses are actually within my blood lineage. That wasn't something that I learned until I was already like in my mid-20s and practicing as an artist very outwardly. 


A: Wow, that's yeah, I think that the patterning that you're talking about, it can extend, you know, through just our brain structures and the way that when somebody's practicing, you know, some form of creativity, right, externalizing like an experience they're having and making it into music, making it into visual art, you know, or expressing it in some way through dance maybe, they're actually like working out and building certain areas of their brain that then that brain structure is going to be part of their genetic profile. 


So and, you know, anything that we like gain and learn and develop gets passed down genetically to our offspring. And so what you're describing like makes sense that from the time that you were born into this world, you already were born with like the predisposition for this, it sounds like. What an interesting thing, though, that you didn't really have that as like a direct lineage connection until digging in, like you said, and like learning about the background of your father. Was your father adopted? 


J: Yeah, yeah, and he did have creative inclinations. He was a stonemason and I remember him like drawing out his the homes that he was working with or the fireplaces or whatever he was doing, and we always like gathered the rocks together. 


And so it was there was like some element of creativity in my life and he was always really encouraging. But yeah, it was the path that I took was did feel very black sheep unique until I found out later on that. Yeah, and even just a couple months ago, I found out who my dad's actual father was, and I'm meeting him today. Oh my god. That's so incredible. 


A: Yeah. Wow, that's really exciting. Yeah. And you know, you know, if I were to answer that question for myself, it's been an interesting journey because I think I've always like you've been highly creative. 


But I had certain beliefs and patterns that sort of, you know, developed at one point in my childhood and then sort of got, you know, continually solidified beliefs about myself, you know, that I had to deconstruct before I could fully embrace myself as an artist. 


And like what I think of myself as an artist, like obviously like, I have put a unique style and I like, you know, creating beautiful things. But more than that, like my art I've found is working with people's bodies and helping the art of bodywork and the art of connecting thematically with people. That is my art, you know. It's a way that I take the things that I've learned and the wisdom and the experiences that I'm holding in my body. 


And I move them out into the external world through my handling, my presence, you know, and my kind of learning to dance with somebody else's Soma in this very particular way. But it took me breaking through like different beliefs and different blocks to acknowledge myself and actually step into that role. 


You know, so I'm very interested to chat with you today about, you know, obviously like yours, you've had, you know, many somatic experiences before working with me, you know, would you kind of say a little bit about like how your journey to the world of somatics has been like from an artistic perspective or wherever you want to start? Totally. 


J: Yeah. And yeah, I also like totally hear what you're saying too. And one thing I just want to like pin is like, I think that our human experience is art and like that, a lot of people have this like high, like society creates this pedestal that an artist has to be this certain thing. But I really think it's just a mindset and like the way that we view the world. 


So yeah, that just like came up when you were sharing that I was like, of course, like, it's yeah, it's very much a mind state and like, yeah, totally. Yeah, and coming into my somatic journey, it's, yeah, I think that's a really great question. 


I think so I have worked through a lot of PTSD in my life and grew up in a pretty violent situation and a low income household and like very, I basically was my own parent a lot of the time. And I was very interested in like climbing trees and like dancing and art kind of my whole upbringing, which I'm very grateful for. There was a certain element of embodiment. But then as and art was also like a huge part of me processing this trauma that I was experiencing, you know, my dad had mental illness and also was like extremely violent. 


And there's just like not towards me, but towards my mother, and then my mother was violent towards me. So there's just like a lot of trauma and also like ancestral trauma that I was experiencing, and art was like this way for me to like cathartically release that like really like heart like holding my pencils like really strongly and like really pressing really hard on the paper and like painting really expressively. And and then I like went down the route of studying art and getting my bachelor's and degree in painting. 


And my art started to become like a started to leave the surface of a canvas, and it was like couldn't contain itself. There was like I was making these giant installations. And basically there was a point where I mean it's interesting because it's like somatic, psychic kind of are interweaving together for me throughout my whole life. And basically, there is this point where I was going really deep into my art practice and started to disembodied. 


And this, like where do I even begin? Yeah, I was having I was having panic attacks almost every day. And it was really challenging to just exist. And it was like all of this trauma was coming to the surface. And I realized that my art was kind of reopening a wound; literally it was like painting wounds. And there, yeah, there came a point where it was actually like reopening a wound that didn't need to be reopened. It actually needed to be like held with tenderness and like cared for and healed. And my body could no longer tolerate that opening of the wound. 


And I was just having these panic attacks. So I had no choice but to confront and heal. I was at the time doing a lot of like self medicating with alcohol and weed and like smoking weed all day every day drinking every day. And then, I decided to try meditating. And I was going into yoga for the first time. 


This was probably when I was like 21. And then I there was a community acupuncture place right down the street for me. So I I remember I was kind of trying all of these things at the same time also like went raw vegan. I was like vegetarian for a long time, but I went raw vegan and like really was having this like portal opening like because my I had no other choice. It felt like I couldn't even exist if I didn't do this. 


Like, I actually like was also suicidal before then. And I was like, okay, either die, or I go through this portal. And so I remember going into the community acupuncture place. And it was I was also meditating, trying to meditate at the time. And I remember being in meditation and having these like, it was like thoughts were kind of coming in from like every direction possible. 


And I couldn't actually like grasp one thought. And I went in and talked to the acupuncture practitioner and told him what I was experiencing like hyperventilating and all this stuff. And I remember going into the room and him putting the needles in me, and I had, like, it was like all of those thoughts became like extraordinarily amplified. 


And then I just remember feeling like I was sinking like deep, deep, deep, deep, deep into my body like so waited, so waited down into the earth and then passed out for like an hour, maybe even more. And I remember like waking up and Craig, the acupuncturist, actually amazing acupuncturist, and Buffalo, if you ever wanted to go at Buffalo alternative therapies. 


Yeah, he I remember him being like, oh, you really needed that rest. And kind of waking up and it was the first time in my life that I'd ever been present. I heard the birds for the first time. And there was like no thoughts racing through my head. 


I was not in survival mode. And it was it was almost like I didn't realize that I was in a storm my entire life. And that I was experiencing the springtime or like a clear day for the first time ever. And it was really, really, really profound. And that kind of like, pivoted my whole path, I like, began meditating like very regularly every day. 


And that's when kind of like ritual started like meditating with tea every morning, and moving my body and then this thing started happening where I started getting really into phenomenology, which is like a study phenomenon, you know, the miracle of the five senses and awe being like, being in awe of nature or like the experiences that I'm having. 


And so I was really interested in that through like studying in an institution. And like, that's kind of where I went and it very much meshed with like the meditation practice that I was experiencing. But I found myself in a place where I didn't know how to make art anymore, because I wasn't I didn't want to go into my art practice from a place of re traumatizing myself or reopening a wound, I wanted to be continuing this practice of presence. 


And so for me, like phenomenology and like the practice of presence was all about like being with my body, and then also being present with the environment, and not being so fully entwined in my thoughts racing or like these traumas that are experiencing or like, yeah, but also being also being present with like, where the trauma is being held, like I hold a lot of trauma like here. And now I'm finding out like within my hips too. 


But yeah, I basically, one day, I remember I was outside in the summer in Buffalo with cherries, sitting in my back porch, and I was like, how do I how do I draw while being present in my body? And so I just remember like being in my body and taking a moment and just like looking at my body and then looking at my hands, and becoming really aware of my fingerprints. And I'm like, okay, I'm just going to actually, like, investigate my fingerprints. 


So I just started drawing, like being present with my breath, and drawing my fingerprint from observation, and breathing and allowing my breath to move the fingerprint. And it was kind of like my hand became the site of investigation, but then allowing my environment to come into it and my internal experience of like, Oh, I'm actually feeling kind of tense in my chest, like how do I represent that with these lines? 


And how is that represented on my fingerprints, like these areas where it's tighter. And so I began like, this process of relearning how to draw using my fingerprints and breath, and then realized that I'm literally living inside of a fingerprint of the earth. 


If we look around at a topographical map, there's, you know, there's lines being formed by rivers and in canyons, and even just by, like even within the microcosm of like a leaf, there's a fingerprint and how the atmosphere is kind of like the womb holding us within this forming fingerprint. 


So I really was just like feeling so connected to that. And I looked into like, when did the fingerprint form? How did it form? And it formed in the 13th week of gestation in the womb when our bodies began to undulate and amniotic fluid. And at the same moment, our basal layer of skin was being formed. And that creates this rippling pattern that then is imprinted on our bodies forever. 


So it's this marking of our natural frequency in space, and also in relationship with our mother. And so for me, I became like kind of obsessed with the fingerprint. And also at the same time, this is I feel like I could share so much, and I don't like, 


A: Well, let's take some because you said so much, and I want to, like, actually go back in and kind of like, you know, weave together some of the things that you said because it's really beautiful, beautiful, like process that you're talking about taking place in your experience. You know, and the first thing that I want to acknowledge is just that it was your somatic intelligence, moving you to create those crazy, intense, you know, that phase of art that you were in. That was your somatic intelligence working with the tools that it had at that time to move out what was going on inside of you. 


But it sounds like you came to a point: very clear point, that like, that tool at that mode of doing that was no longer effective. And then the other tools you had was like weed and alcohol, like how many of us can relate to having weed and alcohol be like tools that we're using to deal with our internal experiences that feel like too much, you know, ways in which we can check out or enter another like reality, you know, and sometimes I mean, for me, like it was weird because as a teenager, like, I did not actually enjoy being high. I found it very like nerve-wracking and stressful at times. But I at that time, I was so much trauma in my body that I preferred it to being sober. 


I preferred the roller coaster of being high and like the, you know, madness of it to just being in my sober state where I'd have to experience my thoughts and feelings in this kind of like raw and sometimes monotonous way, you know. So I just want to acknowledge like those those strategies that you had served their purpose at that time. 


And then you needed a system upgrade. And it sounds like you started searching for those things that were going to be your new tools. And you found meditation, you know. You had this amazing experience in acupuncture, you know, you started diving into being in your living body, right. And I love that description of dropping deep down like into the weight of your body. 


Because when we think about like being in this etheric realm, we can get very like out there, you say, you know, or like ungrounded, there can be, you know, that's the realm where like, yes, you have like all these spiritual realizations, but that's also the realm where we can experience psychosis and loss of identity and lots of confusion, you know, in paranoia, like all of that can exist out here in this etheric realm. And so, you know, in order to be able to explore that kind of psychic energy, we need to be grounded in our bodies. 


It's like a requirement. And you were starting to like experience that requirement and like getting grounded through that experience, dropping out of your fight or flight, where your body could actually get the rest that it was actually craving. You know, I can relate to all of that so much. I have my own personal story and journey, you know, and then the piece that you said about the way that you were practicing your art at that time was like a retraumatization, right? It got that totally resonated with me because, at certain times in my yoga practice, my yoga practice was triggering the pain in my body. 


I was like having pain in my body and I was doing yoga to address it, but I was accidentally retraumatizing myself and re-injuring myself in my yoga practice because it was like how I was doing it, right. And I needed something else. I needed something different. Like for you, you needed something different than the tools that you had been using. 


You needed a new way forward. So I just wanted to say, like, I love your story. I can relate to it so much. I'm sure there's people listening who can relate to pieces of, you know, what you went through. And it's really important also because there's a culture, and you can probably know what I'm talking about within the artistic world that embraces the struggling, addicted, tormented artists and in stepping outside of that and saying, Hey, actually, I'm going to be like a sober artist who meditates and not be caught up in all of the drama. That is rebellious in its own way. 


J: Totally. Yes. Yes. 100%. Thanks for mentioning that. Yeah. And I totally was in those shoes fully and like kind of loved it at one point. And then, just like my body was like, Nope. Do you want to die? Yeah. Yeah. But like, yeah, thanks for acknowledging too, like the tools and the rooting down. Yeah, that was such a. Do you mind if I keep the head? 


Yeah. The like rooting down was so necessary for me to access these other realms because at the same time, there's this wild experience that I had where I was doing all these paintings and drawings on the sublimity of death, because I had basically experienced my own confrontation with death. And also, like, my dad was like pronounced dead several times in my life and came back to life. 


And then like was basically like went through this process of like reading, being like re-learning how to speak and re-learning how to talk. And I just kind of like had to confront death. So I was making all these pieces on like how death can be a sublime place. And also like it was integrating with my meditation practice was very much going to like a death place of just like acceptance. 


And there was this one painting that I had done that was, I didn't draw gender at the time at all, but there was one that was like very clearly a man in my mind. And it was different than the rest of them. It was very channeled and not necessarily intentional, just like kind of channeled. And it was an ink drawing. 


And there was kind of like foam coming out, like something coming out of the person's mouth. And it just felt like it fit in the show. So I put it in the show and spot coffee and I'll would add up in that cafe you probably have gone into. And as you know, it's very busy in that cafe and or it can be. And I worked there. And one day I went in and all my paintings are on the wall. And I was meeting a friend and we sat down. 


And we're just chatting. And then suddenly this man stood up and started screaming for help. And my friend Ben, who was working at the time, came out and started giving this man CPR. And he began foaming at the mouth, having a pulmonary embolism and died. 


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A: Join me, Amy Takaya and discover what my clients are raving about at youcanfreeyorsoma.com


A: In this crowded cafe full of paintings that I made on the sublimity of death, and it was like right next to this painting of him foaming at the mouth that I had done. And this is not the first time I've had like psychic experiences with my art, but it was like the most intense, maybe second most intense actually, but most relevant here. And at that time I like left my body and saw every person in the room as a string. 


And they were all kind of intersecting at this point where this other where this man string was kind of like tethering all of us together. And then the body was taken from the room. And there was a person that kind of just came in the room was kind of silent. 


Everything had slowed down. And this this other person came into the room and kind of just ordered a coffee. And it was like that was kind of this other thread coming into the space that was separate from this cluster. And that kind of also shifted my whole experience. And I really like at that point I really needed to be like tether to the earth because I was literally going out of my body and like seeing this whole thing. 


And from that point on, I was actually terrified of creating any representational artwork and anything that was kind of outside of my body. So I began creating these rooms with thread where I would walk, I would just have a thread. 


And I would just follow my intuition. And like, when I hit a wall, literally, I would like put an eyelid in the wall and then tether the thread there, and then walk around the room and do the same thing and have like a ladder is on the room. 


So then the room just became this giant web that people could then come in and interact with and then be in their own bodies with like, moving through the space. And like my intention was to hopefully become have people more aware of their bodies in space and also aware of like the path that they're pulling behind them. 


And the path that's in front of them. And yeah, I think I really, I really did need to have this like, grounding to earth. Which, yeah, then was like years of me doing non-representational artwork. Yeah, I feel like I'm still kind of answering your first question. 


A: No, it's there. And you know, it's interesting because the thing that unites us and connects us all in a way is death, that we all are going to die, just as all the plants and animals die, you know, just as the earth one day will go through a cycle, you know, supernova, like we have these ideas, you know, and it's something that we don't often connect with, because it's mysterious to the sense that we don't know when we're going to die. Some people get premonitions or some people have a feeling about it, you know, but we don't know exactly when we can't really know exactly when until it's occurring, right, until it's happening, you know, and then what is it to live until then, it's to actually be in our bodies and be in the present moment, you know, they say people don't fear death, they fear that they haven't lived fully, they fear that they're living out of alignment with their values or with their, you know, true destiny, and that that is at the heart of why death is so scary is that we want to be able to say we have lived. 


J: Totally. Yeah, and I think there's a huge separation between, like, our culture creates this huge fear of death rather than integrating death, like death is a part of everyday life actually, like, within nature. So yeah, it's interesting. 


ow it's pulling me into this moment where I did, I had a partner who is also an installation artist and we like did this crazy experience together where we decided to do like a life art project and spend three months alone in the wilderness together. And that was like the art and we like created a lot of video that actually this was like, this was in 2016 and we're just reconnecting again to like process the video, because it was such an intense experience, which led me into like activism and all this other stuff. 


But in that process, like, we arrived, there was an abandoned tin shack in the middle of the wilderness in Patagonia on the island of Tirta Fuego, and we were, as soon as we arrived there, there was a dead horse in front of this house, and it was a really beautiful thing to meditate on because it was kind of a fresh death when we got there and slowly over the time.


It was the body was just slowly like sinking into the land and actually creating like a black circle around the body, which to me that whole experience was kind of a death and like brought me into this experience of integrating death, like allowing parts of myself to die within that experience that were like tethered to ego and tethered to like how I appear in society.


And also like recognizing like how our culture has like so drastically separated us from the processes of the processes of death and rebirth and like how composting is like actually like there's death is in an end, it's just this process of transformation, which like to me brings me back to tattooing and like how there's like yeah I feel like I'm jumping kind of all over my timeline here but yeah. 


A: Well let's get to the tattooing piece in a minute I want to address what you just brought up which is really interesting because it has to do with resiliency and developing resiliency because death is occurring constantly even within our own bodies cells are turning over our fingerprints are sloughing off and dying off our skins doing that on a daily basis you know.


We are taking in like food and processing it and then releasing it you know we're taking in water and we're releasing it so there's this cycle that we're going in all the time and that we have this weird you know it's only weird when you start to like look at it because it's usually so ingrained in us that we just like live it and breathe it like it's normal that that these processes and this experience is scary or uncomfortable or dirty or there's it's taboo in a way to like talk about or think about the way that death is actually part of our constant living experience right.


Because simultaneous to that, we have a living body that as long as our heart is beating right and moving blood around our body and all of that which we call being alive, there is a cycling and a re birthing happening all the time in our bodies. And obviously, there's like more dramatic expressions of it, like what your father went through with actually dying and coming back to life in this way, but what you're what you're speaking to is just that this is this natural rhythm that is always there and always around us.


And when we can start to face that right, and we can learn to like lean into the letting go right, and this connects with the somatic work too. We can lean into the process of letting those parts of ourselves die off, those parts of ourselves that aren't relevant anymore or aren't serving us anymore or those patterns that are no longer necessary in this moment, right. Like some muscle memory of like you know, what we had to armor ourselves with at that time in our lives.


Like do we need to carry that in our shoulders do we need to carry that in our back right now if the answer is no, actually this is outdated. This isn't relevant the ability to let that die off and make room for something to be born again for something to regrow to me that is really the heart of resiliency in a practice right in practice and it has to start with the letting go it has to start with allowing the death to take place and that can be really a scary place to go when everything you've ever been told is hold on hold on you know. 


J: Totally. Yeah. Oh my gosh, I feel called to just share these two runes I work with the the Nordic runes, and there's, I just kept like as you were sharing I was like manas and rido manas and rido and it's like these two runes that I worked with this winter apparently like and winter is such a time I feel like for leaning into the death and to me working with those two runes for several months manas is like to like simplify them in like the most basic terms. 


It's like, Manas is like the rune for earth or mountain, but it's like these, it's like two M's kind of on top of each other. And then Raido is like, kind of looks like an R, but with an extended leg. And it's Raido is like the heartbeat or the journey or the, it's like a spiritual journey. And to me, thinking about that process of like accepting death and also like the rebirth, it's like a consistent journey that's happening all of the time and that the earth is like made to hold us within that. 


And it's literally made to like process that and to like, it's not a burden within ourselves to like, to me that was like a big thing this winter is to like release it to the earth and trust that like the earth is within us. And it's also like around us and supporting us to be within this continuous process and like journey that is, there's like a beat to it. And there's everything. And it's like within, it's within our core, it's within our body. It's also within the earth and the sounds. And yeah. Yeah. 


A: I love it. This is so perfect. Cause I feel like I met you at just like the most auspicious time, you know, you came to my day retreat in February and, you know, in my like teaching journey, you know, and especially my working with somatic movement and teaching somatic movement, I have just, I can see it, it's subtle, but like people come in and they lay down on the floor and they don't realize it or sometimes they do, but their muscles are contracted just laying there and they're like perched. They're perched away from the earth and they're caught up in a patterning that has to do with something that's not happening anymore. 


But their body is maintaining that pattern and acting like it's still happening unconsciously, you know, the trauma that they went through, the breakup that they went through, the car accident that they had, their bodies holding all of that, and it's got them perched away from the earth. 


It doesn't have them able to be fully supported by the earth. And so in my teaching over the last year, I think I started really using more language like that in my classes, whereas people are, you know, doing a little movement and then slowly letting it go and then relaxing, I would actually invite them to sink down into the earth, to feel that letting go of their muscle fibers so that, oh wow, they're not perched anymore, they're actually flattened out. 


And I mean, you literally experienced that and it sounds like it was something you were already working on on a psychoemotional somatic level, but learning this technique like added a whole new dimension to that experience. 


J: 100%, yes. Yeah, everything feels so synchronistic about like these different wisdoms that come into my life, like in these people that come into my life and you being one of them of just like deepening, like deepening the healing and really coming into like literally more of my core in that. Yeah, and it's like connected to the spiritual teachings which are also connected to like my marrow, like within my bones and yeah, it's such a powerful integration moment. I'm very grateful for all of, yeah, all of your wisdoms that you've shared with me, yeah. 


A: Yeah, well, it's had to come through a lot of facing of myself and facing of my own body, you know, and that I used to at times resent having to have lived many years in chronic pain, you know, but ultimately that experience has helped me like connect with people who are still in that, right? Cause I know what it's like to be in that and I know what it's like to come out of it. 


And so I can represent literally like that pathway through, you know, and be there as like a beacon of like you can, you know, there's back pain, shoulder pain, jaw pain that you have lived with that you've held onto. And yet there is a way through this, there is a way forward, right? And, you know, how I can see this being really, you know, powerful is that you have those little breakthrough moments where you can see that path forward for yourself. 


And then how can you keep reminding yourself and reorienting to that pathway, right? And I think that's kind of where, you know, the ritual tattooing comes in and maybe you can speak to that, you know, how is it that getting a tattoo could reinforce a transformation that someone is creating for themselves or is in the process of? 


J: Yeah, I feel like it is so intuitive and like a lot of us do that naturally too, like within tattooing, even like unconsciously, like getting a tattoo like, oh, I just really want this tattoo, like on my whole back. 


I want a back piece. And it's, to me, I think that there's a lot of, like there's a lot that our body and mind or spirit knows within that process that's so deeply ancestral, that but now has become like this image, culture and this transaction, but there's also this, there's always this like taboo or like underlying spirituality, no matter how subconscious or unconscious it is. 


So I just want to like say that first, that that's something that always is interesting to me, this like just intuitive thing that happens with tattooing. But then also like for me, my first experience with tattooing was with my dad, who has a lot of pain and who had a lot of pain. 


He's no longer alive, like spiritually, mentally, mostly pain and also physically. And we would go and get tattooed every year and it was like a ritual with me and him as like this bonding experience. And for me and him, there was like a lot of passed down trauma too. So it's like literally this act of like going into an experience to experience pain and then see it come into the body, to the physical form. 


So that's like, that's one dimension of it. Like going to tattooing to like have this ritual of experiencing pain and then allowing that to be seen and like kind of allowing ourselves to see ourselves within that pain and to be witnessed within that pain and to be held within that pain. Right. 


A: And the thing that comes to mind is like pain on my terms, pain that I'm consenting to versus how a lot of times we may experience like pain in our life feels more like a violation. But in the case of going to get a tattoo, you're actually saying I'm choosing this and I'm choosing to endure this because it's meaningful. There's something to be of value here. Yes. 


J: Yes. And it's interesting because like my, okay. So I grew up with like a lot of tattoo culture in my life and it was like from, you know, the moment I turned 18 literally to like my 20s, I was like just kind of going through this process of like going into a tattoo shop, being tattooed and like having this idea and then just going to someone, whoever and getting a tattoo by them. And there was a period of time where I stopped getting tattooed at all and just kind of was like doing all these things that I felt like were really powerful. 


Like I was really interested in like water protection and like environmental activism and like really coming into more connection with the earth and the planet and felt really proud of myself for that. And also like learning deeply about meditation and like living at a meditation center for nine months and studying very like very intentionally with this teacher, Irina Wiseman, that I learned a lot from and kind of like coming out of all of these experiences and having like years of not getting a tattoo. 


I finally, I like finally had this desire to get a tattoo but I wanted to tattoo myself and I wanted to do it in ritual and I wanted, I basically fasted, which is like not something I recommend for anyone. 


But I fasted for like 24 hours and just tattooed, I tattooed this little water mark on myself and this symbol, which actually I found in, it was, this is actually like an imprint of a parasitic insect that I found in a branch in Yendagaya, which is a whole other story of this activist project I got into. And then the circle and it was very intuitive. I felt like when I did this, it was, it's also like very visible for me. So it's something that I see every day. 


It's on my left side. It's very like I was receiving my own medicine. And yeah, having this visual imprint on my body allowed me to have this experience of kind of feeling more embodied in my experiences and honoring my embodied experiences and honoring my connection with the earth. 


And after I did this tattoo on myself, I was actually in a space where I was hold, I was holding space for Rich Treat at the time and in this like big old ranch house and that's a whole other story, really serendipitous thing, but my friends who were coming down and also like random people who are coming down for Rich Treat noticed my tattoos and started asking me if they were like, oh, you're a tattoo artist. 


Then I was like, no, I just tattooed myself. And my friends were like, no, you're a tattoo artist. And so my friend literally like ordered, and my family too, they were like, oh, you're going to tattoo me. Like you need to tattoo me. 


So then I was like, okay, well, the only way I'm going to do this is if we do a whole ritual. And for me, I felt when I was first tattooing this and not only felt, because at the time my dad had already died. So I felt like this ancestral connection. I felt him there. I felt my Nordic ancestors with me. I felt my Celtic ancestors with me. 


It was very ancestral and very intuitive because it is an ancient practice that my ancestral lineage has practiced as like there's history of it being a healing modality, like having these symbols etched over places in the body that were bones were broken or organs were experienced or like where there was illness having these tattoos as a healing modality, as like a magical imprint as a spell. 


And there's not like, I haven't been, I wasn't able to find a real life in person teacher for that specific modality. So I wanted to really learn from the earth and learn from my ancestors. So the only way that I was able to tattoo people was if I did a whole ritual first. 


And like that ritual includes getting the person fully into their body, clearing the space with smoke, clearing the space with sound, like doing a whole body scan, asking the body if it was ready to receive the ink, asking the body where it wants to receive the ink, holding my hands over the body and feeling like, okay, yeah, that area, like intuitively checking in with the person saying like, do you also feel a connection to like your chest being tattooed? 


And these are the symbols that are coming through in my mind. And then it creates this, it's kind of like a portal that we go into and like creating, kind of like rooting within the earth first and then pulling down these symbols from the sky or the ether or even like up from the earth and then kind of unpacking them together and then putting them on the body. 


And then in the process of putting the tattoo on the body, it's literally piercing the barrier between myself and the client or the person being tattooed. So we're actually like merging and there's some like this, this sphere and I think that's why I have to do this whole ritual first because I don't, I'm tapping into someone's body and someone's soma, like, and I want to be fully present for whatever's coming up and also make sure that we're not like pulling in any energies that might not be supportive or helpful. 


A: Right, right, right of service, totally. It's so interesting with this process you're describing, I think that, you know, a lot of people do a lot of unconscious tattooing. And I think what you're describing is a really conscious art of tattooing with that, like really respecting and honoring the significance, but also the invasion that breaking through someone's skin to put ink there, a foreign substance, right, actually is, right? 


And not more than that as the artist, as the person who is doing that, like, you know, conscious or unconscious invasion that your energy is being put into that as well. And so I think what you're describing is like really, I mean, when you describe it, it's like, well, of course we should be doing tattoos that way. Like, of course that should be part of the process, but it really isn't, you know what I mean? 


It really is not mainstream at all in terms of what people are usually doing. And it's, you know, it's a testament to kind of like where you're coming from on this, the amount of, you know, personal excavation and clarity that you've come to through all the experiences that you had during that time, you know, between tattoos, so to speak, from like when you didn't have a tattoo, and then you went through all this inner work and inner journey to that point where you did those tattoos on yourself, you know, that led you to this process. 


It sounds like it's a very natural organic process that you go through that really honors that. And, you know, the thing that was coming in that also made sense to me is like, when we have an injury somewhere, like if you, you know, get a cut on your shoulder, you know, or in the case of a tattoo, it is technically like a scar, right? 


And you're causing injury. When a plant has like a little bug, take a bite out of it or their leaf gets torn, the plant will send, their immune system of the plant will send healing, you know, compounds, antioxidants, and, you know, all of that gets sent to that area that got injured. So when we put, you know, a tattoo, say over a space in your body where there's been injury or when there's been, you know, some kind of illness, we're actually asking your immune system to send like healing energy there. 


Healing energy. And I mean, if you think about a scar, a scar is like the skin has become thicker in that area. It's actually, you know, it's sealed up and it's become thicker and more dense than it originally was. And it often is more sensitive too, so that if something scrapes it or if something comes in contact with that space, there's actually more awareness there so that you can be careful with it, so that you can be tender with it, so that you can avoid re-injuring or harming it. 


So it's kind of speaking to that idea that, you know, as much as we dislike pain and discomfort in our lives as a culture, it is the natural way that we get our needs met, you know, and we get that healing energy to arise from inside of us, that resiliency once again that we've been talking about. 


J: Yes, totally. Yes. And I'm imagining like a leaf that like has had a bug chew out of it. It actually does leave like a permanent shift in the leaf. Like there's a little dot there now. And yeah, the other thing is, yeah, I just wanted to share like a little bit about tattooing within the process. 


There's like the process of scarification, which is actually scarring the body, which is prominent in different tribes around the world, I think especially in Africa, and there's like a whole thing with scarification. And tattooing is slightly different than scarring because technically we're just entering into the first, into the dermis and depositing ink rather than going further into the skin. 


So it's like kind of, it's like this in-between space. Like it's like leaving an imprint without doing too much damage. Cause if you do have scar tissue within a tattoo, then it's actually not right. 


But it is signaling to the body to send signals to that area to heal it. So it is, yeah, I'm just thinking about like also this area, like one of my favorite places to tattoo that can be also like one of the most challenging places to receive a tattoo, which I have also received a tattoo from like here to here. 


I think a lot of people have had like heart, have heart issues and like matters within the heart, like whole tension here or have had heartbreak or aren't breathing fully or like just breathe shallow in their breath. 


And when I'm tattooing this area, it's a very special experience to like be with someone in the pain and also the opening that happens within this space because, and there's also like a lot of heat. I noticed like there's like heat that leaves this area and like the person is hot. I'm also experiencing the heat and like there's been laughter releases. 


There's been like emotional releases. So it is, yeah, it's very interesting to like, I love that like the signaling of the healing of that area. And then like this, it's almost like this rising up of an image like through the pores of the skin too. That's just like, I'm kind of like meeting the image where it already is on the body. 


A: That's really cool. I like that. You know, it's super funny to me because you know how I found out about the antioxidant like healing, you know, thing is there was, I was at a farm one time and there was this little sign cause it was like pick your own greens. And it basically said like those leaves that have little bug bites out of them have more antioxidants. They're literally more nutritious than the other leaves that don't have bites out of them. 


So don't, don't not pick those, pick those ones. You're going to cook them or you're going to wash them anyway, but they actually, because that's how the plant heals, that's, it makes it more nutritious. 


So it's kind of interesting to think like of those places of injury on our bodies or for me, you know, like the places where I've had a lot of like muscle tension or like where the first part of my body like tightens up, that that's like a space in my body that actually has a lot of like spiritual nutrition that has served me in various ways throughout my somatic process. Like it's nutritious actually that. 


J: Totally. Oh my gosh. I love that. 


A: So to end kind of the podcast or kind of summarize things like in a kind of like somatic tone, I was thinking of asking you the question of the different types of somatic work that you've done and now doing Hannah's somatics with me. What ways do you see this new embodiment tool that you have shifting things for you as an artist? Like where is this new layer taking you? Yeah. 


J: Oh my gosh. I'm like as an artist, it's like life. I'm just like, oh my gosh, it's just in so many, it's taking me in so many beautiful deep realms. I think like specifically as a tattoo artist, it feels just so regenerative for me to have this process of, it feels regenerative and also like, there's a heightened awareness for me now of where I hold tension. 


And in that awareness, I'm able to meet myself and allow myself to release the tension and have the tools to release the tension. And in that way, I'm holding less tension in my body when I'm working with someone else's body. So it's coming into a space with being more open and more relaxed and more within my own body to be meeting someone else's body. 


And the regenerative parts are just like, tattooing is just such a body-intensive process I'm usually hunched over and like, there's like, I call it tattoo yoga. Like we get into a position where it's like, we try to feel good as good as we possibly could. While holding that pose. Yes. 


Yeah. And just like tattooing and like I have to stretch open the skin and I notice my hips definitely, my hips are always tensing up and like kind of holding everything together. And then that goes into my shoulders too. My shoulders kind of add them in my hand as I'm like holding the needle and just having this practice before and after a tattoo session is just allowing me to be more resilient within this body intensive practice. 


And just recently with my last client, I'm trying to integrate more somatic within my sessions with people. Like I ask people like, are you holding tension anywhere in your body right now that you feel or like if we're going, say we're tattooing the shoulders, I do the shoulder releases with my clients. 


Let's actually soften our whole bodies for both like for both me and my client before even putting the ink on the skin so that we know that it's flowing in a direction that is on the, not to objectify, but like on the canvas or on the body, on the being that is like at its most possible relaxed space at the time and most aligned space. 


Yeah, and I feel like for myself deepening into somatics within other practices like paper making or candle making, it's allowing me to just have more of awareness of how I'm holding my body when I'm doing these different practices and kind of like making it easier for myself. Raising the work surface a little bit so that I'm not hunched over. And I also feel like by having this deeper knowledge of my soma and like feeling into, you know, like the core of my so as, it's allowing me to tap deeper into my intuition. 


Oh yeah. And like my body like before, for example, before traveling, cause right now I'm in Oakland and I live in Joshua Tree. And before traveling here, I was like, not, I'm just not feeling like I need, it's not time for me to go. And really waiting until the moment where I'm like, okay, my full body is like ready to go. 


And within that, within listening to the body and within listening to the intuition and following that, there's so much magic that happens where it's like, oh, of course this is why I needed to wait this long. And then in turn there's like this mirror that happens where then I feel like this lighting up of my soma by just being like, ooh, okay, yes. 


Like I listened. So I'm feeling this like positive feedback within my body that feels like great and exciting. And it's kind of like this reward and like, and to honor those moments where I'm feeling the tension of like, oh, my body is like not wanting to go right now. And to just know like, yeah, honoring that will allow me to feel like, feel fully in my soma and feel the rewards of that listening. So yeah, I feel like it's just really helped me to, I guess just be more present, like be more fully present. 


A: Well, and we got to spend, quite a deep dive together. And where I can see that is your confidence to share these movements with other people. And I love it when like people that I've worked with, learn it at that level that they feel confident to guide someone else through an arch and release of their back or through neck and shoulder movements. 


And it's like, of course that would need to go like in your part of your tattoo ritual kit because it's now part of what you've learned how to do in your body, which is like, as we said before, where all of that ritual arose from was from your own innate embodied experience with these different practices of clearing an energy field. 


And in a way, like I think of the somatic release saying, you know, the movement practice that you learned and you took a revive my nine week course, but then we also did some hands-on sessions together at Joshua Tree Music Festival that were amazing. Like you were just so giddy and like excited to be in contact with your body in this way. I loved working with you. 


It's so much fun. But when you do those movements, you are also, you know, you're releasing the muscle memory, but you're also doing like an energetic clearing. It is like you said, like a nourishment, a resetting, a calming, a quieting, that letting go, you know, and creating more space, like literally more space in your body for this moment to be fully felt rather than holding every other moment that we ever went through like last week or two years ago or whatever, right? Totally. 


J: Yeah, I'm so grateful for that session. I really, yeah, it really is an opening and expanding of my physical body. And yeah, it's creating literal spaces for me to meet myself and meet the world around me with, yeah, with my fuller self. So, yeah, thank you so much. 


A: You're welcome. It's my pleasure. I absolutely adore working with people like you who are gonna take this tool and then utilize it and then use it and then share it because it's really just a part of your brain and a part of your body that already existed that you just didn't know could do this thing, like at this level, you didn't know it could address that tension in your back or your hip or connect you more with your body, you know? 


And someone like you who's doing such an unusual cool thing in the world, like, I just, I love that I get to support someone like you in their somatic, personal somatic journey, but also their creative process. 


J: Yeah, thank you. 


A: Yeah, and I know as we're closing here today in our interview, you know, do you have any kind of last thoughts for people about this idea of art? The idea of embodied art and the value of that as someone is, you know, moving through their daily life? 


J: Mm, I'm feeling the pull towards like pulling a card. Mm, do it. The house or go back. Yeah, and yeah, because this deck is all around like daily life as ritual and like the mundane as a ritual and art. So I'm just gonna pull a card and kind of like share, I'm just gonna see what the cards have to say. 


I love it, let's do it. Okay, so just pulling this for the collective, we, on embodiment, art and daily life. Mushrooms. Yeah, allowing the, allowing the liminal space between the death of something that is no longer serving and allowing that to be something that nourishes the soil and to be with the transformation of the self and trusting that the earth is able to transform us into a more fertile space. 


So I guess like, yeah, mushrooms for me in a daily practice is being with the liminal space that can feel gross or unpleasant. Disorienting. Yeah, disorienting for sure. And knowing that that space is the space that allows for deep nourishing medicine of transformation that then that within itself is like the grounds for creativity. 


So I'm just thinking about like a moment where there's like unprocessed grief to just allow ourselves to feel that grief and know that the water of that grief will then allow for more freedom within our bodies and almost like moving through the grief and knowing that that's, yeah, that grief is a part of birth. Yeah. I don't know if that really answers your question. 


A: I feel like it does, I do. Yeah, I think that there is that liminal space that we experience daily, you know, where maybe we send a message to someone, we're waiting to hear back and everything's on hold and we're wondering whether this project or this thing is going to work out for us. 


And instead of trying to constantly fill that space with distraction or something else, like how can you be with whatever's coming up there with the uncertainty, with the doubt, with the frustration, maybe with some emotional or previous somatic experience like loss and grief and sorrow that may be showing up in this liminal space between like, you're sending that email and someone responding to you. 


And like that is an art, that is like a space where, whenever you do get that response, whatever it is, like there's gonna be, you know, more for you to move from in that decision, whatever it is, if you've actually let yourself go through that in-between space, rather than just like distracting yourself and not letting yourself feel whatever's coming up there. Right? 


J: Yeah, there is, there's like one more thing that's coming up in my mind and that's like the art of doing dishes. Mm. Yes. Like how there's a dirty plate and like even the dirty plate in itself, you know, it's a composition of like how you chose to eat the food or how we chose to eat the food. And then to like take that dish and kind of like cleanse the palate or like create a clean canvas. 


And to also see like all of the dish water and all of those particles that are washing off of that plate, it's like a release that isn't just going into the system of waste. We can see it as like, if you were to wash your dishes in a bowl with dish water, that the food particles coming off of that plate can actually go back to the soil and feed a tree and kind of like rebel against these systems that disconnect us from the processes of like waste or recycling. Or recycling. 


So like taking dish water and feeding it to a tree that's growing in the city, all of those particles that no longer serve you that would have been dumped into the drain and like you have no connection to whatsoever. And this is like obviously a metaphor for internal. 


A: Oh yeah, I'm thinking compartmentalization here versus connecting with all parts of ourselves. Yeah, it's, this is a whole another podcast that I would love to do with you where we can get into the ecosystems slash internal ecosystems. That would be so super cool. 


J: Yeah, yeah. So that's the last, just like the art of doing dishes. Like even just the mundane like task of doing dishes that there's like a presence and like intention and put into that, that that in itself can be art that doesn't necessarily need to be put on a pedestal and bought and sold and created for a market. It can, it's literally just like having an experience with yourself and that feels connected and alive and transformational. I love it. 


A: Yes, yes. Chopwood. 


J: Hair Potter. Yes. 


A: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for this conversation. It was beautiful. I'm so excited to share this conversation with everyone. If you'd like to learn more about Jai and their art, you can go to the show notes and find their Instagram profile there, see some of the tattoo work they do, find out if they're gonna be in your city. 


If you're interested in learning more about Hanosomatic education and releasing muscular stress, tension, and pain from your body, check the show notes there as well. And we'll have you back on the podcast to talk more about ecosystems and about another layer of this that's obviously there and available to talk about.


 And I look forward to that. Thank you so much for being on the show. 


J: Thank you so much for having me. It's been so nice to get to talk about all of this fun stuff. 


A: Yes, absolutely. 


A: Hey there, friend. I hope you enjoyed today's episode. I would love to hear your thoughts. Follow me on Instagram at Aimee Takaya and send me a DM about this episode. I'd like to thank you for being part of this somatic revolution. And if you'd like to support the podcast and help more people learn about somatics; consider leaving a review or a rating. 


And finally, if you'd like to have the experience of relief in your tight hips or back and learn to understand what your body is really saying to you, visit youcanfreeyoursoma.com. I can't wait to share with you what is truly possible. 


A: Bye for now. 


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