Why I Tattooed My Head…

As ubiquitous as tattoos have become, head tattoos are still rare.

Seeing my tattooed skull must give many pause to wonder why.

My reasons are both spiritual and personal. They are not secret.

When I was a boy, my uncle told me our purpose here was to serve others. I took that to heart.

As the years went by my determination to make a positive difference increased.

I sought out teachers and mentors. I spent years in university. I became the leader of my own rock band, an activist, a scholar, and a yogi. One day I traveled to India to better understand meditation.

One night, in India, I took a bath in the Ganges River. The full moon cast a cool glow on the foothills of the Himalayans. My whole body seemed to fill up with the sounds of the stars crowding the night sky. At that moment I realized that I wanted to lead others, but not to follow me. I wanted to raise an army of leaders that would do good by the world.

I began to teach meditation. I opened a yoga studio in Santa Monica. I closed a yoga studio in Santa Monica. I traveled all over the world training yoga teachers. I met many amazing teachers and gurus.

One teacher, in particular, asked me to take an oath. An oath in front of a sacred fire, and hundreds of people. He said my job was to serve the joy in souls of all people. He asked me to promise that I would do this and not sleep around, eat animals, get drunk/or high, or gamble. I was already a non-gambler, sober, and vegetarian. So, with a sigh, I agreed to end my promiscuity.

I continued to travel and to study. I learned Sanskrit so I could translate the wisdom of the ancient Vedic texts. While reading these texts, I learned about ancient symbols of divinity called Yantras.

They are something like the geometric incarnation of a deity. Each deity has its own. One yantra, in particular, drew me in. It was the symbol of a relativity unknown deity. This Deity was particularly ferocious. It represented the death of death. I wanted that kind of heavy metal spiritual force in my life :)

So, I decided to tattoo it on my head. It would be a personal initiation. It would represent my commitment to always use this body for service.

The tattoo session was ceremonial. A Brahman priest chanted mantras and invocations over me. On the tattoo artist’s workbench, a small altar was set up. I placed water from the Ganges River in the tattoo ink.

When it was over one thing felt clear to me, I had gone someplace from which I could not easily return.

It was more than the permanency of the tattoo. It was the idea that my body was now meant for a very specific purpose.

Because the tattoo is both a yantra and a deity, some have suggested it might provide me a protection of sorts. This might be true. Nonetheless, whatever protection this tattoo may provide it is outweighed by a more ominous effect. According to ancient lore, this particular yantra/deity magnifies everything I do. That is fine if I do good. But, if I do anything negative or inappropriate, the consequences of that are also magnified. So, it is a little like living under the sword of Damocles. One wrong move and…

So now, I go through this world, and my life always reminded that my body and mind exist to serve God, the Earth, and humanity.

I don’t teach yoga very much anymore. I focus my work on startups and the behavioral science of innovation. I must be quite a sight in the tech world. I am still a skinny rocker dude with skull tattoos. But, I am on a mission to make the world better, and this is where I can make a difference.


(Photo credit: Anaya Thomas)