The koi and dragon represent a Chinese myth about transformation. The story is that there is a waterfall at the top of the Yellow River in China called Dragon’s Gate. The koi swim upstream until they reach the waterfall. Once they arrive they are transformed into a dragon. Of course, once they go through the transformation they are no longer confined to living only in the water, but also gain access to the land and the air. The dragon is an embodiment of the inner strength which was required to make the journey.
I have always been very spiritual, especially since I began practicing Buddhism about 20 years ago. The past couple of years have really presented me with some big challenges. I often thought about these trials as “swimming upstream” because I had to constantly be vigilant not to let my circumstances defeat me. I had to remind myself that if I just keep swimming, come hell or high water, I would reap my reward eventually. At some point I remembered what I had always known, that happiness is just a decision. My struggle wasn’t against an outside current. It was against an inner current. I couldn’t control the things happening to me, but I could completely control how I reacted to those things. Within that moment of decision I became the dragon. I was free!
My tattoo is a record and a reminder that I always have the strength of the dragon within me. The tattoo also incorporates a lotus. The lotus symbolizes beauty growing from ugliness. Lotuses grow in the murky waters of ponds and swamps, yet they are pristine and beautiful. In the same way, beautiful lessons can grow from bad experiences.
People have different labels for the spiritual strength within all of us. Some call it God. Some call it Allah. Some call it Buddha Nature. Some call it Tao. The label isn’t important. The realization that it is always present is important.
The fact that I was also born in the Year of the Dragon (1976) adds a whole other dimension to my story, which I won’t attempt to interpret beyond the belief that things are always exactly as they are meant to be.