Inner Beauty Passports

The Inner Beauty Passports were a collaboration with Julie Püttgen. When Julie announced that she was going to be doing an Inner Beauty Pilgrimage to the Sacred-Ordinary Everywhere, I knew right away that I wanted one of the stops to be at my studio. I had tried a lot of the Inner Beauty Treatments, and had found them effective.

Looking at the list of treatments, I noticed that I hadn’t yet tried this one:

108 names of you:

In Buddhist and Hindu iconography, 108 is a number that means “a lot” or “a complete set.”  Numerically, it’s 1 x 2 x 2x 3 x 3 x 3 – so, the beginning of an infinitely expanding sequence.  Meanwhile, the fiercely compassionate Hindu goddess Kali has a litany of 108 names or aspects that range from the deeply sweet: protector of all girls, to the terrifying: garlanded with skulls.  What are your 108 names, ranging from the most likable to the shadowiest, from the proudest to the most shameful?  What names have you been called?  What roles have you fulfilled?  Write a litany of your 108 names.

The idea appealed to me, and I started writing. It quickly became one of my favorite Inner Beauty Treatments. Remembering who and where I had been was like a spiritual foot massage.

Some people sit down and bang out a list in half an hour, but I spent weeks on it. I came to feel that I wanted a special little notebook to carry around for the sole purpose of writing down names as they came to me. So I made one. And I loved it so much that I wanted to make little booklets for everyone who came to the Inner Beauty event that I was going to host in my studio.

I mentioned this to Julie. “If you’d like, let’s collaborate,” she said.

And I said, “Yes, let’s!”

So we did!

Julie loved the idea of them being passport-sized, and of actually calling them passports. She designed a spiffy logo for them, and we used the image to make shiny foil stickers for the front covers:

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She calls that creature “Mr. Goggle-Skull.” He represents an offering of the five senses to the wrathful deities of Tibetan Buddhism.

We made 108 passports, of course. For the covers, I used postcards that I had in my studio. Most of them were either collages that I had made a long time ago, or photographs that Lynn Bohannon had taken of my sculptures.

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Julie used a collection of postcards that had been mailed to a friend of hers:

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During the course of the Open Studio / Inner Beauty event where we officially unveiled them, someone asked me for hints about how to start the process.

Family nicknames, I said. The name the bullies called you on the playground. Job titles. The name you secretly wish your parents had given you. The thing the telemarketers say when they can’t pronounce your last name (that one always has a question mark in it).

I overheard Julie explaining that some of your names could just be aspects of your personality that you had noticed. “So one of my names could be Vengeance?” someone asked.  “Yes!” exclaimed Julie, clearly very pleased that someone was Getting It.

You don’t need a Passport to do this treatment, of course, but it is a delightful thing to have. As of this writing (6 September 2015), we still have some left. If you ask one of us, we will give you one!

Side effects may include (but are not limited to): giddiness, despair, and Ego Death.

There were times during the making of the Passports that I was enormously frustrated with myself and with the process. It was definitely a Learning Experience. But now that they are done and we’ve started giving them away? The more I think about them, the happier I feel! It reminds me of another of Julie’s Inner Beauty Treatments:

Out of a little ball of clay, or whatever comes to hand, make something completely lovely, embodying your feelings of the world’s plenitude and sweetness.

Give it to someone.

May you be gobsmacked by your own inner beauty! May all beings be gobsmacked by inner beauty in all its forms!