Though I’d met London Faerie before and seen his amazing sacred BDSM demonstrations, Eroticon 2014 was the first chance we’d had for a real conversation. And when the topic was something as multifaceted as sex and spirituality, I knew I wanted to have Faerie guest on A Hopeful Romantic. The resulting guest post on the topic of ‘head space,’ ended up way too amazing to cram into one post. So, please welcome London Faerie, for Part 1 of Playing with Consciousness! (see Part 2 on 31st March)
In my work I teach people how to play with consciousness. This sounds a bit grand and, to many people, rather spiritual. However KD’s asked me to write about ‘head spaces’, and this is a great opportunity for me to talk about how you don’t need to believe in God, the Universe or anything else to experience these altered states.
Firstly it’s good to define what we’re talking about here. In everyday life our minds are busy and active with many thoughts, and our attention goes to the past and the future as well as the present moment. I see this as a horizontal reality, where we experience life in a linear way, with the present moment part of a narrative that extends backwards into the past and forward into the future.
Most of us have at times experienced a different space: a peak state, sometimes called ‘flow’, in which we lose ourselves completely in what we’re doing. When we’re in this flow state we lose track of time and everything but the present moment fades away Often this flow state happens spontaneously and without us doing anything to move into it: for example, when we’re engaged with an interesting and difficult task, like repairing a bike or painting a picture. Instead of finding ourselves on a horizontal line, the present moment expands and we experience a more ‘vertical’ reality, in which we feel deeply connected with the world around us.
For those who are spiritually inclined, this state is often seen as connecting with a higher power: God/dess, the Universe, the Background Presence, All That Is or whatever you individually choose to name it. I don’t however feel that you need to believe in any of those things to experience altered states of consciousness. It’s enough to feel more presence, and in this increased presence to discover that you feel quite different.
These different head-states are special for a few reasons. First of all, they feel great. In his book Flow, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi talks about the flow state as optimal for human beings, a complete immersion that increases our mental capacity and makes us feel much better. He argues that happiness and flow are closely connected: the more time we spend in this peak state, the better we feel. Even though his book actively dismisses spirituality, I recongise that his discovery of the close link between presence and happiness is an important one.
As well as being good for us, going into altered states of consciousness is often very surprising. People report becoming much more attuned to each other, sometimes almost psychic in their ability to feel what is happening to each other. It’s common for people to think similar thoughts at the same moment, to ‘just know’ what to do in difficult situations and so on.
Whatever their beliefs, most people recognise this hyper-connected state as something they’ve experienced from time to time. It’s as if the veil of separateness drops and we experience our inter-connectedness as reality. We still know that we are individual, but we also remember that we’re part of the web of all life and that our thoughts and feelings connect us with everything and everyone else.
Most of us know these altered head-spaces because we’ve been there, but often this happens haphazardly, by accident and without us being able to easily replicate it. So how do we learn to move in and out of this flow state at will?
Through the course of my explorations with BDSM and Tantra I’ve discovered that there are certain things we can do to enter these altered states again and again. One amazing tool is breath. It still staggers me that changing the way we breathe fundamentally changes the way we feel: it’s so simple and obvious yet it works every time.
When we think about it in reverse, it makes perfect sense. When we feel differently we automatically breathe differently. When anxious we breathe fast and shallow, and this way of breathing increases the anxious feelings; when aroused we breathe fast and deep, resulting in us feeling more ‘charged up’ and more aroused. How we feel and how we breathe are in a dynamic relationship with each other, each affecting the other, taking us into a virtuous or vicious cycle.
Playing with breath deliberately is a simple way to play with consciousness. In Tantra we learn how to become more relaxed through one type of breath, how to turn ourselves on through another and how to become more present and alert through yet another. Similarly we play with breath in BDSM: holding someone’s breath when they have a lungful to induce panic, holding it when their lungs are empty so they feel relaxed and spacy.
If your interest has been piqued by what I’ve written, I’m running two workshops in April where you can experience these altered states for yourself. On Sat 5th & Sun 6th April I co-lead Through The Portals, an experiential weekend introduction that includes BDSM, Tantra and breathwork. And on Sat 26th & Sun 27th April I lead The Purple Door, exploring ecstatic and altered states through BDSM. Find out more at http://sacredpleasures.co.uk
Be sure to stop by next Monday, the 31st for the second instalment of London Faerie’s post on Playing with Consciousness.
Through the Portals Workshop:
5th & 6th April
The Purple Door Workshop:
26th & 27th April
About London Faerie:
Faerie’s practice is wide-ranging, drawing from BDSM, shamanic healing, coaching, psychodrama and Tantra. He’s been practising and learning for over 12 years, and brings a wealth of experience and expertise to his groups and sessions. Faerie is the founder of Sacred Pleasures, the place where everything meets: a sex-positive community space where you can welcome more of yourself and make friends with everything you are.
Find London Faerie Here:
blog.londonfaerie.co.uk (personal stuff)