It’s my pleasure to welcome London Faerie back to A Hopeful Romantic for the second instalment of his fascinating post on playing with consciousness. If you missed Faerie’s first post, check out Part One here.
Often in BDSM we talk about ‘sub space’, and this is shorthand for an altered state of consciousness experienced by submissives when things go well. Often when a submissive is experienced, the simple act of putting a collar on them takes them straight into this altered state: thoughts of anything but what’s happening right now melt away and they focus their attention on the Dominant in front of them. For those who find entering sub space harder, strong impact (spanking, caning etc) often help take the person into an altered state: when the pain gets too much to bear, it feels much better to focus on the sensation than to think yourself away from it. A skilled Dominant uses their voice, their presence, impact and fear to guide the person deeper and deeper into sub space.
Anticipation is a key here. In a recent workshop one participant talked about how not knowing what was coming next was the thing that helped them drop into sub space, and this makes a lot of sense to me. I know it doesn’t work for everyone – for some, the anxiety of not knowing makes them more thinky and less present. But for many waiting for the next touch, stroke or instruction brings them into this focused flow state and out of their everyday relationship with reality.
What is talked about less often is ‘top space’, the altered state of consciousness experienced by the Dominant. I experience this as similar and different to sub space. A sub surrenders to the situation fully, letting go of any thoughts and fully embracing their desire to serve and please the Dominant. Meanwhile the Dominant focuses all their attention on the submissive, letting go of any thoughts and fully embracing the open, vulnerable person in front of them. Feeling the submissive’s desire to please and serve, many Dominants find themselves growing into the present moment, expanding so they feel bigger (often literally) and enveloping the submissive in their expanded attention.
This sounds abstract because it’s hard to describe, but both ways of accessing altered states are reported again and again by both Dominants and submissives around the world. Kinky people instinctively find a way to the flow state described by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, irrespective of what this state means for them.
At the recent Eroticon, KD Grace and Victoria Blisse led a fantastic seminar about Sex & Spirituality, looking at how we enter this different head state through both experiencing sex and writing about it. It was amazing to discover that almost everyone in the room knew exactly what they were talking about. Writers talked about ‘the writing coming through me’, ‘the characters telling me what they do next’, ‘the book writing itself’ and ‘feeling guided’. For some this indicated the presence of an external force or power, but I don’t see that as important. For me I see it as connecting to a ‘grid’ of consciousness which contains everything and everyone. From this hyper-connected place I can feel and access much more than I do when I’m feeling separate. It’s like my mind connects with a kind of global Mind and I’m fed information beyond what I myself know or understand. It isn’t necessary for me to believe this as anything other than plugging into a collective consciousness, like a circuit board that gives me power and creative juice. And this is equally true if I’m making love, doing BDSM or writing.
Sex, BDSM and creativity are particularly effective ways to shift consciousness, and this is why I lead workshops in these areas. What’s often interesting is the journey people take into deeper and deeper presence over the course of a day- or weekend-long workshop. A key element is how safe we as facilitators make it for people to go there. I see this ‘dropping in’ as a process of removing our masks and our armour so we can be more ‘naked’ (emotionally rather than physically). Along the way, we often meet the pain and difficulties that caused us to protect ourselves in the first place: fear, overwhelm, rage, frustration, feeling unseen, feeling not good enough and so on.
As people feel safer to let go of their protective layer, they drop in right before our eyes. Often we begin the workshops with simple intimacy exercises: for example, standing in front of a stranger and looking softly into their eyes, seeing them while allowing them to see you. This sounds strange because we don’t do it in everyday life, but it’s surprisingly effective and powerful for helping people to drop in to more presence. Seeing someone else as simply human, without any needs or expectations beyond this, recalls our inter-connectedness: ‘we are all in this together’.
The first few times people experience this flow state in workshops, it can really surprise and sometimes alarm them. One participant, asked how they felt on the Sunday morning of a weekend workshop, said “I’m somewhere above Heathrow Airport right now.” They had never felt so fully present and this in turn made them feel incredibly high.
Over time, people get more supple at moving in and out of altered states of consciousness. The masks and armour their wear in everyday life become less welded to them and they learn how to take them off in a few minutes when the conditions are right. I see this with experienced BDSMers who quickly create a safe space for each other to play, let go of anything they don’t need right now and move into this hyper-connected state. Then when they’re done they gently come back to a more everyday state of consciousness, taking time and care not to rush or jolt themselves.
I wrote about this ‘suppleness’ on my own blog here. http://londonfaerie.co.uk/2013/08/magical-space/
For me being able to shift between altered states of consciousness and more everyday ways of being in the world is a great gift. For many people, attending workshops like our forthcoming Through The Portals is a great way to cultivate this suppleness. It means that when we need to attend a difficult meeting and talk about financial projections or project plans, we can move easily into horizontal reality; and when we want to make love with someone and open ourselves to that connection, we can move easily into vertical reality. This suppleness is valuable for just about anything we might do in a day.
And many roads lead to Rome: whatever takes you into altered states of consciousness, whether it’s writing poetry, tending your garden or getting a jolly good whipping, the more often you make those shifts, the more supple you become and the easier they get. The first few times it can be painful to go back into thinking in time after being so lost in the moment; but after a while you recognise that it’s easy enough to shift between the two states, and this makes it safe to go deeper into altered states because you know your way back the everyday ones.
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
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)