radical ecstasy requires radical research

And the travelling continues. Here I am in Victoria, BC, hanging out with my super-cool uncle. Victoria is the land of lush vegetation, and my dear unc lives right on the edge of a massive forest and lake, so this afternoon we spent an hour hiking in the, um, “backyard,” and we’ve got plans to do all sorts of stuff that will get us both out in nature – doubtless this will be good for me as I’ve spent the last two weeks either in a car for many hours at a stretch, or holed up in an office of one sort or another.

I wasn’t expecting this to be a particularly sexy leg of my journeys, but there seems to be an interesting new theme emerging… on the plane on the way here, I started reading Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy’s book Radical Ecstasy, about the ways in which BDSM can be a path to ecstasy much the way tantra and certain spiritual practices can – whirling dervishes, Native flesh-hook piercers, Medieval flagellants and so forth. I’m about two-thirds of the way through, and already I can say that it’s typical Easton and Hardy work – they write competently, they make good points, they cover a topic in a pretty logical way, and yet I always end up feeling like I’ve gotten the grade-5 version of a book rather than the thick and detailed treatise my brain craves. Thing is, in many cases they’re the only folks out there actually writing about certain topics, so my shelf is full of their stuff and it’s often the reference in the field even when it’s actually pretty mundane. Well, from an intellectual point of view – certainly it’s rare that I strongly disagree or take issue with the points they make. I just want depth and they give overview.

Anyway, so here I was on the plane reading about energy work and chakras and radical ecstasy, and for all that it was kinda ho-hum in terms of a reading experience, it was nonetheless lining up really strongly with a lot of what I’ve experienced in my own BDSM play and sexual connection in the last three or four years. I’m really not the woo-woo type, and yet I’ve experienced things that I cannot categorize as anything other than spiritual – but a spirituality attained through the body, not by trying to pretend the body doesn’t exist or trying to leave it behind. Deep connection with something greater than just me and the person I’m playing with, that’s reached by knowing and exploring and touching and torturing and pleasuring bodies, not by floating off into some sort of weird holy space in our heads while hymns play in the background. You know. Down and dirty divinity. My kind o’ worship, baby.

But while I’ve been doing yoga forever and I get the basic concepts of things like energy work and chakras and returning to your breath, I think that reading a book about those very basics (albeit in a BDSM context) served to really show me that I’m interested in more than just the basics. That if I want to have language to describe these experiences, or ways of reaching out to welcome them instead of just being surprised and happy in the moments when they arrive, or ways of fine-tuning what I do with them while they’re happening instead of working with them as well as I can in the moment, I might have to do what a geek does best: research.

And then I showed up in Victoria, and spent the day with my unc, and whaddaya know… he knows tons of stuff about this! He’s a trauma counsellor with a dozen different certifications in all kinds of alternative therapies and ways of reaching into people and helping them heal, and so gee, no big surprise that he might have a few books lying around about such topics as tantra and energy healing and stuff. I’ve already got two on my reading pile, and I haven’t finished going through his collection by a long shot.

I totally promise I’m not going to turn into an annoyingly benevolent-faced Buddha with a permagrin and a third eye popping out of my forehead. I’m also not going to become a Krishna or dive wholeheartedly into new-agey crystal work and any of that. I’m just generally disinclined to really buy into anything like this wholesale. But I have a long history of reading about established religions and spiritual approaches, and in many cases quizzing their practitioners and visiting places of worship and participating in rituals when invited, without ever having adopted one as my own. Meh. Not interested. I’d rather glean interesting perspectives and knowledge from a variety of sources, pick the bits that work for me, and weave them together with a lot of common sense and personal experience into my own take on things.

So I think perhaps it’s time to engage in a similar process with the literature and experiential learning that are available out there on the topics of spiritual ecstasy and energy work that can be applied to bodily experience and connection.

I get the feeling I may have to sift through a lot of stuff before finding the bits that work for me. So often, in matters spiritual, the people who believe something really really REALLY want you to believe it too, so they go at it with a marketing approach rather than a genuinely educational one. Well, okay, “believe or you will go to hell” is perhaps a rather aggressive marketing strategy, but we’re all familiar with that one, and that’s not really what I mean. What I mean is that writings on topics religious and spiritual often have the tone of “We have this figured out, we’re enlightened / saved / chosen / insert your metaphor for “special” here, and if you want to be special too, here’s how.” And it’s not just limited to the Big Three of organized religion… I’m no less attracted to Wicca or Buddhism or other such systems precisely because they’re systems of belief or thought, even if their tenets are more free-form or more feminist-friendly or less guilt-and-shame-based or whatever. And no, that’s not for lack of experience with them. In fact I’ve gotten an enormous amount from of my contacts with and reading about any number of religious and spiritual traditions – from my childhood time in the Christian church to my teenage cover-to-cover reading of the Satanic Bible to my participation in a few Native rituals to readings and long conversations about Judaism with Judaic scholars to participation in Buddhist enshrinement ceremony to a year of practicing Pagan High Day rites. I just haven’t signed up as a member to any of them. I’m basically a classic GDI (BDSM shorthand for God Damned Independent, though taken slightly out of context here) and likely to stay that way – frustratingly so, for many people I’ve met.

But I want to glean what I can now as much as I always have. If reading a few books about chakras and tantra will help me get a stronger understanding of how it is that sometimes when I put a collar around someone’s neck I feel like I’m holding their wide-open heart in my hands, or how it is that my body can find its way to orgasm without even being touched when the right energy is raised, or how at times when I’m topping someone in a scene we get so deeply connected that I feel everything I’m doing to them reverberate through my own body, or how I can slip needles under someone’s skin and find that we’re both floating in a place where everyone else in the room fades away so completely that I’m surprised to see them there when we get back… and if that understanding leads me into my own ideas about how best to manage that energy and steward it well and gain maximum enjoyment in it for all concerned… well, I guess that’s a sex geek mission as much as any other.

4 Responses

  1. I read Radical Ecstasy a while ago, and I agree it is very much an overview. On the other hand, tantra (or at least the practitioners of tantra whom I have met) has always struck me as too cult-ish. Have you had the opportunity to attend one of Dossie Easton’s classes? She’s an amazing presenter, and perhaps a class would look into the issue in more depth.

    Also, I really enjoy reading your blog :-)

  2. Yes! Yes! I agree, cultish indeed. And… just generally weird. I’m hoping to get the theory and probably the practice too, but without the weirdness and cultishness.

    I have been to a class given by Dossie Easton, and appreciated her teaching quite a bit – and while it didn’t touch on ecstasy per se it did touch on topics related to energy work. Unfortunately though, she managed to supremely piss me off – not an easy thing to do – with one really inconsiderate and inaccurate comment, and that always comes to mind when I think of her now. Which sucks, because she does have a lot of good stuff to say. It was a bad enough remark that it completely turned me off from asking her to sign my books that day, which is also saying something. *sigh* I am hoping I can get over it, or at least put it to the back of my mind, by the time I get the opportunity to enjoy her classes again.

    And I am glad you enjoy my blog! Wheee! :)

  3. Hi there;

    This is a bit of a tangent . . .has mostly to do with your first paragraph and the beginning of your second. It amuses me once again to observe how different we are. You describe a beautiful landscape with trees and water and then comment that you were not expecting sexiness : )

    In my little world: trees + water = sexy. Yes, I’m one of those weirdos who make love to trees. Not physically (splinters . . .ouch!) but yes, I have had an orgasm while laying down under a tree. And I really feel that I was having a spiritual/sexual connection with the spirit of that tree. I know, I know . . .sappy (harharharhar . . . pun fully intended). So the minute I am out in nature, I feel 10 times hornier than I ever do in an urban environment. Considering how horny I am in an urban environment, it can become a little scary.

    Anyway . . .I just get a chuckle out of our differences. I absolutely do NOT mean this in any derogatory way and I’m sure I don’t even need to tell you that after all this time.

    About the rest of the post: in a personal communication with you, I recently mentioned that I do see/feel a connection between kink and spirituality. I had never stopped to think about it but, yes, I get to a spiritual place through my body, not by ignoring it or pretending it’s not there. Time and time again, I’ve used physical stimulation to get me to one of those places, which aren’t really other places but just alternate modes of perception (in my perspective . . . YMMV). However, I’m also quite open to “going” to “other” places . . .without my body. These forms of spirituality complement each other for me.

    I do agree that the bond between people in sensation play can become quite powerfully spiritual . . . so strong that there are few words that can come and describe it. A nearly tangible energy that is exchanged and shared. Amazing stuff. I don’t know if I could consciously get to that kind of state because I can only make myself that vulnerable with people that I trust. Having major trust issues, there are fewer than 5 people on the planet that I’m so transparent with that I could ever get to that level.

  4. Hiya! I’ve been lurking on your blog for a while, can’t remember how I got here, but I really like how committed you are to exploring the complexities of kink. Anyhow, I thought you might find this thread on Barbelith useful, if you’re interested in thinking about kink and spirituality. There’s not so much stuff on tantra and healing, it’s more about magickal work, but they’re good people there.

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