This post is the second in a small group of posts that all go together. If you haven’t yet, please read SWLC Post, The First: You Can’t Say No to the Universe.
This writing isn’t going to be a point by point accounting of what happened at Southwest Leather Conference. That would take a lot more words than I really have time to get down. But I am including the highlights, the important bits, so that readers can connect this experience with what came before and with what will come after.
I arrived at SWLC a day late, due to a canceled flight, but several hours earlier than planned, due to an awesome gate agent at the Southwest Airlines counter. By the time I got settled into my room and checked in to the con, there was only one class left for the day and it was one of the ones I’d really wanted to attend. So even though I’d missed the other one I’d really wanted to attend, at least I got one out of two. The session was *The Alchemy of M/s* taught by Master Obsidian & slave namaste. And here is where I had my first epiphany of the conference.
I Am That
The class was about spiritual transformation, including taking ownership of oneself and the steps for how to do that. This resonated with me because of my own Year of Living Uncomfortably journey. Historically, my YoLU journey has been about finding parts of myself, creating the self that I want to be, and facing things about both my body and my mind that are difficult or problematic for me on different levels.
The Universe had decided that I needed to restart my YoLU in 2017 and that the theme this time was suffering. I didn’t see that as being connected to the previous YoLU, so I simply pursued it, assuming I would figure things out as I went.
I’m not going to talk about the entire Alchemy class, but if you get a chance to experience it first-hand, I would heartily recommend it. The main part that I took with me was about facing your shadows, but even more than facing them: accepting them and *embracing them* as a part of you.
Whew. That’s hard. I mean, it’s just hard, in general, right? It is a thing I’ve been working on about my body and body image for years. But I think that because of the intense focus in that direction, there are other shadows I’ve maybe overlooked. So the class opened my eyes to other aspects about myself (or potential aspects) that I hadn’t thought about confronting.
The phrase that they used to encompass the acceptance of the shadows is, “I am that.”
My mind has always been my shield and so the idea that someone might think I am stupid used to be a very strong trigger for me. (And I’m using “trigger” in the sense that it triggered a particular reaction, not in the psychological sense of a trauma trigger.) I would react intensely on an emotional level and would sometimes lash out verbally if someone called me stupid. I’ve mellowed a lot in my old age, but it’s still something that affects me and I have to actively manage myself internally when it happens.
But sometimes I am stupid. I’m human. I make stupid mistakes or have stupid thoughts or just act in a stupid way. Certainly, I don’t ever want to admit that, but here I am 😉 So what if I simply said, “I am that”? What if I just owned it? Would that lessen the effect? Would that allow me not to care and not to have to manage my internal reaction, because there was no reason for an internal reaction?
It seems simple and completely obvious. And it was to me — for my body image stuff. But not for other things. And that was the epiphany. That I can accept ALL of those things, even the things I really am not, or the things try hard not to be, but have the potential to be anyway — unreasonable, abusive, gossipy, etc. And if I can accept those things (and almost-things) about myself, then I can be entirely whole and at peace and those things can’t be used against me. They can’t hurt me.
It really does seem intuitive. But it’s going to be another long journey, just like YoLU.
That night, I did my volunteer hours — 12am to 2am DMing, then dungeon breakdown. The dungeon was relatively quiet and as it got closer to 2, it was mostly cleared out, so we were able to start breakdown early, which meant I got back to my room at about 2:30am (which was my 4:30am, recall 😉 ). I got to sleep around 3ish.
There was a class that I wanted to go to the next morning called Ritual Pain. But it was scheduled at 9am. (Who *does* that??) So I fully allowed myself the permission to miss it in order to sleep, since I was up so late and had had a long day.
But the Universe, pushy bitch that she is, wasn’t having any of it. I was up and awake at 7:30am, so… what the hell? Why not go? (A friend even asked me, after the Ritual Pain class, “How are you upright?”)
There’s a point to the Universe being a pushy bitch. She wasn’t gonna let me sleep through the entire reason she’d gotten me here.
The class was taught by Elwood, who is a member of the Edgewalkers and one of the people who facilitates the Dance of Souls, which is the hook pull event on Sunday at SWLC. It was a really interesting presentation about body stress and trauma rituals across the globe, both historically and currently.
Most body stress and body trauma rituals seem to be about coming of age, though some are about other concerns, such as a good harvest. What I found fascinating about the presentation is how universal these rituals are. Not necessarily the exact rituals — most were very different — but the fact that body stress or body trauma is so common in so many cultures, potentially all cultures at some point.
It makes me wonder if we’ve lost something in our modern times. If we’ve gotten so entrenched in our comfort, that we’ve lost a connection to the universal. We don’t have any real body stress rituals in our society anymore. Maybe that makes us more “civilized,” but what does it cost us?
Sometimes, when I tell kinky people about the suffering, their response is, “Oh, sexyhot!” And I have to say, “No… there’s nothing sexy or hot about it for me. Not a single moment. It’s actually pretty miserable.”
They always look puzzled and they don’t understand. So I try to explain about suffering to learn about myself, suffering to become a better person. I tell them about how it feels to go beyond where a safeword would live, to be in abject misery and have no way to stop it. To be brought to the point where there is nothing but acceptance of the suffering, because there’s no other option, there is nothing left open to me. And they often — so often — shake their heads and talk about how they could never do that and why would I put myself through it?
Even here — in a place where people hit each other to get off — body trauma as a ritual, as a journey, is confusing, scary, misunderstood, rejected.
But it is where we come from. It is our legacy.
The Weakest Link
In the Ritual Pain class, Elwood took a moment to talk about his time in Edgewalkers, about hook suspensions, and about the Dance of Souls. And he spoke about what he’d learned about the body in the years since he’d entered the body stress/trauma community.
As he spoke, I thought about the suffering play I have been doing with the Sadist and I thought about a thing that I had said to him before we began playing together. I had talked about how I thought that where I would call a safeword, where I would *think* my limit is, is probably not where my actual limit is. That my body could probably take much more than my mind thought it could, than my mind was comfortable taking.
And then Elwood said the sentence that brought everything together. He was talking about exactly what I’d been thinking about — that in his years in the body stress world, he’d discovered that the body can take enormous stress and trauma, much much more than one would ever expect. And then he said it.
“The mind is the weakest link.”
Your body is more than a bag to carry your brain around in.
My body was my enemy; my mind was my shield.
The mind is the weakest link.
If you’ve ever been in an airplane, you know how different the world looks from above as compared to how it looks when you are at eye level with it. Elwood’s words pulled me off the ground of my YoLU and up into the sky. I could see the entire thing, from the beginning, through to now.
The first YoLUs, the trip to SJW and the class there, the messages that came at Dragon Con, the suffering, all of it was the same.
It all goes together.
I’m not on a new YoLU this year. I’m on the second half of the same YoLU that began in 2010. That portion was about facing my shadows — facing my body and accepting it. I can’t say that I was particularly successful at the last part, though I am much farther along than I was at the start, so that is success of a fashion, I suppose.
This portion… this is about respecting my body rather than hating it. Seeing it as just as important as my mind. Because they are connected. It’s all connected.
My body endures the pain, but it is my mind that suffers, my mind that panics, my mind that wants to escape.
My body endures.
And I should respect that.
Crossposted on Fetlife.
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