Subspace & Shamanic Trance

Today’s post deals with BDSM (bondage/discipline/sadism/masochism) and Power Exchange, and the usefulness of scenes in achieving a “travelling” mindset. While it will not be sexually explicit, these themes can be upsetting, so consider yourselves warned. As such, the post is behind the cut.

I try to avoid writing about myself on this blog, which is a bit difficult due to how personal my practice is and how much has been learned via trial and error. It’s not very efficient, and often uninteresting to others. “Walking the Left Hand Path” to me means digging around within one’s self and finding inner truth. Only once we’ve got that at least in passable order can we really hope to have any information of real use to others seeking to untangle the knots of their own existence. Ultimately, the Left Hand Path is about how we’re responsible for our own knowledge and ascension. This isn’t to say we can’t help others, or that we can’t accept help- after all, can self-knowledge not also come from these things?

That being said, this post is pretty much about my experience with using D/s, and in particular, subspace as a means for achieving a trance state. It is not a “how to,” or any kind of authoritative document at all, simply a personal blog post. Hopefully it’ll be of some use to someone else, so here it is.


 

The world of kink is frightfully (and delightfully) complex. Somewhere in the vicinity of the intersection between selfhood, social rank, sexuality, play instinct, and any number of other factors, there lies in some of us a switch to be tripped which can profoundly affect our consciousness.

I can only speak to my own experience, so please don’t take this as any kind of generalization that can be made.

I wouldn’t really consider myself socially “dominant.” I tend to work toward my own goals; cooperation in this is usually best, as it can achieve everyone’s ends sooner, but in groups I’ve got neither the desire to lead nor to follow. I resent unearned authority and have a tendency to actively undermine it. I also have no small degree of anxiety, which tends to manifest as a desire to plan everything, often years into the future. (This has not proven to be a tremendously viable strategy, by the way.) I’ve been called a control freak, a time fascist, type A. I’m not terribly spontaneous, I don’t readily emote, and I have to schedule leisure time to ensure my brain doesn’t go nuclear.

I also feel like I stick out like a sore thumb in most Pagan groups. As a stereotype, they tend to be emotionally fluent, folks able to slot their mindset effortlessly into the landscape of the moment, and unafraid to express their playful side. Being around them is medicinal, if at times confusing, for someone like me.

Submission is where I can go to really escape all that Type A nonsense, though. Appealing to my plansy nature, scenes are negotiated ahead of time, equipment checked, limits set, and safewords drilled. What’s created is a safe space- a sort of Circle, if you will- a world within a world. What follows is nothing less than a trip where participants shift form and operate in a universe with its own laws- sound familiar?

“Subspace” is the trance state a submissive may enter during a scene. I experience it as a “blissed out” feeling, and it can alter perception to the point where the outside world may disappear. Pain tolerance may increase, as may the sub’s self-awareness. Many things have surfaced during scenes, allowing me to process them afterwards. In many ways, it can be cathartic. To me, it’s felt similar to being drunk or high: high enough that things outside your immediate focus, whatever that is, may as well not exist. The resulting trance should not be underestimated: someone in the deep of subspace may need supervision much as someone who’s had a few too many may. As noted earlier, increased pain tolerance can make injury more of a risk.

I’ve been “blissed out” for days after a particularly powerful scene and subsequently had what I call “the stupids”- forgetting minor things I do every day without thinking. Unable to plan my way out of a paper sack. It’s a bit disorienting, much like the recovery from an intense shamanic journey. For me, the two are the same feeling, with the same symptoms- leading me to believe they’re quite similar neurochemically.

For the kinky Shaman, a scene can provide a potent ritual space.

I’d like to make a note here regarding the matter of ethics. My partner and I always discuss whether or not I’ll be doing any kind of magickal work ahead of time. While he’s never declined before, as far as I’m concerned, it’s part of receiving consent. After all, even if they don’t consider themselves magickal practitioners, they’re still lending you potent vital energy and taking part in a ceremony and should be informed of this. Don’t assume that just because they agreed one time, they’ll be ok with doing it in the future. Stating this outright might not be necessary, but I felt it was important to add.


 

My partner, whom I will refer to as Draco (as in “Dragon,” not the Malfoy) appears quite dissimilar to me. He’s mellow, good-humored, quiet. He’s the blue oni to my red; the cleric to my rogue. A Djehuti sort of fellow, really: by no means incapable of steely resolve, but with a strong preference for knowledge, insight, and wisdom.

We’ve been together for 12 years this Spring, and he is the only person for whom I will drop my guard and trust 100%. He is the person who taught me how to cut loose and actually play- something I’d forgotten how to do.

And, more than any meditation I’ve yet discovered- the man can kick my mind out of my head and into another world entirely.

Role play has always been my favored method of detaching from the world. A trans* kid, I was all too familiar with the feeling of wanting to escape my body and go someplace far away where I could be who I was, or be someone I wasn’t. I didn’t settle for playing house, either- I wanted to explore vast, ancient wildernesses where Gods and magical animals roamed. I wanted to pilot starships to the far reaches of the Galaxy and meet aliens. I didn’t want to be constrained to the role my family set out for me- that wasn’t who I was. I was an explorer, dammit, and I was determined to be who I knew myself to be.

After a while, this sort of make believe play becomes age-inappropriate. I didn’t get why that was, but turned my attention to writing, where I could wander on my own terms. I can’t say any of my characters or stories were strong in terms of good storytelling, but they allowed me to explore the worlds inside my head. As I aged, so too did the maturity of much of my content.

All of this provides a fairly direct lineage to my current play life, which, being an adult in possession of a libido, sometimes incorporates sexuality. The “permission” to go out of my head, all the fun of role-playing, and the self-knowledge that comes from these forays into the verboten is probably my favorite type of trance. It’s a “building” one- there are trances where I go in search of something alone, and hopefully return with it for whomever needs it- and there are trances that build bonds between a Shaman and their helper(s). My partner is my sole “helper” in this manner of journeying and the intimate nature of the ritual itself- and that’s really what it is: a ritual- has benefitted our bond in innumerable ways.

Oxytocin is one hell of a drug.


 

So all of this can amount to taking an alternate form, jumping headfirst into a new world, coming away with new knowledge. There is a taboo in some traditions about mixing sexuality and spirituality; some Deities don’t seem to appreciate any kind of sexuality involved in their worship; questions surrounding ethics, morality, and a dozen other factors make the practice of a scene/ritual not the most mainstream approach. For certain situations, it’s outright contraindicated. Yet it still exists as an effective and even widely practiced form of trance induction, even divorced from spirituality.


 

If you are new to BDSM, my advice would be: please don’t take practice from popular novels, movies, or other media- it’s always best to learn from someone experienced or, barring that, extensive research. Both would be ideal. A trustworthy partner is essential if you’re playing with someone. Don’t rush out to experience a new “high.” Like any other practice that shifts consciousness, it’s best to take it slow and learn your limits. Play safe and have fun!

-sha

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