While on one level the entire continuum of experiencing body suspension immediately incorporates IndividualEvolution.org’s (IE) heart, head, and hand, the wholeness of it also profoundly and radically transcends individual evolution and becomes an individual revolution, as I like to call it. It incorporates IE’s scientific method of inquiry, reaches beyond its body, mind, and spirit, and grasps through centuries to an ancient universal personal quest. Such exploration can only happen with subsequent suspensions and their reflections. This is infinitely more about exploring spirituality, exploring zones of safety and personal comfort, and transforming personal space. It is also about eclipsing the logic of the mundane. It is about, what Baba Ram Dass aptly manifested not so long ago: being here now.
When I decide to actively approach a challenge, it isn’t analyzed as much as it is pondered as a spiritual challenge to enhance practice and even emotional fitness, rather than a physical one. This same mindset was tapped into when I decided to overcome my fear of public speaking and join a college speech team, when I decided to learn tango dancing, and even when I decided to pursue masters and doctorate degrees. That same font of spiritual power was consulted when I decided to body suspend several months ago and when I actually suspended a few weekends ago at Skindicate’s DisgraceGiving in Atlanta. I plan to access that spiritual energy often because it needs replenishment often to increase its ability to transcend the mundane obstacles that I am faced with daily.
Admittedly, I had only seen photos of body suspensions through various Tumblrs that I follow as well as the Hook Life blog until I arrived at DisGraceGivinG since I had missed a previous Skindicate showcase event a few months earlier. So this was my first suspension event to see and to participate in. And while viewing photos of suspensions as well as live ones fills me with something akin to spiritual peace, it is only a momentary peace. Actually doing it is another kind of visceral, immediate experience that brought me a sustained calm before and a peaceful equilibrium for long after.
For a first time, most suspenders go for the “Suicide” (others, including the one I chose, are described here as well) as the simplest, least complex, and possibly least “painful” (in quotes, because, as I mentioned above, a suspension brings on an experience that is completely different and more immediate than anything ever experienced except possibly advanced yoga, meditation, or Chinese martial arts and other advanced activities that I have not yet experienced). Why did I choose the resurrection? I chose it partly because of its name, partly because of the images that I saw and imagined, and partly because of the peace I imagined I saw in myself doing it. I found out that most do not choose it as a first suspension. Indeed, I am attracted to challenges.
Here, I need to give thanks to Skindicate for allowing this to happen and give credit to the wonderful people that made up my team to make this happen. In no particular order, they were DeeDee (my wonderfully patient coach), Emily, and Opal (my piercers), Kerry, Cere (my belay, who guided me airborne), and Branwyn who took the photos here. Additionally, I am grateful to Luz for driving which allowed me to concentrate on my suspension and its spiritual aftermath and to Christina and David who honored me by coming to watch. I must admit before going into this mostly aware of what I would experience (but not completely, obviously, until after this first one) that I had no idea it would be with a team of experienced individuals who would guide me through the whole way. The electricity in the room from one end to the other was heavy with love and compassion.
The process itself began with a piercing. In my case it was two into the skin in my lower chest, but it was no more painful than my recent industrial piercing that made my toes curl. My chest was pierced in an instant and I was on my feet walking with my team to my mat to prepare for my ascent. The heart of my suspension is going to be difficult to describe or explain, but video is embedded here so you can at least see what someone else saw. What I experienced was and is something entirely different that I am still processing. Once my hooks were attached my team began walking me to the mat, gently attaching the ties to the hooks, but it wasn’t “up you go by the skin hooks,” just yet. I was eased into it by being walked backwards and then forwards on my toes, leaning back into supportive hands and then grabbing the beam to be lifted up. What was a little surprising was that I didn’t or wasn’t hoisted gently up by the hooks without holding on. I imagine I can try that at some point in the future when I suspend again, but this was intense.
The heart of the suspension took everything away but my immediate surroundings. It took everything away that I had been thinking of, dwelling upon, even worrying about. It took away everything but the immediate visceral reality of hanging by my skin several inches off of the ground. I don’t want to gloss over that fact because it is part of the attraction, and it is part of the challenge. I don’t remember the music playing during my suspension, and I don’t remember the people that were watching, though I know they were there. I do remember suspending, I remember its intensity, and I remember the people immediately below me who were holding my hand, smiling, and encouraging me. They also reminded me to breathe and that breathing is important. It brings oxygen to the surface and I needed that reminder. Breathing is also something that everyone needs to do more actively, be it Kriya yoga, Breatheology, or some other form of breathing. Before I suspend again, I will be actively working on my breathing.
Before suspending, I had thought that it would be a good idea to arrive on mostly an empty stomach, you know, just in case I became nauseous. That didn’t happen, but in the midst of all the encouragement and intensity, I became a little faint. And so I was gently eased down for a few moments to rest, let the black out pass, and partake of some sustaining nourishing vegan sugars in the form of Opal’s sweet potatoes to get my strength back. I knew this was a temporary thing because it was also the third time that I had blacked out. And so, through all of the excitement and the reassurances, I kept smiling, talking, and listening to encouraging words. Because once I had cleaned my plate of sweet potatoes (No one would doubt that I always clean my plate, but it was so delicious that I went back for seconds and thirds later.), I was eased back up several inches above the ground to continue my suspension for a few more minutes.
Yes, this was intense, but it was also spiritually cleansing. I saw photographs of suspensions, imagined being suspended, watched it being done, and finally did it. And I will do it again. While this practice is “new” to the modern age, the practice is ancient, having been practiced by indigenous peoples worldwide as part of a spiritual practice and possibly as an initiation into adulthood. It is new to Western societies, but it isn’t new to a majority of the rest of the world.
It is now eleven days since my first suspension, and I still return to it daily, feeling for the still slightly tender flesh of my chest. It reminds me that I feel intensely, that I am alive, that I am capable of transcending and overcoming so many physical and emotional obstacles on the ground, and that I can contribute to the improvement of the society I live in, making the world a little better place each day that I travel through it. Yes, I am still processing the experience of suspending, and I will continue to process it until the next time I suspend when I reach even further beyond what is merely individual revolution at the next stage, pushing my limits even further.