Every once in a while, I find myself going through periods in life where I am purposely ‘broken down’ in order to become stronger or learn something of great value. I have not shared a lot regarding my spiritual views, mostly because they are very personalized and may not align with the belief systems of others. I do believe in a great life force, call it Universal consciousness or God or what have you. A lot of my experiences and life creed are based on eastern philosophies. Many do not know that I actually was a follower of Hinduism for a short while and to this day I still engage in daily meditations, once in the morning and again in the late afternoon. I do feel a great connection of some kind, and I believe there is an infinite amount of love and wisdom that goes way beyond what we can perceive as human beings. I really do see my life as one long path of experience, and my life in leather and kink is an integral part of all of it. There are moments however, when I believe it is the Universe does a kind of ‘boot camp’ where in order for me to grow and learn, I have to be broken. More like demolished.
Years ago I used to train in the martial art of Ju-jitsu. I absolutely loved it and it was fantastic exercise as well as great discipline for the body and the mind. Our Sensei was brutal, in that he believed we could not truly excel in the art until we ‘got out of our own way’ mentally. Often he would illustrate this by pairing us up with higher ranked belts for sparring, which led to our essentially getting the shit beaten out of us until we would finally draw on something deep within us to hold our own on the mat. I can remember times in the training when I was completely out of breath and on the verge of tears and vomit, and then suddenly getting a burst of energy to execute a move that would throw my opponent on the floor. As they would say in The Matrix, “there was no spoon”. What was happening was our Sensei was breaking us to get beyond our egos.
In its simplest terms, ego is that Latin word for ‘I’. From a spiritual standpoint, it is referred to as the ‘means by which one views themselves’. It is our sense of identity based on the five senses, how we are viewed by others, how our image is seen or referenced. It is based on labels, facades and perceptions; the things we utilize when we find ourselves in social circumstances where we need to ‘survive’. It is created out of the flattery and compliments we receive, and also the judgments. It supports our need for approval, and also our need to control. There is a limitation on focusing strictly on the ego as it limits one to believing that it is who they are. It is merely self-image, but not a representation of the true self. Essentially it’s an illusion.
Anyone who has embarked on a spiritual journey of any kind can attest that lessons are presented designed to take us out of our comfort zone, and the change is neither subtle or gentle. It’s in the form of a giant wrecking ball that completely annihilates everything we’ve used to survive. People familiar with Tarot associate this with the Tower card. Hinduism has a goddess named Kali who embodies change and transformation through destruction. Even programs of recovery like the 12 Steps refer to this dynamic of growth through demolition. It’s a very uncomfortable experience but one that can enable us to become much more grounded and whole, and push up past our perceived identity.
This presents a real challenge in leather and kink. I honestly do see a tremendous spiritual component to being a leatherman, and so much of my growth and self-actualization has come as a result of it. As I’ve said before, leather and kink are all about going beyond how you’ve always perceived yourself and your limits. So much of our growth and wisdom come as a result of embracing learning and humility. Yet our very culture embodies a tremendous amount of ego! We do all kinds of social media posting weeks out talking about our “IML diet” or our various image goals for the sake of surviving “the Lobby”. We purposely take on posturing and personas in order to evoke interest from others and provide validation for ourselves. The very appearances and images we strive to uphold are of hyper masculine dominant figures exuding enormous amounts of ego. That’s part of the turn on for many of us!
So, how does one reconcile these periods? Well, for starters, give in and pay attention – because the safeword doesn’t work here! Take a step back and assess what kind of mythologies you have created for yourself based on the perceptions of others. Call yourself on the mechanisms you’re using to feel accepted and give yourself permission to be scared to death underneath just like the rest of us are. And never stop learning. If I may risk sounding ‘woo-woo’, remember that we are here to love and be loved, and that should be the touchstone of all our connections including those in leather. Yes, sometimes those connections are strictly for the sake of the endorphin rush or to get our rocks off – we should still embrace love of self at the very least when we embark on these and celebrate how much fucking fun these moments are!
I am still processing what has opened up as a result of my identity being whittled down these last few weeks. All is okay with what has transpired. I am present to being human and making errors in judgment. I cannot get true ‘approval’ without being authentic with others or myself. Sometimes I make decisions that are entirely selfish and it bites me in the ass. I go through my wrecking ball periods where I am quickly reminded that those are limitations and that these are not who I am. Sadly, sometimes it takes a great loss in the community for us to see beyond our facades and mythologies and be reminded of our need to love one another.
Thankfully, we do get there, and we certainly did recently as many of us can attest to 🙂