Dirty BDSM Sex Taught Me To Meditate (Seriously.)

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 S&M Taught Me To Meditate
Self, Sex

I'd given up on quieting my mind, but all it needed was someone to whip it into submission.

A faint clink of metal filtered through the gauzy layers of my awareness. By the time I recognized the sound of the handcuffs opening, they lay limp beside my unbound wrists. It wasn't that I'd forgotten I was bound, I realized. I'd forgotten I was there

"I feel high," I said, grasping for the words, though like my dominant, I was completely sober.

When I met him at a friend's Halloween party, I didn't yet know he was my dom. I'd only lightly experimented with bondage years ago, but this man was a seasoned veteran of the scene and could tell almost instantly I was a submissive. We didn't start dating, exactly—we dove headfirst into a heavy intimacy that was physical, emotional and spiritual. 

And now I was spread out on his bed—our bed—newly uncuffed and suspended in pink heaven. It was our third or fourth S&M experience together. He had told me that one day I'd experience "flying," but that seemed far too active a description for this sensation. This felt more like floating: a warm, almost narcotic uncoupling from space and time. The feeling defied words.

In fact, words didn’t even exist there, in subspace, as it's known in S&M circles. My skin still smarted where the riding crop had struck, but my mind was empty, still and free.

I honestly can't say how long I drifted in this fuzzy post-coital calm. Don't get me wrong, I'd experienced my fair share of orgasms and afterglow over the years, but this feeling transcended sex altogether. It took several more extended BDSM "scenes" for me to fully recognize the state I had achieved. It wasn't flying — that would come later — but it was a hormonally triggered trance state that mimicked something I'd been seeking for years.

Ever since the mindfulness movement went mainstream, just about everyone from my shrink to my supervisor had suggested I try meditation. It's not that I was skeptical about the physical and emotional benefits of the practice; I was just really bad at it. 

Whenever my anxiety flared up or I embarked on a new program of recovery, I tried again. I downloaded apps, listened to podcasts and sat silently in circles of strangers. When I borrowed a Holosync CD from my father, he told me the story of a business tycoon who swore that, if not for meditation, he wouldn't have his millions.

But no matter what I did, I couldn’t quiet my mind for more than a minute. No millions for me. Instead of the surface of a calm pond, my consciousness more closely resembled a leaky faucet. There seemed to be no escape from the incessant trickle of images, words, and complete thoughts seeping through my would-be trance.

Even if I focused exclusively on my breathing, I'd start to wonder if I was breathing too fast or too slow, or if the rising of my belly meant I'd gained a pound. After a while, I suspected meditation was one of those exercises, like pull-ups or snowboarding, that I simply wasn't built for.

Naturally, I was shocked when I realized I'd attained several minutes of inner tranquility — and not while sitting in lotus position, but sprawled handcuffed on a rumpled bedspread. 

But when I texted my friend to gush about my discovery, she acted like I'd just told her the sky was blue. Not only are these altered states well documented in the kink community, but it turns out there's real science validating the similarities between BDSM and meditation.

It wasn't just the pain of being whipped or the pleasure of being touched that brought out my inner yogi. As any experienced submissive knows, I could only reach subspace by trusting my Dom completely. In doing so, I approached something a Buddhist might call anatman: complete negation of the self. Being something of a control freak in my day-to-day life, such a state of absolute surrender was at once utterly foreign and desperately welcomed.

Now that I knew I could attain inner stillness after all, the question remained: Could I do it alone? Or would I always rely on my Dom to whip my overactive mind into submission?

I'm still exploring, but I believe my solution may lie in the chemical underpinnings of S&M. In fact, subspace wasn’t my first experience with a natural high. The dreamy, slightly loopy bliss was related to the endorphin rush I'd occasionally experienced as a competitive distance runner.

Looking backward, it's not surprising that my dedication to high school cross-country kept me away from the substance abuse that would later derail my young adulthood. Nor is it coincidental that the other athletes thought the distance runners were all masochists.

With that in mind, I've finally recommitted to a regular running practice that I can count on when I need to clear my head — that is, when my Dom is away. I still have trouble meditating while sitting down, and yoga will never be quite my speed.

But if swimming through subspace is the closest I get to nirvana, I'm more than a little at peace with that.

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