For the past two years, I've been trying to arrange a group suspension/ritual, and the only people I trust with that kind of event are the folks from INR.NRG. They are pros AND friends. When the Travel Channel contacted me about setting up a body ritual for them, I jumped at the chance and got the right people involved. Over time, other people with other ideas got involved in our growing little community and other ideas about conflicts between what we wanted from our ritual and what the public/the tv crew/the world wanted came to light. Still, however, we forged forward, meeting each week for quite some time to figure all this out.
We worked on laying out the rit. We worked on what equipment we needed. We worked on how we felt about what we were going to go through. We focused on logistics. We did NOT focus on strengthening our "family" before the ball got rolling.
The day of the suspensions, the film crew got here and started right in, interviewing me at home. It went soooooo smoothly (like butter), and I had no problems with it, as I've been filmed for documentaries before. Then we broke and went to the shop to film Eddie for a bit. At that point, problems between what was right for us to do and say for the cameras came to light in a number of ways. Still, we moved forward.
Once we got to the site (Madre Grande Monastary), things came to a head, and we got down to the business of sorting out how we should move ahead: tv or no tv. Some people were totally on board, and others were totally against the concept. While I admit this should have been addressed weeks ago, that's not how it happened. All of us had been wrapped up in their part of putting it together, and we'd not dealt with a KEY issue. Our bad. When all is said and done, while the crew was getting some b shots and doing some interviews, the key folks got together and determined that our tribe, so to speak, was not ready to be discovered...not yet. We had to let the film crew go. No one was happy about that...no one. However, it was what we needed to do. If we were not satisfied and together, things potentially could have gone MUCH more poorly (and dangerously) than that, I think.
After the Travel Channel people packed up and left, it took some quality time to process where we were, how we now felt, and what we should do with the remains of the day. Looking back on that afternoon, I have to say that it was the power of music that pulled us all back together and saved the day. A group jam (drums, didg, rapping, electronics, etc.) solidified the group intent somehow, and we got down to business.
In total, there were three suspensions that evening, but I'm not at liberty to discuss anything but my own experience, out of respect for the sacredness of what each person went through. I can tell you, though, that there were two vertical suspensions (4 hooks in the back/shoulders) and one horizontal (me, 12 hooks...3 in each leg and 6 in my back). By the time we were ready for me to prepare to hang, dark had fallen, and it was begining to get cold (up there in the high desert). After the prep work, Eddie and Bhava began setting hooks, with the help of Lauralynn and Matt. They started at my shoulders, one tech/priest (tee hee) on each side, and worked their way down, each hook being set quickly, methodically, and smoothly.
The two killers were the first two sets of hooks, before the endorphins and meditation really kicked in. However, the pain was exquisite in many ways, as I knew that it was the gateway to my transformation (my intent was to leave the past two years behind and move on...emotionally). The level of pain? I'd say it was somewhere between breaking a toe on the shower door and barking your shin hard on a bedframe. As I said, it diminished as time went on. The BIG surprise for me was that the legs/thighs didn't hurt much at ALL. They were NO big deal. Great!
Once the hooks (8 ga shark hooks) were in, the quick releases from the ropes on the rig (built/welded/artistically created for me...I was the FIRST to use it) were attached to my hooks, and, with drummers keeping time with my heartbeat (it seemed), Matt began to pull the chain on the chainfall, and in a very short amount of time, I felt the most bizarre sensation I've ever felt in my life: all of my weight being taken up by twelve separate points. Another incredible things was how AWARE of was of each centimeter of skin in contact with the blanket/ground and EXACTLY when each separated from the false comfort of gravity as I knew it.
Back again we go to the subject of PAIN. How was it? Not bad. I'd say the irrational fear of hooks tearing out and the simple fear that I might not be able to bear it were MORE overwhelming. Not only that, but my legs were very itchy (a reaction to the latex gloves?). Once that last tiny bit of me left the ground, and I heard my "family" cheer, I immediately went to the place in my head I needed to be, processed the thoughts and experiences of the past two years as deeply as I needed to. That done (about ten minutes), I "came back" and began to enjoy the suspension itself. The best moment was holding hands with Steph and swinging gently back and forth from my hooks, like a pendulum marking time, me moving forward in my life with each sway forward and back.
About 20 min in, I had to come down. Mind you, this wasn't because the suspension was over for me in some way. It was because it was too damn cold to stay up any longer. I was shivering uncontrolably and ready to get WARM again. Also, I have to admit I never had them raise me more than about three feet off the ground. That was my concession to my irrational fear that if "something went wrong," I could come down right away. Hey, cut me some slack...it was my FIRST time.
When all is said and done, when I process the entire experience, I'd say it all came out on the positive side. The distress early in the day was outweighed by the lessons we learned, the beauty of the ritual, and the strengthening of our tribe. All love and props to those who tech'd the event and those that attended to give support (in more ways than one), heart, soul, and expertise to the ritual/event. Thanks.
submitted by: Anonymous
on: 17 July 2002