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We are not impervious!

Three weeks after my first six hook stomach suspension on Vashon Island, Bardo was preparing a press pack that would require photos of Bardo doing what they do best: manipulating flesh.

We all arrived at our studio with our friend and photographer, Doug, better known as Hypnox. He was excited, because for months he had been doing shoots with models for fashion and various events, and shooting quality photos for a suspension group was a nice break from the norm.

Three of us were expected to hang that evening. As Doug prepared his cameras, everyone went through what was to be performed, and everyone is expected to be capable technician, so that things flow more smoothly and not all of the preparation, cleanup, and support are delegated to just one person who is also trying to keep an eye on the artist.

I decided to hang from my stomach once more; it is an amazingly visceral experience, and the one I consider the most visually and challengingly pleasing. I knew that hanging in this fashion only a few weeks after the Vashon Island event would be excruciatingly more difficult, the hooks being pierced almost directly through the same marks, or perhaps 1/16" inch away. I didn't really think much on it at the time, figuring if I had done it once more for fifteen minutes, I should reasonably be able to stay up for a few good photos without much concern.

The piercings should have heralded the moments to come. They burned going through I would say almost twice as much as a fresh piercing. It was easy to realize after the first three hooks that it was going to take all of my resolve to perform this. Myself and the rest of the crew really wanted this photo, and I must definitely admit to being sort of excited at the enormity of the challenge I was detecting in myself: my brain and flesh were screaming the opposite of what my heart and passion for this art form requested.

I laid face-up over our three-foot roller cart - which acted as both the main means of transporting our heavy gear around. It was a perfect surface height for piercing, and one could lay on it fairly comfortably while receiving hooks – staring straight up at the ominous red ceiling, the finger of the rope-and-pulley system pointing its' cold steel rack at me; black Para-Cord like tendrils beckoning me upwards, reaching for the hooks in my stomach.

After two gentle tugs from the tie-off point, to stretch out the flesh and prepare for takeoff, I was asked one last time if I was ready to do this. Accepting the challenge at that moment, determined to face this pain on a different level, I gave the go-ahead. The cart was immediately pulled out from beneath me as a fellow performer pulled the rope quickly and smoothly upwards.

The pain was fantastic and complex, and almost way too much for me to handle. I realized quickly that I may be in over my boundaries a little bit. I asked to be spun around on the swivel, hopefully dispelling the nausea and black specks swimming in my eyes. I instructed everyone to expect me down off the hooks within minutes, and calmly waited for some quick shots; I even swallowed down the reeling sensation in my skull that hinted of passing out to stare into the camera defiantly.

My defiance was short-lived, and the pictures definitely show the strain I was under. I could not quite disguise the fact that I was in a place I had never been before.

After about four minutes, I announced my intention to come down. I couldn't bear any more of that test. I felt like something in me was going to cave. As I gently landed back on the cart, my head swam and I had to rest a moment. Before I knew it – before the hooks could even be removed – I started to cry. I broke down. Everyone was there for me, supportive and asking if I needed anything; the concern of genuine friendship and empathy. There was also a great feeling of accomplishment, because me crying wasn't necessarily a bad thing. It was about discovering my boundaries, and we found my breaking point, and everyone there seemed honored and happy to share the moment with me.

The next time, or first time, you hang from your flesh, remember that crying, passing-out, and fainting are all part of the ritual; just as common in veteran suspension artists as in novices. You never know how you will react, and it almost always has to do with your level of health and happiness, as well as any variables the given setting create.

About two weeks after the shoot, which I must say produced some very amazing photos of ritual suspension in a light that hasn't been often done, I came down with a serious sinus flu. It was allergy season, and combined with my lifestyle habits at the time and exerting my body's ability to heal itself, I ended up having to go to the ER because my lungs were filling with fluid and my sinuses felt like they were going to explode.

The doctor sucked the fluids from my skull with a vacuum tube, and said that if I had waited no more than a week with this sinus infection, it could easily have spread to vital areas of my brain or heart.

If you plan on participating in ritual suspensions, please remember that your body is capable of healing only so many wounds and traumas at one time. If you drink a lot, smoke a lot, and don't get enough sleep, nutritious food, and plenty of water on a daily basis, at least give yourself a few days to a week of replenishing and rejuvenating your Self and your shell from which you plan on hanging. Some people probably don't have to worry about it too much, but I know that some of us practice suspension on a very regular (some of you irregularly much!) basis. It is sometimes too easy to begin believing that you are invulnerable or impervious due to the ability to conquer pain. This ability to process pain should be treated with respect and with concern for your overall health; otherwise you may someday not be able to do what brings you so much fulfillment.


submitted by: Anonymous
on: 01 April 2005
in Ritual

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Artist: Bardo+Flesh+Manipulation+-+Technician%3A+ChrisX
Studio: Bardo+Practice+Studio
Location: Seattle%2C+Wa.

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