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Why I Hung; Why It Mattered

I had no idea what I was getting into.

I thought I was so well prepared, having read about it for months. I even bought some titanium and went through three hook designs before settling on one that I liked. My mental process had gone from, "They do WHAT with hooks?" and moved along to acceptance and eventually fascination with the subject. When I finally found myself talking to a live human willing to string me up, I could hardly believe it.

For several months leading up to my first suspension, I had spent lots of time alone. (And I don't just mean single- I mean alone. At the time I don't think I realized that it was such a strong factor in steering my life where it has gone, but looking back it really stands out.) I was living in a small studio at work, and for the first time in my life, had no roommate. I disagreed with my coworkers on so many levels about so many issues that I still don't understand how I kept the job as long as I did.

In the interest of a harmonious workplace, I made the mistake of suppressing almost any sign of my personality for the time I was there. I knew all along what I was doing and why, but was not aware of how much it was affecting me. After just a few weeks I was restless on many levels. It was about this time that I knew something was wrong. I couldn't put my finger on it, but it was definitely there.

I spent some of my alone time reevaluating my life. I wrote in my journal a lot about making conscious choices... I revisited Thoreau's justification for moving into the woods:

"...because I wanted to live deliberately."

I realized that I wanted to shape my own future. That wouldn't guarantee that it would be a better life. But it would ensure that it would be my own. I wanted to build my own identity, not just accept what was handed to me. For better or for worse, I wanted to make my own decisions, choose my own path.

I was lucky enough to meet Chris (iam: STUCK) during my first assignment at my next job (which also had me living alone and working with people I would never seek out socially). Our initial discussion of suspensions went well, and a few short days later I found myself letting out my third deep breath as the last two hooks were inserted in my back.

We headed out to the space where the woodstove was blazing and they attached the hooks to the rigging that had been hung up earlier. Chris took the slack out of the rope and I started getting used to the tension.

One of the main reasons I wanted to try suspension was that I wanted to explore, in a controlled environment, my reaction to extreme pain. Throughout my life, every time I have been in excruciating pain it has been because something very traumatic had just happened to me – usually a crash of some kind. I wanted to use the suspension to

figure out how I would handle pain without all the instant worry that comes with calamity. Is my leg broken? Do I have a concussion? How much will an ambulance ride cost without health insurance? I wanted to know if panic and fear were a product of the pain itself, or of the disaster that caused the pain.

I expected that putting tension on the hooks would bring on the pain. Much to my surprise, it did not. It just felt like somebody was grabbing the skin on my back with both hands and holding on as tightly as they could. Yes, it hurt a little, but if I hadn't known

that I had metal in me, I would not have been able to tell the difference between what was happening and a very broad, even pinch.

Unfortunately, my mind got going on all of this, and I started getting pretty lightheaded. I knew I needed to sit down for a few minutes, so I was given plenty of slack in the rope and a chair by the fire. I drank some water. A couple minutes later I was standing again and ready to go.

This time I had a coach as I tried taking the weight off my feet. I focused on my breathing and slowly transferred more and more weight from my feet to the rope above me.

At this point, I was more afraid of what I was about to do than I had ever been in my life. I am not exaggerating this a bit – I have never been more terrified of anything. I realized then that this had become not an exploration of pain, but of fear. There was a demon staring me in the face. All I knew was that I had to have faith and trust myself to keep going.

I took two breaths and drowned in my fear for a moment. I've never felt anything so pure, so perfectly clear, so overwhelmingly free of any distraction -- and so terrible. My fear was all subject and no object. I was not afraid of something; there was only the fear, and me. I realized that it was all internal. I had created the fear from nothing. The fear was nothing. And all of a sudden I was calm, and I was ready. With one last deep exhale, I picked up my feet and felt Chris hoist me up a few inches off the floor.

Nobody in the room was breathing. The only movement was the flickering light from the fire and my gently swaying body. I looked down at my feet and noticed that they weren't touching my shadow. If you're not touching your shadow, that means you're flying.

After what seemed like a very long time, someone broke the silence by reminding me to breathe again. I filled my lungs and I smiled. This was one of the greatest answers I could hope to give to the question, "Why?"

For several minutes I just tried to absorb it all. I remember asking Chris with a grin, "What have you done to me?" There was no pain. There was no longer any fear.


I decided to let everything just sit in my head for a few days before I tried reacting to any of it. Looking back, I was surprised by the outpouring of compassion I remembered coming from everyone there. There was nothing macho or kinky or conspiratorial about any of this. I never got the feeling that I was getting away with something. Everybody there seemed to understand that what this was really about was self-discovery and personal growth. They were all thanking me for "allowing" them to share it with me, and I was thanking all of them for helping me get through it. It seemed as if we were all receiving a gift that none of us knew we were giving.

I don't know if I was expecting some kind of "Eureka!" moment, but what I found was the feeling that I was able to internally acknowledge some unspoken thing that I had always known was true; I gained a subtly more complete understanding and acceptance of things the way they are.

I was shown that there were other people out there that asked the same questions I asked myself. I found answers that were nothing like I could have imagined. I saw that people would share a gift with a stranger like me, just because I had asked. I learned that even though that gift will not tolerate the constraints of language, it still has incredible value. I know now that I never have to be afraid of myself.

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 21 April 2005
in Ritual

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Artist: B-Lo+Hooks
Studio: +
Location: Buffalo+NY

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