Conquering a Decade of Doubt
For the past 4 years, the Well Hung Suspension Team has headed off into the mountains each September for a long weekend retreat. It acts as an escape from the everyday; from the hassle of Southern Californian traffic, from the very city life that seeks to destroy you from within if you let it.
I've known Eric (IAM:Sque3z) and his wife Annie, Tyler (IAM:coffiend) and Brett (IAM:solja) for almost 3 years now. Out of those 3, I've missed previous opportunities to go camping with my friends and this year I was not allowing anything to stop me. This would be the first time I would camp with some of my best friends and also, my first suspension.
I had been thinking of the camp trip for months. After hearing tales of people living on Cliff Bars and Slim Jims, I had decided to offer my services as a cook to the family, so no one would be hungry or dehydrated. Not on my watch. In the weeks before the camping trip, I had been concentrated on making sure I would be able to feed the 16 friends who had put their faith and trust in me to put together a 3 day camp menu; buried in the back of my head, the idea that I would be suspended was hiding. I don't know if it was a blessing in disguise that I was concentrating on cooking instead of psyching myself out of the suspension, but it couldn't have hurt.
Suspension is something I first saw Fakir performing in the big pink RE/Search book Modern Primitives when I was 16. I was immediately struck by these pictures of something completely new, completely foreign to me. It scared me. It excited me. I always wondered if I had the strength inside me that he had to be able to perform such a ritual. I wondered this for 10 years, going back and fourth in my mind as to whether I would be able to go through with it.
10 years is a long time. Think about the last decision you made over that length of time. I may not have ever thought that long about anything in my life, certainly not any tattoo or piercing I have ever had done. I had talked myself out of it and back into it dozens of times, and even after meeting the people I would finally entrust myself to, I was on the wrong side of the fence on the issue.
When the topic of camping came up, I was immediately back on the fence. The SoCal HangOut was the place to experience a suspension, be it the first or 101st. I was finally in the right frame of mind and surrounded by the right people to be able to put my faith in my friends and my own spirit to come off the ground. This is what I remember of the event:
When the day arrived, I was elated from the moment I awoke, yet nervous and edgy at the same time. I watched friends make their way up, and started envisioning myself lifting off the ground. I made it clear that I would go whenever the team was ready to take me up, and moments later, Eric said: "Lets do it."
Tyler began to prep my back and as we began, he stopped me and said to turn around. "First we do this" he said as he hugged me. He told me there was no failure and that he had confidence that I would leave the ground. At this point, I was welling up with tears already, not out of fear, but out of a complete understanding of the bond that I had with my friends and the faith they had in me in the challenge I had stepped up to over come. I pushed the tears back and took a deep breath, emotion would have it's time shortly.
I was cleaned by Tyler and marked. I sat on a tree stump and began to breath. I had asked that Annie, Eric and Ty each throw 2 of the six hooks into my back. And so, after some deep breathing, I began to feel the sensation of metal entering flesh. It's been years since I've had any intense piercing performed, and I was amazing at how fast the work was done and how easily I was able to place the pain outside my mind. My back is like a side of beef, you see, and this was something that frightened me; not having the soft, stretchy skin some of my thinner friends have. I came out of my slight meditation clear headed and stood for the first tie with hooks in my back.
After a few steps, I was asked if I wanted to hang now, or wait to see Zola (IAM: Zolish), my new Swedish friend, take to the air. I opted to not take any focus away from Zola and we watched as she made her first attempt to hang from a 4 point suicide. Hers was an emotional, powerful experience, one that brought tears to my own eyes. After she was cut down, I approached my rack.
Eric and Tyler laced me into my 6 point suicide. I remember laughing; I remember joking with everyone as I stood there in my shorts and kerchief, barefoot. I also remember that at some moment everyone collectively finished their laugh and fell silent. That's how I knew it was time.
Brett was my rope man. I was told that all I had to do was say the word, that they were at my command. Instead, Brett took the initiative and began raising me up slowly as I walked, rocked and danced my way into the air. I don't remember how long it took to take the leap of faith that required me to lift the last of my weight. It felt like hours, though after I was told I went up incredibly fast; I was so focused on my breathing I'm unsure. Annie and my Love, Heather (IAM: Rumblebee) came forward to take each of my hands when I asked for someone to support me. Slowly but surely I was rising. In my mind, I concentrated on the mantra that had appeared to me in the sweat lodge the night before, a phrase I know I had not thought of myself, one that I head heard somewhere in my past but one that was engrained in my head none the less: "Fear is the Mind Killer".
I remember hearing Brett say, "That's it! You're there!" At this point, and this I'm sure of, I had my first shard of doubt.
I remember envisioning the hooks in my back: 6 of them, lined across my shoulders, my skin elevated. I was imagining the way a rubber band feels, stretched to its limits, so far it was aching to burst. I was so afraid that is what would happen to my back. I was sure that if I took that last foot off the ground that I would collapse under my own weight to the earth.
At that very moment, another voice entered my head and it was Eric: "Put your trust in the hooks and the team" he said.
Immediately my mind was clear. There was no ground, there was no weight. There was only myself. Trust the hooks, I though. Fear is the mind killer, I though. Leap of faith, I though. And with that, I remember lifting my feet. Immediately I felt myself rising, ascending. The second my feet left the ground, I was flying towards the heavens with no sign of stopping. My eyes were closed; I could have risen 6 inches off the ground but I was beyond the clouds in spirit. I felt a warm sensation on my right and turned, saying "The sun feels so good on my face!" I don't remember how long I was up. I remember continuing my deep breaths, breathing in the entire feeling and experience. I could have been up for 30 seconds but I felt as though I had soared for hours. The one thing I had though was I would like to ascend and descend with dignity, so as I still felt amazingly good, I asked to be lowered. Always leave the party while it's roaring, right? Slowly I came down, and firmly my feet came in contact with the ground. I bent my knees as my weight was returned to my feet, and slowly, I rose. Immediately, I felt emotion burst fourth. I was crying tears of joy, tears of triumph, tears that had waited over a decade to be shed. I hugged my friends, my team, my family and their tears were shed as well. I had done what I had set out to accomplish. Later I was told that I may feel a sort of post-partum depression; an unexplained anxiety. From the moment that I left the ground to the moment I write this a week later, I have felt happier, more positive and more spiritually sound than I have in years. Every time I think of the experience, I smile and then I think of my friends and I am filled with an overwhelming sense of love. I've looked up the quote, it comes from the Litany Against Fear, a fictional incantation spoken by characters in Frank Herbert's Dune (a movie I've never seen, a book I've never read) in order to focus their minds in times of peril. The litany is as follows: "I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."
I've asked my friends, my family, who were there that day to leave comments in my forum about their memories of the even. I'm told it was a very powerful, very emotional event for those there; I know how emotional I was watching my friends ascend on their first suspensions that weekend, to have that sentiment returned is a wonderful feeling. The following are a few quotes from my friends: Brett: "When you came back down I just had such a release of emotion and when you went out of your way to come over and hug me and thank me, as well as everyone else... I couldn't hold back the tears. It was a beautiful moment... and that is why this trip exists. I cried several times this weekend. The older I get the harder it is for me to cry and sometimes I really need it. Your suspension and Zola's suspensions both made me cry naturally out of such a deep and touching place. I thank YOU for that. Frank (IAM: Yarddog):" Your suspension brought "the crew" together ... the Tyler's, Brett's, Eric's, Annie's, etc ... and, the little bits of drama that seem to haunt these events disappeared. Everyone, including the photographer, was emotionally touched by your adventure and that, for me is what a "highlight" is ... or, as I would prefer to say, a moment of Grace.
It created the community we talked about the night before in a real way. And that, my friend, say a lot about who you are.
On a personal level, the uniqueness of your suspension allowed me to answer my own question about suspension. Moses did not need to cross the Jordan, but Joshua did. I am now content to stay on this side of suspension and, one of the reasons, is that I will always be connected to that incredible moment that you created. And that is a good thing." I've thought constantly about my experience over the past week. It's been quite a long time since I've had what you could call a life changing experience, but leaving the ground for the first time is a big one. I had many concerns about hanging, my weight (225lb) being a main one. I can honestly say I have no regrets and I look forward to leaving the ground again in the near future.
If you wish to leave the ground yourself, fear will be the biggest obstacle to overcome. Once fear has left you, there is only pain, but pain is easily displaced. Other key elements include finding a suspension team that has a good reputation (I'm lucky to be part of one), as well as to find a setting that will put your mind at ease for your first flight. Your mental health in these situations is just as important as your physical health.
Life is nothing without experiences. Indulge your desires.
8g piercings, 2 at a time.
A kiss as a reward.
submitted by: Anonymous
on: 16 Sept. 2006