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My first "Coma" suspension

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    Have you ever stopped and thought about how lucky you are to have an experience? I'm in the midst of one of those moments right now. I have followed suspension shows for the past year or so. I'm by no means an expert on the subject buy I have seen my share of shows. So to not only learn from some of the best people but to learn from the best people from all over the world and completely different schools of thoughts, well I suppose my feeling of being lucky is justified.  
For me suspension has always seemed like an amazing, intense, and beautiful form of expression. It appeared to be way to use the trials of the body to portray raw emotion. However as I got more into the subject and did my research I began to become more interested in the spiritual aspects of suspension more associated with its roots as traditional rituals. In fact although I had tons of fun with my last suspension I was slightly disappointed I did not achieve any form of altered mental state. And although I am a person who loves technology, artificial things, and usually loath nature, when an amazing suspension artist (Chandler Barnes ) from Germany offered to take me into the wilderness to explore the more spiritual side of suspension I jumped at the chance! 
We arrived at the location to suspend in the early afternoon around 2:30. Already I was excited because I thoroughly enjoy any opportunity expand my paradigms and embrace ways of thinking different than my own. So it quickly became apparent to me as I hiked up rugged trails in formally clean skate shoes and black jeans that I was indeed living outside of my usual comfort zone.  
After hiking for what seemed like miles, collecting dry sage, and exerting myself while climbing up a small mountain to the point of nausea we finally made it to the point I was to suspend at. Again I found myself engaging in things I found awkward such as digging in the dirt to create a flat surface and climbing in trees to help set up the rig. However, I viewed these as experiences as opportunities  to help me grow and it was also at this point I realized how lucky I was to learn about this style of suspension.  
Chandler explained to me how in Germany suspension has tried to remain as organic as possible. As he began teaching me about his rig it started to make sense to me. All the pictures and live shows of suspension I have ever seen involved metal rigs, cage like devices, and wicked looking hooks. This rig was completely different. 
I was amazed to find that this rig was compiled of a short piece of smoothly polished and neatly caved piece of wood. Holding the wood up was an intricate weaving of rope tied in elaborate knots with ceramic skulls interlaced periodically in the rope. On the underside of the stick were loops of the same rope as attachment points for the rope to hold the hooks. No Metal! It reminded me of a complicated but beautiful spider's web you might find deep within a bush. 
After a quick run-through of the rig I was instructed 2 lay face up on a blanket we had put on the ground. I was going to do a twelve point coma to resurrection. I was actually curious about finding out what each part of the body would fell like to have a 3 mm hooks pushed through. As I soon found out I would have plenty of time to contemplate this as it was just me and Chandler and each hook was thrown one by one.  
I found the chest piercings to be not nearly as bad as I thought. If felt similar to what the hooks for suicide felt like but a little more intense. The hooks on my ribs and stomach hurt a little more and I even experienced the strange sensation of being stabbed with a hook while noticing a feeling of being tickled. The hooks on my upper quads were fairly easy to deal with & the hooks got easier as they went further down my legs with the shins being by far the easiest.    
To get me up we would put tension on the ropes and give my body about a minute to settle into it. I was amazed when on the final pull tension was put on the rope and I felt myself begin to lift off the ground because before I even began to leave the ground I expected myself to become overwhelm with pain and require a few more one minute brakes to settle in more. In fact before any tension was put on the rope and I lied there looking up at the tree that was to suspend me I wondered if I would make it up at all. However I went up fairly easily.

I should note for people yet to do the coma position that it is easy to panic in this suspension. As the ropes were pulled tight the hooks attached near my ribs pulled and contracted my rib cage limiting the size my lungs would usually expand to breath. This instantly led to a panicked "can't breath" feeling which made my body tense up, which in turned led to even more shallow and strained breathing. On top of that this particular, and I imagine most, suspension would have never been possible with a tense body.

This whole process only lasted about a second or two before I was able to control it. I found that focusing on full slow and relaxed breathing as well as concentrating on relaxing every muscle in my body eliminated the panic as well as almost completely taking my mind off the pain. 
As soon as the strap to hold up my head was put on I closed my eyes and felt something amazing. I felt everything start to spin and even saw rainbow-ish colors. I had achieved an altered state! It felt amazing. This might not seem like much but I have never smoked anything or even been buzzed before. I could instantly understand why suspension would have been used as a spiritual ritual.  
I continued to hang for anywhere from one to two more hours. My altered state of mind wore off after what seemed like twenty minutes and the rest of my time was spent focusing on handling the pain and pushing my body, which I very much enjoy. Towards the end of the suspension the temperature got cold to the point where I was constantly shivering. First timers should also note that the temperature required as much if not more focus than the actual suspension.  
When I finally felt it was time to get down the rope holding my legs were cut so that I could hang in resurrection. Unfortunately I didn't hold this position very long due to the fact that the "can't breath" feeling was much more intense this time and I wasn't able to focus the way I did when I first went up.  Either way I held it briefly and over all had a hugely productive day. I was also amazed to find that when I got down the sun had almost completely set! 
The damage afterwards was minimal aside from bleeding the whole way home. Very little air bubbles and some slight bruising.

Again, I felt so blessed to be able to experience total opposite ends of the spectrum as far as beliefs on what suspension should be and how it should be done. I have had a taste of the more visual and performance motivated end of suspension. And now I had an experience with spiritually oriented end of things.  I don't believe either way is right or wrong, they're just different. And I try hard to learn as much as I can from each way of thinking. And a huge thanks to Chandler for doing this for me.  
One more note for first timers! Driving home for three hours immediately after suspending and while still bleeding is extremely tiring. Especially after you stayed up very late the night before, have been up since very early, have drove three hours to get to where you're suspending, & have hiked up and down a mountain as well as doing your suspension. A sane person would just get a hotel room and rest rather than drive for long distances. If at all possible, make arrangements to find a place to stay.


submitted by: malicevext
on: 22 Feb. 2007
in Ritual

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Artist: Chandler+Barnes
Studio: A+tree+on+the+top+of+a+mountain
Location: Middle+of+no+where+near+Venice+Beach

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