I’ve got a bunch of books on my shelf that have the “ecstasy” or “ecstatic” in their titles. Ecstasy Is Necessary. Ecstatic Witchcraft. Radical Ecstasy.
Ecstasy is – maybe, by one definition of ecstatic ritual (Adrian Harris and M. Macha NightMare[1]) – a means of reconnecting with the other-than-human world as well as with “the wisdom of the body”. A way of allowing oneself the vulnerability of deep connection with something else.
Which… When I pull on Esther Perel again, actually puts itself in opposition (dynamic tension?) with her idea of erotic as “The ability to stay connected to oneself in the presence of another”.
I’m… interested in a few things here. I’m interested in cultivating ecstatic states – even if I find the notion of all those blurred boundaries to be liiiittle scary – but I’m also interested in… how to build those kinds of deep connections without losing my sense of self.
I’ve experienced senses of timelessness – SM scenes that felt like 30-40 minutes and turned out to be 3-4 hours long. Dancing in a crowd for hours when, usually, I’m tired after a song or two – but I don’t know that I’ve experienced that kind of… self-dissolving connectivity that I think might be related to ecstatic states.
I’m signed up to the Explore More Summit (again) and, on Day One, I got to listen to the Nagoski Sisters talk about connection as a cure for burnout. And they described something that they called “the magic trick” – getting 300 very intense university students to sing “Let It Go” together in a lecture hall – and which I recognized as an ecstatic experience. I really appreciated how they sort of… gave an ingredients list for “ecstatic experience” (without ever once calling it that, because though they are both PhDs, neither of them is a religious scholar) and then talked about what happens during those experiences, neurologically. One of them (Emily) said that ecstatic experiences are such a literal experience of connectivity with The Other (<– I’m paraphrasing very hard right there) that there’s a neurological bridge that happens between you (The Other could be other humans participating in the same rock concert, it could also be a deity, or more than one. There are options) such that your minds are not entirely inside your own bodies during those experiences.
Which is HELLA COOL!
(Just be being a big nerd there for a second).
I keep thinking about how, like, Brené Brown talks about the way shame and connection are the two ends of the vulnerability spectrum. How easy it is for me to flip into shame and how hard it is for me to stay with connection.
And I wonder if there’s something in here, in “practicing ecstasy[2]”, that can… help?
Look. Ages ago, Andrea Zanin wrote a blog post about the energetic exchange that happens – intentionally or not – when our skin is broken by someone else. (It popped up on my timeline the other day, which is what’s got me thinking of it now).
As a blood-play top, I “puncture [other people’s] tank” through cuttings and piercings (and I would include brandings here, too, tbh) with a fair amount of intentionality. The content of that intention varies wildly. From “I’m actively keeping specific types of my own energy out of the mix here” (because I’m running a “tasting table” for people who’ve never been pierced before, and want to see what it’s like, but didn’t necessarily sign up for a side-order of my personal dominance and sadism) all the way to “every cut I make in this stylized lotus chakra image over your sternum is actually me energetically opening up your heart and putting Ms Syen’s Special Blend of Self directly into you” (because we both want that level of connection and intimacy and this will strengthen the bonds that are already there).
While I’m not one to pierce myself – let alone let someone else do it, at least not outside of a blood-test situation – there are definitely other ways of piercing my own tank.
I can’t help thinking that this is one of the reasons why being on the receiving side of penetrative sex is such a difficult thing for me (at least some of the time). How it can be restorative and wonderful, but can also leave me feeling worse than before, if I’m experiencing it while feeling shaky or “leaky” or disconnected already.
I know I’ve done solo sex using a toy to get inside myself, and felt just awful after the fact – probably due to the headspace I was in when I started.
But I’m wondering if I can… if I can use this whole “pierce your own tank” thing, by using toys on myself, to release some of the shame-stuff I’m holding onto – just let it leak out – and intentionally fill the resulting space back up with something more positive, more connective.
It may or may not help me be more receptive, or more open to ecstatic experiences, but I figure, if nothing else, it’s worth a shot.
Notice Pleasure: Skin brushing skin. Rubbing noses. Chocolate truffle ice cream. Hot sunshine through a winter window. Making out. The way glass will hold the heat of my body, the reminder that I’ve got all that warmth inside me. The arch of someone’s back. Being able to move and rise, even when I’m stiff and sore, with something approaching grace.
Ms Syren.
[1] The above is a paraphrasing of a quotation I found here which, I think is lifted from their essay “New and Alternative Religions in the United States: Ritual and Neopaganism” in Gallagher’ and Ashcraft’s Introduction to New and Alternative Religions in America).
[2] How? Singing? Dancing? Harvesting wild fruit? Star-gazing, falling into the northern lights? How much of this is ecstasy and how much of this is wonderment and how much overlap is there between the two? And, maybe more to the point, how much is it possible to do this on one’s own?