Breathe

“As long as you do not feel the serenity in the body, in each and every joint, there is no chance for emancipation. You are in bondage. So while you are sweating and aching, let your heart be light and let it fill your body with gladness. You are not only becoming free, but you are also being free. What is not to be glad about? The pain is temporary. The freedom is permanent.” 

– B.K.S. Iyengar

L2F

Mindfulness, which can be defined as non-judgmental awareness and acceptance of the present moment, has been linked to a host of positive physical, psychological, and sexual outcomes.

Dispositional mindfulness among BDSM practitioners: A preliminary investigation
Cara Dunkley, Anne Barringer, Silvain Dang, & Lori Brotto

BDSM, Mindfulness, & Meditation

Don't Yuck my ommm

Brad Sagarin, lead researcher of The Science of BDSM & professor of social psychology at Northern Illinois University, studies the altered states of consciousness that may be achieved by tops & bottoms through BDSM activities.

In a recent article, Sagarin stated “BDSM can give Bottoms a temporary relief from the stresses of selfhood. Descriptions of it sound like just a wonderful escape from, you know, the kind of higher-level processing that we do all the time as people…The fact that somebody is a top executive or a mother, all the different roles that weigh a person with a lot of responsibilities…These temporary reliefs can actually potentially lead to better functioning at other times.” Regarding tops, Sagarin stated “Tops really need to keep their wits and abilities about them, so that they can make sure what they’re doing is being done with appropriate care and safety.”

Cara Dunkley, a clinical psychologist at the Sexual Health Laboratory at University of British Columbia, recently published a study examining mindfulness among BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism) practitioners. While the sample size was limited, the preliminary research supported a link between BDSM & dispositional mindfulness in that the pleasant states of mind achieved through BDSM may foster a state of mindfulness. 

In that same articleDunkley stated “The many factors around BDSM that come together — a positive emotional and interpersonal context, a possible change in neuro-chemistry from sexual arousal that releases dopamine and oxytocin, positive anticipation of pain rather than negative anticipation — it may all be what leads to these altered states of consciousness or mindfulness, which then impacts the extent to which pain is perceived as pleasurable.

Dunkley stated “The mindfulness method of observing refers to the ability to attend to internal & external experiences, like sensations, emotions, thoughts. Bottoms must be very aware of their own internal experiences & emotional states in their moment-to-moment response during a BDSM activity, & to physical sensations, because they need to differentiate between safe pain & pain that could be indicative of real harm…Similarly, Tops must be externally attentive to the emotional & physical responses of the Bottom through very controlled focus, & consciously adjusting their actions accordingly to keep it pleasurable.”

Mindfulness & meditation are concepts traditionally thought of as someone sitting cross-legged in deep transcendental mediation.  We discuss breathing through “right pain” within the context of the earth element. Transforming “right pain” into pleasure can be brought through mindful awareness & acceptance of pain as part of the experience. Pain, for good & for bad, has the ability to thrust us into the present moment. To deal with what is in front of us, here & now. By cultivating acceptance of “right pain”, we are sometimes gifted, biologically & meditatively, with the beautiful experience of pleasure. In the rope scene, many refer to this experience as rope space. 

Euphoria & Aftercare

Rope Space

SubSpace

Subspace is a trance-like state experienced by rope bottoms during a BDSM scene induced by the body’s release of natural chemicals like epinephrine, enkephalins, & endorphins. The response is signaled by the sympathetic nervous system because of the inclusion of both pain & pleasure. If warmed up appropriately & slowly, the body will progressively continue to release small amounts of these chemicals while creating the pain to pleasure feedback loop . This allows rope bottoms increased pain tolerance resulting in a morphine-like result. While the experience varies by individual, many describe a high or floaty feeling with intense feelings & sometimes dizziness. It is also common to experience  the situation between you & your rope top somewhat outside of your own body with limited speech or thought accompanied by feelings of flying & euphoria.

Top Space

Top space is a very different kind of meditation in that the rope top must remain in tune both technically with the rope & physically & emotionally connected with the needs & desires of their rope bottom. This type of high-level concentration requires focus, attentiveness, & instinctual decision making based on in depth communication & openness. If executed properly, top space can be incredibly powerful to connect with your rope bottom given the trust exchanged between the two of you. 

Rope Drop & The importance of aftercare

The body will always strive towards a place of balance, of homeostasis. Often following a BDSM scene with feelings of intense natural highs & blissful connections comes a period of withdrawal from those yummy endorphins that our bodies gave us so much of during the scene. Now that we don’t have as much, we feel differently. This is often referred to as rope drop. Just as the experience & emotions of rope space vary by individual, so too does rope drop. However, consistent among this time are feelings of isolation, sadness, exhaustion, or a general sense of not being grounded. 

Discussing aftercare prior to the rope scene is not only an act of Ahimsa, but is a vital & necessary practice to ensure all parties feel safe, supported, & taken care of during this vulnerable aftercare time. Something as simple as meal or a cuddle together where both parties can openly share what they enjoyed or didn’t enjoy as much can help ease the fall of rope drop. Mirroring the endorphins can also help. Self-care activities like reaching out to a friend, getting outside to enjoy the sun, dark chocolate, having an orgasm, getting in a good sweat session, taking a hot bath, or even treating yourself to a massage. Whatever you do, be kind to yourself during this time. Feeling safe & supported during rope drop is an important part of ropes practice that will allow you to recharge physically & emotionally & keep you coming back again & again.