Tied Up In Knots

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My tantalising taste of Shibari.

This weekend just gone, I got to tick off a bucket list wish thanks to a friend of mine who offers Shibari, an ancient Japanese form of rope bondage.

“The origin of Shibari comes from Hojo-jutsu, the martial art of restraining captives. In Japan from 1400 to 1700, while the local police and Samurai used Hojo-jutsu as a form of imprisonment and torture, the honor of these ancient Samurai warriors required them to treat their prisoners well. So, they used different techniques to tie their prisoners, showing the honor and status of their captured prisoner.

In the late 1800′s and early 1900′s a new form of erotic Hojo-justu evolved, called Kinbaku, the art of erotic bondage. Today, particularly in the west, the art of erotic bondage is typically called Shibari, which is an art of erotic spirituality, not a martial art.”

So whilst originally this form originates from a martial art, it’s now become synonymous with an eroticised practice of being held in a sensual and vulnerable space, allowing the mind to still and the body to surrender.

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I’ve wanted to experience this for a while now, loving both the visual beauty of it, and the idea of exploring complete and safe surrender in this way. To me, it’s no different than my desire to also experience plant medicines, shamanism, trance dance, floatation tanks (another thing I am currently loving!) and more, insofar as it speaks to the many parts of my desire to experience my human form and consciousness in as many ways as possible. That doesn’t mean foolishly, or naively, it means with conscious intention, safe practice and trust in the person, place or thing that will be holding me in my exploration.

Kinky folk will (hopefully) already understand the importance of negotiating boundaries and consent. Tantric folk will (hopefully) already know the importance of breath, presence and voice, and people who are present to their own self identity and how that’s been constructed will hopefully know their personal limits and be able to navigate around these well. Personally speaking, I trust myself, and I trust in my instinct and ability to ask the questions that will lead me to a yes/no/maybe call in any situation where I am either handing over, or taking power over mine or someone else’s experiences for a moment or three.

Now, back to my bucket list – Shibari was most definitely on it and had been for some time since I first saw it at the Night Of The Senses Erotic Awards Ball in 2012. Having experienced a small moment of this wonderful art at the weekend, it’s now staying on my ‘try that one again’ list!

This weekend, when the opportunity to ask for what I wanted (within a particular context) came about, and I happened to know I was in a group with a person who offers Shibari, I found the voice to put out my question – “I’ve wanted to experience this for a long time, do you have a yes to offer that to me tonight?” The answer was affirmative; my heart leapt a little inside, my cells got very excited and I took a deep breath, nervousness and excitement collided inside me. Those moments when a dream is about to be realised are well worth savouring.

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It’s important to say here that not everyone is ‘safe’ in this kinky, tantric, sexual adventuring world. If the person you are facing doesn’t have the first clue about negotiating your boundaries, discussing informed consent, or conduct themselves in a way that is respecting of you or others in their day to day demeanour, stay well away! Seriously, I cannot stress this enough…there’s a ton of shadow in this world, and you really don’t need to rub up against that when exposing your vulnerability. Find communities of practice where consent is not just a glib ‘are you ready then’? but is more of a complex set of negotiations that take time, that co-create a safe system and therefore space in which to explore, and if that’s in place – have fun!

So back to my experience: As the ropes started to surround and encase me, their soft fibres (please don’t use ordinary DIY rope as the fibres can get embedded into the skin and they’re not designed for rope play) taught against my skin, I could feel a feeling I can only describe as being like a long out breath – I guess this was the beginning of the ‘surrender’ if you like. The more the rope tightened, the more bound I felt, the more I let go. I began to feel very still internally, my mind chatter was disappearing fast, and my breath became slow, steady and effortlessly rhythmic. This experience was a gift from the practitioner to me – the person holding the space was offering their skill and knowledge to totally create this space for me, and I loved that. Yes, it was an erotic experience for sure, but it’s not really what it’s all about, this surrendering works on so many levels, as does eroticism in general. It’s definitely an experience I hope to repeat for much longer very soon. I don’t easily let go of control, so Shibari for me was a perfect way to do this, to drop into the releasing of responsibility and explore instead my response-ability. I recommend this work highly…..mmmmmnnnnn, I really do!

In Shibari, the giving is selfless and yet the experience is one of mutual pleasure and so captivated was I by this profound feeling, that I intend to learn more. I’m seeking out lessons so that I can offer this to others too, because in having seen and felt the beauty and purity of that held surrender, I think many others would love it too. The photo below is my first set of practice knots on a willing volunteer’s arm and I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out. Rope bondage doesn’t have to be this complex to be effective by the way, and if exploring with someone, always be respectful of the person for whom you are holding that space of letting go; re-traumatising people by being a dickhead is not cool – ever!

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Bucket lists are great; they are things that get to teach you about yourself. They can teach you about your comfort zones and how to go beyond them. They can teach you things about yourself you never knew, both in getting to see your unknown potential and in realising also when you don’t want what you thought you wanted at all – in other words, experiencing life this way is your teacher, and as one workshop participant so succinctly put it “every moment is a guru

Play safe, be kind, love more, reject judgement, be open to life and to other people’s experience of life and go live well. Oh…and do get yourself tied up in knots from time to time!

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