Suspensions & Tensions:
Today, Part II
CONGRATULATIONS O-KEE-PA GRADUATES!
In the past few months I’ve become aware that many others (photos, stories) beside me have tried and succeeded in being suspended vertically by two piercings in the chest — in essence, doing O-Kee-Pa the hard way.
I’ve seen your photos on the BME site. But I am not quite sure you had the depth of experience the Mandans (or I) had. Please tell me. I’ve sent feelers out to several suspension groups, but so far gotten no feedback. As the guy who kind of started all this in the first place (by example and photos) I truly feel responsible for what happens to you. I am very eager to hear from you if you have ever done an O-Kee-Pa style suspension. How long did you hang? Under what circumstances? Where did you go? What were the after effects? Please send Fakir an email about your experience.
Most of the suspensions I have facilitated and witnessed during the past thirty years resulted in unusual and often fantastic out-of-the-body adventures. One of the most interesting was that of a Catholic woman, Sharon C., who pleaded with me for several years to facilitate her suspension and be her shaman Ka-See-Ka guide/protector. Ten years ago, we made it happen. About seventy of us were gathered in Northern California at a place called Kenton Mine. We were there for two weeks so there was plenty of time to prepare for a special ritual. Since I had hung horizontally for long periods of time in years prior, we decided that a horizontal suspension by multiple piercings was the best way for Sharon to have the prolonged experience she desired. We wanted at least several hours up. Back then, none of us had ever heard of or tried doing this with modified fish hooks. That came several years later. So we settled on piercing the front side of her body with 22 long sterile piano wire loops as I had done several times.
On a sunny afternoon in a deep canyon filled with redwood trees, I pierced her body with the wires, bent them into loops and attached them to the frame I had devised for my own suspensions. The tribe assembled. We beat drums, burned sage, and chanted for beneficial spirits to guide Sharon on her journey. Slowly we inched her pierced body up off the mats on which it laid. Up under the branches of the thousand year old sacred Redwood Tree which seemed to murmur, “let me take this body to its source.” We were hushed and within several minutes, Sharon left her body. It was inanimate “meat” hanging high in the air beneath the branches of the tree.
While suspended in a thousand year old redwood tree for several hours,
Sharon C. went on a guided trip to her own private heaven and hell.
As the Ka-See-Ka who assumed responsibility for her journey, I was able to see what she saw in her disconnected state. First, she traveled to her private hell (a barren place with no signs of life) and them to her private heaven. I was able to communicate with her lifeless body, and, most unusual, she was able to speak through it! When lost in despair in her “hell” space, I suggested she turn around, look over her shoulder, and see what was behind her. There it was, her private heaven: a verdant forest filled with trees, birds, flowers, and fuzzy buffalos who smiled and wanted to play with her. I told Sharon she could fly and should go down and circle the forest below. She did and soon rested in a comfortable nest in the top of a tree. I told her she could go play with the animals below if she wanted.
“But they are smelly and dirty,” she said.
“That’s ok,” I told her. “You don’t have to step in their shit. You can fly now so just go down and fly above their heads.”
Sharon giggled and I saw her do this and tease the animals as she flew over them. There were many other odd adventures during her journey but finally, as she despaired for company, a luminous being who appeared as an animated blue infinity symbol, spoke to her and then buried itself deep in her heart center. It said to her, “Peace… Be Still”.
But this is not the end of the chapter and book for Sharon. The memory and lesson it held stayed with her to the end. Two years ago, Sharon developed ever worsening kidney failure. On dialysis, she felt the time had come to leave her body permanently. She called me. She was glowing, happy, radiant, as she announced her decision to disconnect from machines. She was not frightened of passing over into the unseen world. She had been there before. Sharon thanked me for my love and guidance. And she parted this world joyously.
JOURNEYS OF OTHER SEEKERS
Another dear friend of mine, Puma (see Body Play #9), had undergone a severe personal crisis in which he had been taken over by an extremely self-destructive (read suicidal) dark side, the “shadow side” which we all have. He went on barely functioning and seemingly headed for a bitter end. A year later, still troubled, he asked me to hang him up by two deep chest piercings. He pleaded to do the O-Kee-Pa seriously and privately so he could resolve this on-going power struggle with the negative energy that was controlling his life. This was to be an attempt to chase the “shadow” away once and for all.
In the absolute quiet of an indoor chamber, Puma was compelled to engage in a long and painful combat (his private hell) before he could let go and surrender; submit his mind and body to what was actually a “shamanic death”. He groaned and fought to stay in conscious control as I slowly inched his body upward against the chest piercings. When he finally let go, suspended, he appeared to be physically dead. His lover pleaded with me to let him down. But I saw Puma’s other electric body shape floating weightless and smiling at me from a remote corner of the room. He was ok. So I let his physical body hang motionless for another ten minutes.
When I finally let Puma’s lifeless form down, just as light flickered back into his eyes, I saw the “shadow” inside them screaming in agony. A voice behind these fiery eyes seemed to say, “If this is what you are going to do to me, I’ll leave!”
And within ten minutes the Puma we know and loved was back in those eyes — exhausted, happy and free. Characteristic of a truly transformative experience, the effect lingers on years later. Puma told me just a few days ago, “I’ll never forget what happened. This was a truly spiritual experience for me and I continue to draw strength from it every day.”
But not every suspension ends with such beneficial results as Sharon’s and Puma’s. Sometimes things go sour when our expectations or approach to the suspension is off-key. I have attended a bunch of these and that is why I am so fussy about having clear intent, inner guidance, and not being swayed by ego when I am advising or helping someone do a suspension. Several suspensions that went wrong come to mind as I write this column. The first was done several years ago by Idexa, the San Francisco tattoo artist. I asked her to write about her vertical suspension that went wrong for Body Play magazine. In her own words, here is what she wrote for Body Play #14:
My last trip on a spiritual path, in early 1995, consisted of borrowed and modified rituals of other cultures. I did a vertical suspension by flesh hooks. Raelyn Gallina did the piercing and suspended me by elastic cords.
The original plan was to have a small private gathering. But it eventually became a huge event with about a hundred people, mainly women. It took place at night in a big building and in that setting I just couldn’t visualize enough to break through the ceiling and roof — where in past body rites trees and birds have helped me to travel. I liked the sensation of hooks going under my skin (except for the ones below my breasts). I loved stepping off the ladder to hang by my flesh. It was a wonderful challenge and a body high.
But with so many people around, and the scattered energy in such a limited space, I really didn’t get to have the visions I was hoping for. What I see today in many of these borrowed rituals is a lot of “white people” doing it as entertainment, even money, for a bunch of spectators. It (suspensions) being so popular, so obviously a “white thing” (non-traditional), has opened my eyes. I feel the movement is taking part in a continuing genocide of indigenous cultures that started here with Columbus.
Above: Idexa is pierced and rigged for her vertical suspension by Raelyn Gallina.
Another “sour” suspension I witnessed in the last few years was Paul Stolz’s first attempt to do an O-Kee-Pa. On previous occasions I had seen him do several horizontal suspensions facilitated by Vaughn of Body Manipulations. These were sweet — no problems (read the description that follows). But, apparently overcome with self-confidence by them, he decided it would be “no sweat” to hang by two piercings in the chest like I had done. He talked to me several weeks prior.
I warned that this would be different, many magnitudes harder and could not be done without surrendering ego. I told him that after about one minute he would have to go through all the symptoms of drowning or suffocating. Was he ready for that? I asked if he wanted me to “Ka-See-Ka” him. “No, just come and witness,” he said.
So that’s what I did. No rescue offered.
The suspension got off to a good start. Joey Wyman did an expert, shamanic job of piercing two hooks in Paul’s chest, deep and just above the nipples. He took the piercings with a stoic smile. With the same bravado, he stood on a platform dressed in tight black pants and silver boots. This was his moment of glory. He motioned for Vaughn to lift him up with the vertical crane to which he was fastened. Up he went clear to the ceiling. But, as I had warned, the stoic smile and bravado only lasted about two minutes. Then Paul was in obvious distress. His breathing became difficult, rapid. He panicked. His arms flailed about wildly as he gave Vaughn the prearranged signal to bring him down immediately. Paul lay limp on the floor in shock, eyes glazed and pupils dilated. He didn’t quite know where he was or what had happed in those few brief minutes. They helped him upstairs and laid him on a bed like a rag doll. I sat by his side for half an hour moving energy and bringing him back to center. He was ill for about a week. I understand Paul has said the O-Kee-Pa was harder than he ever imagined and he will never try it again.
PAUL FLIES LIKE A BIRD
Unlike his negative experience above, Paul has also had his magical suspensions too. Not everyone has a “White Light” experience like Fakir. There seems to be a different “trip” each time and for each person. Sometimes it is only a heightened sense of body awareness made possible by dissociation (the observer state). And sometimes the strongest effects of a suspension are only felt hours, days, or weeks after the experience. And sometimes nothing much happens except an unusual or adverse set of body sensations because of unfavorable physical or psychic conditions (like with Idexa or Paul above).
Paul Stolz belongs to a group of Modern Primitive explorers. I first met Paul in 1996. Paul invited me to his first “flying suspension” in which he would be moved about freely in three axis by a 3-ton crane inside a huge warehouse building. He knew very little about traditional body suspensions like the O-Kee-Pa of the Mandans or Chidi Mari suspensions of the Hindus. I asked about his intentions, his expectations. He was unclear about them. Seemed like he was satisfied just to do something new, novel, experimental. He wanted to “fly”. Ok, that was a good enough reason. So on evening of March 22, I went to the San Francisco warehouse which had been converted into a performance and play space called The Sand Box (the floor was ankle deep in beach sand).
Left: Paul Stolz is pierced and rigged by Vaughn and Joey Wyman for a “flying” horizontal suspension. Right: Paul is zoomed up and down, back and forth, and rotated by Vaughn inside a huge warehouse space. I felt “electric” rain falling from his suspended body.
I entered just as Paul was being lifted up in a horizontal, face-up suspension by multiple hooks. As he floated twenty feet above our heads, then gently moved about the cavernous space by Vaughn, it felt like “electric rain” was showering down on me from his suspended body. There were only a few friends present. The general feeling in the space was peaceful, tingling. Paul was on a trip and in an altered state. The suspension lasted for about an hour. In his own words, here is Paul’s account of his Sandbox suspension (from Body Play #14):
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to fly. I have dreamt of finding myself between planes of reality. I thought that in that “space” I could get a clearer view, a better perspective of myself and its reality. Once that view has taught me something, I can continue on my quest for my dreams.
Now I have found ways to slip into that alternate plane where possibilities are limitless. I call that place “Dreamland”. I got there mainly by using my physical self, my body. It usually requires some sort of pain or challenge.
I have wanted to do a full body suspension for four years. I thought the sensation against my body must be amazingly different than anything I could ever feel. Still, a full body suspension could be even more for me if I could fly — move around once I am off the ground. In fact, a non-mobile suspension seemed a little lacking to me. On March 22, 1996, I held a live performance in which I hung horizontally from a mobile 3-ton crane. The crane was driven by Vaughn (Body Manipulations body piercing studio) who also worked with Joey Wyman to put the hooks in and hang me. Vaughn drove me out above and throughout audience (about 25). I went way up to the ceiling, low to the ground. I was spun around, rocked back and forth and bounced up and down.
The combination of flying and the sensation of my skin pulling evenly through me was overwhelming. I had gotten to the most amazing version of “Dreamland”. The tension altered in intensity levels with the different movements we would try. I had found that, in fact, the sensations were completely adjustable based on far off the ground I was, what direction I was moving, or even the speed of the movement.
To me this was a very spiritual event but not a very religious one. I gained more contact with myself and my reality. I used my physical body as a tool to enter my psychological and spiritual self. Once I opened doors to this “Dreamland”. Other dreams found in day-to-day life have fallen into place. I find that as I continue exploring my reality in relations to “Dreamland”, my real life becomes more and more charmed.
So here are just a few examples and accounts of what has happened to contemporary seekers who have experienced suspensions. How about yours? There are so many experiences I wish to share with you that there will have to be a Part 3 and maybe even a Part 4 to this edition of Fakir Rants & Raves. See you next time for “Swimming With Dolphins” and more.
Yours for safe and enlightened body rites,
fakir at bodyplay dot com
For much more information on Fakir and the subjects discussed in this column, be sure to check out his website at www.bodyplay.com. While you’re there you should consider whipping out your PayPal account and getting yourself a signed copy of his amazing book, SPIRIT AND FLESH (now).
Copyright © 2004 BMEzine.com LLC Requests to republish must be confirmed in writing. For bibliographical purposes this article was first published May 8th, 2004 by BMEzine.com LLC in Tweed, Ontario, Canada.