Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hooked - The Thrills of Body Suspension


For those who seek beauty in the macabre, there is one spectacle you simply cannot miss. Late last night, I was brought along to witness a quiet ritual in a friend’s studio referred to as body suspension. The ancient custom involves suspending the human body by hooks (in this case, shark hooks), which are pierced through the flesh. After spending a few minutes brooding over his options, he calmly opted for the ‘suicide’ position, in which the hooks are placed in the upper back to suspend the person upright, thus giving the appearance of a person being hanged. When he pulled off his shirt, I remember seeing the grisly appearance of back. Blistered and savagely scarred with some wounds still raw from recent trauma, his skin displayed the frightening marks of what had been almost three years of enduring the bizarre practice. The sight of the suspending body was surprisingly serene. There was no self-loathing, heavy metal music blasting through the speakers, the room was neat and sterile and the air smelt of fresh coffee and antiseptic, faintly redolent of a dentist’s office. With his skin stretched to impossible lengths and his head lowered in what almost seemed to be a sincere spiritual reverence, the vision seemed to at first spill over the brink of realism, until eventually exuding both stirring terror and numbing beauty. It is extraordinary to watch, let alone to experience, though I don’t plan to be able to offer a description of that anytime soon.

The practice of body suspension dates back to the ancient tribes of India, the Middle East and North America. These were performed as part of a sacred ritual, typically as a right of passage, healing rituals, penance, rituals of worship and spiritual ascension. The Modern Primitivism movement saw the resurrection of this practice in contemporary Western cultures and today, while many will participate as a form of deviance or entertainment, the objective of attaining a new level of spiritual consciousness is still one of the primary reasons for undergoing this procedure. My friend explained that body suspension was his personal way of proving to himself that he was more than his body, and despite his cowering shoulders and bleeding flesh, the spirit in his expression certainly reveals a rare glow of self-contentment. However, according to the other suspension enthusiasts, this prolonged state of bliss is not always the outcome. Many people noted that instead of the euphoric, floating sensation many claim to experience, they endured terrible nausea and panic attacks as their mind and body wavered between a state of shock and extreme pain. Personally, the thing that inevitably caused me to refuse the generous offer of having shark hooks pierced through my flesh was pure and utter vanity. Spiritual ascension or not, the scars, boils and blisters left in the skin are enough to easily ensure a lifetime deprivation of backless dresses. I think I’d opt for meditation instead.

25 comments:

  1. I'll get my spiritual enlightment from God thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good call -- Zen has been a proven, scarless option for about 2500 years, and Yoga has a longer track record. Still, it's good to be at least intellectually acquanted with this, should involuntary long-term pain ever present itself.

    ReplyDelete
  3. OMG, I can't even LOOK at this picture without getting queasy. eeep

    ReplyDelete
  4. "..exuding both stirring terror and numbing beauty." In ways I just couldn't take the picture to focus on the numbing beauty though for sure it did stir terror.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh my gosh, my toes hurt just reading that. Clearly, those who participate receive something from the process, but I could never do that.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Wow! I'm in awe of anyone who voluntarily does this - thanks for the education!

    ReplyDelete
  7. You'll end up with a lot of loose skin, like one of those enormously fat people who lose 10 stone in a diet.

    ReplyDelete
  8. There are many way to become spiritually enlightened. I wouldn't choose body suspension myself.

    This is a fascinating post.

    Jai

    ReplyDelete
  9. You chose wisely...While it sounds cool I am not sure I could ever do it...For the same reasons as you and I would be the one freaking out...LOL!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Fascinating! Not my cup of tea, personally, but wow. What a picture.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Well, 'not my cup of tea' to say the least. I wouldn't recommend body suspension to anyone. Like you said "I'd opt for meditation instead".

    ReplyDelete
  12. Body Suspension = Mommy never hugged me

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm with you. I'll meditate and then drink a cup of tea. I don't think I could handle that much pain. I have tears when I get a paper cut.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I've seen this before and it is a higher form of enlightment as the "hangers" seems to push the pain out of their mind....not sure how one gets motivated to do this!

    For me - my high comes from yoga and life and family and friends! It's boring - but pain is not one of my strong points!

    ReplyDelete
  15. To each his or her own...I don't know what else to say. I think you were VERY brave to observe. I don't think I could have.

    ReplyDelete
  16. interesting...but not for me!

    ReplyDelete
  17. I'm pretty open-minded in ways of gaining euphoria from doing seemingly 'weird' things, but this one passes me by I'm afraid!

    Very interesting, though.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I also reckon I'm pretty broad minded but this baffles me.

    ReplyDelete
  19. It adds a whole different nuance to "hanging out with friends".

    ReplyDelete
  20. It seems to me like a really extreme form of yoga: maintaining one's mental equanimity regardless of the physical circumstances. I'm impressed.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Oh, the potential infections! I'll pass.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Oh my goodness. I don't shock easily, but this shocked me and I doubt very much I could have watched this. The potential for infection or irreperable damage to muscles and tendons is so high. Am afraid to me this sounds like some warped version of s & m dressed up to be spirituality. Like the infamous whirling dervishes.
    It reminds me of the medieval flagellants - who whipped themselves with leather thongs with barbs at the end to tear the flesh - believing that through this pain they were purging their souls and repenting of sin.
    As ever, it is a beautifully written, thought-provoking post - but I rather wish I hadn't read it just before bed time!

    ReplyDelete
  23. I'm with you on the vanity, isn't life torture enough without adding to it.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Hi... This image belongs to me...
    Tala Brandeis of Tala Brandeis Photography...
    http://www.rustrat.com
    http://www.acidred.com
    http://www.talatattoo.com
    The owner of this site MUST contact me to arrange payment for the use of this image... I'm happy to discuss budgets... I work with my clients and their budgets all the time...
    Contact me as soon as you read this and/or the email I've sent to your contact information...
    Tala Brandeis
    Tala Brandeis Photography
    Tala Tattoo

    ReplyDelete