The hustle and bustle of everyday life can make it difficult, at times, to create or maintain a mindset open to an s/m or even D/s interaction. Whether you are establishing a mood for some s/m play, embarking on some bondage or reaffirming the D/s dynamics that exist between you and your partner(s), there are times when we encounter distracted partners and seek ways to move beyond the distraction.
Removing distraction is paramount, if we are going to establish/re-establish connection and direct the focus of all partners involved.
Often, it is easier to establish connection and direct the focus with someone you are just beginning to get to know. Why? Because the interaction is new: we are on unfamiliar ground in such situations: still unsure of how our partner(s) might react, what tends to be their habits, or what might be the next thing to happen so we are more apt to pay attention.
There tends to be a learning curve: we pay rapt attention to something when we experience it for the first time, or even the first few times. That includes when we are first getting to know someone new. When we are faced with something new, we apply more of our focus because we have not yet built up expectations or developed any sense of patterns that might exist. Yet in the initial stages of an experience we also tend to focus on the detailed mechanics of a situation rather than taking in the overall experience.
For instance, the first time someone is flogged, they often spend much of the time worrying about how they look, whether they can handle the intensity, how far the Top is going to take them, etc. The person wonders, "What should i do? What will this feel like? How will i respond? What is going to happen?" and there may be some nervous apprehension.
As time and repeated experiences/interactions go by, we reach a point when we become familiar with a person or what is happening and the interaction seems to become more natural and comfortable. We hit our stride in feeling comfortable with the mechanics of what is going on so that our focus can also embrace the overall experience. Yet at this point, the experiences and interactions are still new enough that we are not likely to be distracted.
Once we become used to what we are doing, we begin to file away those experiences in our mental archives. Eventually, the interactions or experiences become 'old hat'. We develop expectations for how things will happen or responses that will typically occur. It is human nature for us to get to this point and it is not necessarily a bad thing. In many ways this habit helps us: for example, a fireman is able to more quickly determine what type of fire is burning and can then more quickly determine how to put the fire out. In our everyday lives, when we are able to pick up on patterns and get a feel for how something goes, it frees us up to focus more on the overall experience rather than the mechanics of a situation. For example: driving. Once we have become accustomed to driving (measuring out how much to push down on the gas or brake pedals, when to shift gears, or when to change lanes) we are able to keep a better eye out for the other drivers as well as the overall driving experience.
At this 'old hat' stage, we devote less and less attention to what we are doing and distraction comes easier. Our ego tells us we don't need to devote all that time and energy to focus on what is going on since we pretty much know how things turn out. It is at this stage, when we are apt to get sloppy and inattentive with our work and with our interactions because we no longer feel it necessary to offer up our full, undivided attention. This is not a criticism: this is simply an explanation of what tends to be a typical behavior pattern for most all of us. Bottom line: we get distracted.
No matter the relationship, vanilla or non-vanilla, we often reach a point of feeling we are being taken for granted or that what we are doing is no longer appreciated. In the vanilla realm, this is often expressed in the comment, "You never tell me you love me anymore." In the D/s realm, this may be expressed as, "You don't Dom me like you used to." In the s/m realm, we may hear it expressed as, "We rarely play anymore."
It is human nature to seek out patterns and create expectations, but that can easily become our downfall. For example: a night security guard might get used to going to work every night with nothing ever happening and that becomes the expectation. When a break-in finally happens, the guard may be completely unprepared to respond quickly because they were so used to the status quo of everything being quiet and uneventful. In our relationships, when we become fully comfortable with another person(s), our expectations are that things will remain status quo yet our tendency is to become less attentive and to allow our everyday lives to distract us from the interactions we have and want.
No doubt, vanilla responsibilities can easily intrude on our interactions and experiences, and make it difficult to focus on an s/m interaction or the power exchange occurring between individuals. Life happens.
One thing to keep in mind for you and anyone you are interacting with: no amount of worrying actually changes the challenges we face in life: health issues, bills piling up, a sick child, pressure at work, the car needs repair, a relative or loved one is dying, etc. We are great at feeling guilty and also at deflecting our frustrations onto other issues: "How can i enjoy a good caning if my aunt is in the hospital dying? Why do i have to get up and get my Master a soda when i am on a deadline to finish this proposal for a work project? How can i focus on this flogging when i have a bankruptcy looming over my head?" It is easy to feel guilty, resentful or dispassionate about taking the time to re-connect with a partner when all this other stuff is going on. However, while we need to acknowledge and deal with various issues and challenges in our lives, worrying or feeling guilt does nothing productive to change those challenges we face. It is important to try and let go of the guilt and take the time to reconnect with ourselves and partners. Doing so, will often help us go on to deal better with our vanilla lives. Now this does not mean, that we have to embark on heavy s/m if we are not feeling up to it, the point is not to let guilt block our way to connecting with others.
Yet what generally causes distractions is that we get wrapped up in day-to-day living. As we become more familiar with the persons we interact with and the types of interactions we have, it becomes easier to let the daily grind of life pull our attention away from the moment and into a myriad of other thoughts about what is happening in our lives.
So how do we, as leather or bdsm folk, learn to let go of distractions so that we can fully focus on the intimately powerful interactions that bdsm or power-based relationships gift us with?
As mentioned earlier, it is often easier to do this with someone new, because there are no prior experiences with that person to have built up familiarity and expectations. Yet even knowing your partner well does not mean you can't re-establish that connection and direct the focus back to you and to the interaction that is occurring.
So how does one actually go about establishing/re-establishing connection and directing focus? There are a number of ways, this can be done. Though the first disclaimer is: mileage, of course, varies... big time. What might work for some folks, may not work for others, so the most important thing to remember is pay attention! There are some initial steps to consider:
1.) *Be aware* about what types of things seem to have an impact on your partner(s) *as well as yourself.*
The more alert/aware/attentive you are, the more likely that your partner will sense it and meet that level of attentiveness.
2.) Get to know your partner(s).
The more you know about a person, the more information you have about their turn-on's, turn-off's, pet peeves, fears, interests, likes, dislikes, the better prepared you are to determine what actions to take. Also, it is always good to know about health issues: i.e. allergies, physical limitations, etc. You don't want to do something with latex, if the person has an allergy or sensitivity to latex products. Good example was the pup moshing pit last year: one pup was dressed head to toe in latex and that prevented another pup from getting into the moshing since he had a severe allergic reaction to latex. Directing someone's focus does not mean sending them into anaphylactic shock! Unless you are into real edgy, expensive, medical emergency room scenes!
3.) State your intentions.
A lot of times, a simple statement such as, "My intention is to work on building the connection between us," or "I want you to focus on..." can vastly change things and set the tone for what is about to happen. It does not always have to be about surprises or the unknown. Also, I'd encourage asking what your partner(s)'s intentions are as well.
4.) Establish that you and your partners are *willing* to work at connecting/re-connecting.
Making this as a statement helps to reaffirm that willingness actually exists. There is power in making such statements.
Steps 2, 3, and 4 all relate back to one thing: COMMUNICATE!!!
5.) Believe in yourself and what you are doing.
This may sound corny or unnecessary, but it is more important than many people realize. If you intend to establish a connection with someone, or direct their focus, then *believe* in doing that - believe in yourself. Allow yourself to build confidence. This is one thing that a partner can easily pick up on and will put them in a more receptive mindset, if they know you are comfortable with who you are and what you are doing. This does not mean you need to become egotistical: it simply means that you can take ownership of who you are and what you are doing. It makes the biggest difference in the world.
6.) Make time and space!
If at all possible, turn off cell phones, e-mail, and other forms of communication from the outside. Though, this is not always possible and not always necessary, it is still a good step to remember whenever possible and feasible.
Having taken such initiatory steps, what are some of the actions once can actually take to establish connection and direct focus.
From the D/s realm:
Let's talk first about approaching this from a D/s perspective: one of power exchange without, necessarily, s/m. There are a couple of comments that seem to be prevalent among long-term D/s relationships: i.e. those that have lasted beyond the "honeymoon" stage.
i hear statements such as, "i really resent it when i am in the middle of a work deadline and my Mistress asks me to get her a drink." or "How can i be expected to immediately be a slave when i have been bossing people around all day at work?" or "How do you maintain your submissive mindset when you have a full-time vanilla job, kids screaming around the house, in-laws visiting, and other vanilla responsibilities to deal with on a daily basis?" On the other end of the power exchange spectrum, you might hear a Mistress or Dominant say, "I'm just too tired after work to think about giving orders." or "Having kids/relatives/etc. around, makes it tough to stay in the mindset."
Whether or not this is really the issue, such statements can be valid concerns. Yet, these issues seem to arise when we maintain separate identities. I.e. we maintain that our D/s is separate from other aspects of who we are. For example: "I am CEO, aggressive boss-lady at work and only am submissive to my partner when i get home." or "I can't be a Dominant when the kids are around."
When we try to live our lives in segments, it becomes complicated and frustrating. While we aren't always able to openly convey aspects of who we are, it does not mean we have stopped being that person. An individual is comprised of many aspects of who they are, and while some aspects may be more prevalent sometimes and other aspects at other times, we are still the sum of all those aspects. In short, we are who we are, even when it doesn't show. The wolf is still the wolf, even when he is dressed in sheepskin, being a furry.
One of the key approaches to dealing with this segmentation of who we are, is to come to terms that we are *always* the SUM of who we are: the slave is not the slave only when serving the Master/Mistress: even when they are making major decisions at work, they are still also a slave even if it is not visibly apparent to those at the office. The Dominant is still the Dominant, even when offering to pick up the kids from school or bringing a drink to a submissive who is in the middle of a work assignment. It is a practice in avoiding confusion between *doing* with *being*. No matter what the outward physical action, be clear within yourself about who you know you are. Do not worry about justifying or proving it to anyone else: as long as you and your partner(s) are clear on who you are to one another, that is all that matters.
At a more physical/tangible level, protocol, or established practices, plays an important role in helping to reaffirm the power exchange within a D/s-based relationship. Such practices are not limited to those in M/s relationships. Many consider the types of protocol practiced within my Master's leather family as being too formal or strict. Establishing some set practices can be very simple actions, either for those directing the energy of the relationship or those accepting the direction of that energy.
Some basic suggested protocols or practices:
~ Have the person state out loud to their self who their Dom/Daddy/Mistress is, once daily/weekly/whatever timeline you feel like. This can easily be a Master/Mistress/Dom/Daddy also stating who their slave/sub/boy/i is.
~ If the partner(s) live apart, make a commitment to call once a month/week/day and establish who will call who (which may vary each time).
~ Instruct a person to write a journal entry once a week about their thoughts. Even those directing the energy can benefit by keeping journals and sharing their own perspectives with those that serve them.
~ Instruct the person in service to you to do a random act of kindness each day, as a means of serving.
~ Verbally affirm to one another that taking care of the kids and house is part of one's service, even if one feels very vanilla doing it.
~ Verbally affirm to one another that being a Dom/Mistress is no less the director of the energy when they happen to be helping out, picking up kids, doing laundry, etc. Indeed, they are ensuring that they are looking out for the people hat serve them, by taking their best interests into account.
~ When feeling like it just isn't the time to be doing "Dom-ly"or "slave-ly" things, write down what it is that you find empowering about being a Dom/me, slave/sub, etc.
From the s/m realm:
Now, moving from the D/s into the s/m realm - the realm of physical interactions. Though we are aware there is a lot of cross-over between those that explore D/s and those that explore s/m, it isn't always the case. In any case, i felt it important to identify that there are ways to establish connection and direct focus both for those involved in the D/s aspects as well as for those having s/m interactions.
Many of the following practices, or activities, can be done just as easily for those involved in the D/s dynamics. Probably the largest differentiation is that in a D/s dynamic, the person directing the energy/making the decisions often has the ability to instruct the sub/slave/boy/etc. to do assignments or protocols. If you try to assign some protocols to a self-identified bottom that has no inclination toward D/s, you are barking up the wrong tree and may find the bottom laughing at you or no longer willing to interact with you because you are not respecting them for who they are.
LEARN ABOUT THE PERSON YOU ARE INTERACTING WITH!
Find out how they identify and what is important to them when it comes to an s/m interaction.
This doesn't have to be a long drawn out conversation, but the more information you have, the better-prepared you are to connect with that person. What is it that resonates with them for an s/m experience? Is it sexual? Is it about feeling varying sensations? A sense of someone else taking control? Is it a spiritual experience? Cathartic? Playful? It is as simple as asking, "What do you seek to get out of your s/m experiences?"
With all that being said, let's get on to some practices/activities that can be used to help establish/re-establish connection. Establishing that connection will enable you to direct a person's focus, because with that connection the person lets go of distraction and allows you to then direct their focus.
All of the senses: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch can be stimulated to direct the focus of a person's body, mind and heart and create a more intimate connection.
Much of what is being suggested may have little to do with s/m per se, because this is about establishing the connection *before* embarking on that journey. Some of these activities may have tried before, or do quite often. my suggestion is to take what works for you and use it, or seek out something a bit different - something that your partner may not expect from you.
The Five Basic Senses
Use of sight for visual cues, or removal of sight, can both have effective results. Sight can enable visual stimulation, or removal of sight enables the stimulation of the imagination.
Examples of visual cue activities:
Have an s/m or pornographic video playing in the background without any sound on. Preferably something they will have interest in! For example, if you know they love bondage, or fisting, or might even have a strong interest in bears, then pick a video with such a theme.
Have them sit down, facing you, while still having a clear view of the video playing behind you. Have them describe to you, in as much detail as possible, what is going on in the video. The hard part for you, may be to not turn around at all to look at the video yourself! Because your focus is going to be on the partner the entire time. It does not take all that much attentiveness to watch a video, but it will to be able to then take that information and describe it to you. Ask questions: "Do you like what you are seeing? What do you like about it? Have you ever tried anything like that?" This is bringing the focus back to the interaction of you and the person you are with.
The reverse would be having the person sitting with their back to the video, as you describe it to them. Encourage them to ask questions if they have any.
Removing sight is a powerful means of directing someone's focus. We tend to rely heavily on our eyesight if we are not visually challenged, so if our sight is taken away, we become easily reliant on whoever is guiding us. Simply the act of blindfolding someone is powerful statement since it means you are taking full control of one of their senses to determine what they will or won't see.
Another practice is to simply sit in front of one another and look into each other's eyes for a minute. Sounds sappy, but often it becomes a very uncomfortable thing to do. There is something that rings true about the saying, "The eyes are the windows of the soul." No matter what expression you have on your face, it can be very easy for that person to read into what you might be thinking about, so it might be helpful to state something to the effect, "Don't worry about your reaction or whatever feelings come up. Don't read into my expression or what feelings come up for me. Simply look in my eyes and allow whatever comes up to come up." While this exercise is often done while somehow making physical contact, it can be just as powerful to try it without in physical contact: to sit in our own space and just be as we look at one another.
The use of sound, or removal of all sound, can be a powerful means of connecting to someone. "Everything that is in a state of vibration has a natural rate at which it vibrates, an optimum range if you will, and that rate is called resonance. When we are in resonance, we are in balance. One of the ways we can use sound to heal the body is to recognize that every organ, every cell, every bone and gland of the body absorbs and emits sound and has a resonate frequency.
Scientific studies show that sound waves can produce changes in the autonomic, immune, endocrine and neuropeptide systems of the physical body. In fact, our bodies are capable of absorbing sound that is outside our normal range of hearing. This means that all the sound wave frequencies that are in our environment, especially the ones we can't hear like microwaves, cell phones, etc. are having an impact on our health and on our frequencies, and our resonate state of being." ~ http://www.soundtransformations.com/soundtherapy.htm.
The tone of voice can easily set the tone of what is about to happen.
An evil laugh, a stern command, a light-hearted giggle... all set the tone.
Examples of sound cue activities:
Describing an item, a toy, something that you plan to do to your sub, something you would like to do for your Mistress... are all a means of communication and the use of the voice as aural stimulation.
Speaking is not the only use of our voice. A number of times, i have heard folks use guttural sounds to create a mindset or to express what they are feeling at a very base, primal, visceral level. A growl, a scream, a hiss, a hum.
Singing: my Master is fond of randomly asking, out of the blue, one of us slaves to sing a song. Be it in the middle of dessert at a restaurant, in the middle of driving along, or even getting an entire workshop of leatherfolk to start off by singing a song together. What is the point? It creates a mindset: either in a group, it has just created a bonding moment, no matter how fleeting, simply by creating an activity that we all did together. For an individual being put on the spot, you are suddenly told to find your voice and use it to please/amuse/ satisfy whoever has asked you to sing.
We certainly aren't limited to our voices. Soundtracks of various noises or musical instruments are often used to set the tone of an interaction.
If someone has had a really bad day at work and you are trying to get them to relax and prepare them to go into an s/m interaction, then you may want to start by putting on some really calming music, or the sound of something as simple as crickets in the background or a fire crackling. Music is also used to ramp up an individual: techno music or some of the classical symphonies (think Rimsky-Korsakov's "The Flight of Bumble Bee"!).
Playing a live musical instrument - not necessarily a particular song, but just playing musical notes, can have an amazing impact on people. Sound, vibration... it resonates to the core of who we are.
i have a bit of a fondness for using singing bowls as well as some other assorted instruments. Drums are great... i use chimess well.
It is often said that humans resonate with the beating of a drum because it reminds us of our own heart beat. Many shamanic traditions depend on some kind of repetitive percussion to induce altered states of consciousness. Certainly, various aspects of s/m can also induce an altered state of consciousness. In any case, the person directing the tools that create that altered state of consciousness can then more easily direct the focus of the person entering into the level of openness.
One website about Drumming, Healing Spirit states that, "Recent biofeedback studies show that drumming along with our own heartbeats for 15 minutes alters brainwave patterns (increasing alpha) and dramatically reduces stress. So drumming actually "meditates" us!"). ~ http://www.drumjourney.com/spirit/index.htm.
Chanting a mantra can help to set a mindset.
As many of us know, scents *do* make a direct impact. If that were not the case, skunks would not be avoided as much as they are! Smells can easily trigger memories or direct associations with a particular image or occurrence. We will often associate a scent with some situation that occurred or a specific person.
How many of us find the smell of leather to be something we really like, or triggers fantasies in our heads??? i used to spend good chunks of time hanging out that Happy Tails flogger booth at various events, holding floggers close and taking a good long whiff.
Many plants and herbs are used for creating a specific scent or aroma.
Sage is probably one of the best known plants used these days for such things. Generally dried and used for what is often called 'smudging'. Its' use is often associated with cleansing an area of negative energy. Pine needles, bay leaves, cinnamon or potpourris are other aromatic examples.
The smell of a specific food, garment, or person can evoke powerful images for us.
Whether it's the use of a rose, a favored cigar, an armpit, etc. can definitely direct the focus of someone.
Examples of smell cue activities:
Over time, you may come to know specific scents that evoke images for your partner. Our own personal scents are a powerful thing. Just standing next to a blindfolded partner, and telling them to breathe in deeply, inhaling your scent for a few minutes.
Take a flogger, or a hide of leather and drape it across a partner's face.
Have the person tell you about a smell that they find is sexy. The answers you may get can be pretty surprising at times!
The human sense of taste is far more powerful and sensitive than anything science can develop. So much so, that humans are used for taste testing water samples in many water treatment facilities to determine if any adjustments need to be made to the treatment process.
Examples of taste cue activities:
When it comes to taste, our first thought is often food! The movie, "9 1/2 weeks" has got to be one of the all-time perfect examples of food used in a D/s context: having a person trying out various foods - their taste and texture. Take it a step further: have you ever been given something to eat that you didn't want? A sour piece of candy? A lemon? etc.
Taste doesn't stop at food or even beverage.
A classic example is stuffing someone's underpants into their mouth as a gag, as well as it requires them to taste their own arousal.
Cigar or cigarette ash is another common taste for those that pursue that fetish. The human ashtray.
Piss. Very, very powerful to be ingesting someone else's piss or even your own.
Licking the polish on leather boots sets off many a soul who has a proclivity for boot blacking.
Touch: A large portion of folks into s/m are sensation, or tactile, junkies. we are out to physically feel something.
Lack of touch can be just as powerful.
Examples of touch cue activities:
Things such as a fist full of hair - being able to direct the head and all senses, by simply pulling hair this way or that.
The feel of a boot/heel/shoe on the back, or at the neck, can immediately focus our attention in the moment.
Pounding lightly on someone's chest can evoke a powerful connection: it is kind of like knocking on the door to the heart and spirit, asking if anyone is home. Yet the beat of the heart, and the vibrations within our bodies will resonate and respond.
If you have a person stand or lying still, listen close to their heart beat and then begin the came rhythm of a *light* pounding, either with your hand in a fist or flat. You are connecting with their heart beat in doing this.
Even just holding your hand, flat, to someone's chest. Is a tangible way of indicating the desire to reconnect with them: their heart, their core.
Most of what we do is a combination of the various senses. The more senses you involve, either by invoking or withholding stimulation, the better equipped you are to direct someone's focus.
A Few Suggested Connection Activities...
Letting Go of the Day
i give Pup Tim credit for this activity: he has often had us do this practice before we begin a drumming circle. A bottle of water and a bowl/cup are passed around and each person pours some of the water into the bowl, symbolizing all their 'stuff' - the bad things that happened that day, the irritations, the tension, worries, frustrations, anger, etc. All of it gets symbolically poured into the bowl or cup and then that bowl/cup is taken outside the room. Doing this with your partner is a physical acknowledgement that you are willing to pour out your 'stuff' and leave it outside the door.
A Walk of Trust
Have the person stand in front of you, blindfolded. Have them follow the sound of your voice across the room. Reassure them that you are watching out for them and will guide them safely. Note: Before doing this, MAKE SURE you have cleared a path so that there aren't any loose toys or that a pet happens to scoot across the person's path while their eyes are closed!
So many of us have body issues, particularly if we have been with a partner for a while and gained weight during that time, we tend to want to cover up and avoid being naked. We may begin to feel that we are no longer the person that our partner was attracted to. If you are both willing to do this together, it can be even more powerful. There are some Dom/mes. Masters/Mistresses/Daddies, etc. who seem to feel that allowing their sub/slave/boy/whatever to see them fully naked means a loss of authority or respect. i fully disagree. Still, this activity can be done simply with one/both or all partners doing this together. Remove all clothing and stand in front of the mirror, while the other person(s) hold you and tell you three things about you they like/love. An important second step to this, is thanking them for sharing their thoughts and stating that you are *willing to accept* that they like those things about you.
Breathing is a primary function of our body that we can not survive without. Anything we do with breathing brings into focus our life essence.
Simply breathing together can have an amazingly calming effect on people.