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"The scene quietly flowed into a high level of intensity. Both of us were "buzzing" with delightful sensations. In that moment we both had an indescribable experience. Something passed between us, engulfed us, lifted us to some celestial plane. It was what I have come to call a "white light" experience."

SM Travel
by Jack Rinella

On more than one occasion I've had experiences that approach today's topic. I can't say that I've actually had the mystical trips that I'm going to discuss, but I have come close enough to know that there is something to the "spiritual" side of leather.

More often I have been present as my partner has obviously experienced a powerful shift in his awareness. Since I'm neither physician nor psychologist I won't comment on the reality of the experience. Instead, and what is more important, let me write about entering an altered state.

I spent the better part of college studying Philosophy. It was enough of an education to prove to me that all human knowledge is gained through our senses, however many of them there are, and that our senses act as filters, making absolute certainty impossible. You know, it's the old question as to whether we are awake or not. Is life a dream? Do we actually inhabit a "more" real world when we sleep? Is the glass half full or half empty?

There's not much sense to that line of questioning. I've come to the conclusion that pragmatism is the best approach. If it works, OK, it works. I may not be able to explain what happens, but I know that something happens.

Putting that something into words is not easy. Let me just call it an "altered state," a situation where the usual sensory and emotional situation appears different. The difference may be induced by any number of catalysts: sex, drugs, sleeplessness, meditation, hypnosis, beauty, art, cinema, affection, pain, pleasure, and of course, SM.

The first time it happened was with my then slave Steven, long before I moved to Chicago. Scenes between us came easily and without a lot of discussion. We became more and more aware of what SM meant to us and what a powerful vehicle it could be.

The best indication of what could happen took place one night in my bathroom. We had been playing for an hour or so and I was in a real "take over his body" mood. I had been doing a lot of ass-playing with him and in fact had given him an enema. He was sitting on the stool as I fondled his genitals. It was a heavy duty scene that only two very intimate friends could be expected to share.

The scene quietly flowed into a high level of intensity. Both of us were "buzzing" with delightful sensations. In that moment we both had an indescribable experience. Something passed between us, engulfed us, lifted us to some celestial plane. It was what I have come to call a "white light" experience.

It was pleasant and felt very safe and warm. There was no fear or danger associated with it, but it was mysterious, other-worldly.

When it passed, I looked Steven in the eyes and asked, "Did you feel what I just felt?" Indeed he had. I gently ended the scene. We both cleaned up and went to bed, not untouched by the power that had passed between us.

The power of the moment loses a lot in the writing.

Similar events happened with Michael when he was bound spread-eagle on a cross, with Richard and Lee in intense bondage scenes, and with a guy I'll call Jim, whom I beat with a riding crop until he had an "out of body" experience.

In each case I was an observer as well as participant. My actions of dominance, of restraint, and of discipline seems to have been responsible for inducing the experience, though it's obvious that my partners participated actively as well. When the scenes were over, each had an story to tell.

Richard and Lee, according to their own telling, had some kind of past life visions. Lee, for instance, recounted, as the scene was in progress, his viewing of the two of us as American Indians in some past lifetime. He described what was going on between us, as if he were watching a movie and telling me about it at the same time.

Richard, on the other hand, recounted his experiences later.

With Michael, I ended the scene pre-maturely. While firmly bound to a St Andrews Cross, he was whipped past pain into some kind of ecstatic state. Frankly all I saw was that he swooned.

I interpreted his deep relaxation as trouble and so quickly untied him and lowered him to the floor. His reaction was to ask "Why did you stop?" On his part, nothing was wrong. In fact, everything was wonderful.

The most amazing trip seems to have been the one that Jim took. He and I were playing in my dungeon. Both of us were naked, as I remember. I was kneeling, legs slightly spread apart, on a mattress. Jim was lying prone in front of me, bound in that position.

I began by gently beating him on the back with my favorite crop. Over a period of time, as his back turned an intense shade of red, I increased the severity of the beating.

I had seen Jim play before and knew him to be an experienced masochist. If ever there was the right moment to bring someone through a "window" into another reality, this was it.

For a time Jim struggled with the lashes, yelling quietly, squirming on the mattress to the extent that the ropes allowed, and bucking up and down, trying to avoid the pain. I refused to let his cries or his movements distract me.

Eventually he became silent. His breathing moved into an easy, sleep-like rhythm. His body relaxed profoundly.

I kept up my insistent whipping. There was a sense that he was handling everything very well. Eventually I stopped and let him lay there until he was ready to "come back." When he did he recounted how he had seen himself lying on the mattress from the vantage point of the ceiling. He felt himself drifting above us, disconnected from the pain and the moment, aware of the activity but somehow separate from it.

That is why I call myself an explorer. It's adventures like this one that beckon me to leather.

It's not like they happen regularly. In fact, they happen only rarely, only when the situation of experience, deep trust, patience, and serendipity some together to make it work. Oh, most scenes are fun, but the best scenes have a strangely appealing mystery to them.

I'd like to give a simple blueprint for attaining such altered states, but I can't. Though there are a few baseline requirements, they are not easily duplicated. You can't seem to make them happen at will.

Michael and I, for instance, have great sex, but the event on that cross has never been duplicated. We've come close, but never close enough.

Their occurrence is a unknown mixture of practice, trust, open-ness to the experience, and happenstance. The attitudes of the partners, the ambience of the place and time (never in a rush), all seem to promote or hinder going through the window. Physical properties, such as fatigue, stress, doubt, fear, and anger seem to detract. Patience, affection, extremes of pain and pleasure seem to enhance it.

Can they be repeated? Possibly, but I doubt it. Certainly no two trips are ever exactly the same. There is some fluidity in an altered state that suggests that the veil is parted only seldom, as if some higher force says "Here's your glimpse, now go back to reality."

It's indeed a cruel voice that whispers such a sad sentence, but what else can we do but live where we live, while searching for the fulfillment that gives a rationale to our incarnation.

Copyright 1999 by Jack Rinella. This material may not be copied in any manner. For permission to reproduce this essay, contact

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