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Join me in Love

Surrender and the Goddess

hartmans Thursday November 2, 2017
In the last post, I talked about how my beloved and I have become closer to each other. Our work has also brought us closer to the divine. I've had critical breakthroughs in how I approach Venus and my own spirituality.
Of course this story is deeply personal. However, it is also a story of prayer answered, the deep love the gods have for us, and the long winding path that is growth as a lover. I hope you will find a deeper appreciation for the complexity that is spiritual growth and our struggle to find something bigger than ourselves. Perhaps you will be able to see important steps along your path as I talk about mine.

Long before I placed my collar around her neck, we talked about the role of spirituality and the divine in our surrender. She wasn't sure that she could surrender to me, but she could definitely surrender to the goddess and offer herself to me in getting closer to that. As she wrote:
>…to expand one's life to its divine edges, uplift the person exalting you and then surrender in love and trust to them knowing that you're actually surrendering to the Universe. Wow.
That resonated with me. Surrender offers the opportunity to strip away layers of self. As I accept surrender, we have the opportunity to examine each layer that we fold back. I can offer a mirror as together we focus on and honor each layer we strip away. It is a small step from that to honoring the goddess within. As the layers fall aside and we approach our core self, that mirror becomes a powerful tool for acknowledging and honoring the gift of the surrender.
Of course the mirror is two-way. As I accept someone's surrender, they offer me a view into myself.
When we surrender from strength, we can use this as an opportunity to reflect our strength, beauty and even the imminent deity within ourselves. The power of the experience gives us deeper connection both with ourselves and those involved in the experience.
And so our journey of surrender and possession became a spiritual journey too. We use the work we do to get closer to the divine.
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Eo Hermes, How are you Old Man

hartmans Sunday October 15, 2017
At the Lovers Grove founding, I began to wear a leather cord with a shell for my vow as Sacred Lover and a caduceus to symbolize my vow as Sacred Messenger. This summer, I sweatted through the cord and so i needed to replace it.
The other day, I was preparing a new cord. As part of that, I did a small ritual to reconnect with my vows and to reaffirm them.
The Sacred Lover vow was easy. It's hard work, but it's work that calls to my core.
Facing the description of the Office of Sacred Messenger is hard. My stomach clenched when I re-read that page. The idea of being that open is frightening and unapproachable. I still value the work. I think soon, I'll even be back to a place where I could do the sort of sharing of stories of love with a big audience that calls for. I have no idea how to make that happen, and I don't think I alone am going to be able to change that.
Then, I read my personal messenger vow. Ah, yes, that's something I can do. I can write here, I can share with the people I run across. If something bigger comes along, I can face that, but that's probably not going to be something I just pull out of a hat.
Later, I was going to the gym and I found myself thinking of and calling to Hermes. I'm not the one who brought Hermes to Lovers Grove. I was just starting to get to know him when things blew up and I was left as the only one in the grove. I haven't been able to reach out to him since.
Finally, I was able to reach out this weekend. Typically i've found that pushing myself physically makes a good Hermes offering, and I did that. Didn't hear much back, but that's OK.
It was a time for me to say "I'm still here; I feel you out there. Here's where I am as a messenger; here's what I can do on my own. The rest, if you want to help with that, we need to talk."
Eo Hermes

Adventures in Surrender

hartmans Wednesday July 12, 2017
She sits across the table from me. She’s been talking about how all her money went on walk-about in a shopping spree in Florida that she wasn’t invited to. Eventually the bank will give it back after the fraud report is processed. But for now, she’s stressed and upset.

Months ago I said I wanted to possess her. We have played with it in the bedroom a bit. I’m developing confidence that she’s offering real surrender, not just a desire to hear certain words while we fuck. I realize that if she were mine, I could help her. What we’ve been talking about is big enough that I could offer real support through that dynamic. Well, no time like the present. There’s some danger that I’ll get slapped or make a bad situation worse, but if I’m right I can lend her strength through that possession.

“Mine,” I say. She asks me to repeat it with my hand on the back of her neck. It helps. She has offered enough of herself that claiming her is calming. In that moment I become sure that this is something wonderful and big. That moment will bring her to desire to wear my collar.

Writing about our journey is hard. It’s intimate because there’s no way I can pull out the part that is just my story. In writing I’m facing the familiar challenge of exposing my own vulnerability. But I’m also sharing the vulnerability of someone who is mine to protect. I’m sharing something sacred to us both.

Yet in our story, there is a bigger story that is important to share. Surrender is big, and it is important to try and share that bigness to help others along their path. I hope that people who have never played with this aspect of BDSM can better understand what is going on. More than that, surrender is a window to the vulnerability and connection that is at the core of love. Even if surrender is not a tool you would use, I hope you can gain another perspective on the heart of connection.

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Hook Experience

hartmans Saturday July 1, 2017
A week ago I faced one of the most intense rituals of my life. In order to break through some of the spiritual walls that have plagued me for the last year, I joined a hook suspension ritual. The idea is that two large hooks will be run under the skin of your back and then you will be suspended from the hooks. As you might imagine, it's physically and emotionally intense, and in the right context that intensity can be very spiritual.
I'd like to share this note I wrote to the community discussing what a transformative experience it was.

I want to share my experience Saturday night. We have a wonderful tribe and I'd like to share exactly how amazing it is.

Background

I came into this set of rituals confused and deaf. I haven't been able to hear my gods clearly. Venus has been trying to say something in my dreams but it hasn't been coming through. Connecting with fire has been spotty. There are big things in the future and I've found it challenging to prepare for them without deeper connection to the spiritual.

I am very uncomfortable with divination in general and oracles in particular. I think you should be very careful asking the universe a question: you might get an answer. Generally I've found it is far better to live in the moment than to be constrained by an answered question.

But I was stuck. So, when an oracle was offered at Friday ritual, i took advantage. I learned that to hear the spiritual easily, I needed to finish healing my own spirit from the pain of the last year. I'll admit that the “well duh” gong sounding with that realization was kind of loud and I’m sort of surprised that I didn’t hear it sooner. On the other hand, It’s easy to hope and believe that we’ve finished our healing: the healing is long and hard, and it’s disappointing to admit to ourselves that there is more ahead.

Further, the oracle suggested that I couldn’t always be driving my own work. I didn’t always need to be the one doing; I needed to trust in my community—I needed to be taken care of.

Saturday


When I attended my first hook suspension I admired the courage of those who went through the ordeal. Back then, I thought it would be unlikely that I would need an experience so intensely physical . My trials seemed to involve finding the courage to be open and honest, not the physical ordeal that the primal rituals are best known for.

Yet when I heard that there would be hook suspensions Saturday, I immediately began to wonder whether it was my time. I needed something powerful enough to knock down the walls I built around my spirit. I needed something powerful enough that I could surrender to the community; something I could not face without letting go and trusting. Over the past couple of years I’ve been getting some strong messages of welcome and belonging from the tribe. I wanted a way of saying “I hear you; in my brain, breath, bone and blood I know that this is my fire.” Surrendering to the hooks would do all that.

Yet this would be a big step for me. I’ve only been suspended once; a very mild experience offered around the fire a couple years ago. I’ve only had one piercing scene before: I received a few 24-gauge needles on my front. A hook suspension is not really comparable to either of those. I had no comparison. I was jumping into the ocean; I knew it was bigger than my bath tub. I suspected I might need something that big.

So I meditated. By the time I was ready to go down to the fire I was reasonably sure that I needed hooks. The community considered my request and I was given a slot.

I submerge myself in the ritual. The ritual, the fire are beautiful. I dance and hold space. I am calm; I made my decision. I let go more and more. I lose track of where I am; I float between the fire and the drums. I lose track of the orientation of the circle: as some of the drummers moved, I lost track of which end was the drum pit and where in the circle I was. That’s only happened once before. The fire is hot. I continue to drift.

The Hooks Go In


I am called over to get ready. I lay on the table and the first hook goes in. It hurts; I don’t know that I could have taken it two years ago. Now, it is a pain I can breathe through. That first hook settles easily. Three breaths later, the second hook goes in. That hurts! It hurts a lot. And it does not stop hurting.

A couple minutes later it has sort of settled and I prepare to try and sit up. D is there to rig me. We’ve been together since the Temple of Flame. His voice, calmly and carefully walking someone through a scene that was very close to their limits, is one of the memories that typifies the strength of our tribe. I trust no one greater for this sort of experience.

I sit up and turned to my left. Holey fuck! That hurt a lot. As I moved, both hooks, but especially the left really start to hurt. Waves of dizziness roll through me. Wow, that hurts, I think. Fuck, I'm going to have to stand up, walk over to the rigging station, and then things are going to get a whole lot more intense. Hey, body, are we up for that? My body responds viscerally.

“Sam, you passed out for a bit.” Yeah, seems about right. Discontinuity in my sense of time. I don’t know how I got into this position. Hmm, soon someone is going to want to put a bunch of large meat hooks in my back. I’m already hurting. I don’t know if I can take that.

“Are you with us?”

“Yes. I’m safe.” I realize it’s true. There are the drums, I’m floating in their energy. I’m surrounded by my tribe. I am absolutely safe. I realize that at no point in this entire experience have I felt any significant fear.

Stop and think about that for a moment. I’m going from the experience of tiny needles and a simple rope suspension to hooks and possibly a suspension. I’m not afraid. I’m not even afraid when my body seems to be telling me that I’m asking too much of it. I’ve had hours to consider this upcoming experience and all I felt was nervousness.

And let me tell you that I’m not immune to fear. I know the mind-crippling fear that locks down your body. Again and again I have challenged my fear around the fire.

But for me, this time around the fire is about surrendering to trust, not fighting fear. We’ve built a spiritual container strong enough that I can face an experience this intense without fear. I know I’ll be safe. And as my body relaxes there on that table, even as the scene takes a turn for the unexpected, the trust and acceptance of my tribe fills me.

The medic tries to reassure me that “Yes, you are safe.” She’s funny. The safety and trust are so intrinsic that her reassurance is meaningless. I’m letting her know that I’m in my scene, in a good place, and I’ve returned from passing out to a very wonderful sub space.

I fade in and out a bit more. Eventually, I regain enough verbal acuity to ask for help. “I’m not sure if I can take going up. Standing up and walking to the rigging station seems like it’s going to be a lot. How should we make that decision?”

“O, I don’t think going up tonight would be a good idea.” She goes on. She then tries to reassure me that I can try and go up some other time; I did what I could that evening. I laugh and explain. Flying was not my desire. I wanted to release my spirit to the cosmos. I wanted to take down the walls. I wanted to surrender to tribe. Flying was only a tool. All that has happened without that tool. I got the ordeal I needed. The ritual was already a success, and I was happy to rely on her recommendation. If flying is in the cards some day, so be it, but that shall be a ritual for its own reasons, not a completion of this.

The hooks were removed and I made a few rounds around the fire to celebrate trust and surrender.

Conclusions


I am honored to be part of our community. I am honored to help bring people to the fire, to provide encouragement, and to provide care when needed. There are many who strive for flash or show around the fire. That was not my role, not even this time. I’m there to find the simplest path to where I’m going and to help everyone believe that this is their fire. I’m there to help people see that the fire is for them listening to the drums and watching from the side with intent. I’m there to say that the fire is for those of us giving our energy to the dance and holding space no matter our level of skill or flash. Saturday I was there to say that the fire, the ritual is ours, even when we face the unexpected. So long as we bring what openness we can, so long as we bring our intent, this is our fire.

Give Thanks!

A Community Safe for tops and bottoms

hartmans Wednesday June 28, 2017
I have an excellent opportunity to explore a consent discussion when
everything worked out in the end. I hope that you will join me in
exploring and learning from this issue in a situation where we have a
bit more room to speak without our voices being drowned by the feelings
of those we would like to communicate with. Even though this is a
situation where things worked out, and we have a bit more room, real
people and real feelings are involved. I ask for your respect as I

I've always wanted to try ear plugs in a scene. Because I'm blind I was
thinking that it might offer some of the same vulnerability that a
blindfold offers someone else.

I was working with someone I trusted and I decided to go for that. We
set up a sensation scene combining flogging, other forms of impact,
sensation play, tickling and other elements. It was sexy, although
ended up not having much of a sexual component, besides some genital contact. We were working to keep me fully in my body, fully in
the moment. We were working to play with vulnerability in a safe space.

I wore earplugs that significantly dampened sound. There was reasonably
loud music playing. I could hear talking and often make out words, but
my top said he planned not to talk at all during the scene. I could not
hear people moving around me. When they were not touching me, they
almost completely disappeared from my awareness.

The scene was great. Some parts were intense, but mostly I flowed from
one moment to the next, unable to predict what was going on. One
surprise stood out above all others. At some point in the scene, I
realized that there were more than two hands on me and more going on
than one person could account for. My top had invited others to join
our scene. This was not negotiated.

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Gift of Humanity

hartmans Sunday June 18, 2017
Last December, I wrote a story for a Christmas contest based very loosly on the adventures of two people I know who defied custom to help people as they emerge from prison. Unlike a lot of my fiction, I was able to produce a version without explicitly sexual content. I feel comfortable sharing that version with professional contacts who ask about my writing. I just got around to posting that version on my website and so I wanted to share it here. I didn't place in the contest, but I'm proud when I compare my work to the other entries.
It has been really wonderful to share this with coworkers and my parents and be able to say, “See, that’s what I’m about when I’m asking people to think more about love.” The story actually started great conversations with my parents. My father has been volunteering helping mentor prisoners, and the discussion created an opening for us to talk about the challenge of integrating people back into society.

Personal Impact

I may not have won the writing contest, but I won the contest of life with this story. Talking about it helped my fiancée and I grow closer. Then later, she borrowed from the main character in the story when it was time for her to let me know how serious the relationship had become.

The Expurgation Process

I knew when I finished the story that I could trim out a couple of scenes and make it something I would feel comfortable sharing more widely than some of my more explicit fiction. Actually performing that trimming was hard: I was worried that I would find the sex scenes I trimmed didn't affect the overall story. I don't see anything wrong with writing sex scenes to appeal to the prurient interest of the reader. However, I hoped I was doing something more. This was the first real test of whether that was the case.
As it turned out, my fears were groundless. I actually had to reshape the characters somewhat in order for the story to make sense with the sex scenes trimmed. The female lead needed to be less assertive and her boyfriend needed to be more confident in the relationship. I needed to appeal more to the reader's stereotypes of how relationships work for the story to flow.
The change is small but significant.
I hope you enjoy and would value any feedback you have.

When No Requires Strength we Lack

hartmans Friday June 9, 2017
For me, one of the defining characteristics of the Fires of Venus environment was that it was permissive. We trusted people to know their own desires and to know what they were ready for. We didn't second guess people, or judge what training they needed before taking a particular risk. We created a space that helped people find a yes within themselves when approaching things they wanted to experience. I speak of this in the original Sacred Lover post as one of the things I most value in the community. For me, a space in which I was encouraged to embrace risk and to challenge myself to open to opportunities changed my life.

Last year, I faced the potential harm of this sort of permissive environment. Intellectually, I've long been aware that people can feel pressured into saying yes when they would rather not. I understand that abuse can create or amplify that. Last year, though, I slammed hard into the emotional reality.

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Rape Culture

hartmans Sunday April 23, 2017
Boundaries and consent featured prominently in my 2016, and I'm still unpacking those lessons. In future posts, I'll be talking about cases where there’s no clear answer, where tradeoffs are complex, and where my greatest hope is for compassion and empathy. Sometimes, though, things are clear. I want to share a profound experience about standing firm against abuse in one of those situations.
For a long time, I've believed that we have systemic problems that lead to sexism, sexual abuse, sexual violence and rape. We aren’t going to solve things just by treating each incident separately without also looking at the patterns and making systemic changes. However, I resisted the term rape culture.
One day last fall, A friend wrote to me and told me how she had stopped a rape from happening. My immediate reaction as I began to read her account was disappointment: why was she being so sensationalist? Why did she need to jump to the assumption that rape or abuse was likely? A little alarm bell went off in my head: we have similar views on consent. Why, without even reading the details, had I decided my friend was sensationalist? How would I feel if she were a victim of abuse. Interesting…if she was the victim, i would not doubt. I’ve been there trying to support friends enough times that it is easy to focus on being there for them as they tell the part of their story that they wish to share. It didn’t make sense to doubt in one circumstance and not another. I decided I did not trust my feelings and began to read the mail, trying to work past my prejudice.
The alarm klaxons in my head sounded for an entirely different reasons as an incredible story unfolded before me. I felt my anger rise as the victim was threatened and her boundaries violated. I did not doubt the story. Even so, I found my emotions swinging wildly between rage that someone would show so little respect and returning disappointment that my friend was using such harsh language in condemning the abuser. I couldn’t understand my reaction. One moment, I was furious. The next moment, as my friend was expressing exactly the same kind of feelings I had just been feeling, I felt she was over reacting. I knew my emotions made no sense. It would take a while to untangle them. I also knew I was proud of my friend for taking a stand and helping someone. Her intervention limited the damage in what could have been a really bad situation.
As the email drew to a close, the doubts began to resurface. “This all could have been a misunderstanding. How would you feel if you misunderstood someone’s willingness and you were labeled a rapist?” I stopped for a moment. “Could I have made this mistake? Was it really that easy that it could be a misunderstanding?”
I thought back over my recent past to see if there was anything similar and to think about how I’d acted. It turned out that I needed only look back one day to compare and contrast my actions. I was at a sex event, standing around a camp fire, making out with someone I had met. It was clear we had some chemistry. Unlike the abuser in my friend’s story, I cared about consent. Rather than using alcohol to help loosen up someone for conquest, I grew concerned that perhaps my make-out partner might have had enough to drink that I’d rather not proceed. I asked her. It turned out she hadn’t had very much. Even so, my question, or something around then broke the mood. Our cuddling adjusted to a friendly, but less intimate approach. It never crossed my mind to consider being less aware of consent and boundaries.
No, the situation my friend described was not a simple mistake. I was not going to make the mistake of ignoring how alcohol or other altered states affect consent. I might make a bad call in some corner case, but I sure wasn’t going to encourage someone to drink more or to go out of my way to approach someone when drunk. As I thought about the other details of the situation, I realized that it was preposterous to view that as a mistake I could have made. There’s no way I’d work to stop someone from leaving, interfering with their ability to call for a ride, after they had asked to leave.
I felt shame that I kept trying to explain away the abuse, to find a way to turn aside from what my friend offered to expose, to doubt her story. For the first time, rape culture really felt like it fit. Some deep cultural indoctrination was strongly shaping my reactions to doubt the idea that a situation could lead to rape. It had to be something really strong to keep diverting me away from accepting my friend’s story multiple times. I’m sure there had been countless times before when I didn’t notice what I was doing. This time, trust for my friend and our communication was strong enough to allow me to pay attention to my feelings and to realize that they no longer met my needs. I want to help respect people’s boundaries. I want to fight the shame we face when talking about abuse. I want to help promote a world where we encourage each other in our efforts to defend boundaries.
I’m used to being in tune with my feelings. It was unnerving to find that I trusted my emotional reaction so little. I felt betrayed. I was sad because I realized that this had made it harder for me to be there for people. I was already working to think more about boundaries and consent. Since then, that process has continued. It’s long and involved. Discarding outdated assumptions is hard; so is figuring out what I will replace them with.

A Glimpse into Conditioning

I suspect there’s no one element that creates this aspect of rape culture. I suspect over years we see those who talk about abuse (especially potential abuse or abuse that could have happened) ridiculed, and grow to internalize it. However as I was writing this post, I did get a glimpse into one experience from my childhood that helped shape my response.
My kindergarten teacher was abusing a number of kids in the class. I was not often a victim, although it did happen. I talked to my parents, and they talked to some of the other parents. I was lucky in one sense: they were ready to believe me. However, I found the entire experience more frightening than the abuse. They talked to me about how complaints of abuse could destroy my teacher’s career. They would support me, but they wanted me to carefully consider the consequences of my actions. I was frightened and scared. I was fairly sure I was being accurate in my descriptions, but I didn’t want to make a mistake that hurt someone. I didn’t want my teacher to stop teaching; I just wanted him to follow the rules. I found the process of reporting the abuse far more traumatic than anything that happened to me at least.
As a result, I walked away thinking that abuse was quite uncommon, and that it was a really big deal. I walked away believing that it was something you might be wrong about and that you should be careful and restrained in how you reported abuse. And I guess somewhere along the way, I learned to distrust people who didn’t fit that pattern.
And of course, like the most insidious traps, there are some grains of truth mixed in there. I still don’t have the answers, but at least I am thinking.

Desires and Priorities

hartmans Sunday April 9, 2017
Last year I took a look back on my work as a Sacred Lover and talked about how I felt some things were missing. Later I talked about how I was almost ready to explore what my priorities are in my spiritual work. I hoped to discuss that with people who were close in my life before sharing. That proved painfully impossible and so I'm just now getting back to that exploration.

Living a Life of Love

First and foremost, when I walk Venus's path it is about living a life of love. I work to cultivate the love in my life. I work to help those close to me grow. I explore how to love better, teaching and learning alongside those who are close to me.
I am amazed at how successful this work has been. I recently reviewed my blog and personal notes going forward from the beginning of 2016. I'm proud of how much I've grown and how much people close to me have grown. My whole face lights up and my spirit fills with joy when I think about what we've accomplished and how I helped bring that about.

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Antinihilism and Spirituality

hartmans Sunday April 2, 2017
A while ago, I was discussing my spiritual work with a friend. During a long, winding discussion, I came up with a deeper understanding of what I’m trying to accomplish. I’d like to explore that here.

Essential to my personal spiritual approach is the idea that values are relative. I don’t claim one set of values is good and another bad. As I’ve studied philosophy, I’ve found the attempts to come up with some absolute moral justification contorted and hollow. When I look at cultures different than my own, their values diverge significantly. For that matter, my values diverge significantly from many approximations of “mainstream” American culture.


One of the beauties of this work is that I get to see how different people are. I can see how what works for one person would not work at all for another. For me, one of the strongest arguments against some set of absolute values is that diversity. I don’t want to be the person who is deemed to be too far outside—the person who doesn’t get to strive for what they want. I don’t want to be the person deciding someone else is wrong for striving for what they believe in.

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