Seek a Zen-like state. Be the void where thoughts are soap bubbles drifting in morning mist. Your being is not manipulated by unwanted thoughts.
‘When does a submissive reach her goal?’
‘When her ego returns the starfish to the sea.’
The above was a comment I left on nora’s blog recently. She was bemoaning the fact that it is so hard to get into and stay in a submissive mindset when having been a take-charge dominant woman for so long. She’s not the only person struggling with maintaining the deep submissive posture that she craves. What today’s woman seeks is a calm oasis in the vast landscape of modern society. In the past, being submissive had different connotations.
I finished reading The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert last week. The blurb reads as follows:
Elizabeth Gilbert’s first novel in twelve years is an extraordinary story of botany, exploration and desire, spanning across much of the 19th century. The novel follows the fortunes of the brilliant Alma Whittaker (daughter of a bold and charismatic botanical explorer) as she comes into her own within the world of plants and science. As Alma’s careful studies of moss take her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, the man she loves draws her in the opposite direction—into the realm of the spiritual, the divine and the magical. Alma is a clear-minded scientist; Ambrose is a Utopian artist. But what unites this couple is a shared passion for knowing—a desperate need to understand the workings of this world, and the mechanism behind of all life.
The novel is a very ambitious fictional biography, and I will admit to enjoying the prose much more than the weak plot and shallow characters. The author weaves an undercurrent of sexuality throughout the novel by creating a mechanism whereby Alma Whittaker can explore masturbation through erotic books accidentally obtained in bulk library purchases by her wealthy father. The only detailed manuscript named in the novel is Cum Grano Salis [With a Grain of Salt] and is apparently a literary construct by the author. It is an erotic treatise; purportedly being the memoirs of a man exploring the many and nuanced pleasures to be found in “marvelous bodily pricks and holes”. On page 92, Elizabeth Gilbert writes the following excerpt from the book that her protagonist Alma is reading:
I have come to believe that there are some people who benefit both in body and mind by regular beatings to the naked posterior. Many times, I have seen this practice lift the spirits of both men and women, and I suspect it may be the most salubrious treatment we have at our disposal for melancholia and other diseases of the mind. For two years, I kept company with the most delightful maid, a milliner’s girl, whose innocent and even angelic orbs became firm and strong with repeated flagellation, and whose sorrows were routinely erased by the taste of the whip. As I have described earlier in these pages, I once kept in my offices an elaborate couch, made for me by a fine London upholsterer, specially fitted with winches and ropes. This maid liked nothing more than to be tied securely upon that couch, where she would hold my member in her mouth, sucking me as a child enjoys a stick of sugar, whilst a companion—
Sounds a bit like Ruby’s adventures in The Bumhampton Chronicles, doesn’t it? This is the only reference to corporal punishment in the entire novel, unless you count slavery and asylums as implied instances: or British sailors under the lash. In any event, submission is never directly stated or acted upon, but rather assumed to be the natural order of the Universe. God first, white Protestant males next—or Royalty if not American—followed by the wealthy; then white middle-class women and the unfortunate white poor who toiled dawn-to-dusk for survival lumped beneath. Catholics, Jews, African slaves and Natives of all areas around the globe, were not to be mentioned in polite society beyond scholarly publications created to cement the white man’s place at the top.
So is the author herself a spanko? That is unknown, however, the snippet she created in Cum Grano Salis and a few pages later, shows an interest in flagellation.
Leaving behind the novel, is there even such a thing as the submissive mindset? I wrote the Zen koan posted at the beginning of this essay, because the closest parallel I have experienced to a submissive mindset myself, is during intense zazen—meditation—when all the cares and worries and emotions that beset the waking mind, drifted away into a place of empty contentment. Religion has always been protective, sometimes violently so, towards meditation/prayer as a means of enforcing submission towards the Divine. Anything that smacks of secular interference into the mysteries of the Universe has always been ruthlessly suppressed. Medicine, literature, science, sexuality; all forms of free-expression continue to run afoul of the strict tenets of faith. Religions demand submission: on their terms; or else.
“It’s a dichotomy though that the more you want to be submissive in your thoughts, the harder it becomes to quiet the chattering mind.”
The above comment I wrote for missy’s blog on one of her frequent posts about desiring a more submissive mindset. For missy and nora, among many other women in D/s relationships, they want their Doms to impose their will and demand submission through actions and words. This is in fact, how religion, and other organizations including the military, create institutions that thrive with the mindset of obedience through rote training, intimidation and fear. That mindset though is diametrically opposite to how a successful D/s relationship operates through willing cooperation and respect.
In Gilbert’s novel, Alma’s father Henry is a tyrant, created thusly by the circumstances of birth, and an early life at sea as a cabin boy. In order to carve out a life for himself, all beneath him are submissive to his needs, and any defiance is dealt with harshly. All within his orbit fear him and his temper. Henry is not a Dom. He’s a bully who’s only goal is to be richer than anyone else. Money is a vehicle with which he transcends his past and allows him to collect everything but love and an heir.
So yes, you can as a Dom, force submission through pain and fear, and render someone meek and broken to your needs. Or, you can, through selective dominance, allow—yes, allow—your submissive to tap into the well that already exists. Instead of thinking of your submissive as a tabula rasa you then write your desires upon their willing soul, instead treat them as intelligent beings who want your guidance in becoming better versions of themselves. After all, what is the difference between kneeling in a church praying, and kneeling naked in corner reflecting on inappropriate behavior?
There is of course, no real definition of what makes a submissive mindset. In this case, it seems to be an oxymoron when what makes thoughts disappear is active action, not passively waiting to be dominated. Actively seeking out actions that re-enforce the submissive bond; actively asking for a spanking when stress or melancholia rear up like the Garden’s serpent. When real-life work, family and the ever looming emergencies strike, chanting a mantra that you’ve created at your Doms behest. Having rituals that bond and release you from being in charge; even if only for awhile.
Remembering that ‘this too shall pass’, and that by taking care of your Dom first, your submissive mindset reminds them, that through service and discipline, the more they put into helping you quiet the chattering mind, the stronger and more confident you become in maintaining your submissive mindset to the enrichment of you both.
Another interesting essay which has made me think as usual. I actually have a post on mindset which I started a while ago and keep coming back to. Perhaps it is the difficulty in really defining what a submissive mindset it that keeps me from finishing it. I suppose for me it is the state where I am focussed on giving, or on being taken, and when I feel at one with that. It is not something that I can sustain all of the time and I do dip in and out as is required by the other focuses of my life, so I think what I strive is the acquiring of things, strategies, actions, rituals if you will, which help me to attain it more quickly.
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Thanks for your thoughts, missy. It is—submissive mindset—difficult to define, because it’s unique to each individual and place. However, if you want specifically to calm your mind and get off the wheel, then meditation is the quickest way there. It doesn’t have to be a cross-legged, incense burning, nature music session, but a mindful pause for breath and relaxation. Take a moment. Stand straight. Hold your hands lightly, palms up and cupped. Breath deep into your abdomen, release through your mouth. Repeat three times, then return to your task.
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Thank you. 😊
I’ve been struggling with this a lot lately as my partner and I navigate the waters of further exploring my submission to them and even to myself. I think I needed to read this and will read it again and again until it sinks in. Thank you for such an excellent piece.
You are most welcome, Livvy. Probably the most important thing to keep in mind, is that ‘sinking’ into submission should not feel like drowning. True mindfulness requires an active awareness of self and the responses you have to various stimuli. It’s more about learning how ‘not to react’ when things happen. We learn as children how to attract to attention, and then as we explore personal relationships, how to manipulate others into getting what we want. Meditation allows to you to identify those automatic responses and develop a way to uncouple the instant reaction. Being submissive is not about suppressing your emotions and needs, but examining them and finding ways to accept a more authentic life.
Thought-provoking post, LS!
Thank you very much, nora.
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I love those last two paragraphs. Some of which I do but still need reminders at times.
We all need reminders—some more than others—that D/s is a constantly changing fluid dynamic. There are an infinite number of paths to the submissive mindset, and getting there should be a source of joy not frustration.
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This is an enlightening perspective on submissive mindset. I struggle to take “active action” at times then become antsy… Those words will stick with me. Thank you!
Thank you for reading and commenting. Many Doms need the active submission in order to stay focused.
I’m in my 1st true D/s relationship, it’s been a little over a year. It’s amazing how much there is to learn and experience 😈
The key is to tailor D/s to the individuals involved, rather than a template. Also, the learning never stops but evolves.
Yes. . I have been learning that. Evolve is a perfect description. It has created such a deeper connection and level of trust.
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I really enjoyed reading this!
“treat them as intelligent beings who want your guidance in becoming better versions of themselves.”
– I feel like looking back with my kinda broken retrospectoscope, when Daddy and I shifted to using this lens through which to view our D/s, our dynamic really started blooming and resistance on both our parts slowly melted away. Because, who really can resist their loved one’s humble and desperate cry for help?
Submission should be a dynamic that flows back and forth, each partner building up the other.
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