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.