Being kinky can be frustrating, even maddening at times. I remember, as a kid stumbling into my first fantasies, and feeling isolated and freakish, when I realized that some of the things I wanted were pretty exotic compared to most people. I was in my early 20’s before I actively pursued kink with others openly. Along the way there I had developed quite a desperate longing to be spanked and babied by a dominant woman.
I had worked out quite a detailed script in my head for the ideal fantasy scenario. I’d get my pants pulled down and get scolded in a very particular way. Then this ideal mommy type would drag me across her knee and spank me, before putting me down on the floor, and diapering me.
When I first got the opportunity to get spanked, or diapered, those very first experiences were thrilling, but always felt ultimately incomplete. I wanted to follow my perfect script. So I used to engage in a much-loathed behavior many call “topping from the bottom”. It took me several years, and a divorce before I really got my head around why it’s such shallow, terrible, disrespectful, counterproductive behavior.
But the Taoist masters of old, they weren’t so shallow. In fact, they were quite deep.
The ancient Masters were damn impressive.
They were deep. Real deep.
Words can’t even begin to describe how deep they were. You can only talk about how they acted.
They were careful, like a man walking on thin ice.
They were cautious, like a soldier behind enemy lines.
They were polite, like a guest at a party.
They moved quickly, like melting ice.
They were as plain as a block of wood.
Their minds were as wide as a valley, and their hearts as clear as spring water.
Can you wait for that kind of openness and clarity before you try to understand the world?
Can you hold still until events have unfolded before you do the right thing?
When you act without expectations, you can accomplish great things.
The behaviors Lao-tzu is describing here are forms of the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the act of being fully present in the moment. There are both external and internal aspects to being mindful.
First among these is to pay attention. An old master walking on thin ice stepped with care. He was able to cross an icy river safely because he was watchful of what the ice was doing. This is just as relevant with the potentially scary, risky things we kinky people do. You can absolutely tie someone up safely, hit them with implements, or pierce their skin without causing infection or permanent harm, if you pay attention to the person you’re doing it to.
Second is to be watchful. An old master acted like a soldier crossing enemy territory. He moved through it cautiously, taking care to mind his surroundings. Yet, he still moved ever forward. Being watchful in kink means preparing for anticipated risks, but also watching out for the unanticipated and being willing to move into unfamiliar territory. I never imagined when I was first experimenting with being spanked that I’d enjoy being caned, or caning someone else.
Third is to be gracious and grateful. An old master treated every situation like that of being an honored guest at a party. He would partake of whatever entertainment or meal was offered, in honest delight. In kink terms, this is a very giving, sex-positive attitude. It means not just being open to trying new things, but also meeting people where their interests are. When you partake willingly of what someone else has to offer you forge a deep connection with them.
Fourth is to flow with circumstance. An old master acted like ice melting in sunlight. Melting ice changes its shape and even form to a degree. As it melts into water, it expands, completely filling whatever contains it. Melting ice isn’t being destroyed – it’s fully using its transformation, to be one with its environment. That sort of adaptability is incredibly useful when playing with others. Forgot your toy bag? Maybe those panties would make a good gag. When you’re not caught up in past memories or future fears, you can become amazingly resourceful.
Fifth is to let go of identity. An old master had no fixed identity; he was as plain as a block of wood. This is a tough one to wrap your head around. A block of wood is filled with potential. It can be carved into almost anything. I’ve seen this at work in my own life. When I first started out in kink, I was a bottom, straight, and an adult baby. Over time, as I’ve let go of having a fixed identity, I’ve evolved into many other things. Now I’m a switch, sometimes a big, sometimes a little, and have a very ambiguous, flexible sexuality. As Lao-tzu says, when you let go of what you are, you become what you might be.
Sixth is to be open and still. This was perhaps the old maters’ most powerful, ineffable, quality, that of purposeful receptivity. Water in motion is often frothy, and hard to see through. But that same water becomes virtually transparent when motionless. When water is clear from stillness, you can see all the way to the very bottom of it. Topping from the bottom is the very opposite of this sort of stillness. When I stopped frothing up the waters of my play with others by letting go of my expectations for that perfect scene, everything changed for me. I got to see, with exquisite clarity, the joy of playing in that moment, with that person.
That is the big secret to mindful play. When you play with others, without expectation, it’s like your stream and theirs meet to form a mighty ocean. By trusting in them, as they trust in you, you can reach great new depths. Let your troubled waters settle, for clarity.