EW: The first thing I wanted to do was set intentions. So today I am setting the intention of curiosity, strong will, and resilience.
DD: So as far as intentions for this conversation, I’m setting up inspiration and the possibility of allowing other people to open up new doors for themselves, as well as open up new doors for myself, into myself, to see further in my psyche new ways of being that really will deepen my emotional connection to other people as well as myself and the earth.
EW: Absolutely… Absolutely.
Well. What does transformation mean to you? What does transformation mean to you, what do ways of being mean to you? I know that you and I are both interested in being really intentional about the way we are with other people, approaching things from a position of healing.
DD: So it’s funny because the last time that you and I connected about this conversation, we both had a similar thought about transformation, which is that it’s a new way of being. That sounds somewhat easy, but I think that it can also be kind of shallow and performative if it’s not a deep and real transformation. It’s not just “acting different”
EW: Right. It’s not just code-switching
DD: So transformation and finding a new way of being rely upon finding and shedding old habits that aren’t serving us, old thought patterns, old programming, old conditioning, and really evaluating those [according to] “Why do I have them? Are they serving me? What is my goal in life?” So finding new ways and new programming to replace that old programming. Whether that’s neurologically and creating new neural pathways or creating new habits. Or energetically, coming out of your proverbial shell and shedding whatever those layers of your shell were and trying out new things. I think that can also be transformational.
EW: definitely. I would also like to add—well Heidegger has this idea of “clearings” of being, and I really love his definition of a clearing of being. I envision us as electromagnetic fields; we have north poles and south poles, things that emanate from us, and things that we attract. I think that we have generated selves, which are the selves that we engage in when we’re being super intentional, when we’re being super present, when we are acknowledging our thought processes and when we can take a step back and see what’s going on inside our own heads. And then we have default selves, which is the self that says “I am my own feelings, I am my own ways of thinking, I am my old habits and my old conditioning.” I think transformation happens when you step from one clearing to another, from your default self to your generated self.
DD: I think that what you’re talking about in terms of something a little more academic. I can speak on in terms of more spiritual matters as a part of reclaiming parts of your soul that have been lost in certain situations, and realizing that you are accessing some part of you that isn’t there anymore, or that was lost. And when you access a part of you that was lost, you’re accessing a void, and you’re accessing the pain of that void. And a lot of times the transformational aspect of finding a new way of being is filling that void with your own story or your own healing by rewriting it. Which I think is almost like rewiring your brain. Simplified, a neural pathway is a path that your neurons travel from A to B that is well-worn into your brain. So when somebody says “oh I always do this” or when something is a habit
EW: “Oh I’m just like that” or “that’s just my personality”
DD: Exactly. That’s a neural pathway that has already been established. And it has been shown in scientific studies on neuroplasticity that humans can build new neural pathways in the brain. Another study that I read is that an effective way to increase the gray matter in your brain is through meditation. So gray matter is, from my understanding, the part of the brain associated with introspection, sense of self, and empathy.
EW: I didn’t realize until I started being present to these thoughts, but stepping out of your default self, forging new neural pathways, stepping into new habits or stepping out of old habits is really fucking hard.
DD: it is really, really hard
EW: I think that Buddhists conceive of it in a specific way, which is “We need to get rid of all of our attachments.” And I think that a lot of people perceive that as getting rid of all your earthly attachments and all your earthly desires, but I don’t think that’s what that means. I think it’s more like “Get rid of the idea of attachment. Get rid of being attached to identity. Get rid of being attached to ways of being. Get rid of being attached to old habits that you have, and old conditioning.” And when I have to step outside of a way of being that I’m attached to, it feels like a tearing. It feels like something is being torn out of me.
DD: I’d like to speak about the idea of transformation in the craft that we do, and how it has been reflected in my yearning for a deepening and a growth in my own self, and acquiring skills to help other people find their own transformation, and how healing that can be!
EW: Do you currently have any practices that you do to encourage transformation? Any intentionality habits?
DD: I would have to say that magic is a huge part of my life, specifically witchcraft. So I use different elements of it in my practice, and every once in a while it becomes my practice. So I’ve done rituals with clients as a BDSM practitioner utilizing witchcraft as her main skill or the main modality within certain types of relationships and sessions. And that has been transformative for me in terms of understanding the broadness of what we do and how we can affect people. Because of course as a professional, we aim to capture clients’ fantasies and act them out with them and help them out with that. But beyond that there’s so much more in how we can help somebody overcome shame or discover new parts of themselves that they’ve never really come in contact with because they didn’t have the space for it. I think that’s really important because then you are coming out of a very small box of being. I’m talking about the client of course—helping them come out of a small box of being into something that is maybe less definable.
For example, if we’re engaging in something like pegging. If the client is somebody who has had some trepidation around it, in terms of how he may perceive himself intellectual versus his bodily desire, which I think is one of the driving forces in empowerment, what you’re feeling in your body. So those being in conflict, and having the courage to explore the thing that’s scary, which is pegging. And then realizing “oh my god, I love this. Why is it wrong?” And then dissecting what “wrongness” is in that strange moral standard that they’ve been holding for so long, realizing that it’s not wrongness, and that it's not about being homosexual or trans or whatever. It’s just about enjoying a simple pleasure of the body.
EW: There’s nothing wrong with the idea of being penetrated. I think for a lot of people, and this is a genderless concept, the idea of being penetrated is somehow giving something to somebody else; you’re allowing them into the space that is your body. I think that transformation can also be calling attention to the way of being that you are embodying right now, and a new possibility for a new way of being.
DD: A nuance of semantics: when somebody is saying “anti-something,” like if somebody is anti-sex work, they are still talking about sex work. Or if I’m anti-violence, I’m still calling violence into being every time I use the word “violence,” even if I use anti- in front of it. So that’s not calling something new into being; that’s reiterating the thing that you don’t want. And I think that if you are really using your words that is another part of magic. That’s what Abracadabra means: “I speak this into being.” So if you are, for example, anti-sex work, you want to use a different word to be that thing; you are pro-prohibition or abolition, or whatever it is that will focus on the positive results of whatever you want.
EW: Because words are super important, both the spoken word and the written word, my goal this week is to come up with a new morning routine, and part of my morning routine now consists of writing affirmations. And affirmations are anything that I want to call into being. It could be: “I am in love with my space.” “I am a professor at an amazing university.” “I have tons of money.” I did it this morning and felt so caffeinated immediately!
DD: So you kind of opened up your energy to be charged by these positive thoughts. I love that! That’s a really good goal because if you are aiming to transform in some way, you do have to take some baby steps
EW: The second thing is that you need to recognize the abundance that already occurs in your life, because nothing occurs from a scarcity mentality. So you acknowledge all the things you’re grateful for, all the pleasures and privileges that are allowed to you, and all the things you are grateful for within your own character. You need to call into being what success looks like for you, and this success and these goals cannot be logical. They cannot be based in logic. They have to be goals that are so big that they are basically acts of God.
DD: I like that, because I think that’s a huge limitation for a lot of people, is the tangible, logical, practical. Sometimes though, there’s a dissonance between what is achievable and reaching that. So I think that’s important to have that very high aim, and then what you’re talking about as far as your morning pages and affirmations are steps. And once you start creating this movement, this upward trajectory with energy--
EW: --this momentum--
DD: Exactly. I think that’s when the universe starts hearing you, and saying, “Ok, I know what you want, but I also see you working toward it, so I’m going to help you out.” And I really believe that the universe does hear and pay attention and give you signs and opportunities, but you have to make those first steps. Like “I’m at point A, moving toward point B”
EW: You have to be in motion about it, for sure. And then the universe can meet you in the middle.
DD: Yea. It can’t do everything for you, but it’s not going to not do anything for you. Unless we’re totally wrong. Which has happened before. You know, sometimes there are people in our lives that we don’t want to deal with anymore, but have we fully explored what that relationship is teaching us? For example, I had this neighbor that was really terrible to me; she was racist and very hypocritical. And we were just neighbors—I wasn’t trying to be her friend. So I did a vanishing spell with a black candle, and wrote her name on it, and the candle would not burn all the way down. And I took that as a sign, saying “no, you can’t banish this person from your life. I will give you halfway, like you don’t have to deal with her as much, but she’s not going to move away. But you still have to be a kind neighbor with her.”
EW: I think that falls directly in line with our conversation about semantics. So the way that conversation was framed for me for the first time is that we form verbal agreements, and when we form those agreements, we are, like you are saying, calling them into being. Our words are so powerful. But even when we disagree about something, that’s still an agreement; it’s still an agreement that that thing exists. Like when you did this banishing spell, that in a way is a disagreement.
DD: Yes. Or really a compromise in some ways too
EW: Yea, definitely. Or maybe a teaching opportunity. Sometimes we don’t get exactly what we want, or it doesn’t come in the way that we expect.
DD: That happens a lot, which I think has everything to do with the lessons you are here to learn. I definitely think that there is a larger plan, and we are all a part of it in some way, whether we know it or not. And opening ourselves up to the possibility that we are being guided by forces that are beyond our will, I think that’s another metaphysical or spiritual or magical belief that is sustainable in helping me get past certain frustrations. I’m not much of a complainer because I’m just like why waste my breath complaining about something that didn’t happen the way I wanted it to, because that’s just reiterating that my will is the most important thing on this planet
EW: Or, if I complain about something, I am wasting my breath, because I create for myself that I don’t get what I want, and I think that’s incredibly disempowering, you know what I mean? Creating for yourself, “Oh I’m just somebody who doesn’t get what they want” or “Oh I have bad luck” and then from there on everywhere you look, you’re going to have bad luck.
DD: Then that’s how it’s going to be! You have already decided that that’s what you’re calling in.
EW: Exactly! You’ve already decided that that’s how the universe is going to be for you.
DD: I mean it’s alright to say something like, “Oh I’m having a shitty day.” But then there’s always tomorrow. And I’m one of those people who is annoyingly optimistic sometimes, which I think is a testament to how strong my belief is. I don’t see setbacks or view mistakes as that meaningful; I see them as little check-in outposts, like “you can take a little breather here and make sure that you’re still on track, because you might not be.”
EW: It’s a reminder.
PART 2 is available on Empress Wu’s blog
Empress Wu is a Professional Dominatrix in NYC that has a healthy obsession with fear; how it can be constructed, how it can be destroyed, and how it can be used as a tool for healing both environmental and inherited trauma. She is also an organizer, primarily engaged in the spheres of sex labor activism and creative production.