None of this ‘special, but secret’ part of my life makes a lot of sense, I know. I am a single woman, in my mid 30s and so at the time of life when the search for a man can be at its most frantic. I also have a very good, very well paid job that I genuinely enjoy; quite frankly I love it. I am still decent looking; I have quite a good figure (careful diet, gym at least twice a week without fail). I dress well (I have to for my job) and even though I say it myself I scrub up well too. I do splash out a bit on good cosmetics but I certainly don’t need to shovel it on. I can get my work face together in less than ten minutes although if we have anything special going on I do make an extra effort, obviously. I am well educated and although I didn’t quite make Oxbridge, I didn’t miss by much.
So why spanking? Well, somewhat at a loose end after my last relationship broke down about two years ago (my boyfriend and I pretty well walked out on each other) I googled ‘spanking’ one night and was absolutely astonished at the amount of material that came up. I had some experience of being spanked from an earlier relationship although it was distinctly of the fun sort, but reading through the web pages it looked like I must have been the only person in the country not participating!
I joined a chat site. This turned out to be something of a reality check but I did at least talk online to a couple of older, experienced men who directed me towards Adult School. Something else I had never heard of! I read up on this too. How on earth had so much been going on without even a whisper reaching my ears? Some more chatting later, and a very nervous call to one such school, helped me to draw up a plan in my mind. My curiosity got the better of me and I decided to give it a try.
Then the logic side kicked in. I was wondering what might actually go on there, so back to reading. I saw one school did ladies-only days. That was attractive as it meant the sometimes overbearing presence of men was taken out of the equation. While I would not say I am especially shy, the thought of presenting my bottom for punishment in front of a lot of leering men was something I didn’t want to do. Next on the list was a requirement to wear some sort of school uniform. For heaven’s sake, I was a woman in her mid 30s; could I not dress as I wanted? Would smart/casual not do? No, apparently not. This was an iron requirement.
‘OK,’ I thought, ‘I suppose I can put up with that one, silly though it is. Really silly.’
I so nearly made the call to book several times. I am in charge of quite a lot in my day to day life and my decisions affect money to the tune of several millions of pounds and the employment situations of many dozens of people. Eventually I berated myself for being unable to make a simple phone call, yet still when I finally pressed all the digits, instead of chickening out just before reaching the last one, I was very nervous and had to swallow hard as the call was connected. I stuttered and stammered my way through several minutes and felt myself blushing as I thought the lady on the other end must be thinking I was a proper Charlie. However, the booking was made, despite me trembling like a leaf throughout. I was able to make some notes and from then on, after giving myself a stiff talking to, I arranged to take two days’ leave for the day in question and the one after, and started putting together something that would resemble a school uniform by ‘casually scanning’ the racks in charity shops ‘while looking for trashy novels’ (my ‘cover story’ in case I met anyone I knew).
I did attend the Adult School. All sorts of things happened. I did not expect to witness other girls being punished. I found that quite heart-stopping, but of course they saw me receive the paddle and strap and later the cane, and I received the cane again later, in private in the Headmistress’s office, but so did everyone else. I rapidly became aware that all the other participants knew one another and I was the new girl, so I was teased quite a lot. I didn’t mind it at first but it become repetitive by the end. One surprise to me was that I found I quite liked being in uniform. It helped that everyone else was too, but for me this aspect took on a life of its own and thinking about it afterwards it was probably getting changed that really helped me get into the roleplay.
After it was all over, however, I waited a couple of days before coming to an overall verdict, which was that exciting though some of it was, it really wasn’t for me. The silly behaviour had been too silly, and although I didn’t mind the teasing it just went on too much. The very best thing was having cane marks on my bottom, which I simply loved after all the smarting had died away. They felt great to have and I wanted to have them again, but not by going to adult school.
Out of the blue a few days later the ‘Headmistress’ called me to see what I made of it all. The upshot of this call – I had only just got in and was still in work mode when it started so might have sounded a little brusque – was an offer to see her privately for what she called a one-to-one, something else I had read about yet had somehow never connected. She told me that it was available if I was interested although she also said she saw a number of people and couldn’t always guarantee her availability on any particular day. I had actually been made aware by the other ‘pupils’ I spoke to during the ‘school day’ that the waiting lists for the all-girls days at ‘adult school’ sometimes ran to weeks or even months, so her remarks did not come as a surprise.
We talked for quite a while; she was understanding about what I said about the school day, but then asked me what parts I had actually liked. I just couldn’t bring myself to say “having cane marks on my bottom” as I thought it would make me sound like an absolute harlot, so I mumbled something about how I had not been looking forward to wearing school uniform yet had found it helped ease me into the day.
She asked me if I would like to wear it again if I were to see her privately and I agreed straight away, after which she went on to say: “You might be surprised, but a lot of ladies I see privately say the same thing,” then she asked me about the instruments she used to spank with and teased out of me that my favourite had been the cane, although I said little more about it other than the marks it left had given me a good memory of the actual day.
She also asked me directly if I had enjoyed myself and somewhat gushingly I blurted out: “Yes, oh yes, that was the best part of the day,” which I thought later stood to be misinterpreted but she sounded quite keen to know if I wanted to go to see her again. I was not immediately sure and had the same reason-work timetable-quite genuine-so I told her that while I was grateful for her call and proposal I would have to let her know. I was quite happy as the call ended and I think my mind had already been made up. Somehow I had just never ever considered looking for the physical discipline I was interested in from another woman but this offer carried a lot of advantages.
When I called back, a fortnight later, the conversation was wonderful. As ever, I began nervously but the headmistress was able to quite easily get me to talk about what I would be looking for from the session. As we spoke, she praised my resilience and said she had more fuss from girls who claimed to be experienced at being spanked, which was a nice thing for her to say. Eventually we had a vague idea that there would be an afternoon of discipline involving me being caned at least twice (I had an option of attending just to receive six stripes but I thought if I was travelling sixty miles to see her I wanted something that made the journey worthwhile!). So we chose a date, it was about three weeks ahead, and made arrangements. I started telling myself then that I must be certifiably insane for doing this but made preparations, arranging for that to be a ‘work from home’ day and started counting down.
I duly went. I was so nervous my throat was dry for days before hand and I was shaking like a leaf as I rang the doorbell, just like I had on my visit for the school day. I remembered some years earlier going regularly to an aerobics class. Going to get spanked gave my cardiac system a first class workout and more, my heart sometimes seemed it was going to jump out of my chest. I did plan the day and it went smoothly, from packing clothes to get changed into (my school uniform!) to working out what to wear as ‘day clothes’ (chinos, sweater, tights, loafers and my black jacket), then makeup (very little really, some foundations, eye liner and eye shadow with a flesh tone lipstick; obviously mascara was out). I took my makeup bag though, some paracetamol too, and some body lotion.
I went. I was caned across my panties for inappropriate items of dress then asked to write out a copy of the school rules. My bottom was quite warm from the first caning but in the room I was left in to do my writing I spied a selection of other punishment instruments including more canes, and I duly felt one of the more flexible ones soon afterwards being applied six times to my bare bottom and leaving a considerable impression, shall we say. It was a painful afternoon but emotionally thrilling beyond words.
Afterwards I drove home in some discomfort, yet felt both relaxed, because it was all over, and elated at having met and surmounted the challenge of being caned and getting through ‘my session’ without breaking down or making a fool of myself, a quite amazing, light-headedness that made me feel really good. I also noticed in the next few days that in between going before my bedroom mirror in order to stare at the marks on my bottom I was incredibly focused and in my head I felt that the range of emotions had been tremendous, from anticipation as the day grew closer, to apprehension as the event became imminent, then just feeling really proud of myself after it was over. There was of course the pain and shock of actually receiving the cane itself, the main event. But somehow the cane, which in a split second produces an acutely stinging burst of fiery pain, was also in a weird way a stimulant.
As ever I gave myself a few days to reflect on the experience before coming to any conclusion about it. It boiled down, as ever, to some simple questions; had I enjoyed it, and if so, would I go again? The first question was easy. Yes, I had enjoyed it. Immensely. For sure it hurt, but the pain was tolerable and was totally overridden by the excitement of the whole event, from the feelings beforehand, to the nerves on the day; the changing into school uniform, the calm discussions, the sight of the cane and the instructions to prepare myself. The caning itself, the sharp sting giving way to an intense smart and later to (quite nice!) residual warm burning feeling, the emotions afterwards and the way these changed, especially how pleased I felt with myself and then the icing on the cake; staring at the cane marks in the mirror later. So to question two: would I go again. Yes, I would. Absolutely I would like to go again! I knew I had become completely hooked.
I did go again. Somehow it was easier because I had been before and there was some personal feeling between us now, although the range of emotions was the same. As was the shock of the cane whacking my bottom! Then the after feelings got going and I experienced the same lovely sensation of pride, contentment and focus that seemed to engulf me for several days after. As well as looking at the lovely marks the cane left behind.
As ever I talked to my domme a few days later and thanked her for the experience, and for applying the cane to me so well, telling her I would be keen to come again in a few months. It was a nice conversation, not long, but very sincere from me. However she caused my heart to miss a beat by saying as the call ended: “I think within you there is perhaps a feeling now that you would like to experience something a little stronger, something that pushes your limits out a little. Am I right in feeling this?”
I hadn’t thought about it, in fact, but as she said the words my blood pressure absolutely rocketed and I inadvertently gasped out loud. ‘Yes!’ I said to myself, then, trying to sound calm, somehow I found some suitable words: “That was something I had been thinking myself; yes, I think I would be keen to try something a little more severe,” which of course was a bit of a fib but her words had hit me like an electric shock. I said I would call to make another appointment when I had a clear diary at work. After putting the receiver down I punched the air, quite something for me as I am a fairly undemonstrative person! I felt wonderful, and yet puzzled as to how she had read a desire inside me that I was not even aware of myself.
This session was booked in due course and as ever the nerves and apprehension built up in the days beforehand. I looked at my bottom in the mirror a few times and looked forward to seeing it decorated with sexy red stripes from the cane. I vaguely wondered if I was going to get more strokes, or have a whippier or more senior cane used on me, or get the strokes harder; it all added to a lovely frisson of anticipation and trepidation as the days counted down, but also added a slight air of mystery. I was quite looking forward to it.
On the day, bright and clear but not too warm, it was shower and breakfast then get on with some work. My appointment was in the afternoon. It was quite easy to concentrate on my work in spurts but these were mixed with genuine pangs of anxiety which caused an occasional shiver! I tried to eat a little bit of lunch but settled for a cup of tea. Then it was time to check everything over and get ready.
School skirt – navy, short, plain, wouldn’t be seen in public wearing, check. £3 from the Red Cross charity shop. Socks, check. Not quite regulation but I had not had time to go on Ebay and look for anything else. Check. White shirt, nice fit, Oxfam shop. Check. Sweater with a sort of school motif on it, in case it was cold. Check. Black flatties. Check. I picked up a spare ivory bra and some navy and some white cotton pants, checked my make up bag (for running repairs later), added the usual items, body lotion, moisturiser, cleanser, a few cotton wool balls, extra tissues and paracetamol. I had always carried some but never taken any, still, just in case. A small pot of E45 cream was left in the fridge for my return.
Then I got changed myself. White bra, my most comfortable one and some white pants, tights as it looked cold out, sweater, black jeans. I was torn between my comfy brown loafers or new dinky black boots with chunky heels so went with the boots. Then to the bathroom, just a little foundation, smallest touch of blusher then a little eye shadow, a dark blue and some eye liner. I quite liked the look and remembered it would be dark when I got back. A light red lipstick completed the picture. That was good enough, I thought, so I popped them into my makeup bag. Finally a dab of Issey Miyake behind each ear and a drop for a wrist rub. Back to the bedroom, I slipped on my watch and my silver bangle. I wondered about my ‘lucky’ onyx signet ring. I had bought it while on holiday in Greece many years ago. The shopkeeper said it would bring me luck and it often seemed to. I slipped it on.
Deep breath. I looked hard at myself in the mirror. Time to go and face the music. What tune would it be today? Down to the car and away we went.
I was there in just over an hour. I parked and picked up my sports bag. Up to the door and greeted with a smile. I stepped inside, my heart was pounding and my mouth dry. My nerves were taut and I had to try to control my tendency to gasp. Headmistress was friendly and I was offered a cup of tea and the small room off the hallway to get changed in, which she referred to as ‘the office’ behind which I knew was the main room, ‘the schoolroom’ as it was called. She called back: “I have a little surprise for you today,” as she disappeared. Her words caused a burst of adrenaline to shoot through me as I sat down and opened my bag with a shiver.
I took off my watch and bangle then the tea arrived. I needed it.
“I’ll come back in ten minutes, make sure you are ready to start!” Headmistress said in a cheery tone.
The tea was too hot so I put it to one side for a few minutes while I rummaged in my bag. Why, when travelling, do clothes take on a will of their own and change places in any sort of case. Where was my skirt?
The house was warm so my sweater came off first and was replaced with the white shirt. I did look at changing my bra but continued as I was. No need for the jumper. Then trousers, tights and pants off, navy bikini knickers on. I sat down. Was I forgetting anything? Sip of tea to try to steady my nerves. Another sip. I took another deep breath. Another sip of tea. I thought to myself it seemed to have cooled quite quickly, unless, suddenly, I realised that time must have jumped ahead from where I thought it was. Tea to one side, socks, where were my knee socks? I scrambled them on and pulled out my skirt and shoes. I decided there must be time for another sip of tea. I needed it. Just then of course came the knock on the door. My heart sank. Headmistress appeared.
“What! Not ready! Two more minutes. Two more. And this delay will cost you!”
Short, and very to the point. The butterflies in my stomach did a massive somersault.
I shouldn’t have messed around trying to tidy my bag. I shouldn’t have looked into my makeup bag. Still, too late now. Another sip of tea and skirt on, then the shoes. I sat back down, then stood up and had a final sip of tea before the next tap at the door. I was as tense as a spring, mouth dry, my pulse was well up. But I was alert and prepared, my eyes clear, and I was able to meet the gaze of Headmistress as she looked sternly at me.
“I am glad to see you are finally ready. We will start with uniform inspection as usual. Stand straight, arms by your sides, face me. That’s right. Shirt, bra, yes. Skirt. Lift your skirt, turn around; that skirt is too short and I have told you about it before. At least your panties are the right colour. Turn to face me again. Show me your hands.” She paused and tutted. “Look at that! You know jewellery is not allowed! Take it off!” This was the onyx signet ring. I had just forgotten all about it. It had brought me luck all right but not the sort I was hoping for. “And are those studs in your ears? You know the rules. You will be writing them out again shortly. Take the studs out as well. No jewellery.”
She waited while I obeyed. I knew I was going to be caned for these dress violations, apart from anything else she had in store for me. I stood straight again and faced her.
“Nail varnish,” she said.
‘Oh no,’ I thought. My heart sank again. I had been too keyed up at home to notice. Taking it off had just slipped my mind. I tried to stammer an apology, to no avail. She looked at me without speaking for several seconds. The tension was almost unbearable. Then she looked down, and after a few more seconds of silence, slowly looked up.
“Those socks are not regulation either. I told you about them before. Socks should be plain.” Mine had satin ribbons at the knee. “And those shoes have not been polished recently.”
I felt my head start to drop. I was in for a thrashing, just for starters. My mind began to go numb.
“I am awarding you two strokes of the cane for each offence, plus two more for not being ready in time and two extra stokes for presenting yourself with repeat uniform faults. Skirt, socks, shoes, nail varnish, ear studs and the ring. You really should try to do better.”
My heart was in my boots. I had been caned for uniform faults previously but suddenly this was a lot.
“Sixteen strokes. We will have these in two batches; so, eight strokes to begin with. Then there will also be an extra punishment; you will write out the school rules before receiving the second set of strokes. When I said it was time to push limits I was not expecting you to come here with so many dress and appearance faults. Now go and collect the senior schoolgirl cane and bring it back here.”
I did as I was told, almost on autopilot now. I picked up the cane, knowing I was about to feel it stinging my bottom. Too late to do anything about it now. I meekly offered it to her, no longer able to meet her gaze.
“Bend right over the desk. Lift your skirt up and take your panties down.” I heard her breathe in slowly as I started to do as I was told. “Eight strokes. Do not move, stand up or attempt to stop the punishment, or there will be extra strokes.”
I waited and then felt the cane rest lightly on my bottom. Its touch felt quite cold. Then she delivered the first stroke. The sting was electrifying and caused me to gasp out loud. I could feel a line of fire across my bottom where it had landed. All I could sense now was the pain. Then the second stroke was applied, the mind numbing sting shooting through me, a second fiery line printed on my bottom; I could no longer think of anything other than line after line of hot, smarting pain, testing my resolve to the absolute limit. I gasped and cried out a few times but was able to remain in position and eventually the first caning was over. The build up of scorching fire was utterly indescribable.
I was breathing hard, but had remained bent over, offering my bottom to the cane which had certainly done its work very effectively, for now; I knew I had more to come. I was then told to rise and adjust my clothing. Headmistress looked at me as I did so, then she asked me to return the cane and come back, whereupon I would have twenty minutes to write out a copy of the school rules.
I hugged the cane, I don’t know why! I stumbled back to the office where I was given blank paper and a copy of the rules. I knew from previous attendances that twenty minutes was only just enough time for this task so I got to work straight away. Standing up, of course; after headmistress withdrew from the little room I slipped my panties down and gave my bottom a good rub before knuckling down to copying out the school rules.
I only just finished. I was told to remain standing while each line was scanned. Finally they were accepted although my ‘quick and sloppy’ handwriting was commented on. I held my breath; was I going to be awarded extra strokes? I could not meet her eyes. After a silence that seemed to go on forever, I was told to go to the schoolroom and bring back the same cane that had been used to chastise me earlier. I was not out of the woods and felt certain I would be given extra for the poor handwriting.
On my return I was somewhat relieved to be told I was to receive the second batch of eight strokes. Only eight. I took my panties down, lifted my skirt and bent over the desk as ordered. Seconds later, my bottom felt the fierce sting of the senior schoolgirl cane as the first cut of the next batch of eight strokes was applied to my poor bottom, forcing the breath from my body and causing a new fire to start burning away. Then the second stroke arrived, making me cry out loud as the searing smart burned into me again. I was just numb, fighting to take the strokes that arrived slowly but firmly, searing line after line of fire on my bottom. I stayed in position, though, controlling my breathing and doing my best to remain in position, but gasping at each new flash of pain until finally I knew had taken all eight. I was very close to tears but more than anything the sensation was one of my bottom hot and burning all over from the accumulation of cane strokes.
As I began to feel some presence return around me I heard a distant voice telling me to stand up and adjust my clothing, then to be still with my hands by my sides. I did as I was told, again, carefully lifting my panties up over my well caned bottom before smoothing down my skirt. Headmistress told me again to stand still with my hands by my sides. I so wanted to use them to start soothing my bottom, but I complied, blinking away the tears that were forming in my eyes. My bottom really hurt but I knew that if I was to have my limits tested there would be more to come. I was told to return the cane, then I would have thirty minutes to write out a further copy of the school rules.
I hugged the cane again before putting it down. On returning to the office I found it empty but a copy of the rules and some paper had been left. I stood up to do the task, again, with my panties down and my skirt tucked up to let some cool air circulate around my hot bottom! I wrote more carefully this time, the last thing I wanted now was extra strokes awarded because of bad handwriting. I wondered what would happen next as I wrote. Despite my burning bottom I was aware I was being put through my paces by an experienced professional domme who had read me perfectly. I knew I was in for another caning and it would be hard to take on my sore bottom, but somehow in these seconds I wanted to please my headmistress and resolved to accept whatever I was awarded. I didn’t want to incur any additional wrath, though, so quickly redoubled my efforts to complete the writing assignment.
She entered the room exactly at the time she said. I had just finished and had remembered to pull my panties back up! My bottom was smarting intensely but the really powerful sting the cane gave me when it landed had died away. However, I sensed I would have to endure those sensations all over again at least one more time; well, I had agreed, and I knew by now the way I would be feeling in two days’ time would be more than adequate compensation. Well, I told myself it would be, but I was not sure I believed it.
“Are you finished? Good. Let me read these please. Stand with your hands by your sides in front of me.”
There then followed about ten minutes as my work was scrutinised. I saw Headmistress’s lips move sometimes as she read my work, line by line. Eventually she looked up.
“The assignment is adequate. Now we move onto the final stage. I felt you were ready to experience a more severe punishment and I heard your response to my proposal. This next step will really test your courage. For your surprise today I am going to give you a further six strokes with the dragon cane, which you will find considerably more intense. Follow me please.”
We went into the schoolroom with my heart sinking. On the gym horse, which was the centrepiece of the room, was a thicker cane with a red handle, next to the senior schoolgirl cane I had already had the pleasure of getting to know. She moved the more slender cane to the side and picked up the one with the red handle.
“This is a dragon cane, used to administer more serious discipline. The rules are the same. You will receive six strokes. Any attempt to move out of the way or try to prevent the strokes landing will mean extra punishment. Do you understand?”
I could only nod. She told me to bend myself right over the horse, after lifting up my skirt and taking my panties down. My poor bare bottom was going to be receiving the cane for the third time today, this time from one that somehow looked like it was perfectly designed to inflict serious discomfort to a girl’s hindquarters.
I got into position. I knew that bent over the horse my bottom was perfectly presented for caning. I felt this new rod press lightly against me and closed my eyes. The first whack landed and made me cry out. It burned more and the burn seemed to go right through me in an instant. I was aware I was moving about but Headmistress called me to keep still and I felt the cane press lightly against me again. All I could think of now was the great smarting feeling in my bottom as the second stroke hit me and produced another great surge of extremely intense sting and burn.
Tears came to my eyes and I couldn’t stop them this time as another heavy stroke landed, then another; all I was aware of now was the feeling of heat and smart down there, the noise of my breathing and my futile attempts to stop tears from running out of my eyes. Finally, though, I heard the instruction to stand up. I levered myself off the horse, trying to clutch my bottom to ease away the fire and at the same time wipe my eyes. I was quickly ordered to stand still, stand up straight, put my hands by my sides and look front. I did so while wishing I could do anything to ease the pain down below. Finally I was told to arrange my clothing and that I had thirty minutes before we would meet in the office.
As she left, I began to massage furiously, trying to take away the intense burning the caning had left. I steadied my breathing after a few minutes and finally pulled up my panties and headed to the bathroom to start repairs after picking up my bag. The cold water sponge felt wonderful on my heated bottom and I lingered there for a long time as I came to terms with what had happened. Twenty-two strokes of the cane professionally administered over a couple of hours had brought this girl to heel and I was feeling a good deal less grand now, but I knew also that I would recover and that this ordeal had been passed with flying colours. I had been well thrashed but I had remained in position throughout, offering my bottom to the cane and taking each stroke despite the agony of pain that had built up.
We met in the office once I was ready. I was congratulated in a roundabout way and asked if I was OK to drive.
“I have a cushion in the car. I will be all right, thank you,” I said.
We pecked cheeks and I picked up my bagful of school clothes. Finally I made eye contact and thanked Headmistress for caning me. Despite my burning bottom, I was able to say I would be in contact again in the future. I did not exactly commit to returning again, but I think we both knew I would be back.
Why? Why on earth would I commit to suffering such painful indignity again? I asked myself this many times over. There was no one answer, but several smaller ones added together made a couple of main parts to an argument, and these helped me to understand myself a little better, and from where this need for release arose, because release it was.
Firstly, despite my initial reservation, I loved changing into uniform and actually wearing it. So much so I sometimes wore items in my flat. The short skirt, the socks, shirt and shoes represented a different character, someone that I was not, but someone that I sometimes became. I adored the look because the look was connected to something I did for me, for my pleasure, the clothes being part of a day when I went and submitted to a mistress applying a flexible cane firmly to my bottom.
Second was the feeling for several days afterwards, because while immediately after being caned I felt quite uncomfortable, once this wore off it was replaced by pleasant sensations of success over adversity, pride in myself, and a hitherto unknown ability to focus on what I was doing to a level of intensity I had never known before. Maybe it was my body thinking it had had a near–death experience so must concentrate on the present, get things done before the curtain falls; whatever it was it left me feeling gloriously empowered and energetic and strong.
Ultimately though, the discipline was the core. It was just this; I loved receiving the cane because the discomfort it produced told me very harshly I was not in control; I had relinquished control and placed myself in the hands of another and enjoyed being under the discipline of someone else, because I could never do this in any other part of my life. The cane strokes themselves were clean and sharp and painful; but the way the cane was administered was professional and I was feeling them for what they represented: ‘You have asked for this, you will accept this, because today you want to be not in control. These cane strokes being applied to your bottom are to remind you of your station here.’
I have continued to visit her, four or five times a year ever since. I am caned and it hurts, but I like it, and have had some other unexpected and breathtaking experiences along the way, thanks to the confidence I have gained. These are for another time though; suffice it to say that as this part of my life has grown it has given me a fresh perspective not only on many aspects of my own being but on my interactions with others. It has made me grow substantially as a person and I truly value not only the time I can devote to this rather wayward and eccentric interest of mine but also the way it has generated a genuine and deep respect and affection for the practitioners and other participants I have met along the way.