SCENEprofiles Interviews
by Sensuous Sadie



SCENEprofiles Interview

Mathew Styranka, Author of Endless Knot: A Spiritual Odyssey Through Sado-Masochism [yes that e-address is correct. It's .ca not .com]


SADIE: Your first book, Endless Knot: A Spiritual Odyssey Through Sado-Masochism, was recently published. What does the term Endless Knot refer to?

MATHEW: "The Endless Knot is a mystic symbol that has different meanings to different people. For me it represents our bondage to the cycle of thought-desire-action-memory-thought-desire…. and how seemingly impossible it is to keep these energies from leading us around by the nose. Of course the bondage theme has a duel meaning here."

Sadie: Your book juxtaposes the story of your love affair with your Mistress Lara with stories from your childhood and your spiritual search. Why did you decide to approach the book this way? What do you feel that the alternate story added to the book as a whole?

Mathew: "I juxtaposed the fetish-s/m-sexual and the spiritual elements because these were the driving forces in my life, with the former fuelling the latter. To omit the spiritual would be to make Endless Knot a gratuitous erotic novel. To leave out the sexual would be to deny a huge part of my life. The different aspects of my life are not distinct and separate, but interwoven."

Sadie: Why did you feel the spiritual part of your experience was equally important?

Mathew: "The spiritual was important for two reasons. First, I am not aware of a book being done in this manner before. Second, I was often conflicted, disappointed and unhappy in my search for a Mistress and as a slave. I realized that happiness and freedom don't come from having a Mistress, but from finding answers to questions like, 'Where do these thoughts and desires come from?'"

Sadie: There are a number of similarities between Zen and BDSM. Could you please expand on this?

Mathew: "The similarities I note in the book are incidental, I think. For example, a Mistress carries a whip: a Zen Master carries a long stick rather like a large shoe horn. The purpose of that stick is to energize willing participants in long meditation sessions by slapping them with it on either side of the neck while the head is turned, which is quite different from the purposes of a Mistress' whip. Also, there is the Zen 'Master,' and, of course, the 'Mistress.' The former has mastered meditation techniques, the latter is assuming a title of superiority over another. Interesting similarities but different roots. I find it interesting that these two areas of interest in my life have these similarities."

Sadie: You found that your Zen training helped you take an intense whipping. How was that?

Mathew: "Dealing with pain throughout a seven day meditation retreat, where each day there are ten hours (total) of formal sitting meditation during which one may not move, is something that can be transferred to other areas of life. My bone disease caused me severe pain during these retreats, but it was resentment for having the disease that was the hellish element. By letting go of these thoughts of resentment I was able to put myself directly into the pain. I saw then that pain is really just sensations that float, so to speak They ebb, flow and can in fact be pleasant to watch. The pain does not define us. The experience of pain becomes pleasant or unpleasant (heavenly or hellish) depending upon which thoughts are associated with the experience. Our ability to deal with pain can ebb and flow as well."

Sadie: You spent a fair bit of time at the Toronto Zen Center exploring Zen. How would you describe your spiritual philosophy?

Mathew: "My spiritual philosophy is this: The answers to all our most pressing questions -Who am I? Why are we here? Is there a purpose? Is there a God? What happens when we die? - are answerable. It is an inward search, but not an intellectual one. Sufi, Zen, Hindu and Christian mystics have spoken of this for thousands of years. I believe these traditions are tools that allow the practitioner to go beyond the tool itself. These traditions are ways of looking inward so that we may find answers for ourselves rather than relying on dogma or theology. Many western meditation teachers, like Jack Kornfield for example, embrace the wisdom of all the mystic branches. If you were to throw into a hat quotations from Jesus, Buddha, Rumi, and Gandhi, you would have a hard time guessing who said what. Having 'faith' then is not believing in something we can't prove beyond a doubt (like a God), but rather knowing that we can find the answers to our most important questions."

Sadie: What are some of the spiritual/BDSM experiences that moved you the most?

Mathew: "When I was trying to satisfy my insatiable love for feet, or oral, or servitude, the experience was almost always one in which I was utterly enveloped. There was no lover or loved, just this incredible…oneness of the experience, complete absorption. Something else that sticks out in my mind is the countless different ways that different women respond to an erotic foot massage, oral, or touch of any kind."

Sadie: What is your religious background? In what ways did it affect your approach to BDSM?

Mathew: "I was raised a Catholic but left the church around the age of sixteen. Around the age of twenty I began to consider myself Zen Buddhist. I can't say either had any conscious affect on my involvement in the scene. I suppose there was guilt to some degree, thinking as many people do that certain desires are inconsistent with spirituality, but I knew in my heart that repression is the worst treatment for any condition. I knew that by following my inner instinct I would find what I was really looking for. One of the reasons I wrote Endless Knot was to show that the answers are in front of us, in our own lives, and that we don't have to travel to India or some such place to find them. We must embrace our life and our desires if we are to live fully. Of course this does not mean that we also can be, say an active hit man or serial killer and be spiritual."

Sadie: What are the parameters that you think need to be present for sub or Domspace to move into a more spiritual realm?

Mathew: "Love and respect from both sides. Problems arise with manipulation of any kind, so I think it is important that participants try to bring about an awareness of what they are doing and why. Communication! The most valuable spontaneity comes from communication."

Sadie: How did your experiences with the spiritual realm change your BDSM practice? Did they change your life as well?

Mathew: "I go into some detail about this in the book. For me, seeing where my desires came from and what my desires are has had the affect of turning them down several notches. I no longer think about being a slave because the fantasy had no relation to the reality, although I still like assertive women. As far as the foot fetish goes, I would say that the thought and energy directed toward that is 5% what it used to be. Under the proper circumstances it is still a part of showing love and affection. Nothing should be left out!"

Sadie: You write that the experience of meeting your first true Mistress Lara was more than just lust, that it was spiritual. How do you know when subspace has moved past lust or endorphins into a spiritual place?

Mathew: "I can't speak for anyone else. My desire to be owned and enslaved, to worship and support my Mistress, was overwhelming. I knew these needs had to be met and that if they were there would be deeper ramifications . It's hard to find a partner even when you have more mainstream desires, so when Lara came along I felt it deep. I knew she was my Mistress with as much assuredness as I would know my brother on the street.

Sadie: You wrote that seeking out a Mistress "would be almost as intangible a search as my spiritual one." Having had a committed relationship like the one you describe in your book, what things do you still want to explore? Do you feel that your search has become more tangible?

Mathew: "My life right now is one of immersion in nature. I live on the west coast of Vancouver Island, in the rain forest. I surf, hike and continue to do awareness practice. I am not involved with anyone at the moment and live a very simple life. I still go to the odd fetish party with friends but do not seek out anything there. I have answered the questions that have confronted me so my search is essentially over. Nowhere to go, nothing to be. I strive to fully understand those answers and to put that into my everyday life."

Sadie: You write about the thousands of shallow experiences you had adoring women's feet at fetish nights. How are your submissive and foot fetish interests different when you are committed to one Mistress instead?

Mathew: "I suppose shallow is a relative term. I felt honored and eternally grateful to all those lovely women who allowed me to worship and love them through their feet, and by other means. I think most people want to go deep, whether with a fetish or with a relationship. Casual flings are relatively shallow compared with a long term relationship even though they may be fulfilling on some level. There is a big difference between a woman having you attend to her warm, moist feet at a fetish party and a woman requiring your servitude if you are to have her feet. I loved Lara so much that my eyes saw no other women, nor their feet, except when I felt, or was, ignored and neglected."

Sadie: You have a foot fetish which is beautifully described in your story. What is it about feet that really just does it for you?

Mathew: "I love everything about a woman I'm attracted to. It is the woman. I leave nothing out. But there is an intimacy with regards to women's feet that is undeniable. I was a manicurist and pedicurist for a time, and women were always extremely sensitive about a man touching their feet. Feet are very sensitive, are connected to many parts of the body. Women know this, and they know how their feet can make them feel. To smell, lick and kiss the lowest, least cared for and dirtiest part of a woman is something she'll always recognize for what it is. In addition, a woman's feet are rarely dirty or stinky, but smell of their own personal fragrance, their choice of perfume, shoe leather, sweat: How intimate!"

Sadie: You have said that your interests lay less in the career world, and more in the personal and spiritual arenas. How has this decision affected you in terms of relationships?

Mathew: "It has affected me greatly. I've had women turn and walk away when I told them what I did for a living. As Seinfeld said, 'A woman has to like the job of the guy she's with.' I manage a campground in one of the most beautiful places in the world, write in the winter but will likely never see much money.

"This has not affected my life more than my decision not to have children. I've narrowed my own search but stay true to myself."

Sadie: Your book mentions a few times that alcohol was consumed by your Mistress and at fetish clubs. The hard liners on Safe, Sane and Consensual would probably have some major issues with this. What's your response to that?

Mathew: "I think my Mistress used alcohol on occasion to open up. There are better ways to open up. If a person likes a glass of wine, fine. At our fetish parties guests had, on average, two drinks each over four-five hours.

"I didn't drink much (except at a few parties) because it dulled the experience. The obvious behavioral and safety issues aside, alcohol is a good way to ruin or forget a great time."

Sadie: Are you working on another book?

Mathew: "I've got one planned. Endless Knot was very specific in it's theme, sub-plot (no pun intended) characters and setting so as not to distract from what I was trying to show. There was much else to tell. In other words, Endless Knot could have been 350 pages, but I felt it would be convoluted in that form. As it is Endless Knot flowed freely and easily. I could literally sit back and watch my hand go as it was being written. I am not at that stage yet with the next one. Soon, Perhaps."

Sadie: Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers?

Mathew: "We are in a time where people who are into fetishes or s/m can attend social events where they can meet and maybe even relate with those of a similar mind. It wasn't so easy even fifteen years ago. Also, there are all kinds of books out there to refer to. How fortuitous to be into this now!"

Sadie: Thank you for speaking with me!

Mathew: "You're welcome. And thank you for your interest."!


If you enjoyed this interview, read more SCENEprofiles with BDSM personalities on Sadie's website at

Sensuous Sadie is a columnist and edits SCENEsubmissions, a free e-newsletter featuring articles and interviews on BDSM and Spirituality. She is the founder and leader (1999 - 2001) of Rose & Thorn, Vermont's first BDSM group. Comments, compliments and complaints, as well as requests for reprinting can be addressed to her at or visit her website at . Sadie believes the universe is abundant, and that sharing information freely is part of this abundance, so she allows reprints of her writing in most venues.

Copyright 2003 Sadie Sez Publications