Can Orgasmic Meditation make us happier, healthier and more connected?
Orgasm, like vitamin C, is a nutrient that has been missing from the standard human diet for centuries—at least, according to Nicole Daedone, CEO of OneTaste and author of the book Slow Sex: The Art and Craft of the Female Orgasm. Well, someone’s been having orgasms, or we wouldn’t be here today. But for Daedone and her followers, the vital nutrient we should be getting more of, through Orgasmic Meditation (OM), is human connection: hormonal, emotional and spiritual.
Since launching her mission (and career) 10 years ago to fix the world’s alleged vitamin O deficiency, OneTaste’s OM coaching programs and classes have grown in popularity, with new chapters popping up all across the country. When the practice made its way to Santa Cruz about two years ago, the OM community numbered five. Today, the local chapter has trained some 300 people, and around 60 devotees show up to OM regularly with TurnOn Santa Cruz, says Bez Maxwell, 36, city leader of the local chapter.
“The thing that I find really annoying about our culture is that there are no tools given to people that want to have a relationship,” says Maxwell. “We talk a lot about how to get sex, or how to get a relationship, but once you’ve attained it, there are no resources for how to actually make it better, keep it, save it if it’s failing.” Until OMing, that is.
In a meeting room off River Street one recent evening, I slipped into a buzzing crowd of age-diverse adults—most of whom, I quickly realized, were already well acquainted with OMing, having taken the $195 class (prices vary), and maybe even carrying an OM membership badge, granting them access to OM circles across the country. I’ve always kept my pants on while investigating stories, and this one was no exception; I was there to listen to Radha Lewis, M.D. speak on the health benefits of the overtly sexual, bizarre group practice of OM.
OM, as taught by OneTaste, is a very specific 15-minute practice involving a “stroker” and a “strokee”—commonly, an entire room full of these pairs. While the stroker can be male or female—a romantic partner or someone you just met that night—the strokee is always a woman.
“The woman lies down in a nest, which is made of pillows and blankets. The stroker sits by her right hip. She takes off her pants, she butterflies her knees, they set a timer,” explains Dr. Lewis, 39. “He [or she] then puts on gloves and strokes the upper left corner of her clitoris, very gently, the way you would touch your eyelid, for 15 minutes. That’s it, that’s the practice.” When it’s over, they both sit up, share one moment of sensation that each of them felt during the practice, and then go their separate ways.
I am skeptical for several reasons, beginning with my strong distaste for monetizing anything that can (and should?) be practiced in the privacy of one’s own home. Nor do I understand the appeal of allowing a stranger to touch me there, in front of others. Eyeing the exit door, I cross my legs and ask, “Why the upper left portion of the, ah … clitoris?”
The clitoris has at least 8,000 nerve endings, says Lewis. “It’s the only part of a woman’s body that has no function, it’s just for pleasure. It is the most concentrated location of nerves, and the upper left corner has the most nerves of the entire clitoris.”
But the desired outcome of a good OM session is not, actually, to achieve orgasm—at least not in the conventional sense, which is to say, that climactic release of muscle contractions that lasts between 3-15 seconds. “What we’re talking about when we say orgasm, is the entire experience of being in our involuntary system,” says Lewis. “So that’s everything that happens in your body that the cortex of the brain is not trying to control. It’s this experience of dropping down into the body and allowing the body to do whatever it’s going to do.”
Drawing on her personal story, Lewis contends that OMing every day for the past year and a half helped her out of a depression she could not shake, even when surrounded by people. And in all parts of the country, she says, OMers are reporting feeling healthier, with more energy, vitality, and, most unanimously, more connected and empathetic toward others.
She attributes these reports to the brain’s plasticity, especially under the influence of the neurotransmitter oxytocin. “Exposure to oxytocin increases the circulation and decreases the heart rate and blood pressure,” she says. But it’s also responsible for bonding and connection, acting on the limbic brain, which she calls “the scaffolding that we filter all of life through.” “It’s the unconscious responsible for how we deal and how we feel and how we interact with each other. And it’s the part of the brain that’s most affected by oxytocin, which is a neuromodulator, which means it shifts and changes the brain,” says Lewis.
Dr. Aimée Shunney, a naturopathic doctor in Santa Cruz specializing in hormone balancing and sexual health for women, adds that oxytocin also enhances libido, “and, perhaps most importantly, blunts the cortisol response, helping us manage our stress. Better stress management improves communications and has myriad positive effects on hormone balance, particularly in perimenopause when we need our adrenals,” says Dr. Shunney.
For Kary Lynn Morgan, 39, OMing is both thought-clearing and therapeutic. Once she overcame her apprehension (it took a few sessions) OMing brought a deep sense of freedom and self-acceptance. “I’ve cried through my OM practices before, because sometimes it just reaches this space of opening up,” she says.
But OMing isn’t only beneficial to women, claim its participants. Men who have been impotent for years are starting to be able to piece together their sexuality and be intimate again after participating in OM, says Lewis, in the same way that many women who have been anorgasmic or are healing from sexual trauma are often able to have orgasms once again.
“In your home life you have the pressure to perform,” says Gary Ingram, 65, a jewelry maker from Capitola who has been OMing for several months. “But here you don’t have to perform. You’re here with ladies who just want to feel better, and it makes us feel better doing that. You know how guys like to please ladies, but it’s not just about that, either. You get into this zone, you get so focused,” he says. Ingram began OMing after his wife passed away. It lifted him out of depression, and helps him stay focused on his art, he says.
Lewis attributes the mutual benefit to something called limbic resonance, which occurs when our emotional brains line up with one another. The best example of limbic resonance is a yoga class, says Lewis, where everyone is scattered and rushing to class in the beginning, but by the end the entire class comes together in one stable feeling.
That’s not to say that OM doesn’t have a lot to do with sex. Andrew Cortado, 27, says OMing is a sustainable way to practice sex without having to jump through all the hoops. “The way it’s set up is that it’s really simple to stroke and receive, but without it having the attachment that I need to be romantic, or I have to be this person’s partner, or that she owes me something,” he says. “It’s actually set up in a way that she can relax into it and, like, surrender to the process, and then I also can deepen my practice as well.”
“Every time you practice, it’s like the attention to detail just gets wider,” says Cortado. “So the cool thing about OMing is that it brings a lot of attention to detail to sex, how you actually behave when you have sex with another person … There’s, like, this whole other level, where there are all these different textures that you can have during sex. From stillness to heat, to, like, the open, vast beyond. Because when you’re OMing, sex is really a reflective experience, everything you have in that experience you can have in a sexual connection.”
Cortado’s comments almost sold me, but for now I’ll be sticking to yoga.
For more information on where to OM, vist onetaste.us/santacruz. PHOTO: ONETASTE