Episode 22: Learning to Feel Through Orgasm
“There’s something so special and precious about it. And it challenges my view of myself to carry something like that inside of me, even if it’s not a tangible, static thing. It feels like a greater responsibility to be kinder to myself, once I acknowledge how much I can feel. ” --Beth Crittenden, OneTaste Resident
Most of us know orgasm as the climax of sex, a messy, pleasurable release of pent-up energy that often fades into sleep. But if you stop and think about it, the concept of orgasm is extremely profound. From orgasm comes life. In orgasm we also return to a primal state where we are released – even if for just a few seconds – from the prison of our minds.
In this first of a two-part series, we venture off the traditional path of orgasm. We look at alternative definitions and the role that orgasm can play in our lives. Also, the story of a woman who couldn’t feel her body and what happened when she began a practice called Orgasmic Meditation.
J: In Junior High School I remember trying to hide my discomfort whenever the term ‘orgasm’ came up because I didn’t quite know what it meant. I didn’t find out until age 22 when by accident I discovered that a certain movement while having sex on top could get me off. Even then I didn’t really realize what I had finally experienced until later when it became clear that this rush of heat and energy through my body was in fact orgasm.
J: From One Taste Urban Retreat Center in San Francisco, we bring you A Taste of Sex Reality Audio, a podcast with the personal revelations, stories and perspectives of people engaged in a conscious exploration of connection, sensuality and relationships. This week, the first half of learning to feel through orgasm.
J: Part one, Defining Orgasm. Part two, Orgasm As a Practice. And part three, we’ll hear the story of a woman who couldn’t feel her body, and what happened when she started a practice known as ‘orgasmic meditation’. I’m J. Join us and turn on.
J: Most of us know orgasm as a messy although pleasurable release of pent up energy that more often than not fades into sleep. But if you stop and think about it the concept of orgasm is pretty profound. If not for orgasm we would not have been born. From orgasm comes life. Still we have yet to isolate orgasm, study it and know it for what it is. At the same time you could say that we need orgasm in today’s culture perhaps more than ever before. We have come to rely so much on our minds that we no longer know how to access the information contained in our bodies. We have literally become talking heads. With orgasm we can learn to know our bodies because in orgasm we are out of control. In orgasm we return to a primal state where we know the force and power of life, where we feel the energy that always pulses through us and where we are even if just for a few seconds no longer prisoners of our minds.
J: Part one, Defining Orgasm. We’ll start with the standard definition.
Male speaker: Orgasm, the definition from Wikipedia: An orgasm or sexual climax is the conclusion of the plateau phase of the sexual response cycle and may be experienced by both males and females. Orgasm is characterized by intense physical pleasure controlled by the involuntary or autonomic nervous system, is accompanied by quick cycles of muscle contraction in the lower pelvic muscles which surround the primary sexual organs and the anus. Orgasms are often associated with other involuntary actions including muscular spasms in other areas of the body, generally a euphoric sensation, and frequently vocalizations.
J: Here are a few more ways to think about orgasm brought to you by a few people who were hanging out at One Taste one day last week, some of who are part of our residential immersion program. Before you listen, start thinking about orgasm, not as the climax, but as a vital energy that exists in your body.
Unknown Speaker: When I was sixteen I read this book by Mantak Chia that’s called Daoist Secrets of Love: Cultivating Male Sexual Energy, and a lot of the book is a philosophical positioning about orgasm being a fundamental energy from which we come from, and so looking at the truth that we came from our parents orgasm, maybe just from our dad’s orgasm, but we certainly did come from an orgasm, and I really had a visceral realization of the truth of that at this party, and I really got that “Wow, we all come from orgasm”, and I’m going around and I’m telling all these drunk people, like, “Do you realize you came from an orgasm”, and they’re like, “Huh? I don’t want to talk about that”. And so I think that it’s a source that’s part of who we are. It’s fundamental to our evolution as a species.
Unknown Speaker: Orgasm is that feeling in my body that’s this vibration starting at the pelvic floor, moving up my torso. When I shut my eyes and I feel into it it’s just this thrumming force in my body.
J: What is orgasm for you?
Unknown Speaker: For me orgasm is, is that point of total out of control, where it doesn’t matter what you think or what you do or what the other person’s going to think or what the other person is going to do. It is what it is and it has no apologies.
Unknown Speaker: For me the, orgasm is the place of being out of control. So it’s the place where the ego lets go and the flow of life can just come through.
Unknown Speaker: Orgasm for me is, it’s not necessarily the sex orgasm, it’s more like the connection I have with people that sometimes happens mostly without words. I think what defines it for me is I don’t feel like I need to have to be anything or anyone special and I don’t, and I get from them the same, like we’re just okay with each other. That connection.
J: Great, thanks.
J: Thanks to Shane, Amy, Megan, Justine and Laif for their insights. Okay, so maybe they brought up more questions than they answered. Still, we’re moving on. Part two, Orgasm As a Practice. Orgasmic meditation is a practice of feeling the orgasm that exists between two people. When I first heard of it, I thought the idea was definitely interesting, definitely intriguing and definitely titillating. But I never thought it would be something that I would take on. It seemed too weird. But then I started dating someone who knew the practice. I remember telling my roommate after the first time we did it that I had felt this expansion in my stomach, kind of like that swoosh that you feel when a plane takes off from a runway. It was a feeling that I had never experienced before. Orgasmic meditation is truly a meditation. But unlike Zen or vipassana meditation, it has the added element of the physical body. In vipassana, the focus is on the breath. In orgasmic meditation, the focus is the stroke, specifically the stroke on a woman’s clitoris or a man’s penis. The idea for both people is to bring awareness to whatever you feel. In the practice the definition of orgasm becomes the turning on of the involuntary nervous system, the state of out of control. It is heat, electricity, flow, anything that describes what is generated between people when they are in connection with one another. The way the practice goes is this: there’s a stroker and a strokee. The strokee lies on their back naked from the waste down. The stroker is fully dressed, sitting up with one leg over the strokee’s stomach and the other leg tucked under the strokee’s legs, which are butterflied opened. A session lasts for fifteen minutes. During that time, the only job of the strokee is to feel. After I had broke up with the guy with whom I had first tried orgasmic meditation I resisted the idea of doing it with someone other than a boyfriend, and then I decided what the hell, I would try and experiment, a week of orgasmic meditation also known as OMING, in which I would withhold all judgment. In that first session I laid down not knowing what to expect. What followed was subtle, so subtle I could’ve missed it had I not been paying close attention. Just the tiniest bzzz, bzzz at the tip of my clit where he stroked. I was amazed. It was a completely new sensation. I felt pure electricity, a spark between his touch and my skin. My best analogy is that it is like water flowing. Sometimes it is a rocky river, other times a smooth underground spring. It is never predictable and always beautiful, which brings us to part three. Beth Crittenden is very smart and very articulate. With her organization skills, willingness and motivation she is any bosses fantasy. She is also very pretty which she can use quite effectively along with her southern ways to charm almost anyone. So you would think she had it all right? Well no, because the one thing Beth lacked was an ability to feel. Two years ago she took up the practice of orgasmic meditation.
Beth Crittenden: It’s hard to even say who I was when I first started having orgasm as a practice. There was so many different disparate parts of me. There was the super organized professional woman, and there was the dancer who was really like free and creative and flowing, and then there was the, the woman who could seem like she was really deeply in a relationship, but not ever like fully be there. Then there was the woman who felt so guilty about not living up to the standards that she held for herself. I mean just, it felt like I was lots and lots and lots of different people at different times and they very rarely overlap. So I actually thought I was just going to like take care of this little orgasm thing or whatever, ‘cause I knew I was really shut down in sex, and I knew that my partners could kind of tell but they never knew what to do about it, and I didn’t know what to do about it. So I really just wanted to like pick up the skill so then I could go do something that’s really important.
J: You’ve been listening to A Taste of Sex. Stay tuned for me after this short break.
J: Welcome back to A Taste of Sex Reality Audio. I’m J.
J: So how much did you feel in those first couple of orgasmic meditation sessions?
Beth Crittenden: I didn’t feel anything. Like, I could see that the person was looking at my genitals and I could like feel my back touching the ground as I was having a session, but like when people would ask “Which was is the stroke going, up or down?” and “What sensations do you feel?”, I got so angry with them and I tried to hide it. I thought it was going to be like other things in life where I could just learn how to fake it from the outside really well. And I knew like when I heard other people giving frames, like describing a moment where they felt something, I was like, “They’re making that up. How do they make it feel so real”, and what I felt was similar to an AM radio station between the channels, just like this (makes static noise), and it seemed like other women had so much variety and they would get like heat and they would feel waves moving through them and, you know, they’d say, “I felt this huge wave moving over me”, I’m like, “What are you talking about? Maybe someone just turned on the air conditioning or something”. You know, I always wanted to find the external explanation for why they were feeling that.
J: So you had, someone’s finger was on your clitoris stroking it up and down….
Beth Crittenden: It could have been anything. I, I didn’t know where my clitoris was before it started. I didn’t know for sure that I had one or not, like just this total vagueness about my genitals. That genital area was so charged up for me. It was so like, “No, you don’t go there, it’s Never Never Land”. I used to joke and call my genitals Australia ‘cause it’s like it’s that country way down below that I’m never going to visit. It’d be nice to go there, but no way. Just no man’s land, you know. And it always felt like my genitals were there more for other people than for me. Like this idea that, that I could actually just feel and not give them anything back other than start to feel sensation, that was so hard to believe.
J: What made you want to do a practice of feeling when you couldn’t really feel? Like, so I imagine you had the first session, in your mind you’re probably thinking “I don’t really get it”, right?
Beth Crittenden: Oh yeah, for months.
J: And then, okay, so then like what inspired you to keep going?
Beth Crittenden: I don’t ever want there to be a situation where other people can do something that I can’t do. It’s just sheer persistence and stubbornness, and, you know, while I didn’t believe necessarily that I’d be able to feel a lot, I believe that at least something would change about my sex life, and it was so incredibly empty and painful and isolating in a way when I couldn’t feel, and I just think I was willing to keep going with something that seemed to work for other people even if I didn’t believe at first it would work for me.
J: Describe the first couple months of the practice.
Beth Crittenden: Basically anything that you can think of, for me to think about, that did not include my body at that moment, I would think of it. I got really excited once I started getting involved with the business because I speak that language, you know, and so I would, when my shame came up around just having the quote/unquote “luxury” of lying back and having an OM, it was very comforting for me to think about, okay what business stuff did I work on and what did I need to do. I would go through just amazing to do lists in my mind and I would get, I would actually feel proud that I was getting work done in my mind during OM’s. I felt like I was…
J: Like you were better.
Beth Crittenden: Oh, totally. I was so dedicated, I was willing to completely block out the OM so I could help the business, which ironically would be letting women know that they can have their pleasure and that they don’t have to mentally work during OM’s. But somehow I was different. Definitely memories started to come up of times when I wished I would have had more of a voice in sexual situations, and, you know, wondering if I was recreating that and a lot of judgment for myself for “Is this good for me? Is this actually good for me? Is this actually doing anything? What am I getting out of it?”, all that stuff.
J: At what point did you realize like, “Oh, I’m actually feeling something?”
Beth Crittenden: It really started with one little thing at a time. Once I started saying out loud, you know, “I’m feeling this little wrinkle in my belly on the left side”, or “I’m feeling my toe tingle”. It was so painstaking to piece those sensations together. And that’s when it really started, and I told myself, you know, it wasn’t enough, but I just kept doing it and it built up. And I remember this one night that I was having a hard time with a research partner and just not opening up to him and kind of pushing him out and having a really hard time connecting with him emotionally, and then I went and had an OM. And that night I was so worn down and sad from the conversation, it was late at night, I was tired, and I just laid back and I didn’t try anymore, and I didn’t question. It was just all the sudden there was this quiet connected feeling where there was warmth, like a puddle of warmth around his finger coming from my clit, and I just, I felt paralyzed there like… I mean it wasn’t the, it wasn’t the fireworks, it was just this like this quiet certainty that I had changed. You know, I think I got a little freaked out after that and started kind of acting out in ways that would have it be harder for me to feel what was there.
J: How so?
Beth Crittenden: Like with food, you know. Either eating a lot to dull all the sensation or to manage my anxiety, or not eating very much because I wanted to look a certain way.
J: So it’s almost like you wanted to override the sensation that you were starting to feel.
Beth Crittenden: Oh yeah. It was so challenging, and it’s so hard for me to be that patient. I didn’t want to be that patient. I wanted like quicker results, even if the results were going to be bad, I wanted to have control of it again. It is so like, there’s something so special and precious about it in a way, and it challenges my view of myself to carry something like that inside of me, even if it’s not a tangible static thing, it feels like a greater responsibility to be kinder to myself once I acknowledge what I can feel. I mean, I do feel like that’s my spiritual experience is when I can feel my body that much.
J: Once you started feeling, then what? Like did you feel more in other parts of your life, more emotions, more feelings or, just how did it go?
Beth Crittenden: I started having like these way out of proportion emotions. I had to like recalibrate my reactions to things and learn how to just have it in the moments. When I first started OMING and I first started opening up, but I still wasn’t feeling yet, people would say all the time like, “I can’t feel you”, and I didn’t know what they were talking about. It drove me crazy.
J: And what were they talking about?
Beth Crittenden: Oh, oh, I get it now, I can tell beyond someone’s word what’s going on in their being. So someone could be smiling at me and telling me how much they love me, and if there is an energy coming from them, that like my chest is getting tight or my stomach is in knots, I know that’s not what they mean, I can feel that they mean something other than what they’re actually saying.
J: So what about now. So now you’re two plus years into doing the practice….
Beth Crittenden: Yeah.
J: of orgasmic meditation, so that’s a long time, and I’m wondering like what is the difference between now and the way that you feel both in your OM’s and then also in your life versus when you first started?
Beth Crittenden: Now I can feel completely like washed out with sensation, and I can actually feel, it’s as, I heard someone say this the other day, that it’s like going from that place in The Wizard of Oz where it’s like black and white and then all of a sudden the Technicolor flows in, that’s what OMING feels like for me now. The non-OMING stuff, it is amazing to me how I’m starting to learn how to let love in, whether it’s someone loving me or me loving someone. I mean I actually, it’s, the practice has helped me learn how to have friends and learn how to have lovers that are more than just sex. I think the hardest part for me now is that in my mind I want all of my feelings to make sense and be very congruent, really like match my values, you know. It doesn’t match my value that I feel so jealous of other women so much of the time. You know, I’m supposed to be a better person than that, I’m supposed to be more mature than that, and it just doesn’t work that way, and so OMING helps me also like have a sense of humor about it by like finding things, just sensation and by being curious about it, it helps me feel like this, you know, kind of explorer instead of this victim who’s having emotions beyond her will.
J: So do you think it’s a good thing to feel?
Beth Crittenden: Oh I absolutely do. I mean even when it drives me crazy I’m just so glad that it’s real crazy, and I’m so glad that it’s not me running the show, I mean it feels like that’s my spirituality, is tapping into whatever source that is for like really, really deep emotions.
J: Thank you for listening to A Taste of Sex Reality Audio. For transcripts of this show you can find us on the web at personallifemedia.com. For information about One Taste, our lecturers, classes and workshops on connection, sensuality and relationship, join us next week for another episode about orgasm. I’m J