Episode 55: Beth C: Living in the Orgasm
My guest, Beth C, describes herself as a formerly well-behaved girl from a Southern town, who moved to San Francisco and found her orgasm. Beth has a background in psychology and biology, as well as a license in massage therapy. Beth is also an “urban monk”, living and teaching in community as part of “One Taste”, an experiential living environment committed to developing awareness that invites deep intimacy, sensuality and full connection with ourselves, our relationships, our spirit and our world. In a warm and sweet interview Beth and I talk openly about the nature of orgasm and the possibility of living, 24/7, in an orgasmic state. Listen in as we talk about quieting the mind, learning to “listen” to the body, and letting go of shame. And don’t miss Beth’s exercise in pleasuring your own hands.
This program is intended for mature audiences only.
Chip August: Welcome to Sex, Love and Intimacy, I’m your host Chip August. On today’s show we’re going to be talking to Beth Crittenden. We’re going to be talking about, a little bit more about somatic psychology, we’re going to be talking about our bodies, we’re going to be talking about orgasm, talking a lot about sexuality and the role it plays in health and in having a happy life.
Beth C: The definition of orgasm that I’ve learned at OneTaste and that I am enjoying playing with at this time in my life is basically the stimulation of the involuntary nervous system. So, anything that has you feel like you’re going out of control, things that you can’t think about and then cause. So in that way orgasm is a really good referent for the mystery of life. The link in life to upstrokes is when someone gives you a compliment, or someone commends you. Those are upstrokes, you feel great, you feel high, you feel powerful. The downstrokes are equally good, there’s no like I said right or wrong, or good or bad, but the downstrokes are more grounding strokes, they bring you closer to Earth.
Chip August: Beth is, was once a well behaved girl from the South, who somehow found her way to San Francisco and started to notice that maybe some of that behavior wasn’t exactly good behavior, or at least not necessarily good for her. She has a background in somatic psychology and biology, she’s a licensed massage therapist. Beth has lived and worked at the OneTaste Urban Retreat community for two and half years and has had her own podcast here on Personal Life Media and is a friend and welcome to the show, Beth.
Beth C: Thanks Chip.
Chip August: My pleasure. So, probably a great place to start would just be to talk about what is orgasm, because I think it’s one of those words that we use, but different people mean different things about it. So, what is orgasm?
Beth C: Yeah, that’s a great question. There’s no one right answer of course but the definition of orgasm that I’ve learned at OneTaste and that I am enjoying playing with at this time in my life is basically the stimulation of the involuntary nervous system. So, anything that has you feel like you’re going out of control, things that you can’t think about and then cause. So in that way orgasm is a really good referent for the mystery of life and sometimes I think of it as kind of life force, life flow, you can call it orgasm. It’s just like God, people can use lots of different words for it but it’s that way that you can’t make yourself feel.
Chip August: Oh, OK, so right away that’s a little counter-intuitive because I think most of us think, “well, you know, I touch my genitals in this way, I touch my clitoris or I touch my penis in this way, or I have this special spot, or I use this special vibrator, and I make myself come. You know, I have this experience where my breath is coming shorter and shorter and shorter, I have a flood of emotion, feeling, it may not have words to it, I go over the edge, I have an orgasm.” And what you just said sounded really different to that.
Beth C: Really different. That is part of the definition of orgasm that I’m talking about, but I would just call that going over. With orgasm there are practices that people can use, one of them is called orgasmic meditation, which is done at OneTaste, where you can play with the energy instead of having that big build up and then there’s sometimes clenching of the muscles, or you know, just how to use your vibrator or whatever it is. Then when you go over the edge that energy is dispelled and it can feel really good for a little while, but if you can also expand the definition and expand the practice of it you can actually go just up to the point before you go over the edge and then stroke yourself down consciously so then you can go back up again. And this works for both men and women so it kind of puts an end to that type of sex where one person goes over and then the other person is kind of like “Um, OK maybe next time.”
Chip August: OK, so can I keep pushing at this a little bit?
Beth C: Yes.
Chip August: OK, so I think what I want is I want to go over that edge, I like it, that’s such an extraordinary experience, wouldn’t it be an exercise in frustration to just keep coming right up to the edge of it but not really letting myself go over the edge?
Beth C: Here’s the trick. There’s a way to be with orgasm that isn’t goal-oriented. So, there’s a way that, and again this is a referent to life, that a person can learn how every single stroke feels good. There’s also a way that someone can stroke and be in orgasm. So it’s not as much a giving or a receiving as much as two people coming together and tapping in to feel what’s there. So, wanting to go over, that’s a practice, lots of people enjoy it, I have nothing against that. But also, I know that when I enjoy something, if I can do things to kind of extend it, it’s worth having the discipline, in a way, of trying on a different approach. So sometimes, I might find myself clenching, wanting to get that feeling and kind of like pushing into it, then uh-oh, I’m thinking about it, I’m controlling it, that kind of magic, for me goes away. When I agree to surrender to each stroke, whether it’s up or down, or kind of whatever’s going on, and I’m in communication with my partner, so we’re kind of creating something together, to me that’s really enjoyable. And then, I think kind of the revolutionary thing that I’ve learned also at OneTaste is that it doesn’t have to be just during genital stimulation. I can go out somewhere and feel shivers all of a sudden maybe the air is blowing on my skin, you know, there’s a lot of sensation, I feel a rush of energy through my body, that can feel orgasmic.
Chip August: I have this experience as a man in my body, I will feel what I would describe as the beginning of arousal, I will notice that my penis, I’m not fully erect but I can feel an erection sort of starting to happen, it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to get erect, but I can feel stirring in my genitals, usually it’s connected with, I’m interested in some other person or I just had a really erotic thought, or something’s just felt really good in my body. And what I tell people, I tell people this all the time, I try to teach clients this, I want to live in that state, I like that state, that state feels good to me. It just feels just a tad more alive or a tad more in touch with I don’t know what exactly, but it just feels really good. Is that kind of what you’re talking about when you talk about things like living in orgasm?
Beth C: Absolutely. The tingles, the, for me it’s a feeling of butterflies sometimes. When I had goal-oriented practice around orgasm, those moments of, like, the magic became less and less frequent. I was thinking about how I wanted to feel, and what you’re talking about, it does require a certain state of surrender. So it could be that if you are not deliberate about it you might feel that stirring and then if there’s shame or a way that you don’t accept it, your mind might cut off that sensation, stop it. Or, you know, I’m not supposed to be thinking about that, or all of those myriad ways that we’ve been conditioned to make our impulses wrong. If people can agree to feel what’s there, learn how to communicate about it, not only can you have that state of right before getting really really really turned on, and enjoy it, you can also learn to tap into it with someone else. So much so that some people can kind of notice that they’re feeling similar sensations, which to me is just this form of connection I had never even dreamed was possible. I felt so separate before I started really sharing this information with other people, and being able to hear what was going on for them too.
Chip August: So, let me see if I understand this. Now what I’m going to do is I’m going to, so you’re experiencing some level of, and I don’t even like the word sexual because I think for so many people it means the procreative act, you know, like sex is fucking, that’s what sex is. But I want to say to the listener, if you’re wondering what we’re talking about, one way that I help people sort of access what I’m talking about, you might want to remember what it was like the first time you ever held hands with somebody that you had a crush on when you were like twelve, you know. Or you might want to try to remember what was that experience, the first you just made out with somebody, and all the sexual feeling were there, but you were too young, you weren’t going to do anything but make out, maybe never even got out of your clothes or touched each other even through your clothes. It was just kissing, but it was so sublime and so, that part of sex, which for many of us we experienced in our youth and then forget about, you know. It’s like, well I think what Beth is saying is we get goal-oriented, which is a good way to look at it, we begin to see that as a step towards something bigger that we want. And we want to get over that step really fast. So listeners who are listening to this, I want you to just think about those times, when arousal has come to you, but you weren’t going to fuck, you weren’t going to have release, it just was there, it was just present. And in that I think what you’re saying Beth, and this, I want to feed back to the thing you were saying, I think you were saying if you, Beth, are experiencing that, I, Chip, might be able to tune into, in some empathetic way, what’s happening for you, and that will almost vibrate together like tuning forks, there will be some way that as I empathetically touch that energy in you, all of a sudden that energy will also be in me, and it’ll feed each other. Is that what you mean?
Beth C: That’s what I mean, and I think, it was helpful for me to start thinking of this as different channels that I could listen to. When I first started having orgasm as a practice, which shocked the heck out of me, I’d always you know, kind of kept my sexuality kind of closed down, you know, occasionally like the beast would come out of the cage, but I never wanted to talk about it, and, it’s like, you know, I felt so vulnerable when that happened. So I know it takes patience to do this, but the channels, I think we can tap into it at any time, I think that there’s a huge array of sensations going on in our bodies at any time. For me, what I developed in a really strong way was listening to my thoughts all the time, and then even there was a point where I would listen to my feelings, kind of in my mind, and in my judgements and my opinions and all those different things. So, if I ever would have gotten to that point of just like really sweet, just a hug with someone, my mind was probably racing. Once again I think about this, what’s this going to mean, what if I try to kiss him, what if he doesn’t kiss me back? Just, a lot of insecurity and calculation, and there’s this whole economy that can go into sexuality, and OK, well he just rubbed my shoulder, so does that mean I have to rub his feet later, or just trying to figure it out, trying to do it right. And, when you can have orgasm as a meditation or have sensation as a meditation, all of it is right. There’s no possible way to do it wrong, so if you can listen to that channel of just what the sensations are, it becomes so beautifully value-neutral. How could it possibly be a threat to you that I’m feeling tingling in my legs and there’s a warmth as I’m facing you, and I’m noticing that as it trails down my feet the tingles get more pronounced and it feels like they’re heavy in my toes. I’m not thinking about, “Oh gosh, what’s Chip going to think of me now, does he think I’m hitting on him?” You know, that’s the sensation that’s in my body. And I feel like I can be in orgasm that way, and it’s less charged and less, there’s no demand in it.
Chip August: This is all fascinating and we are going to continue talking about this but we do need to pause for a break. So listeners, we’re about to take a break, I want to remind you as you listen to the advertisers, and also as you go on the personallifemedia.com website, and look at some of the links and some of the advertisements there, that any place where there’s a promotion code you can put in, if you put in the code “love”, you will automatically get a discount, just because you are a listener to this podcast. So please do listen to the messages, and please do take advantage of the discount. It’s our gift to you, and it’s a way our sponsors really know that you’re listening to us. So, we’ll be right back.
Chip August: Welcome back to Sex, Love and Intimacy, I’m your host Chip August, we’re talking to Beth Crittenden, and we’re talking about orgasms, we’re talking about what they are and how to have to them and how to sustain. Before we took the break, actually kind of halfway back in that conversation but I didn’t want to interrupt, you started talking about “stroke me down, stroke me up” and because I’ve been around OneTaste and I’ve sort of watched the meditations that you do, I think I have a picture of what you mean, but I’m not sure the listeners do. So, what exactly were you talking about?
Beth C: OK, so, the practice of orgasmic meditation has two people putting their full attention on one of the people’s genitals, and it’s actually a really simple practice technically, so we say though that it’s 20% technique and 80% navigating resistance, so anyone could lie down and do the technique, but if, as I was saying before, you’re still listening to that channel of “I shouldn’t be doing this, I’m a bad person, what’s this going to mean, wait a second, we’re not even boyfriend-girlfriend,” whatever those thoughts or fears are, you’re not going to be able to probably tap into the feelings that are there. But what I mean by up and down strokes is that we’ve learned that there’s a way to go on the ride of orgasm, and the stroker isn’t making anything happen, that’s one of the common misconceptions, is a man will say I want to learn how to give a woman orgasms, I want to learn how to give a woman pleasure. Well, if it’s a gift type of currency, then she’s probably not going to be able to totally open up and feel it. So it’s a lovely thought, and I know that the intentions behind it are really pure, but there’s a way that we train people who want to learn how to stroke, and it could be men or women, to stroke for their own pleasure. So when I talk about stroking up, those strokes would be on the clitoris, up towards the woman’s belly button, and the feeling of upstrokes is expansion, floating, divinity, you can feel like you’re kind of on top of a cliff, looking over, and having that vision of “Oooh, I really have so much breath in me.” Those are upstrokes. And the link in life to upstrokes is when someone gives you can compliment, or someone commends you, those are upstrokes, you feel great, you feel high, you feel powerful. The downstrokes are equally good, there’s no, like I said, right or wrong, or good or bad, but the downstrokes are more grounding strokes, they bring you closer to Earth, there’s a condensing, you feel like there’s more weight in your limbs. So you know how when people say “get grounded” for those people who haven’t heard that practice, you’re kind of pressing your feet into the floor, feeling your butt on the chair, that’s grounding. And, the referent for those in life is when someone tells you a thing that’s hard to hear, but it’s probably good for you in some way, like someone tells you that they don’t like the shirt you’re wearing, or something like that. That’s a downstroke.
Chip August: And, a lot of my partners, sorry, the pauses I’m trying to think how to say this question. The partners that I’ve had in life, wow touching directly on the clitoris, that’s not a trivial thing, that’s a thing I as a guy have sort of been trained, oooh, you better, don’t go there right away, you know.
Beth C: Yeah, thank you for asking that. The pressure is in the meditation in the pressure that you would use to stroke an eyeball, it’s very very light. There are at least 8,000 nerve endings that end in the clitoris, especially in this one spot in the upper left hand quadrant, and I would say the most frequent request that I have in this practice is for people to stroke lighter. It really doesn’t require much, and in the practice also a lot of lube is used. So any direct contact would be kind of sandpapery.
Chip August: I want to talk about that lightness because I’ve, since being introduced to this technique I’ve tried this and so I find it really fascinating. The women that I do this technique with, most of them report back that that way of touching a clitoris is very different than any other way, you know, it’s not how they touch themselves, it’s not how partners touch them, it’s not the pressure that they would use to get off. And so right away, there’s a very different sensation, I want to say that the person is thinking about this, I really want to invite you to really get, this might be a sensation that’s totally different than you’ve ever experienced.
Beth C: Yeah, that’s a great noticing. Part of the idea of the practice is you go as light with the stroke as both people can feel, my experience with it was the only way I used to be able to feel anything was with a vibrator. I had so many emotional blocks with men, and I was attracted to women but I wouldn’t act on it, so I was pretty shut down, and I think using a vibrator a lot, the pressure had to get heavier and heavier and heavier for me to be able to go over. So, you know, I came to OneTaste, and I could hardly feel anything in the meditation. What happens over the course of having light strokes where your attention is totally focused there, is some of those nerve endings start to regenerate. And also, that channel that I was talking about, being able to listen to, it’s like I can now turn my attention to the channel of feeling the finger on my clit. It is really different. Something that can kind of get in the way too is when people try to look like they’re really getting off and there’s like, you know, pornographic thrashing and they’re wanting to make sure that their partner feels like they’re doing a good job, and so they really on the inside are going “What’s the big deal about this? I’d rather be watching a good movie right now.” You know, so this practice, it can be really unusual because most people haven’t felt at that refined level of sensation in their clit before.
Chip August: So I’m hearing the, some of the keys to this is first, an empathy between the two people. If I’m doing orgasmic meditation with you, I’m not just touching your clitoris; I’m also really trying to empathetically join with you, to have some sense about what’s happening for you, and you’re not trying to cue me that by doing some orgasmic performance. You know, well if I just scream louder then he’ll keep doing this. There’s some much much deeper connection, so I’m hearing empathy and genuineness is at the heart of this.
Beth C: Yeah, I haven’t used that word before, but I can totally see how that relates to it. There’s a way that the practice can help people find each other right, and so in that way it’s a really good way to learn gender communication. One of the most challenging things for women, I’ve found, myself included, is to ask for specific desires. When men are contributing to our orgasm, oftentimes we’re so, and I’ll just speak for myself, I’m still so overwhelmed that a man would want to feel that with me and would want to put his attention on me that way, that it can be challenging to ask for more. Or there’s also like what Buddhists would call the near friend, like there’s the good enough stroke, you know, I know what’s one other thing that would have it be so much better, but it’s good enough, so maybe I shouldn’t say something. And I think what you describe as empathy, probably at OneTaste we would call it like an openness to research. So, there are certain agreements, we agree to the length of the session, usually it’s 15 minutes at a time, we agree that the stroker will wear gloves, latex gloves, or non-latex. We agree that there will be lube used, and there will be a towel stroke afterwards, so there’s kind of a ceremony set up around it. So then the two of you can drop into that space and you can feel as much together as is possible. When you’re not thinking about, oh, you know, “She’s my enemy” or “He’s trying to get something from me” or something like that, when you have these agreements, you can just surrender to the sensations that are there.
Chip August: And, oh shame, that was the thought I had, you’re describing this all wonderfully, in a wonderfully shameless way, I notice in my partners and in myself, often it’s not the near friend, it’s not that it’s good enough, it’s just that, my God, you’re focusing all your attention on this part of my anatomy that I’m a little embarrassed about, that I don’t know does it smell good, is it the right shape, is it the right size, is it beautiful to you, is it this obligation, I think for women there’s a lot of mixed messages about the fluids and about the, you know, and so how do you deal with the shame, just, now somebody’s paying attention to your pussy at a level that you know, most people don’t.
Beth C: Yeah, it’s very challenging sometimes. And, I think one of the powerful parts about doing the work within community is that there are so many different people that you can check it out with. So that’s been one of my practices lately, is after two and half years of having several different sessions a day, all of a sudden this new shame layer has come up in me where I realise there is a part of me and, you know, I’m devastated to admit this but it’s just true, there’s a part of me that’s like “Oh my God, my pussy is ugly, what is it that they’re thinking,” all the things that you described. You know, “How close can they get before they get uncomfortable?” All those different things and something I’ve just been doing lately is sharing that with people, and the incredulous responses that I’ve gotten; “Oh my God, I think it’s beautiful, I feel like it’s such an honor to sit here.” It’s just mind-blowing, and it’s been so loving to have that reaction, whereas before, I would not have wanted to admit that in a million years.
Chip August: Yeah so, what I get is that there’s an honesty in communication, there’s an honesty in talking about your fears, there’s an honesty in just surrendering to what you’ve both agreed to in the rituals, so that you’re not really lost, wondering what’s going to happen next. And somehow in all of that honesty, empathy, research, some magic happens.
Beth C: Some magic happens, yeah. The phrase I just thought of that I’ve learned is that unconditional freedom is freedom in all conditions and being able to go into sexuality and into my desires and into the things that I think, you know, I shouldn’t do or from the outside, you know, if I were someone else, I might judge that desire in someone else, there’s freedom in that. There’s freedom in surviving it, and then there’s so much more freedom to and being able enjoy it, and saying “OK, alright, I’m actually alright. You know, there were certain voices telling me I wasn’t, but yeah, I’m alright.”
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Chip August: Welcome back to Sex, Love and Intimacy, I’m your host Chip August, we’re talking to Beth Crittenden. We’ve been talking about orgasm, and it’s been quite a wonderful conversation about orgasm actually. I’m wondering about, there’s so many wise things that you’ve just said about your body, about sex, about sexuality, and I know that you work with people. Could you talk a little bit about your ongoing work and how people could get in touch with you?
Beth C: Sure, I’d be glad to, it’s such an honor to be able to do this work, I love it. I’m both a teacher and a coach at OneTaste, so people can choose one or both of those routes. There’s a curriculum called Connected Living, where people take a series of workshops and they can just like at high, study this, practice it, play with it, find people who are willing to have these conversations, and it’s just an amazing group of people. So I recommend that, and the website is http://www.onetaste.us/. And then also we work with individuals, so I’m one of about ten coaches at OneTaste that see people one-on-one, we also see couples. So people who want to incorporate some aspect of orgasmic living into their lives, either it’s a man who feels shy around women, who kind of knows what he wants but doesn’t quite know how to get it, we can work with people around that. Also, for women who are wanting to explore this, but either have fear or shame or whatever it is, we’re just, we’re all people who have been through it too, so that can be really helpful, and then we see amazing results in couples who have been together for years and years, know they still love each other, know they want to make it work, and they want that spark back. And, there are several practices at OneTaste that help people kind of, clear the static off the line, and get a really nice, crystal clear connection.
Chip August: And, so OneTaste, all one word, but if people wanted to get to you personally, how would they do that?
Beth C: The best way to do it is you can email the OneTaste address, it’s firstname.lastname@example.org
Chip August: And of course if you go on the site and look at our episode pages on personallifemedia.com you will find a link to Beth. So that’s also a really easy way for you to get in touch with her. I always like to ask my guests, is there something people could do at home? You know, they’re listening to this, they’re interested, they’d like to have more love, intimacy, sexuality in their lives, do you have an exercise they could do at home?
Beth C: Yeah, this is a fun one. I still do this one with myself. So this is the principle of taking touch, and find a body part either one of your own or someone else’s who agrees that they would like that body part to be touched, and the intention is to give your hand a massage as you’re massaging them, and so as you’re kind of; I’m going to practice on Chip, do you mind?
Chip August: No, please.
Beth C: OK great. So, I’m touching his leg, and I’m going at the speed that feels really good to my hand, and then it’s not just in my hand, I’m not mechanically squeezing, I’m actually feeling it all the way up my arm and down into my hips, and I’m pushing myself using his leg, into the chair. So I’m actually not at all concerned about how his leg is doing, I’m pretty confident that if it feels, and I’m talking to you now, sorry, Chip, back to you. I’m pretty confident that if your leg feels good, your leg will feel good when my hand feels good. Getting a little turned on now, so my words are getting jumbled. But yeah, just do kind of slow, deliberate massage, making sure to the listeners that it feels really good to your own hand, whatever it is that you do.
Chip August: Just so you know, I was just on the receiving end of that. First of all, I don’t want to dispel any fantasies too badly but she was actually right around my knee. So just, I don’t know what you were thinking, but she was around my knee, and it was pretty good, it was really very nice. From my perspective, it felt like I was getting a really nice massage, sort of just above my knee, just below my thigh. But I think that, I’m telling you this because listeners, I really want you to get that you shouldn’t reach for my breast, shouldn’t reach for my penis, and it’s not that you couldn’t do it there, but it’s that whole idea of really it doesn’t really matter what body part you choose, and really, focus on the pleasure you’re giving your hand. That’s all there, just wanted to help you have that picture. Beth, it’s been really great to talk to you, I just really appreciate you being able to spend this time with me.
Beth C: Thank you very much.
Chip August: And listeners, it’s been wonderful to have you here too, this brings us to the end of another episode of Sex, Love and Intimacy, I’m your host Chip August, I hope you’ll join me again.
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