Last Friday, my partner and I attended a one-day introductory workshop to orgasmic meditation (OM), as taught by a company called OneTaste.

OneTaste has taken the self-development world by storm since being founded in 2011. Robert Kandell and Nicole Daedone (see her TEDx talk) set out to research and teach the practice, borrowing from Buddhist Tantra, the Human Potential Movement, and yoga. Daedone has said that OMing, as it’s known, “brings consciousness to sexuality in the same way that sitting meditation brings consciousness to stillness and yoga brings consciousness to movement.”

Starting with a couple urban retreat centers in San Francisco and New York City, OneTaste has expanded rapidly to produce media, workshops, weekend retreats, and a coach training program in cities around the world. In 2014 it was included in the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing health companies.

I first heard about the practice in Tim Ferriss’ best-selling book 4-Hour Body, published in 2010. I continued to hear testimonials from friends and acquaintances over the last few years, so I was ready to go when a trusted friend called me a few weeks ago insisting we check it out.

The introductory workshop took place in a beautiful, well-lit warehouse space in downtown San Francisco, right across the street from the Uber and Twitter headquarters. The atmosphere was relaxed and welcoming, with a few staff helpfully checking us in, answering questions, and when it was time to get started, directing us to our seats.

One of the first things I noticed was the gender and age variety, unusual for San Francisco: about 10 of the 15 participants were women, fairly evenly spread between their 20s and 50s. The 5 or 6 men were also of all ages. The group skewed white, educated, progressive, and personal growth-oriented, and I got a distinctive sense of their open-mindedness toward such a sensitive topic.

The morning was dedicated to learning, as the two facilitators introduced us to the concept and practice of orgasmic meditation. They told their stories, how they came from backgrounds in which sexuality was suppressed as a topic for open conversation. They told stories of broken relationships, disappointed expectations, and the profound results they’d achieved through the OM practice. The warmth and vulnerability of these two women sharing so openly was moving, and the space very quickly became one in which everyone felt comfortable talking about their own similar experiences.

It was striking, in such a progressive place, to speak so directly about the “masculine and feminine.” In contrast to the typical approach of not categorizing any particular trait as masculine or feminine, the facilitators repeatedly drew a contrast between them. OMing explicitly focuses on the feminine, creating a ritual around the vagina and clitoris as doors to a distinct kind of sexual and life energy.

The friend who introduced me to OM, who I met at Landmark, described it this way, which I found very helpful: Landmark and most other self-development programs lie on the masculine end of the personal growth spectrum. They are about power, effectiveness, integrity, results, and materialist success.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but OM seeks to balance that with the feminine: intuition, nature, desire, passion, love, and spirituality. Every aspect of the workshop was the opposite of Landmark: short schedule instead of a long one, well-lit loft vs. corporate offices, food provided instead of food prohibited, plentiful plants instead of spartan walls, and yoga pants instead of business casual.

Toward the end of the morning session, in which the facilitators set the context for OM, there was a demonstration. The staff set up a massage table facing the seated participants, and the lead facilitator laid down, hiked up her dress, and spread her legs. Everything from this point on is prescribed by the practice, which is detailed in a 12-page document sent to participants afterwards.

The basic practice

Here is the basic practice, which you can learn via their free OM101 online course or their virtual guide, which uses your phone’s touchscreen to practice the stroking movement:

Create a “nest”: this is the place where the OM will take place, and includes a fresh washcloth, at least three pillows, a blanket, gloves, lube, a timer, and a firm sitting pillow. A yoga mat under the blanket on the floor is recommended.

It can look as simple as this:

Get into position: the “strokee” takes off her pants and lays face up on the blanket, while the “stroker” sits next to her right hip, with his (or her) left leg over the strokee’s body.

Grounding pressure: once both partners are comfortable, the stroker gives the first of two “safeports” confirming that they are about to provide “grounding pressure.” Once confirmed, the stroker presses firmly down on the strokee’s thighs, one hand on each, for about 15 seconds.

Noticing step: next, the stroker provides a one or two-sentence, neutral description of the strokee’s genitals (such as “Your inner labia are a light coral color and bend slightly to the left”). This shouldn’t be a compliment or judgment, just a factual observation.

Gloves and lube: the stroker puts on latex gloves, making sure there are no wrinkles, and applies a small dollop of lube to their left index finger and right thumb.

Final confirmation: the stroker tells the strokee that they are about to touch their genitals.

Begin practice: the stroker sets a 15-min timer, parts the outer labia, pulls the clitoral hood back, and rests the right thumb at the base of the introitus (the opening where penetration takes place). The left index finger is left free to stroke the upper left quadrant of the clitoris, with a very light rhythmic motion about as strong as the weight of two pieces of paper.

Offers and requests: the stroker and strokee can make offers and requests at any time, such as more or less pressure, shifting locations, or faster or slower stroking. They are to be made in the spirit of increasing resonance between the partners, not in favor of one person’s agenda at the expense of the other.

Coming down: the final 2 minutes are spent with downstrokes, for both partners to “come down” from the high of the experience.

Final pressure: the stroker places one hand over the strokee’s genitals and applies firm downward pressure for 10-15 seconds, with the other hand placed on top.

Sharing frames: to complete the practice, the strokee sits up and they each share a “frame” – a brief, factual description of something they experienced, like a buzzing sensation, pressure, or warmth in a specific part of their body.

The context

For most people, hearing about the practice described above falls somewhere between weird and bizarre. There’s nothing like it in most people’s sexual experience. But this shouldn’t be a surprise: most of what we’re taught about sex comes from movies or porn, which are geared toward spectacle, not connection or intimacy.

The intention of the OM practice is to create an extremely safe environment for a woman’s sexual desire to be expressed. Everything from the strict timing, to the precise instructions, to the separation from emotions and judgments, to the absence of any expectation of reciprocating, are designed to create a sense of regularity that the body learns to trust over time.

Orgasm is fundamentally about letting go, and for that to happen, the OM practice seeks to create a “container” in which letting go can happen safely.

My own interpretation is that this practice creates a safe intermediate step for intimacy to be experimented with. One night stands require taking a huge risk, going from meeting someone at a bar to exchanging bodily fluids in one giant leap. Especially for the woman, who faces risks both in terms of her safety, and the potential for getting pregnant.

One way the facilitator explained it I found very illuminating. Men tend to lead with their sexual desire out front, and their feelings hidden in the background. Women tend to lead with their feelings out front, and their desire hidden in the background. We can end up holding back what the other wants, using it as a bargaining chip in a complex negotiation: I’ll give you feelings if you give me sex, or vice versa.

When the exchange doesn’t happen, both are left frustrated. But even when it does, it’s still a transaction at best. This is why OneTaste describes Sex 1.0 as “commerce.” Performing sex acts as a means to getting something you want leaves out what both people are really after: the shared experience of losing control with someone you trust.

The facilitator described what happens when a woman “excavates her desire,” flipping the script that she is not supposed to want sex. When men encounter a women leading with desire, they seek balance and flip their own script, and bring their feelings to the surface, now that they don’t have to prioritize “getting some” at all costs. And vice versa: when a women encounters a man leading with feelings, her desire more easily comes to the surface.

The benefits

The afternoon was spent mostly just talking. And the question on everyone’s minds was, “Why?”

The benefits promised were compelling and powerful: more intense and profound orgasms, of course, but also greater emotional awareness, connected relationships, sense of fulfillment, expansion of one’s capacity to feel pleasure and other sensations, and greater personal awareness and interpersonal connectivity.

At a higher level, the goal of OneTaste is to cultivate women who are “turned on,” not just in sex, but in every aspect of their lives. By bootstrapping sexual energy to heal the mind-body connection, it allows women to tap into their intuition, desire, and inner energy. This allows them to live life from desire, trusting their intuition to lead them toward what makes them come alive, while remaining as unattached to success as they are to orgasm.

These promises are not vague or implicit. I quote: “Every problem in your life is rooted in your sex and relationships…Creating safety in your genitals, you develop a center for intuition in every part of your life.”

The lead facilitator described intense bouts of creativity, productivity, and motivation triggered by OMing sessions, which she will schedule as many as five times per day to “heat up her system.” She did indeed come across as an incredibly vibrant and powerful person, speaking to our concerns with a mixture of compassion and frankness.

One of the most common questions is “What’s in it for the man?” At first glance, this practice can seem like a highly exclusive dating club. There’s nothing precluding that, of course. Once the ritual is over, the two consenting adults are free to do whatever they want.

But I believe it goes far beyond that. I know men that practice it, and they too describe remarkable benefits in terms of self-confidence, personal power, expressiveness and mind-body awareness, and all kinds of relationships, not just sexual ones. Instead of ascending to ever greater heights of athleticism, stimulation, and novelty, which always eventually hits diminishing returns, we have the option of going smaller and lighter. We have the privilege of developing mastery of someone else’s bodily pleasure, to take as much pleasure in giving as receiving.

It makes me wonder whether sex and orgasm are not really what men are after at all. It is the connection and intimacy on the other side that we crave, and sex has been presented as the only door. I think many men run after success and achievement as a refuge from the loneliness, insecurity, and unworthiness they feel. But success can make satisfying these needs harder, not easier.

The takeaway

I feel comfortable highly recommending orgasmic meditation to anyone who read something here that they might like more of. Our practice has only just begun, but in just a few days I’ve already noticed significant improvements in our communication, affection, listening, and intimacy.

Sex is an area so often compartmentalized and hidden, as if it has nothing to do with anything else. We learn how to do it from the media, don’t talk about it even with those closest to us, and don’t usually think of it as something that can be improved. The promise of OM is that this area of our lives can be reintegrated into our bodies and minds, which is essential for healing, which is essential for waking up.

I think OneTaste offers something very valuable in the self-development space: personal growth as intimacy, as pleasure, as fun. For those obsessed with continually improving every aspect of their life, the greatest challenge can be to just sit back and enjoy it.

Click here to find an introductory workshop, currently offered in San Francisco, New York, London, and Los Angeles. There is currently a summer sale offering a two-for-one deal. The standard price is $199. I have no financial or business relationship of any kind with OneTaste.

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