Nicole Daedone was at a Buddhist gathering when a monk made an unusual proposition: that he rub the upper left quadrant of her clitoris as part of a meditation ritual.
Her first thoughts included, “This guy’s a little bit creepy,” but something told her he wasn’t. So Daedone undressed from the waist down and spread her legs—and she says it was worth it. “Something cracked open,” she told a crowd at the living community Serenbe’s Taboo Weekend. “I was feeling a universal connection, but I was experiencing it through a connection to another human being.”
She remembers realizing, “This is the feeling behind all the machinations of sexuality. This is why people are willing to risk their own lives and risk STIs and risk their marriages and risk their sanity.”
After that, she says she was suddenly going about life with a heightened level of awareness, as if there were antennae all over her body. She could even read people’s emotions in the grocery store line.
To figure out what the hell was going on, Daedone consulted a Buddhist teacher, who explained that she’d had an elevation in consciousness called a “kundalini opening” and taught her more about the practice of orgasmic meditation (known as “OM” for short) on the condition that she promote it. She made good on that promise: Her OM-focused organization OneTaste is one of the fastest-growing companies in the U.S.
OneTaste holds workshops around the world that teach people about orgasmic meditation. Here’s the basic process: the strokee (usually a woman) lies naked from the waist down in a nest made of pillows, and the stroker (usually a man) sits fully clothed in front of her. He describes her vulva to her objectively with no value judgments, then he puts one finger at the entrance to her vagina and uses another to stroke the upper left quadrant of her clitoris up and down for 13 minutes. During this time, the strokee gives continuous feedback.
Jeff Mease, a 54-year-old restaurateur in Bloomington, Indiana, first learned about OM from a TED Talk by Daedone. He immediately bought a book about the practice and invited his partner Lisa Meuser, a 45-year-old somatic therapist, to try it. At the time, they had a casual relationship, but it developed into a serious one after they OMed together. Meuser created an OKCupid profile solely to find OM partners and still sees another partner just for OMing.
“When the stroke is soft, my attention goes really big. It wakes up an energetic system that’s not residing solely in my pussy,” Meuser told Complex. “Anger can come up. Sadness can come up. Grief can come up. Lots of joy can come up,” she explained. “It can access different pockets of the somatic system where energy may have stagnated. You’re coaxing the aliveness of the body to open, and when you do that, you release what’s been trapped in the body.”
It wakes up an energetic system that’s not residing solely in my pussy.
Mease gets as much out of OMing as his partner. “That female ecstasy and that undulation of the feminine is the most attractive thing in the world. And so, as the guy, you get very close to that in a way that you maybe don’t see at other times. You get to experience that with her, where she’s not trying to pretend something to make you feel good,” he told Complex. “I’ll get these sort of orgasmic waves through my body just from touching her with my finger.”
Jeremy Henson, a 38-year-old massage therapist and psychotherapist from Smyrna, Georgia, has similar experiences OMing with his partner. “I’ve had intense shocks all different places in my body, surges in my heart chakra, feelings of expansion, feelings of being pushed out into this cosmic connection,” he told Complex.
Henson added that OM has made him and his partner so connected that they can’t hide anything from each other, and that it has made him feel more connected to people in general. “That really intense energy of orgasm presses up against all of your blocks,” he explained. “Every time you’re dipping yourself into that energy, you’re practicing letting go of all your inhibitions.”
That female ecstasy and that undulation of the feminine is the most attractive thing in the world. And so, as the guy, you get very close to that in a way that you maybe don’t see at other times. You get to experience that with her, where she’s not trying to pretend something to make you feel good
One anonymous man told Complex that OM was “like a workout for sensitivity” that increased his empathy and intuition. “People who've OMed a while usually report feeling more in kissing, platonic touch, and also noticing internal sensations which leads to the emotional sensitivity,” he explained.
Given the benefits it has for the stroker, Daedone cautions against viewing OM as something done solely for women. There is a male equivalent, however. Daedone won’t usually teach it until a woman is at least three years into her OM practice, since engaging in it free from any pressure to perform or sense of submission requires unlearning a great deal of internalized misogyny.
OM, Deadone told Complex, aims to free women from sexual inequality and “collective female trauma.”
“For a lot of women, it’s a very dangerous proposition to go into that [sexual] environment,” she explained. “You have all of this stuff, like ‘Is this guy creepy? Is something going to happen?’ It’s sort of a set of things that you’re negotiating other than ‘What does my body feel like?’”
Meuser said the creation of a pillow nest and the methodical steps of OM help her work through this vulnerability. “As a female, it’s pretty intense to have one’s legs splayed open,” she told Complex. “The genius of Nicole’s method is that it allows the vigilance centers that the female has had almost her whole life to flower open and relax and soften so that she can engage in this life force that she has had all her life but maybe hasn’t been able to connect with.”
Daedone told Complex that once these walls come down, women become more receptive to pleasure than they realized they could be. “When you begin to gain mastery over your own orgasm as a woman,” she said, “something drastically shifts.” After years of OMing, some women will start to orgasm the moment a finger touches them.
But by “orgasm,” Daedone doesn’t always mean what we usually imagine. According to Masters and Johnson’s research, she told Complex, there are four stages of orgasm, and climax is only about a one out of 10 on the pleasure scale. “Climax is the point where we check out, not the point where we check in,” she explained.
OneTaste is conducting the first paired sexuality study since Masters and Johnson, and they hope to demonstrate “a state of consciousness that you can hit that’s the thing that we’re actually looking for, and we can get distracted by climax,” Daedone told Complex.
Not everybody will connect with OM as easily as she did, she admits. Molly Ozwaks, a 27-year-old journalist from New York who has written about OneTaste, said that when she tried OM for work-related research, it felt “clinical” and didn’t have any profound effect on her life. And an anonymous 33-year-old startup executive in New York told Complex he left OM because many participants were “not emotionally stable” and “had very little going on in their lives other than OM.”
But even he recommends at least trying it. “I’d feel a buzz and clarity in my body,” he said. “The best way I can describe it is an intense present-state awareness.”
Daedone admits the whole thing sounds very “woo woo” and says even she didn’t believe it at first. “If I were sitting out there, I would think I was a nut,” she told the crowd, explaining that she comes from a family of engineers and is from the San Francisco Bay Area, the center of technological innovation.
But, she cautioned, “I don’t think it’s going to be tech that eventually saves us from ourselves. We need a fundamental human connection.”