Saturday, April 14, 2012

Top 20 Hard-Knock Life Lessons from Orgasmic Meditation

In Defense of Orgasm

This past Monday night, I attended the launch party of The Best Sex Writing 2012, published by Cleis Press and edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel, in San Francisco. Many of the most prolific and controversial American sex writers attended and read from their essays, which are featured in the anthology. The pieces ran the gamut, from atheistic sex to the difference between sex trafficking and sex workers to political ‘sexting’ and polyamory.

However, the moment Tracy Clark-Flory took to the mike to read her article, The Worship of Female Pleasure (which was posted on, I knew I had to brace myself. I remember the piece well, in which she speaks about her experience at viewing an impromptu demonstration of Orgasmic Meditation (also known as OM) at a women’s weekend retreat she recently attended.

Full disclosure: I teach the practice of Orgasmic Meditation and learned it through the ‘slow sex’ coaching program’ she derides—mainly because of the cost and the “good old-fashioned capitalism” displayed in offering such a program (side note: most yoga teacher and life coach training programs cost anywhere from $3000-$20,000, so the price for the Slow Sex Program is well within the limits of financial reason). Though I am finished with my training and now have my own private practice and business, I am deeply grateful for the coaching program and for what Orgasmic Meditation has taught me.

So imagine my chagrin Monday night as people are snickering and rolling their eyes when she describes the reverie that the stroker of the OM demonstration was feeling, saying that her “throaty exhalation…sounds as if it belongs in a Lamaze class.” She notes that two members of the retreat are “overcome by the intensity of the performance and are silently crying” (insert more snide laughs here) and says that one has to dig beneath the “freaky OMing exterior” to find some semblance of a relatable message. Even the slightly snarky title, The Worship of Female Pleasure, suggests that to foster a deep relationship with our genitals (an area continuously shrouded in shame and secrecy, especially for women) is borderline religious, woo-woo weirdness.

Now, let me say that I genuinely respect Ms. Clark-Flory’s experience and her process. Her opinion is entirely hers and her perspective 100% valid. She doesn’t paint a completely negative picture of OM. She says that it’s a “refreshing counterpoint to the porny mainstream” and she touches upon the aspects of OM that are based in intuitiveness, mindfulness and countering our negative conditioning around sex. And I can also understand how she was caught off guard, since the women’s weekend advertised that there would be “no sexual activity.”

But to write off Orgasmic Meditation (or laugh it off, in the case of Monday night’s audience) without even having tried the practice seems completely closed-minded. I mean, there I am, frozen with shock in the middle of Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco (the Mecca of sexual adventure), at a freaking sex book party, for Chrissakes, and I am the black sheep of the sexual family. Rape fantasies, transgender prostitutes, penis gagging—all of that is welcome—even celebrated (as it should be!). But putting clean attention on a woman’s pussy for 15 minutes (while the other partner is clothed, no less!)—well that’s just too freaky.

Granted, a part of me can see why “not even most coast-dwelling liberals are ready to be intimately stroked in a roomful of strangers,” as Ms. Clark-Flory concludes. Shining a light on a woman’s orgasm and stripping it down to its barest essence (with no fancy toys or ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ to cover it up) can be extremely confronting. I can also understand that directly addressing the nature of female desire is still highly taboo in our culture. Hugo Schwyzer touches upon this in this essay, “I Want You to Want Me” (also featured in The Best Sex Writing 2012). He notes that while men are hungry to be physically looked upon and admired, the cultural gaze continues to stay fixated on women:

Teaching women that their bodies have great power over men creates a huge problem for women. By putting the focus on managing male desire, women are taught to ignore or suppress their own desires. It’s a loss for women and it’s a loss for men.

Finally, there’s my own personal orgasmic path, which hasn’t been all succulent delights and shrieks of ecstasy. Oh, make no mistake—I have had my share of sexual escapades. Tied up in rope for hours, gagged, spanked, flogged in public, anally penetrated, anally penetrated others, public sex, play parties, threesomes, foursomes, fivesomes—and of course, the good, old-fashioned American jackhammer fuck. I always considered myself a ‘good lay’ and achieving climax was never a problem. Perhaps you could call this my “Girls Gone Wild” phase after my divorce (my marriage being a time when I was so terrified of sex, I would just lay on my back while he ‘got it over with’). I thought it was my sexual duty as a self-proclaimed free woman to say ‘yes’ to any offer that came along and I even had a game going where I wanted to sleep with one man for each sign on the Zodiac (yes, I won).

Mind you, don’t get the idea that I am writing off these experiences as shallow and lacking in value. Many of them cracked me open in ways in which I am profoundly grateful. And I don’t want to give the impression that the only meaningful sex comes from hours of eye-gazing and ‘tantric’ breathing. The distinction for me comes not in what I was exploring, but how I was exploring. At times I felt like I was playing sexual ‘Truth or Dare,’ rather than asking for what I really wanted in the moment (oftentimes because I couldn’t even identify exactly what it was that I wanted).

Through the “Girls Gone Wild” phase, I was OMing—and tapping into massive amounts of sexual energy. Sometimes it looked like stretches of thick, hot pleasure, but oftentimes it was intense bouts of crying as layers of shame and fear melted off my clit. But through it all, I held onto the ‘knowledge’ that I was a good fuck and that my sex was being liberated. My adventurous escapades were the evidence I needed to prove that I was, once-and-for-all, a woman open in her sexuality.

However, in the past few months, there has been a sharp and noticeable shift in my orgasm, and therefore, my sexual identity has come under the microscope. Whereas before I was ready to ride anything that came along, I find myself wanting to spend more time alone or with just one other partner. My orgasm on the physical level feels much lighter and softer. I notice that I feel more sensation when my lover lightly breaths on my nipples than when he is pounding my pussy. What once was loud and brash and fiery is now more like a cool whisper. And peeking out from behind these new sensations is an innocent, barely-ripe ingénue who simply loves for love’s sake and has no battle-weary sexual résumé to back up her scars of knowledge. In fact, she really knows very little at all.

While there is an excitement in exploring these new flavors, there is also a tremendous amount of terror that I have somehow lost my electricity. I am afraid I am ‘less of a woman’ (an experience I had during my years of anorexia when I wasn’t menstruating). Connecting physically to my partner is easy in the light caresses, but somehow that thread gets broken once we explore higher levels of energy. I have an intense fear that no one can feel me here or find me in this place.

My identity is breaking into pieces. Who am I now, if I am not an insanely erotic beast ready to burst at every man’s touch? Who am I if I can not satisfy my lover on all levels? Am I really the monogamous type (cuz my pride tells me there’s no fuckin’ way I’m getting caught in the vanilla marriage trap again)? What right do I have to teach Orgasmic Meditation if I have no clue who my own erotic self is?

It’s as if I’m standing on this very tiny, unstable lilypad—and everywhere I turn, white smoke spans out beyond me as far as I can see. I don’t know which way is north. I don’t know if there is solid ground beyond where I am standing. I can’t seem to feel or hear anyone. Loneliness, blindness and grief sit smack in the middle of my sex. Indeed, I am crying as I write this and I wonder, “Will I ever have the kind of timeless connection with another human being for which I have been hungering for all my life?” I’m not talking about schlocky, romance, happily-ever-after, til-death-do-us-part bullshit.  I am talking about soul-to-soul, naked in all our beauty and madness and filled up with so much orgasm that we just burst into another realm of existence. I have had glimpses beyond the veil, but I have no idea what those glimpses mean or how to get back.

My faith began to waver. “Fuck you, Orgasmic Meditation,” I cried out, “and your fucking false advertising.”

And then, a few nights ago, I saw a women experience OM for the first time. Afterwards, she looked at her partner with such love, tears filling her eyes. “I want to cry,” she said. “No one has ever put that kind of attention on me.”

Her orgasm reached across the room and warmed my whole body. Tingles ran over the backs of my hands and along my neck. My heart swelled in gratitude. “Yes,” I thought to myself, “this is why I teach this practice.”

She was a reminder of all that OM has taught me and was a testament to the power of the practice. One of my dear friends (and fellow coaches) noted that perhaps this soft part of me that is emerging was being ‘held hostage’ by the fact that I was a ‘hot lay.’

And so, without further ado, here is my list of the Top 20 Hard-Knock Life Lessons from Orgasmic Meditation:

1. Life is so much richer when you aren’t grasping for climax. This way you are open to feeling all the nuances of what is here now, as opposed to clamping down on how you think it should be.

2. Sometimes all you need is a good, clean downstroke to carry you to the bottom, help you peel off an old layer, and bounce back up again.

3. Know when you are full and express your gratitude. It will help you expand your capacity to receive.

4. Every experience begins with desire. It’s your choice whether or not you express it, but if you hold back, there will be static between you and the other person that will make intimacy that much more difficult.

5. Don’t overstroke. When the peak has ended, be courageous enough to change.

6. Before there’s “get off,” you must first put simple attention on what is, approve of it and engage it 100%.

7. Stroke for your pleasure. The moment you start doing something to produce a result, you are setting yourself up for resentment.

8. You’ve already done it “right.” All you have to do is show up and get into position.

9. Focus on sensation. It’s the purest language between you and your partner. Let go of the story you have around who that person is and who you think you are.

10. Life, like an OM, is an experience unto itself, not collateral for a future transaction. You don’t owe anyone anything for participating.

11. Push out through your genitals. The world is hungry to feel your orgasm. It’s the fuel that drives you and the energy that magnetizes that which you desire into your life.

12. Sometime we go up, sometimes we go down. The practice is in riding the waves, rather than drowning in them.

13. Breathe and surrender. The rest will be taken care of.

14. Be willing to ask for the exact stroke you want. Set yourself up so that the people around you can win.

15. “No” is not a rejection of you, but of the offer. Don’t take anything personally.

16. Sometimes you are the stroker and sometimes you are the strokee. Know your role in the moment and play it fully.

17. Oftentimes, it is the lightest stroke that draws out the deepest desire.

18. Slow down. Feel. Include. Expand.

19. Orgasm is big enough to include everything and volatile enough to burn away what is false.

20. The ride alone is the reward.

And so, Ms. Clark-Flory (and various other SF audience members), I can understand why you might snicker and scoff at the ‘bizarre’ and ‘freaky’ practice of Orgasmic Meditation. It does look weird. On the surface, it’s not as glamorous (and therefore not as easy to sell) as other sexual exploits. And, no doubt, it knocks on the doors guarding your pride and intimacy, as it does mine.

But OM is my foundation. I know this not because I have practicing it for over two years, but because my desire keeps bringing me back here (oftentimes against my will). As much as I want to escape into the known world of externally-validated sexuality, my body feels hollow and hungry the moment I turn my back on my practice.

Granted, OM may not be the path for everyone. One’s sexuality is a very personal exploration, as varied as there are people in the world. But I would appreciate a little care, open-mindedness and inclusivity for what resonates with me, just as I extend the same egalitarian attitude towards what works for you.

Or not. Because even if the whole world writes me off as some wacky crackpot, I will continue to do the thing that is most authentic and nourishing to my erotic self. For in the end, she answers to no one but her own desire.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Energy Accounting: How Giving Up the Credit Card for Lent Improved my Orgasm

I’ve never been into the ‘Lent’ thing. Raised a semi-faking-it Episcopalian in a sea of Southern Baptists, I was never really forced to adhere to a lot of religious dogma and ritual (thank God). Plus, that black, ashy cross on the forehead was more a Catholic thing, anyway. 

One year I told the youth minister at my church that I was giving up ‘boys’ for Lent. I was about fourteen years old and had only ever had one boyfriend (which lasted about a month) when I was thirteen. Plus I was too interested in making straight A’s and playing soccer to even care about the boys in my school (none of whom I was particularly drawn to anyway). It was a non-issue for me.

Over the years, I saw how letting go of something for a period of time might work for other people, but I never saw myself as having any tangible addictions. Yeah I could give up alcohol—but really, the few glasses of wine I have a week? Will that really teach me a lesson? I rarely smoked, so that was off the table. And food? Well, I tried to give that up for seven years straight, but that’s another story.

Honestly, I saw trying to find something to give up for Lent about as useful as abstaining from dressing up Chihuahuas in fuzzy sweaters (the former I do not own and the latter I vehemently abhor).

But this year, something felt different. I’ve been digging deep lately into the way that I manage my energy. Exploring which circumstances leave me feeling energized and which ones leave me feeling drained. Where do I put my focus and where I ‘check out’ on life. How I busy myself with a bunch of little crap instead of concentrating on what will move me forward in my career. How I make up a bunch of excuses as to why I am not ‘successful’ yet, as opposed to feeling my desire and moving from her wisdom. How I will say ‘Yes’ to things I don’t really want to do because I am afraid ‘No’ will make me look selfish or will help me accrue credit with another person that I can cash in on a later date.

Enter my financial situation. It’s my belief that the way we do one thing is the way we do everything, and money is simply one expression of the way I cultivate and utilize the energy within and around me. And for the past three years, I have been living on borrowed energy. Oh sure, I started off with a hefty little supply of cash. But over time, I have been spending, spending, spending (with the best of intentions) and have done very little to deposit, deposit, deposit. Granted, it hasn’t been all whores and crack (joke, Mom), but when I finally came face to face with a 5-figure AmEx bill, something inside me went, “Um, Candice…this might be a problem.”

I do have some savings in an emergency fund. A little bit of cash in investments. And a Roth IRA. But over six weeks ago, I estimated that I had only about three more months of savings until I dug myself into serious hole. And this hole was fucking up a lot of my best-laid plans. “I gotta buy that MacBook Pro and that iPhone and that Red Prius and get my ass to LA so I can be in the movies and bring Orgasmic Meditation to Hollywood.”

But the truth is, if I want to even have a chance at accomplishing any of that, I have got to get my energy accounting in order. Financial, personal, relationship, career…you name it. I like to spend, but am not so good receiving.

This is where the power of Orgasmic Meditation comes in to play. I know, many of you are thinking, “What the hell does making money have to do with my orgasms?” But stay with me for a moment. I am going to expand the definition of orgasm and I invite you to do the same (but only if you want to…you can always pick up the old definition on the way out the door. No obligations. No questions asked.)

Most of us equate ‘orgasm’ with ‘climax’: you work yourself up to a boiling point, discharge a large amount of energy and crash over a sharp edge. That’s cool and all…AND that is only one landmark on an entire map of orgasm. The way I define orgasm is that it is the creative life force that births each moment. Yogis refer to it as ‘prana.’ Acupuncturists call it ‘chi’. Whatever floats your boat.

Sometimes this orgasm is low and soft and sweet. Other times it is sharp and scratchy and acrid. There are infinite expressions of orgasm in the world—from the sunshine dancing off the warm, green buds of spring, to the muddy, sticky floor-beds of a swamp. Everything has its own orgasmic, erotic, creative expression.

And through the practice of Orgasmic Meditation, we learn (stroke by stroke) how to tap into the orgasm, feel each nuance inside and relax and expand our ability to hold more of that energy, while still maintaining consciousness in that expansion. Because the way we often operate is once we reach a certain level of energy in the body, we will go unconscious, move into habitual autopilot and do everything in our power to get rid of it. We drink it away. We fuck it away. We Facebook it away. We eat it away. We starve it away. Or we push it down until it sits in our bodies and festers into bitterness and resentment (this is how misers operate—alone in their mansions with no friends or meaningful expressions of their life).

And this was the trouble with my finances. Occasionally I would do the clamp-and-horde dance, but 99% of the time, I would reach a certain level of ‘havingness’ and then I would spend my money…money I often didn’t have. I didn’t know how to hold it. My excuses were valid: Holding that much is greedy; I’m not responsible enough to hold that much; If I hold that much, then how can I play the poor little starving artist girl to get the attention that I want? You get the idea. And the way I rationalized spending the money was just to put those big purchases on the credit card. The phone bill. The plane tickets. The retreats. Let it just sit there.

But the thing with credit is that you build interest, and the same applies with your energy. If you spend $10 worth of energy that you don’t have, you not only have to pay off the $10, but you have to pay off a little bit more to just turn direction from spending to depositing. It’s a game of diminishing returns, which, if you play every once in a while, can be alright…but if you make it a habit, it becomes unsustainable.

And so, I found myself looking at my credit card statement about a week after Lent began and noticed that the last purchase was on Fat Tuesday. “Bingo!” cried Desire. This is exactly what you are meant to confront: 40 days of only spending energy if I had the immediate funds to sustain such a purchase. OK, I admit, there were a few times I had to use the card within the 40 days. There was an iTunes purchase that automatically charged my card. There was a day I was out with a friend and, due to a miscalculation in my checking account (my mistake), I had to use the card to cover lunch. And yes, there was that one (just one!) time I had to buy a $3 cappuccino. But I was cold. And it was Sightglass Coffee. And I reeeeeeeaaaaaaaallllyyyy wanted it.

However, over the 40 days, I managed to put only $61.42 on the card (not including the $68.71 in interest). It felt like some sort of breakthrough for me! But the point of the experience was less about could I manage to get through Lent without using the card and more about bringing a certain level of consciousness to how I spend. Like I discovered that travel means more to me than new clothes. I learned that I often play innocent when it comes to big purchases and just hope that ‘someday’ I’ll be able to pay it off (I call this the ‘Rose-Colored Glasses Syndrome’—like that energy-draining, co-dependent relationship with the drug addict who can’t admit his/her problem, and if you wait around long enough, maybe someday he/she will come around and get the help they need). And that I spend about a quarter of my food budget on Kombucha alone (Yeah. I know. Leave me alone).

And with this new level consciousness, I am now free to make an informed choice about how and when I spend my money. I learned more about what I value in my life and can now make purchases that are in alignment with my personal integrity, rather than out of trying to run away from feeling the hungers within me. And with this level of clarity, I am now sitting in position of empowerment, rather than ignorance. I know what I want in my life and I am willing to do what it takes to have it. And if that means dropping into the murky, dark shadows of my orgasm to drop off what no longer serves me, then so be it (even if that includes Sightglass coffee and a few Hippie Festivals).

PS: Of course, I couldn’t write an article with the word ‘Orgasm’ in the title and not mention sex; so for those of you wondering if this kind of accounting helps your sex life, the short answer is yes. However, it helps not by teaching you some technique or fancy way of stroking, but by bringing your attention to the present moment, cultivating sensitivity in your body and learning to trust the deeper desires that arise. Great sex/orgasm/climax is simply the by-product of this level of attention and capacity to hold energy. It’s like those people who step into a yoga class for ‘a great body.’ Yes, you will get ripped doing yoga, but that is the by-product of learning to slow down, feel and honor the subtle wisdom your body has to offer. The same is true in Orgasmic Mediation. We take the ‘goal’ of climax off the table and create a space where you simply get to know the landscape of your orgasm. It takes a bit more time and requires a lot of patience, but in the end, it is the most sustainable way for you to bring that level of aliveness and turn-on into the bedroom and into your everyday life.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

You’re Right, Lee Aronsohn: There are Just WAY Too Many Women in Television

Lee Aronsohn, Co-Creator of Two and a Half Men
Dear Mr. Aronsohn,

I for one would like to personally applaud you for your cogent argument in last Sunday’s Hollywood Reporter that the time for women in television has peaked. When you said, “Enough ladies, I get it. You have periods…we’re approaching peak vagina on television, to the point of labia saturation,” I felt like pulling out my tampons and waving them in celebration! You’re so right! I am sick of seeing women and their ‘issues’ invading my male-dominated entertainment.

It’s not as if women’s issues are even relevant these days anyway. I mean, who’s really talking about abortion? Or contraception and reproductive rights? And the fact that women only make $0.77 for every man’s dollar in the US (which is so 2009)?  Personally, I’d take a fart joke any day.

Plus, women have their own television network, for chrissakes! When I’m in the occasional mood for vagina in crisis, there’s nothing that boosts my self-esteem more than a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and an evening of Lifetime: Television for Women.

Speaking of having their own channel, I’ve noticed a lot of black people hanging around the major networks these days. What’s say you and me start a rally to corral them back to BET? And the Hispanics! Shouldn’t they be all at Telemundo? Gay people have Bravo. Maybe the Asians could start something called the Oriental Express? And what’s up with that short dude on Game of Thrones?

I mean, it just feels like there’s some sort of invasion against the hetero-normative, white-male-centric sort of television that your show, Two and a Half Men, produces. But as you have stated, those times have peaked. I’m sure we’ll see those bitchy woman and their angry pussies heading back to the kitchen anytime now. Thank God women television writers are a vast minority! It shouldn’t take long to squeeze them out.

And as for bitchy women, I, for one, would like to formally apologize on behalf of all women for feeling angry and having a voice. My heart just ached for you when you said, “We are centering the show on two very damaged men. What makes them damaged? Sorry, it’s women. I never got my heart broken by a man.” I can understand. I mean, it’s not as if men (and people in general) are responsible for the wreckage in their lives. It couldn’t be that your characters are deeply insecure and use women as a way to assuage their pain (only to find out later that the mother/whore they created in their mind doesn’t match the three-dimensional human before them). And I’m sure these men don’t have an ounce of attachment in their relationships, which could be the root cause of their suffering.

No. You’re right. Project all that pain on those f*cking women.

And so, Mr. Aronsohn—sage, visionary, mouthpiece for our times—I raise my sugar-free, virgin daiquiri in your honor and salute you.

Now, if we’re done here, I’m gonna head back to the latest episode of 30 Rock (oh…wait a minute…)