A wave of soft and not so soft moans emerges from the basement of the spectacular Regency Building in San Francisco. About 1,000 people, most of whom met only a few minutes before, are arranged in pairs. The women lie on yoga mattresses as closely packed as possible, unclothed from the waist down. Men, who are dressed (and a few women) lean over them, gently stroking their genitals.
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It goes on for precisely 15 minutes. There is no climax. At the end of this time they thank each other and share their feelings about the activity. There may be further interaction among the couples, romantic or sexual, but at this point everyone goes their own way.
This is called orgasmic meditation. The venue is the first global conference of OneTaste, a movement which aims to spread this practice and bring it into the daily life of as many people as possible around the world.
The movement believes the key to a happy life is in orgasm, not only of a sexual nature, but both professional and social. Proponents believe that orgasms should be part of our daily life, and they should be treated as essential food for the body. Among the people at the Regency conference are high-tech professionals from Silicon Valley, attorneys from Europe, and even curious Australians.
The ages vary, and include seniors, but the conference attendees are mainly white people in their 30s. They have each paid between $400 to $800 dollars to take part in the three-day event (journalists pay a discounted rate of $200), which includes instruction, guest lecturers and group "orgasmic meditation' exercises.
OneTaste was founded about 10 years ago but has only really taken off in the past year. The organization has undergone a change in recent years to become a commercial entity, which offers training for its coaches, a closed social networking platform (at a fee, of course) and, in the American spirit, a wide array of merchandise.
The goddess of the organization is Nicole Daedone, 45, a star of TED lectures and author of the book “Slow Sex,” who began developing orgasmic meditation 20 years ago.
Her main obstacle in spreading her doctrine was when she started out, in her hometown of San Francisco - already bursting with New Age, self-help ideas and closed communities that somehow always seem to have connotations of nudity and sex as part of their philosophy.
The way she started the organization - as a home with a closed community in which 40 men and women lived and practiced the meditation daily - saw her branded her as yet another guru providing another seemingly risky illusion. It all raised suspicions of cult activity. The crowded living conditions in the house, with 12 people to a room; claims that Daedone interfered in the lives of couples who were members of the group; and nude daily yoga sessions did nothing to contribute to a positive image.
But that is all ancient history now. The movement’s communal homes – there are nine worldwide – now offer private rooms and comfortable quarters.
Daedone, who concedes that the practice has the potential to become a cult, decided not to live in one of the houses, after she felt that the members of the group treated her like a guru.
OneTaste began focusing on orgasmic mediation only in recent years. Before, Daedone’s main work lay in training coaches and sexual therapists, and meditation was simply an aid.
With tens of thousands of adherents worldwide, efficient training program and sessions, a business plan and an international vision, this is a flourishing business in every sense. Daedone, whether she wanted it or not, is still a guru, with more followers than ever.
Despite her captivating lightness and her sharp sense of humor - obvious in almost everything she does - she walks around the conference with a personal bodyguard. Perhaps she has no choice.
A reading exercise
We enter a session. To take part in orgasmic meditation exercises, you have to undergo training. Usually it’s a half day’s work, but here they offer an abbreviated 90-minute session. Instruction is given by Master Stroker Ken Blackman, the movement’s senior instructor with 15 years’ experience. He has developed a short explanation of the essence of orgasm, explaining that men reach climax and then lose interest, whereas women have 10 or more vibrations.
Before he moves on to the practical part of the class, he presents one iron-clad rule: orgasmic meditation is not sex, because you wouldn’t have sex with someone you’ve just met or are not attracted to.
“Would you like OM?” is the right way to address a potential partner. There is to be no persuasion, no begging and no tempting offers. “I’d be glad to,” or “No, thank you” are the responses. “No” means no.
The meditation takes a specific form that must not be changed. The woman removes her undergarments and lies on a mattress. The man (or another woman) leans over her diagonally with his or her legs stretched out. The session begins by massaging the inner legs, with the man describing out loud the woman’s genitals. Then the man puts on a glove, puts a bit of lubricant on it, and begins the actual massage.
The thumb of one hand is placed on the lower part of the woman’s genitals and the forefinger touches the clitoris gently. The rhythm, extent and location of the massage are unchangeable. After precisely 15 minutes the stroking stops, the area is covered with a towel and pressure is applied with the palm of the hand for a few seconds. Feelings are shared and goodbyes are said.
Daedone, who developed this doctrine from experience and exercises to which she was exposed over the years, says the most important thing is to maintain the regular framework of the meditation. She says the goal of orgasmic meditation is to connect people by the man knowing how to read the woman’s genitals.
Graduates of the abbreviated course receive a bracelet, which grants them entrance to the basement where the group orgasmic mediation exercises are being held.
It is announced that the next group exercise will begin in a few minutes, and this is the time to find a partner if you don’t already have one. There are 100 OneTaste followers and instructors at the conference. They provide physical, emotional and administrative support. Every one of them is greatly needed, especially when it comes to the emotional aspect. There is also a psychologist on hand if needed.
At the end of another wave of moans, everyone moves into the main room, where a dance party is starting - the kind that develops where different age groups are present. Afterward, Daedone takes to the stage. Here she is treated like a true guru. Cheers go on for several minutes before she can begin talking. It seems like everyone is in ecstasy from her very presence.
The high point of the event is a live demonstration of orgasmic meditation by Daedone on one of the female instructors. The sense was that a mystical ceremony was underway in the room, with Daedone herself seeming to enter an ecstatic state.
The Israeli connection
Daedone studied linguistics at university and was an artist. At age 27 she was shocked by her father’s death from cancer in prison, where he was serving a sentence for sexual harassment of two minor girls. Daedone tried to overcome her trauma through Buddhism, and joined a Zen community where she first learned about orgasmic meditation, which she enhanced.
There’s an Israeli connection, too. Daedone says one of her sources of inspiration is the kibbutz, and she thinks the idea of everyone living together and connected to each other is very wise.
She’s not Jewish, she says, but she has a rabbi, who was at the conference the previous day. She notes that there are many things about Judaism that she loves, and that many Orthodox Jews practice OM regularly. She said the movement has started in Israel and she really wants to visit.
Rachel Cherwitz, 33, from New York, is the chief sales person for OneTaste and instructs the Orthodox community in Brooklyn about the movement. About 10 years ago, she lived in Israel for two years as an ultra-Orthodox Jew. She says there are dozens of Orthodox and religious people practicing OM regularly, including rabbis - the only difference being that the Orthodox practitioners are married and do it with each other.
Avraham Taylor, 36, a married father of four daughters from Tekoa, is the unofficial representative of OneTaste in Israel. A psychologist by profession, he works with at-risk youth.
Three years ago Taylor discovered the movement through Cherwitz, whom he met when she lived in Israel. He decided to take an instructor’s course, which takes a year and costs $16,000. The course is mainly online, with two group meetings in San Francisco.
Taylor, who comes from a religious family but is now secular, says he always wanted to study sexuality and Daedone’s approach seemed the most suitable, because it dealt with the less discussed aspects of the matter.
“I’ve had it with the fact that sexuality is always underground, especially for religious people. What broke me was the case of Rabbi Moti Elon,” he said, referring to the recent case in which Elon, a prominent figure in the Orthodox world and beyond, was convicted on two counts of indecent assault on a minor.
After that case, Taylor said, he understood that the definitions of modesty in the Orthodox community were no longer suitable. Daedone, he says, “treats sex not only as a physical act, but sexuality as a gateway to all the other things in life.”
Taylor is not giving instruction on a regular basis. “I’m not sure that group OM circles will be suitable here,” he says. “I want to do something that has an obligation to the culture and tradition, and Nicole and the team know this and allow me this,” he says.
“Lots of people ask me why I make this complicated and don’t open a center in Tel Aviv, where lots of people would be glad to practice this method the way it is," he continues. "But I don’t want to be pushed into other places because of this; I want to give this gift to as many people as possible.”
When asked to explain what the gift is, Taylor says he thinks it’s “the most powerful tool to deal with loneliness of all kinds. People are suffering very much from loneliness, and it creates the ability to communicate, sexual openness and psychological tranquillity. It’s very challenging from the point of view of the couple, to look at sexuality with open eyes.”