Before I grew my shell, I had a charmed childhood. I was always empathetic and sensitive, and when I was little, that was a good way to be in the world. Grown-ups called me “precocious.” Adolescence, though – that was shattering. I felt like I couldn’t breathe in this strange and brutal world; the only way to be safe was to be like a crustacean and build a hard shell around myself in order to survive.
I wasn’t aware that that was what I was doing at the time. It’s only by looking back that I can see that I did what I needed to do in order to protect myself. From the inside looking out, I felt crippled by fear and anxiety. I felt mystified by the ease that people around me seemed to have with just being in the world. I would watch, but I couldn’t speak much. When I did speak, perhaps at a presentation for school, people often had to ask me to repeat myself, because my voice was so soft. It sounded to me like I was talking at a normal level, or even being really loud, but others could barely hear me. It wasn’t just my voice; people often asked about my eyesight, and a few even thought I was blind. I couldn’t bring myself to look anyone in the eyes, and when I did, I couldn’t connect with them energetically.
This pattern continued through my teens and into my 20s. It was with me when I got a job in a wonderful San Francisco vegan restaurant. I liked working there, and I loved the people to whom I could start to open up, at least just a little. I first heard about Orgasmic Meditation, through the restaurant’s juice bartender. We talked, flirted a little, and one day, he told me that he did the OM practice.
I had such a strong reaction to it and confused as to why because I’d been living in San Francisco for a while and had seen some pretty wild things. I considered myself very open-minded – and yet when he started explaining OM, I felt immediately shocked. Something about the idea of there being so much attention on a woman’s genitals and enjoyment startled me. I was at the point where I knew I should interrogate my own reactions a little, so after some urging on his part, I agreed to check out an introductory class.
I was taken with it right away. The moment I walked in, I felt the energy in the room. I felt it in my body, as if the sensation had just worked its way past my shell and into my very core. Everyone felt so free, and not in a contrived or false way. They just seemed so at ease with themselves and with each other. You meet people like this every once in a while, but to have so many in the same place at the same time? I’d never experienced anything like that, especially not sober.
It would be six months of attending classes and workshops before I was ready to do an actual OM. As sure as I was, right from the beginning, that this was for me, part of me needed time to feel fully ready. I couldn’t just dive right into the practice. I’m grateful people were patient with me and didn’t rush the process.
Despite six months of learning about OM, all my preparation vanished from my mind the moment I got into the nest. I was only aware of the sensation in my body, and the tremendous roaring in my ears, like when you hold a seashell to your ear to hear the ocean, except 100 times louder. I remember feeling like it was just so different from anything that I'd ever done with my body. The best word I can think of is disruption; everything I thought I knew about my body was being disrupted, and with each passing moment, I surrendered to that disruption.
Then, a jolt. Not like an electric shock, but rather like a single wave rolling through my whole body. That wave peeled off the carefully constructed shell that I’d built for myself for over half my life. It was like slipping out of an old casing made of fear – and made out of years of shame around so many things, desire chief among them. The roar in my ears suddenly changed to a popping sound as I could feel myself emerge. Lying in the nest, I could stare at myself and at the empty shell, and gasp at what I had just left. Why the hell was I stuck in that for so long?
After that, I was in the practice for good.
As I continued to OM, I realized I now had the courage to ask someone to OM with me anytime I chose. Now that I knew what was there for me, I couldn’t go on with my old life in the old ways. The shell was not going back on. Sometimes, I’d go a few weeks without an OM, and I’d start to feel the old feelings coming on. Then it would hit me; I don’t have to feel this endlessly. I have a solution. I have a way to feel better.
Even as I kept OMing, I did not ask for adjustments for a very long time. I came into OM with no voice. I tried to communicate with my mind, instead. A little to the left would be so amazing. Sometimes it almost seemed like the stroker picked up on that thought, but more often, not. What I realized was that this was the cycle I’d been stuck in all my life. It happened in romantic relationships, in professional situations, with my family. If I can just emanate it into the room, or into this conversation with this person, they'll just understand me, and I won't have to speak. I finally accepted that this was another aspect of the shell I still needed to shed. If I could give adjustments in an OM, it would reverberate in every other aspect of my life.
Once I learned to give adjustments, all sorts of things began to shift. I started to stand up to my boyfriend at the time, where before I had just acquiesced and stuffed my own reactions down. If he did something I didn’t like, or if I were upset, I had always kept it in – and now, I was letting it out. It was a shock for him, because this wasn’t the Aubrey he’d started dating. I had a voice at last. These arguments created greater intimacy for us, and just as importantly, I could feel him respect me more. And I respected myself more.
I was changing, and the truth was coming out of me, and it wasn’t going back in. As my friend Nancy says, “You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.”
While before, I felt like I could be truly myself perhaps 10% of the time, that percentage began to rise the longer I stayed with the OM practice. Each time I’d have a great experience with people in the community, I’d walk away and say, I want to feel this more often. And that’s what happened: 10% became 30%, 30% became 50%, and now I even have the experience of feeling myself 100%. I am the person I only dreamed of being, and I am that person almost all the time.
After 12 years with this practice of OM, I am still learning more about myself and my desires. I keep asking for new adjustments because I keep discovering new things that bring me further and further out into life and the world. It’s not enough to have slipped out of my shell, I want to keep growing and exploring. It seems there’s always more to find.
I want everyone to experience this. I have seen what it has done in my life and the lives of so many others. I wake up every day, committed to sharing OM with the world. I know it can heal and transform so much. At the same time, my practice isn’t contingent on who else discovers this magic. No matter what, I show up for myself, and that is the most meaningful thing I’ve ever known.