I loved teaching, but I hated the public school system. When kids have no choice about learning and are motivated by fear of punishment, the results can be damaging. After growing increasingly frustrated with teaching high school, I found a job at a charter school that shared my vision for education. The first couple years were liberating. I was so excited by teaching in that environment, I was working eighty hours a week, giving my life to it. Then we lost our director, the politics of the school changed, and I began fighting to restore the ideals that had inspired me.
Around the same time, my twelve-year marriage ended. It became clear that I was caught up in playing the role of protector, teacher, and minister for my wife, an artist who was struggling to break through the limitations of her identity. None of my strategies for helping her were working, and I finally realized we were on different paths that just weren't going to intersect. I was stunned to see the falsity of my assumptions about who I was.
Once we were divorced, I couldn't go back to who I thought I'd been. I decided to head into the unknown. In my last year at the charter school, I ran my classes like therapy sessions. I still followed the curriculum, but I asked the kids, “Where's your love? What's your direction? What are you discovering?” Since I was asking myself the same questions, we went through the process together, and it was an incredible year. But I didn't want to be a pressure valve for a school system determined to stay rigid around fear. At the end of the school year, I got rid of all my stuff and went walking on the Appalachian Trail.
In the loneliness out on the trail, I had a lot of time to think about what I really wanted, which included connection and intimacy. I wanted to be a community leader who could bring people together. But I also realized I wasn't good at connecting with people. I was especially clueless about male-female dynamics, always finding myself stuck in a friend zone with women. Even in my marriage, the sexual aspect never lit up for me.
My musings came to a head when I read Robert Heinlein's sci-fi novel Stranger in a Strange Land. I was entranced by the author's concept of a community that had learned a language of non-duality. Their understandings eliminated fear around sexuality, death, possession of money and power. They lived in a flowing, orgasmic state of being.
I traveled down to Mexico, then up to California, and I ended up in Santa Cruz, which was alive with all kinds of personal growth modalities. Immediately, I started searching online, sure I would find something that would help me explore connection and sexuality. When I read about OM, it struck me to my core and terrified me, which made me suspect it was exactly what I needed.
I went to a couple of gatherings of people who were practitioners of OM, and one day I was surprised by a déjà vu feeling. It came to me that the people were vibing in a way that reminded me of Stranger in a Strange Land. I experienced them as not encased in identity but as ready to surrender to whatever came next. In that context, I had a sense that my desire was accepted, which gave me a feeling of freedom and of shedding the parts of me that felt unworthy and unsure. Later, when I discovered Heinlein had lived for a while in Santa Cruz, I felt sure I was in the right place.
The first time I OMed, I was more nervous than I'd been as a teenager on my first date. I was still spiraling back to feeling convinced that no one was interested in what I wanted. Someone might want to do me a favor, but I had nothing to give. The first person I asked to OM with me was a woman I slightly knew, and she said no. I was toast at that point, ready to give up. An experienced OMer encouraged me to try again. I asked a woman I was attracted to, and she said, “Yes, I'd love to.” It felt like magic, beyond anything I could imagine. We started getting ready.. I was fumbling with the gloves and the lube, following all the steps, so much energy running through me, I couldn't stop shaking. Finally, I put my finger on her clitoris. Nothing broke, nobody died, nobody got hurt. All the turbulence smoothed out inside of me. At the end, I didn't know what it meant that we had just had this intimate experience together. But the biggest takeaway was that it's okay to know what I want and ask for it.
As I went on OMing, taking possession of my desire and experiencing the electricity and connection with the strokee, I came to see this kind of touch as the very essence of how people come together. Every interaction in life has parallels with stroking, including the opportunity to observe the sensations we have and the sensations we get from each other. I began to see that our strict taboos are just ways of trying to mitigate how much we feel with each other and how uncomfortable we are when we get reminded of our fears. By being willing to push past that programming, I've had many profound experiences with people inside and outside of OM sessions.
One concept of OM that took me a while to subscribe to was the principle of following my own sensation. I could agree with it philosophically, but in practice, I was still looking and listening for signs of whether the strokee was enjoying herself, using those signals to adjust the stroking. There was one particular OM where I decided to try purely following my sensation and letting it be the guide. I felt a whole new level of connection between what was happening in my body and what was happening in her body. The rising and falling waves of our energy were in synch, as we confirmed when we shared frames at the end. That experience showed me that following my sensation is actually going to give me more of what I want than seeking approval.
I'm now working as a personal growth teacher and coach. When I lead workshops, I use the OM container as a model, setting up steps and rules that lead the participants gradually into the process, keep them feeling safe during the expression of emotions, and help them come back down at the end. I find the container essential for holding the level of sensation that we are evoking from people. In a workshop, we're all co-creating an experience, building a connection out of the moment together. There's no physical stroking happening, but otherwise, it has a lot in common with OMing.