A Lifelong Growth Practice
by Chad Pagonas

I didn't know who I was or what I wanted in life. It was easy for me to go with the flow, which worked fine with friends because I was a chill guy to be around. But when it came to intimate relationships, I would always get stuck. I had an idea that if I could find the right person, everything would be perfect, and I often had a specific person in mind. But the closer I came to being intimate with her, the more anxious and weird I would get. I didn't like the discomfort that came up in me in those situations. And yet intimacy was what I needed in order to learn about myself.

In my early twenties, I tried to figure out what I was doing wrong. I read books and articles and did land in a pretty good relationship. One of the stumbling blocks was sex, since it was hard for me to feel my desire beyond the initial attraction. Once we were in bed, I was preoccupied with whether I was doing it right, whether I'd last long enough, whether she was happy. She would get frustrated, but she didn't have the language to describe what she was feeling and why. The blow-ups that resulted were too much for me. I loved her and had been happy with her for a while, so when we broke up, I felt pushed to learn more by trying something different. 

Living in the Bay Area, I had access to a lot of personal development material. Learning about authenticity and communication led me to OM. My first OM changed me. It electrified my body and brought me into a deep zone, a place I had never been before. What really changed my perspective was seeing that all the little things I thought were important, like whether I was attracted to the strokee, didn't matter at all. OM was an experience separate from the conditioning patterns of romance and relationships that I thought were necessary to have intimacy. 

I love the way the OM container is designed so you can drop into it with someone you do or don't know very well and create a profound experience together. It did bring up a lot of anxiety at first, but I also tapped into a current of energy that was new and powerful. When I left that first OM, I had so much energy in my body, I walked home, a 45-minute hike. As I was walking, everything looked so beautiful, the people, the trees, everything. An extra sense of awareness had come to life.

I immediately I recognized that I was living a less dynamic life than I wanted. In comparison with OM, I was going through the motions, but now I felt inspired to make changes. I was already in the midst of trying to find a new career. It had come into my head that I wanted to be a life coach, which is hilarious because actually I needed a life coach myself. Meanwhile, my self-image was changing too. I had always taken the role of the good kid in my family, and now I was involved in a practice that was controversial, even perhaps rebellious, and I was excited to discover that formerly hidden side of myself.

One thing I especially like about OM is that what I learn in it is applicable in other areas of life because it is a metaphor for any human interaction. I can be aware of what's arising in the field that exists between two people. In an OM, as in a conversation, I still sometimes find myself going into my head, and I have to stop and remind myself to feel. That ability is like a muscle that continues to get stronger through exercise. So if I'm talking with someone about a sensitive topic, I can tell myself to slow down and feel, notice how the strokes are going and where they might go next. 

In OM, I learned how to feel and how to follow the feeling, which is an important skill to take into life. There were so many situations I used to avoid, because I didn't know what I was doing or feared I would look stupid. OM showed me how to go into something without knowing much about it, and then be open enough to learn from it. There's no such thing as failure if you're just learning. That insight produced a big shift in how I approached new experiences, especially relationships, where I used to feel the consequences were really big if I messed up. Taking that philosophy into interpersonal realms was so liberating.

I'm always discovering new ways to apply these lessons. OM is really a lifelong growth practice.