So Much Tenderness
by Rhonda Adley

“Why am I numb?” I typed queries into Google, desperate for help. “How can I feel something?” But Google didn't have an answer that made any sense. 

After many years of marriage, my husband and I had split up. I felt dead; I could hardly feel my body. I was still able to mother my kids, but nothing excited me. I started to hate running my own successful company. I longed to feel alive again, instead of just meeting one obligation after another.

To get away from the house I had shared with my husband and away from our conservative community, I moved to Austin. I found the OM practice online, describing how you lie down and butterfly your legs open and your OM partner strokes your clitoris; that sounded a little too weird, even foolish. Still, I kept reading the posts about OM that popped up. 

One weekend, my ex took the kids, and I decided to go meet some women who were into OM. They freely shared about things that really mattered to all of us: loves, heartbreaks, children, parents. As they spoke, sensations arose in my body, and my emotions woke up. My chest ached when someone told a sad story about their mother. I felt anger when someone shared about the argument they had with a friend. My body opened as someone talked about making out with a guy. I was elated to discover I wasn't dead inside after all.

My first OM was with a man who must have been about 28. He asked me to OM, and I asked him why he was talking to me despite our age disparity. “You feel good,” he said, sweetly and sincerely. 

When we started the OM, we were both nervous. But once I relaxed, I immediately felt my body coming alive. First there was a tingling in my shoulders and then in my chest. Heat and tension built up in my genitals, warmth in my thighs, and my whole body felt electric. I sank totally into the sensations. For someone who had been numb for months, it was incredible.

As I went on OMing, I learned a lot by making requests and asking my strokers to adjust the stroke. It's possible to ask for a lot of adjustments to get the sensation exactly how you want it. But there's also the option of feeling deeply into what's going on and deciding to experience what's next, just letting the feelings flow. One of the practices within the practice of OM is learning to discern when it's time to ask for a change.

By letting this quality of discernment operate in the rest of my life, I experienced a shift in my relationship with work. I discovered which requests I really wanted to say yes to, and I realized I wasn't clearly articulating when I wanted to say no. I learned to ask for precisely what I wanted when I wanted it, not three weeks later. Practicing this direct and nuanced communication enabled me, over time, to find joy in my job again. 

In one of my OMs, I had a vision. Walking through a giant meadow, as the sun was starting to go down, I approached an ancient woman. She was bent over her cane, inching towards a tall, beautiful tree. I felt I should try to help her. As I put my hand out, she turned around and gazed straight at me. Looking into her eyes, I felt I was looking into life. I touched her, and she merged with the tree. She was part of the tree, and the tree was part of the earth, and they were both part of the world and the universe, on and on. I had touched something I can only call “feminine eternity.” I saw that what we perceive as age and fragility are not real. We have a powerful energy that's always there, no matter what we think we're seeing.

Nowadays, most of my friends are people who OM or who OMed in the past. When I relate to them, I feel a profound sense of trust. They accept who I am, at any moment. Being solidly in their bodies, they know what they're feeling, so they can be totally honest. They can say, “I can't believe how much I love you,” or, “I don't feel good with you today.” This radical honesty is what I want to have around me.

The ability to be present in my body gives me a lot of information. When I was getting to know my current husband before we married, I went to his house, and it wasn't what I expected. If I had judged him by his house, I would've left. It was cluttered and messy, without character, dusty and neglected. There was one spot that looked normal, and that was his bed. Unsure whether to stick around, I took a few deep breaths and checked in with the sensations in my body. I felt my whole body opening, so I decided to stay. 

I was supposed to visit for two days, and it turned into two weeks. I kept feeling into this man, whose external trappings didn't show who he really was. He had exquisite attention, always observing me, noticing what made me happy. If I withdrew, he was still there, observing, making himself available to me.

One afternoon, we were OMing, and I felt so much tenderness, I started to cry, one of those soft cries that releases what's been held in. I felt open and liquid. Later I asked him what had happened, and he said, “I wanted you to feel how much I love you.” Well, I did.

Before OM, I had been able to receive love up to a point, but my cup was small. Now it feels infinite.