I got into OM when my girlfriend gave me a copy of “Slow Sex” by Nicole Daedone. I learned the practice at first because I wanted to be a good boyfriend. I also liked that there were concrete steps to improve my connection with and understanding of women. The book spoke to me as a man, pointing me toward what I might accomplish.
In my life, I always knew how to phrase things to have people like me and listen to me and know I was doing it right. I’d trained as a clinical psychologist and so I had a lot of practice in saying things the appropriate way, but it was all, ‘What do I say on this situation? How do I act?’ There was no emphasis on ‘What does it feel like to be here?’ What does it feel like for the other person?’ OM flipped all that because it’s about ‘What does it feel like right now to me?’ ‘What does it feel like to the other person?’
Everything in OM is about that moment- to-moment felt sense. In some ways that was excruciating! I’d placed so much of my self-worth on having a skill set. When I set all those skills aside, I had no way of measuring my value as a person and a man.
By practicing OM over six years, I’ve stopped trying to use the right words. I’ve started attending, both in myself and in other people, to the feeling of what is happening in addition to the words. This is because in OM we follow the stroke. The whole emphasis is on the non-verbal felt sense: what does it feel like? What does it feel like now?
I run a nonprofit, and we teach about health and well-being: eat more vegetables, move your body, reduce stress. That’s all easy. The hard part is invigorating participants to really make the change. We have some instructors that are really successful at it. They focus on the felt sense: it's in the way that they speak, their tone of voice, the way they use volume and pauses. It’s pointing out to the participants who feel hesitant or meek that they’re actually powerful and strong. We can let people know that they don’t have to make their voices soft and tender to be soft and tender people.
My training in OM has been helpful to me when I’m teaching health coaches how to connect with clients. The biggest thing we teach people is to take their attention off themselves and putting it on someone else because that is what has our participants feel sane, loved, heard and connected with, and that’s where all the change comes from. In OM, I've learned how to pay attention. I focus my thoughts and feeling and intuition on that place and hold it there over fifteen minutes. It’s the practice of refining my attention, and I now can bring that attention to all of my conversations and work and play.
This power to focus my attention has given me the ability to find calm in the middle of upset. My girlfriend got upset at me the other day. Previously, I’d have done whatever I could to try and fix it. I’ve done that in the past and it’s left my partners feeling shut down and unheard. One of the outgrowths of OM is that I’m able to bring this attention and not just pay attention but hear what’s going on for her, walk through it with her and have enough stability myself that it doesn’t knock me sideways. I don’t need to fix it anymore. I can listen to what’s going on with my attention on her. And usually, just the act of paying attention and hearing her out, will begin to solve the problem.