(FIRST PUBLISHED: August 2015, written in 2011 or 2012)
I’m on retreat right now and can’t post. But here is an article I wrote a few years ago and never published anywhere until now. It’s kind of long. Sorry.
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You’d think that an organization whose aim is to convince people that masturbation is a religious sacrament would have a sense of absurdity about it. But the folks at One Taste seem deeply offended at any hint that maybe the idea of diddling girls as a meditation practice is sort of, you know, hilarious.
Their technique is simple. First you build what they call a “nest.” Basically, you put a yoga mat or blanket on the floor and a girl lies down on it with her pants off and spreads her legs. A fully clothed boy sits on a cushion to her right and scissors his legs over her at about waist level, one over her and the other under. Then he takes his lubed up right thumb and sticks it kind of in her vagina but not very deeply. This area, they informed me, is called the introitus, which is something I’m not sure I really needed to know.
The boy then takes his also-lubed-up left index finger and rubs her clitoris with tiny strokes in a very specific way on a very specific point (the lower left, to be precise). The practice lasts for exactly fifteen minutes. Then he wipes her off and pushes down on her privates with both hands for a while.
Afterward the couple shares with each other a moment of sensation that was memorable to them. This moment is supposed to be expressed as dryly and clinically as possible, focusing only on physical sensations and avoiding any hint that anything emotional might have been shared in the experience. She puts on her pants and then you’re done.
During this “meditation,” the couple is supposed to keep drawing their attention back to the point of connection. For the woman that means concentrating on the feelings of ecstasy generated by a man (it doesn’t necessarily have to be a male who does this, by the way) rubbing the most sensitive part of her body. For the man that means concentrating on how his finger keeps slipping off the target area while three other people keep complaining that he’s doing it wrong. Or at least that’s how it was for me. I’ll explain.
I was invited to try out the Orgasmic Meditation practice, or OM as they call it, because in my book Sex Sin and Zen I made some not entirely positive remarks – though not entirely negative remarks either – concerning my brief visit a year before with the organization’s founder and a little tour I was given of their group’s communal living space, a reconverted downtown San Francisco hotel.
A year after that meeting, when my book had come out, I met a woman from the One Taste group – I’ll call her Rebecca – at a cookout in San Francisco. She complained bitterly about what I’d said in my book. “Well I never actually tried the practice!” I said. My initial meeting had just been to sit and talk with the organization’s founder. This had been arranged by one of her students who I had befriended when he and I were both staying at Tassajara Zen Monastery for the summer.
Rebecca asked if I wanted to try the actual practice and said she’d volunteer to be my partner. Never one to turn down a chance to investigate new permutations of the dharma, I accepted. And yes, I was not completely un-motivated by the prospect of seeing Rebecca naked and rubbing her privates. She was cute! Still, at that point I was open to all possibilities. I was skeptical, sure. But I was open.
And it came to pass that a week or so later there I was in their headquarters on Russ Avenue in San Francisco, rubbing my index finger on Rebecca’s clit as two senior instructors, who I’ll call Richard and Angela, looked on and made comments about the various mistakes I kept making.
Richard and Angela’s job is to coach newbies on how to do the practice. One of the perks of the job is that they get to see a lot of wet young pussy. They would like you to believe that does not matter to them, that they are in this only to spread a gospel of sexual freedom they believe can save the world from its ills.
Even so, Angela kept sighing deeply and even moaning occasionally, observably turned on by the spectacle of me masturbating a hot young girl right in front of her. I wondered if she had any idea how obvious she was being. Richard kept his vocalizations in check. But I didn’t doubt he was getting just as worked up.
As for me, the entire operation was far too clinical to produce much of a reaction down there, if you know what I mean. The only time the exercise made my naughty bits perk up were the moments when Rachael squeezed my thigh in response to some stroke I’d gotten right in spite of Angela and Richard’s criticisms. Even so, my testosterone level was rising to fever pitch, though I was only barely aware of it at the time. We’ll get to that later.
I’m not exactly a stranger to meditation. I’ve been practicing Zen meditation daily for over 30 years, having started the practice while I was quite young. I was ordained a Zen teacher in 1999. I’ve written five books about Zen, some of which have been translated into several languages. One of those, the one Rebecca got upset about, was about the sexual aspects of Buddhist life.
Though I’m a monk I’m not a celibate one. As I said, monks ordained in Japanese-based Buddhist traditions are not required to take an oath of celibacy. Generally their initial training is celibate by default since it’s very intensive and leaves little time for anything else. But once they’re done with that, they can pretty much have sex with whoever they want. So as a meditating monk who has sex, I can say with some authority that what One Taste teaches seems to me to be neither good sex nor good meditation. Worse yet, it’s not even very much fun.
One Taste is the brainchild of Nicole Daedone, an attractive and well-spoken woman who knows her way around the various current buzzwords on meditation. She smiles warmly while she describes her technique as being a way to get “inside of an experience.” “Orgasmic meditation,” she says, “is the practice of mindful sexuality.” It’s a method to “get here, in this moment.” Her delivery is as spot on and media perfect as any high tech exponent of the Upper Middle Way – the current manifestation of the Buddha’s famed Middle Way re-imagined as a commodity for the wealthy and bored. Her talks are filled with all the right clichés and with intimations that she possesses cosmic knowledge she’d be glad to sell you.
I was thankful that during my initial visit nobody ever brought up Tantric Buddhism and its practices of sexual meditation. Those techniques are very different from what One Taste advocates. Monks and nuns who practiced Tantric sexual meditation were expected to train in more standard styles of meditation for years before they were entrusted with the secrets to the sexual stuff. One Taste sends you right into sex-based meditation from the very start. Tantric sexual meditation techniques are closely guarded mysteries revealed only to initiates. One Taste will sell you a DVD to show you how it’s done. Obviously, we are dealing here with something poles apart from sexual Tantra.
The orientation I attended before the actual diddling started felt like a job interview. Whenever I tried to make jokes, Angela played along politely while Richard seemed like he could barely contain his urge to smack me and call me a blasphemer.
There were a lot of buzzwords thrown around during this orientation session. As with any cult, One Taste has a whole lot of special lingo one must master to be “in” with the group. For example, they talked a lot about “safe porting,” whatever that is. I had no clue. They also seemed desperate to fit any reaction of mine into the categories they had established. So whatever I said, they had a definition for it. I kept trying to trip them up, but they were smooth.
During this orientation session, while she and Richard were briefing me on how I should masturbate Rebecca, Angela kept sending Richard out of the room to fetch things for her like an obedient manservant, like the rubber surgical gloves they insisted I wear during the session. As I watched him submissively scurry to fulfill her demands, it appeared to me that she was more than simply his senior as a teacher. His submissiveness went beyond what would be required in a normal working relationship. To each their own, though. But what a perfect place for men who enjoy being sexual submissive to women. Not that there is anything wrong with that!
The session finished in the required fifteen minutes without Rebecca ever actually climaxing. I pointed this out, and said their orgasmic meditation system seemed to be lacking a key component. They didn’t get what I was implying. So I said, “You seem to have a new definition of the word orgasm.”
“No,” Richard said, in a rare instance of taking any action before being told to do so by his mistress, “We’re reclaiming the word.” Whatever, dude, I thought. People I know don’t use the word orgasm that way and never will.
After the session was done Angela asked me to tell her what I felt about it. I tried my best to relate my experience to meditation. But this was not meditation. Not by a long shot. It was masturbation. They rhyme, but they’re not the same. So I related it to sex. And it was hard to be very positive about it because, as I said, as sex, it was kind of lousy.
I remember thinking, as I was diddling Rebecca, “I don’t usually do this sort of thing with a pair of gloves on.” And about how I could have done a better job with my tongue. And how much I disliked being monitored. Don’t get me wrong. I can understand the turn-on potential of having sex in front of an audience, but not an audience of critics.
Yet for all that, I didn’t have much of a strong opinion one way or the other about OM’ing until a little while after my trial session was done. Up till then it just seemed merely weird and pretentious. Lots of people like to do things they’d be doing anyhow and then calling them “spiritual practice.” That’s fine.
But walking around Amoeba Records in Haight-Ashbury a few hours later I noticed that I felt like I wanted to punch somebody. I was not going to do that, mind you. But all the testosterone coursing through my veins was demanding action of some kind.
I have meditated a lot, and no meditation session has ever made me feel so intensely aggressive. The only time I can recall feeling anything similar was when I was flirting furiously for several hours over the phone with this woman I knew but had never actually had sex with. We made plans to get together that night after discussing in some detail what we would do. Then she just vanished. Apparently something came up and she went and did that instead.
This is what is commonly called “blue balls.” It can make a male feel very aggressive because he has a highly elevated testosterone level and nowhere to go with it. I tend to assume this feeling can account for lots of acts of seemingly random violence.
I texted Rebecca and said I’d like to discuss the session. She initially seemed interested. But a little while later sent me another text saying she was too tired from her day at work at One Taste to hang out. She asked how I felt about it. I texted back that she and her whole group had their heads so far up their own asses they’d never figure out anything. That was uncouth of me, but I wanted to give her some hint of how the practice had affected me. I couldn’t even blame her for not wanting to hang out. Hell, at that moment I didn’t really want to hang out with me either!
Meditation seeks calming and balance. Orgasmic meditation, at least as far as my experience goes, seems to be incapable of that. It sends the participants’ hormones into overdrive and leaves them hanging there. That is the nature of the bodily reactions the technique works with and this really can’t be changed. I suppose you could just have some sex afterward and get some release, but that’s discouraged. You’re supposed to have a pure OM experience instead.
For a man, I can’t see that going anywhere very good. I don’t think my blue balls reaction would be at all atypical for any heterosexual male who engaged in the practice. It’s hard for me to imagine how they deal with all this runaway testosterone at the refurbished hotel where many of the OM people live together. It must make things kind of tense and weird at all times.
It’s not just hormone overdrive either. I also wonder how they deal with the super-charged sexual atmosphere of that place. I got a very brief tour during my initial visit. Just walking down the hall, I could hear couples engaged in OM’ing with their doors wide open. I’m not sure I could manage living in a place run like a fantasy college dorm from a porn video. It’s certainly not conducive to anything I would call a meditative lifestyle.
Look. I’m all for people trying on whatever lifestyles they please as long as nobody is seriously harmed in the process. I wouldn’t denounce the Playboy Mansion, for example. But the Playboy Mansion is honest. It’s about hedonistic pleasure for the rich and privileged. Nobody pretends the Playboy Mansion is an ashram.
It’s hard to know quite what One Taste is about. Much of their promotion material seems geared toward selling it as a kind of couples’ therapy thing. The meditation aspect is downplayed in a lot of this material. But it appears to me that the insiders see it as much more than that.
“It’s a cult!” a monk at San Francisco Zen Center told me the minute I mentioned One Taste to him. It’s hard to disagree. Their organization has all the hallmarks of a cult, the charismatic leader, the special language, believers all living together, lots of weird rituals, etc. But then again San Francisco Zen Center has all of that too, except these days they try to stay away from having a single charismatic leader. Not that it doesn’t still happen anyway – though they have diversified to the point where no one person can control the whole organization. Anyhow, I digress. That’s a different discussion.
I can’t make any blanket statements about what One Taste is or can be to its followers or to you, dear reader, should you wish to check it out. And I have to say that they were nice people, for what that’s worth. I have heard that masturbation demonstrations like the one I witnessed routinely cost a couple hundred dollars. It was kind of them to let me do one on the house. Don’t go in expecting a free strip show like I got. I can say, though, that this is not a style of meditation – or even a type of sex for that matter – that I am interested in pursuing.
Dogen called his style of zazen meditation the peaceful gate to joy and repose. To me that sounds more enticing that One Taste’s expensive gate to culty buzzwords and blue balls.
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EUROPEAN (Jijuyu Zanmai) TOUR 2018
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