Mindful & MindLess

Middle Space

yoga exercise abstract

Think about it. It’s that stage in meditation when you’re in that place…in between sleep & wakefulness.  Meditation is kind of tricky if you’re not used to it.  It sounds easy enough but it takes practice…and more practice to be able to clue out all the surrounding clatter (there’s always distractions) and be completely still without actually falling asleep while remaining conscious.  At least that’s my unprofessional opinion – a*Yin & Yang effect. 

We can learn from our feline friends. I think everything you need to know about meditation can be taught by observing cats.  They are masters at relaxing and stillness while remaining alert.

Jia Jia likes to escape & meditate in his little hideaway spot.
Jia Jia likes to escape & meditate in this little hideaway beside the courtyard.

I’ve been contemplating meditation for several years but only recently experienced it.

I have a long way to go but I’m positive that over time I’ll be able to achieve this.  The very first time I was asked by the coach (yes, there’s a coach for starters) how I felt afterwards.  My answer: “it reminded me of napping in kindergarten except for hearing the rattling of dishes, people talking in another room and general outside disturbances.  Is there any way you can let them know that we’re in a practice so they can keep quiet for the duration?”

That’s when the coach replied that the whole purpose of meditation is to be able to quiet your mind even through the little (& larger) everyday outside distractions.  The next time I was much better at it and I’ll keep getting better.  Then I saw this:

Meditation & the big “O” – The Secrets of Orgasmic Meditation

We might just be the last people to this particular pajama party, but I recently found out that there’s an entire meditation practice that revolves around orgasms. Nicole Daedone—the creator of Orgasmic Meditation (OM) and the founder of its rapidly growing organization, OneTaste—explains it in broad terms: OM is to sex, as yoga is to fitness.  The goal of the practice? Experiencing more connection, happiness, vitality, and fulfillment—all possible, according to Daedone, when you have the power of Orgasm with a capital “O.” As Daedone explains below, she distinguishes the Orgasmic state (a larger state of consciousness) from the conventional definition of orgasm as climax (fleeting physical pleasure).

Daedone has studied Zen Buddhism, mystical Judaism, and semantics, and the practice of OM combines distinctive elements of her diverse background and expertise in surprising but thoughtful ways. Her company, OneTaste, has a presence in 30 cities around the globe, with tens of thousands of participants. Daedone is also the author of Slow Sex: The Art and Craft of the Female Orgasm. Check out her SXSW talk that explains how Orgasm and the internet share a common purpose. (Yes, you read that correctly.)  Here she answers some questions:

Q:   What is the practice of Orgasmic Meditation all about?

A:  It is a practice that combines the power and attention of meditation with the deeply human, deeply felt, and connected experience of orgasm.

When I first tried OM, I had a life-changing experience. It was so profound, so, “Oh! This is what is supposed to be!” that I began to investigate the question: what would happen if we rebuilt sex from the ground up, but this time included consciousness and spirituality. The same way that we have been moving from processed to whole foods, from mere fitness to yoga, OM shifted sex out of the dark, under the covers, from the shameful and often consumptive places where it used to be, and into the light. Here we can have experiences that foster our well-being. We take the most powerful impulse, the orgasm impulse, and approach it in an entirely new way. OM offers a practice through which we can harness this impulse that is a deliberate, repeatable method for accessing the orgasm state.

And there’s an important distinction that’s worth making here. I differentiate between climax and the orgasm state. Climax is a few seconds of physical experience, whereas the state of orgasm is continuous—more akin to an optimal state of consciousness brought about from the activation of the sex impulse. It’s that feeling of being so completely absorbed in an experience that there is no psychic chatter, no being “stuck in your head”; a falling away of the ego. When this happens, our sense of limitations falls away as well. In the orgasm state, we feel totally present and connected, as if a deeper intuitive sense has awakened. The state occurs both in the practice of OM itself, and it has cumulative positive effects that carry over into everyday life.

Q:  Why do you believe so many women are conflicted about orgasm? And why do you think it’s so difficult for so many women to achieve orgasm?

A: I’ve worked with tens of thousands of women and I’ve not once seen a woman who couldn’t access the orgasm state. I’ve met women who can’t climax in the way a man does, but I’ve never seen a woman who isn’t capable of entering the state I’m talking about. And women are conflicted because the options available to them are not the options that suit their bodies! They’re based almost entirely on a confining definition of climax. For instance, reading arousal in a woman’s body is often more challenging than in a man’s. We’re conditioned to think “orgasm” can only be present when there’s a huge peak and release of energy (with all the attendant thrashing and moaning). But a women’s arousal can be so much more subtle. You can tune into it through swelling, juices, contractions of the vaginal walls, pulsing, buzzing, tingling, and so many other sensations. Many women may have these experiences, but discount them because they don’t conform to the conventional definition we have of orgasm.

Not only that, but women also contend with a much higher vigilance center—you know that part of the mind that’s always on the lookout for threat or danger. To get our minds to relax, root into our bodies and simply feel, is a much more challenging task for women than for men. We’re thinking about picking up the kids, the meeting at work tomorrow, how our bodies look, and on and on. So to have a practice that allows a woman to soften and shift her attention to how she actually feels is invaluable. It’s like she gets to have a sober blackout, to totally relax, and come back refreshed and with a whole new perspective.

Q:  How can we incorporate some of the tenets of OM into our sex lives?

A:  There are 10 key tenets of OM that we can take into all areas of life. For instance, at One Taste, we say, “let your desire lead.” As women, we are often taught that our desire is indulgent or selfish, but true desire is at the foundation of all great things—from relationships to innovation. It’s the only force powerful enough to pull us out of the everyday routine of life, or the muck and mire we sometimes get stuck in. I’ve always noticed that beneath every complaint is actually a desire, so we train women to go straight for speaking the desire. And you know what? Women are positively shocked to discover that their partners are dying to hear specific instruction. I had one couple come into an OM class who had given up after 17 years of a fairly challenging sex life. We did a simple exercise, “Just instruct him on what you desire, the pressure, the speed, the intensity.” At one point in the session, the husband began to cry. He said all along he had just wanted to know how to have her feel good. Desire, it turns out, is vital for human connection; and we often discover that what seems selfish is, in fact, anything but.

Another tenet is “feel over formula.” Bookshelves are overflowing with books on sex techniques, magazines are chock full of “How to Please Him in Bed” articles, and yet no one seems to be finding what they are looking for. The reason is that what they are looking for is not in the technique. What makes yoga invaluable is not just a series of postures, but the added dimension of awareness one develops. That “something extra” is what we are looking for in intimacy as well. So what we teach are processes that train people how to viscerally sense each other. An example is touching for your pleasure—showing people how to touch for the pleasure in their own hands, not entirely unlike the way that they would stroke velvet or their pets. Not to get an effect, but to be present in the pleasure in your own body and with each other. The small miracle is that when we are actually there with each other fully and leave behind the toys and the feather boas or the complicated lingerie, we discover that the simple connection is what we’ve actually been craving all along. And we can begin to extend this into our whole lives. We learn to take pleasure from the experience. Not living from a formula, but from how good something feels.

Q:  Your first book is called Slow Sex. What is slow sex, and why do you believe it’s better?

A:  I was super turned on to the Slow Movement when I wrote Slow Sex. The Slow philosophy is not merely about doing everything slowly, it’s about doing everything at the right speed, in their tempo giusto, or exact time. It’s about savoring experience rather than rushing through it. And, most importantly, it’s about taking the time to nourish. I often talk about the Western Woman’s Mantra: “I eat too much, I work too much, I give too much, and yet there is still this hunger that I cannot feed.” It just so happens that this hunger is only fed in the slowness of human connection—coming back to basics, reprioritizing our well-being over our “doing.”

As far as being better, I have an interesting vantage point in the world. When people ask me what I do, I say, “I teach about orgasm.” Immediately following the “wow” (it usually looks like their circuits are a bit blown), they will often respond with some variation of: “ah, thanks, but my sex life is just fine,” or, “my sex life is good.” And after 20 years of practice, and after having been one of those people myself at one point, I want to say this: fine and good is not good enough. Inside your own body, you carry the most powerful drive on the planet that can be used not just to feel good but to evolve you as a human being, to incline you towards empathy, connection, and generosity both as evidenced scientifically and experientially. My wish is that our old-guard view of sex as recreational or indulgent gets replaced with the perspective that it can be used for personal and collective evolution in the most real and practical way imaginable. To use a Buddhist expression, we can turn poison into medicine. We can shift from sex as consumptive, porn-riddled, and denigrating, to a practice that heals, connects, and empowers.

Q:  Is there really such a thing as a 15-minute orgasm?

A:  Well, I hesitated to say four hours, because I didn’t think anyone would believe me…

I remember the first time I tried OM. My partner was stroking and nothing happened. As per usual. I was thinking this whole thing was either a very strange or very stupid idea. Or both. I had a typical range of scattered thoughts: I must be doing this wrong. I shouldn’t have eaten, my stomach is poochy. He’s kinda creepy. I wonder if we’ll get married…

Then something else broke open and I was immersed into a totally different psychological dimension. Suddenly, I started crying. I felt like something that had built up inside me—something I didn’t even know was there before—was suddenly thawing. I felt a hit of genuine empathy in that moment. Keep in mind that I had experienced universal connection in sitting meditation, but now I was experiencing it while connected to another human being. And once you have that experience everything begins to rearrange itself. Everything that blocked connection fell away and what had previously been a spotty glimpse of what was possible, was now simply on.

It was my first visceral experience of the orgasm state. And the more I practiced Orgasmic Meditation, the more my capacity to know and understand intuitively what was happening with people, to feel them, and to actually have room for them, increased. Dramatically. I was cultivating the capacity to maintain stillness of mind in more and more intense situations, which in turn allowed for presence of mind in all situations. It was not additive growth, though; it was exponential. It became something I could feel everywhere.

Q:  If you could change one thing about our common perception of orgasm and sex, what would it be?

A:  To date, we have been squandering one of our most powerful resources: the sex impulse. We have been using it, haphazardly, recreationally, to blow off steam when, if channeled correctly, it could be used to light up the entire power grid of connection. Orgasm—capital “O”—is so, so much more than the brief, fleeting climax we have been taught to think of it as. When we harness our sexual energy, we change the whole of our lives and become more empathetic, connected, loving human beings.

I want people to truly understand that how you get where you are going profoundly affects what you get when you arrive. We have not been taught simple ways to access what we are looking for that contribute to our overall well-being, restore pleasure, and in the process make us better human beings. Orgasm has a big promise: union. Tibetan Buddhists use it as a metaphor for enlightenment, and yet we have not seen it deliver. Until now.

Q: You’ve said that orgasm has the ability to increase our bandwidth for connection and attention. How does this extend outside of the bedroom, and is there science behind it?

A:  OM changes the way we respond to sensation; it changes our brain. It strengthens the parasympathetic nervous system (“rest and digest”) as opposed to the sympathetic nervous system (“fight or flight”). And it affects our metabolism, heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and brain chemistry, and brings about a state of extended deep relaxation. Similar to other mindfulness practices like meditation and yoga, these changes make it possible to develop attention and access flow states—the ability to be “in the zone.” (Recent research in Los Angeles and Philadelphia found that just three months of OM can help put you into the same alpha brain state as three years of transcendental meditative practice!)

OM also shifts our center of intelligence from the cortex system to the limbic system—which allows us to feel things like intimacy and empathy, and which has a flexible capacity—expanding our appetite for connection.

Maybe most significantly, OM bolsters the “happy hormones”—like oxytocin, dopamine, and prolactin—that are known to make us feel good (minus the less sweet side effects of medication). Oxytocin, in particular, plays an important role when it comes to how we bond with others. Symptoms of low levels of oxytocin include everything from poor social involvement to low libido, sleep disturbances, weight gain, and depression—and low oxytocin seems to be playing a big part in the breakdown of human connection. Friends who are scientists have suggested to me that female orgasm may actually exist solely for the purpose of human connection. There are two scenarios in which a woman’s body really pumps out oxytocin (which is often called the bonding hormone): childbirth and orgasm. In terms of biological evolution, it may just be that we need oxytocin in order to keep us bonded to one another, to keep our culture together.

Q:  We heard you were once going to be a nun…

A: It often surprises people that on my way to becoming a Buddhist, I discovered this practice. In actuality, both are about developing consciousness and connection. Now they just call me “the nun that gets some.”

Ommmm….this sounds more like my kind of meditation!   

Source: GooP

*Yin Yang  

the short version:

Being and non-being produce each other.
Difficult and easy complement each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low oppose each other.
Fore and aft follow each other                                                                                            

from the Tao Te Ching

UPS – (you will see this from time to time on my posts).  It means I will be delivering an upcoming post soon on a specific topic.  I want to delve deeper into Yin & Yang because it’s an interesting ancient philosophy about contrary forces which may actually be complementary. Yin Yang is perhaps the most known and documented concept used within Taoism).  Stay tuned….

 

 

 

 

 

what MATTERS: Mind-Body-Spirit

I’ve been giving more thought lately to the fact that there might be something to this mind.body.spirit (MBS) fixation.

to be more at peace
to be more at peace

MBS: It’s nothing new in life but now it seems we’re getting it shoved in our faces more and more. What with almost more yoga studios opening up than coffee shops and the latest trend (which is really an ancient practice) of meditative workshops.  I think it means we need help or at least direction.  MBS pretty much covers everything.  It encompasses our ‘whole’ being.  Infact the three work together as a unit to create a ‘whole’.  If all three are in sync you have more power. I thought I would touch on the subject of how it has affected me personally.  I’m working on all three areas simultaneously to expand my mind and improve my thinking, my body and create a general feeling of lightness and well being.

MIND

The mind is an amazing tool.  There really is no limit to how much you can learn if you set your mind to it.  You have to challenge yourself otherwise it’s too easy to get lazy.  I’m opening a new chapter in my life. I used to read all kinds of books so now I’m trying to get back to reading more often. I prefer non-fiction or fiction based on fact.  Books like Kite-Runner and Poisonwood Bible I couldn’t put down. I like books that teach you something.  I’m interested in language and am trying to make more of an effort to brush up on my Spanish. My blog was created out of having an inquisitive nature and an interest in many topics and a forum for things I care about. I’m wondering if I’ll ever run out of new things to talk about since I’ve written well over 1,000 posts to date. I never gave the numbers much thought until the WordPress people alerted me to that fact and said congrats.

I have an active imagination which sometimes works against me.  It lay dormant for quite some time but it’s being re-activated.

Once in grade school we had to write a composition incorporating satire so mine was entitled “Jet Black and the Seven Warts” (a rendition of the Snow White fairytale in case you didn’t get it).  It was about a beautiful black girl who had some issues to deal with.  The warts were really euphemisms for her troubles and her not being able to get past what she saw as warts and not feeling worthy.  The teacher took me aside but I got an A+.   

I try to use imagination in cooking too by taking different recipes and making them my own and even inventing new ones.  I like variety.  If I try something in a restaurant that I like I’ll try to re-create it at home as best I can without having the recipe.

When I was little and found out that the meat I was eating came from slaughtering an animal I told my mother I wanted to be a vegetarian.  Luckily I liked vegetables but she didn’t like that idea so she played a harmless little mind game with me telling me that there was another kind of meat that was really made out of vegetables, not animal…not too far off from what you can get today with tofu & tempeh, etc.  Anyway, I believed her and would always ask “what kind of meat are we eating, the kind from the animal or the one they made to taste like that?”  Of course we were really eating the animal but by the time I found out the truth 15 years old it was too late.  To this day I don’t eat veal, rabbit or lamb (unless we go to Stepho’s Greek restaurant and someone else orders the roast lamb & I have to sample it because it’s so good).  I have a thing against eating baby animals – it’s better if they have a life before I dig in.  I do have a conscience but it is somewhat hypocritical.

My mom had a terrible birth with me.  Infact she nearly died and didn’t see me for about a week later.  But then she went on to have two more.  Apparently you can train your mind to forget the pain.

I listened to Shirley Maclaine talk about her own journey at the Unique Lives event and explain how you have to listen to your gut and follow your intuition.  Sometimes your mind tries to play tricks with you so you have to sort out what is real and what is not.  Sometimes that’s a challenge but I think deep down we do know the answer. I believe with a strong mind and will you can create the life you want.

A healthy mind can only be found in a healthy body – Nelson Mandela

BODY

Since I took my first running workshop about 5 years ago I’ve been running ever since.  My very first run was the Vancouver Sun Run 10K and when it was over I went home to a big surprise party that my family and friends threw as if I had just completed running the Boston Marathon.  How could I top that (I mean the party)?  From there the next goal was to train for the Nike Women’s half marathon in San Francisco but the real reason was to get the Tiffany necklace  handed out at the finish line by a handsome fireman wearing a suit. I did this run twice and last year the Vancouver SeaWheeze.  Nike wasn’t only about the necklace only a bit, more the fireman it was a fun run through the streets of San Francisco and went to prove to myself that I could actually complete it.

Now when I’m out running by myself my mind runs right along with me and I think about a lot of things during my much shorter runs.

In the day of the Jane Fonda Workout (I once went to her studio and took a JF class in Beverly Hills – wore a cute outfit with matching headband ) I never felt that yoga was the answer to getting in shape because it wasn’t fast enough.

I used to not be into it so much, preferring workout classes using weights instead but now I’ve gone back.  I’m not a super yogi type girl but I enjoy the variety of styles and postures and am starting to see results especially when we focus on the core.  The core is very important and this time I want to get right down to the abs.  I’ve never really had abs (certainly never a six-pack) but I always knew they were only too shy to come out.  Now I’m starting to see some signs.  I’ve never felt sexier. It makes me want to work harder on getting leaner, more defined and fit.  Not skinny (I don’t like skinny) just in the best shape possible for myself.  It’s a personal goal.  Especially since my last trip when I came back and couldn’t fit into a pair of jeans I wanted to wear.  I just found my tightest pair and was able to not only get into them but do up the zipper (because getting into them doesn’t mean having to do them up). It’s because I don’t hold back on holidays.  For the most part I eat really healthy but I have to have a piece of chocolate or something sweet every day.  I’m crazy about all kinds of cookies. If it’s true that you are what you eat then I’m the United Nations.  I enjoy food too much and don’t exercise any enough self control.  It’s one (there are a few more) of my weaknesses.  It’s just that this last trip it caught up to me.  But now I just have to use my mind to control my body to lift my spirit. 

SPIRIT

A healthy spirit can only be found in a healthy mind – me

Okay this is a tough one, how do you describe spirit.  It’s just a feeling right? As in you either have a good spirit or you don’t.  No, it’s more complicated than that.

For whatever reason I do believe in karma so I try to be mindful because there’s always that little voice that says “it will come back to you if you’re not careful.”

It’s trying to do the best you can.  I realize that’s it’s very difficult to be all things to all people I’ve at times spread myself too thin and it doesn’t really work to anyone’s advantage, especially mine. I’m trying to let go of some things that are beyond my control and not let my emotions get the better of me – mind over matter.  So far I haven’t successfully succeeded but I will. My intuition is very good and I’m trying to pay attention to tap more into my *psychic ability which I think is about clueing in to the energy around us.  When you’re able to tap in, that’s when things begin to open up and all kinds of magical stuff starts to happen. It’s eerie but fascinating what you can draw to you if you open up your heart. This is truly “the secret.” I was talking to a friend the other day about a person we both know who we find to be emotionally draining and so we discussed having boundaries and having to say “no” and be okay with it.  We have to be giving but we have to protect ourselves at the same time.  Negative energy is not healthy so if you experience that trapped feeling you have to let go.  Looking after yourself is not a case of being egotistical or selfish it just makes you stronger.  I think we have to look after ourselves before we can look after another.

Basically in a nutshell improving our MBS is work in itself but rewarding and it will help to make us better human beings.

Balance your mind, body and soul.  If any of these three things are out of balance our lives will be in a state of constant turmoil and unease – walking my talk.

Photo: d. king
Photo: d. king

 Any thoughts?

Psychic messages: Just as I was typing in the word “SeaWheeze” above I heard my phone message me.  It was from the “SeaWheeze” people letting me know that friends and family can sign up to volunteer at the run adding – “If they’re anything like you, we love them already.”

On Sunday a friend was over for dinner.  As soon as I said “let’s open up some bubbly” her phone had a new message.  She showed me what it was – a friend sent her one of those moving images….of bubbles!