I used to feel like there were cobwebs in my brain. I could do mathematical calculations and succeed in my job, but there was a certain sense of mental fogginess that I couldn’t put my finger on. I had residual dissatisfaction and anger from past relationships. I felt a sense of confusion and mystery around women.
I thought of everything as a transaction. It felt like I had to earn everything and make people earn everything from me. I’d make up rules like, ‘If I run four days a week, my sex life will be better’ or ‘If I dazzle this person enough with trinkets, they’ll give me better sex’ or ‘Because I did something for someone else, they owe me something in return.’
Then, I was hosting a traveler who had done research on OM and wanted to go to an event, so I came along with her. I loved the people I met there. There was a sense of honesty in the way they interacted. Nobody cared what I did for a living. They weren’t interested in talking about the latest products or politics. It was a real, human-to-human connection. I wanted more of that, so I got trained to OM.
During my first OM, I had my usual mindset of ‘I’ve got to be the best. Will I set world records or not?’ But there was also a surprising simplicity and a feeling of being grounded. I realized this wasn’t the kind of thing I could be ‘the best’ at. There was no Best Stroker Award to win. All I had to do was follow the instructions and feel. ‘I’m here,’ I thought to myself. ‘Let’s focus on that.’
I was forced to reckon with a sense of humility in this practice where achievements and material things did not hold much sway. I had to become OK with who I was and what I was doing in the moment and just try to connect with this other person. The only thing that mattered was our connection in the moment. Facing this challenge repeatedly helped me find pleasure in uncomfortable situations.
I saw other places where these narratives of having to be the best were hurting me. When they came up, I caught myself and told myself, ‘It’s fine. Just do your thing, one step after another. Stay connected to yourself, to your coworkers, to everyone you interact with.’ I became more authentic in my interactions with everyone from baristas to receptionists.
Instead of focusing on external measurements of success, OM helped me turn inward and become aware of what sensations I was feeling, as well as the connection I felt between me and another person.
By helping me feel every sensation in my body without judgment, OM taught me the difference between happiness and joy. I used to seek happiness by checking boxes: get the best bottle of wine, go out with an attractive person, etc. But joy is about feeling okay with how things are and feeling curious about the experience I’m going through. Even if I’m in the dentist’s office and he’s about to poke a needle in the roof of my mouth, I can feel the chair and the AC and the humming of electrical motors around me and the steely sensation of equipment, and there’s a sense of curiosity and a feeling that I belong there. I can find joy in unhappy states.
I’m now better equipped to go through life’s ups and downs—in fact, I enjoy them. I know my good feelings will peak and end and then I may feel lonely, but I know I’ll come out of that as well. I have a sense of wellbeing, and my fogginess and cobwebs have disappeared.
Getting into my body has also improved my self-confidence. I used to feel insecure about my weight and believe that if I lost weight, I’d have this super sexy life. But OM helped me see that wasn’t what I really wanted. I wanted to be self-aware and okay with who I am and do things that were rewarding to me. After OMing for a while, I went skinny dipping for the first time. It was a liberating feeling: ‘This is what I look like. This is who I am.’
I really got into the practice of setting up the nest of the OM: getting the right pillows and blanket, cleaning the space, and making another person comfortable. I started seeing the beauty in these simple tasks.
When my mom came to visit a few months ago, I used what I’d learned from OM to be a thoughtful host. My newfound confidence allowed me to communicate on a deeper level with her than I had before. I went from going through the motions of parent-child banter to paying close attention and even discussing taboo topics like sex. She told me the days she spent there were some of the best days of her life because of the care she received. OM made me a better person, and I hope that’s something I never let go of.
Vin is a 36-year-old man living in San Francisco, CA