Finding Unconditional GratitudeBY BARRY STEIN
I wasn’t a young man when I came to OM. I was the age at which most people retire. I had just been retired, as it turned out, and very much against my will. After a long career as a scientist and an advocate, I had lost my job after speaking out against radiation exposure at the Children’s Hospital. This was a real danger to countless kids, and the higher-ups not only buried it, they pushed me out of my position for wanting the state to investigate it.
So much of my life had been work up until that point. I was divorced; I had no other close relationships, no trusted friends to whom I could open up. I was part of a close-knit Jewish community, and my faith had always been central to my life. Because of this controversy with the hospital, many people in my own congregation turned against me. They accused me of violating an obscure point of Jewish law, and though it was absurd, I had to leave. I considered moving to Israel, what they call making aliyah. I just didn’t feel strong enough or in the right state of mind to do it.
I was very depressed at that point. I had developed diabetes. I felt at absolute rock bottom.
At the same time, my relationships with women just weren’t working. I’d always thought women had a certain power over me, they gave me the approval I sought after and desired. I would try to serve women, buy them gifts and flowers, do whatever I could to bring them what I thought they wanted. I ended up pushing them away rather than drawing them in. I didn’t realize yet that they would only respect me if I could be clear about what I wanted to offer; I had to bring something to the table rather than doing whatever I thought would make them happy. I didn’t know it yet. I just told myself I wasn’t good enough, not handsome enough, not rich enough, not anything enough.
I started going to 12-Step programs. I was willing to try anything. One night I heard this remarkable speaker, and I stayed after the meeting to talk to her. It was raining, so I gave her a ride home. On the drive, she told me about OM, and how it changed so much for her. It gave me hope: it sounded like just what I needed in terms of changing my relationships with women.
My first OM was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I saw this beautiful, delicate woman offering her most vulnerable self to me. I was so taken with love for her in that moment, and the tremendous desire to offer whatever I could to the experience. I was very much a novice at OM but that single moment transformed my entire relationship with women, they ceased to be objects of fear for me. There were the awkward bits too – trying to find the clitoris, what does it look like and how do I touch it – and it was humorous in that regard. Still, there was this underlying sense of awe and wonder and love for this beautiful creation called women.
OM made me look at myself and go deeper in a way I had never done before. I was able, for the first time, to question this whole need for approval and acknowledgement. I shifted my focus to what I could bring to a relationship, and not just what I wanted out of it. What could I bring to a woman? I began to bring sensitivity from within myself and offer it in the OM, tuning into the stroking and my partner, finding resonance. I started to see that an OM is the ultimate unconditional transaction between two people. You don’t go there with expectations of this or that, not even an orgasm in the traditional sense of the word. If an orgasm happens, it’s great, but it’s not the goal.
I always tend to think three steps ahead. OM brought me into the present. If my mind starts to wander, I bring it back. I ask, what am I offering of myself into this process? Am I giving this my full attention moment by moment? Am I sensitive to her? Do I notice her breathing? Do I notice her feelings? I offer her my being in that moment. And as I kept doing that that, I began to transform. It wasn’t instant. It was a process of gradually becoming more comfortable in myself. I began to ask for the things I wanted. It was, I think, a healthy masculine renaissance, something I didn’t think was possible at this point in my life.
If you’d asked me when I first came to OM what I wanted, I’d have said I wanted a romantic relationship with a woman. I wanted relationships very badly. Now, I don’t have a romantic relationship and I’m not at all concerned. What I have now are friendships with women that are caring and loving. I’ve got women in my life with whom I feel good, with whom I’m comfortable. I’m myself with them. I don’t feel needy or inadequate. I just feel close to them. I have three or four of these deep friendships, and they are so valuable to me. I don’t feel any desperation to get married, or to meet someone to take care of me. I’m not as focused as I was on taking care of a woman either. Instead, there’s just a lot of mutual support and friendship. I see myself as a man with them, not just as a humble and confused servant.
I’m not lonely, even without a romantic partner. That sense of myself is entirely due to OM.
I guess that if you want to distill OM down to one thing, it’s love. OMing is all about love for your partner, love for yourself, love for everything. I’m forever grateful to have this practice in my life.