Slowing Down to Feel

BY NOAH

Putting my children to bed used to make me feel uncomfortable. I'd tuck them in, give a quick kiss on the forehead, say good-night, failing to bask in their innocence and sweetness. I ignored their silky hair, their big round eyes, the warmth of their little bodies. Maybe I was threatened by their vulnerability, which hinted at feelings I was trying to avoid in myself. Rushing through the ritual, I turned out the light and went back to work or my hobbies, returning to a sense of competence and control in a realm that felt safe.

Mine was the ideal American life. I had a wife and three kids, a big house, a high-level position in a bustling start-up. I went mountain biking, played ice hockey, golf, tennis, racquetball, played violin, guitar, piano, trumpet, built tech projects, wrote a blog and a book on software development, participated in hackathons, church events, backpacking, and traveling. I tried to find fulfillment and purpose by filling up my life with activities.

But I felt extremely disconnected at my core. The more things I collected and tried to do, the more I felt like I was living a lie. I was supposed to be happy and grateful, but actually I was miserable and depressed. One day in my office, I broke down in tears and cried out, “Dear God, if there is a God, please tell me what to do. If this is all life is, it's not worth continuing.”

A few weeks later, I was traveling for work to New York City. I remember being in my hotel, just going from the hotel room to the job every day and thinking to myself, Man, I'm right here next to New York City, I should try to find something interesting to do. I searched online and found an event that talked about OM, highlighting connection, communication, desire and intimacy. Yes, that’s what I was looking for. 

At the event I met a group of people who were practicing OM. They had authenticity, genuine joy, a sense of connection—everything I was missing. Instead of trying to fill an inner void, they were happy just being. The electricity in the air touched a chord deep inside me that said, “Yes, this is what I need.”

I took a class to learn the basics of the practice. When I asked for my first OM, I felt incredibly awkward. At the same time, I was moved by the level of simplicity and honesty involved in the act of asking. During the stroking, I was really nervous and stuck in my head, trying hard to do it right. 

As I continued in the practice, I realized I couldn't stay on the spot – the point of highest sensation – unless I was absolutely present to my physical sensations. I learned to focus on the stroking so I could slow down and feel more with each stroke, in all its flavors. The clitoris is so tiny, and it contains so much sensation. As a guy, I suspect women feel a hundred times more than we do. With attention concentrated on that small spot, the feeling is amplified so high that it actually gets through to me, and I can feel it. I can plug into a powerhouse of energy.  

I kept practicing, sometimes several times a day. I was like a balloon being filled up, expanding as I connected to the intense sensations and emotions I felt inside instead of trying to avoid my feelings. I started to notice many patterns that were holding me back in my life. It was clear that I was keeping myself endlessly busy to avoid the uncomfortable emotions under the surface. The more I OMed, the more I was able to stay present with what I was feeling at other times. I learned to relish each thought or interaction, even if it was painful. 

My wife and I had a really honest conversation that made us see we wanted different things in life, and we decided to separate. Meanwhile, the relationship with my kids totally changed. I began to treasure the depth of feeling I can experience with my children. I've learned how to really be present with them, to soak up the time I spend with them.  

OM has taught me so much that I can apply in daily life. When I took my children to the Texas Renaissance Festival, I set up the whole outing with a solid container. In OM, the container is what we call the rules that help us know what's going to happen and provide external safety so we can keep our focus on the connection. For the festival, I had it all organized so we could fully enjoy the experience and then close it out beautifully at the end. In the past, I wouldn't even have taken my kids on a trip like that. It would have been too much work, and the overstimulation would have made me scattered and tense. But OM has taught me how to relax and enjoy high-sensation situations, a valuable skill for a parent raising three children.

I'm working now as a software development manager in a high-stress environment, working on core technologies that drive the Internet. My team pointed out to me how the teams around us were burning out, with people leaving right and left, but our group was actually having fun. Even though it's intense, we feel it's manageable. They said I was setting the tone for the team to take that approach and stay empowered and lively. So the effects of OM ripple out. 

When I was growing up, I witnessed people at church experiencing a sense of power and connection to something bigger. They reached that state through prayer and devotion, but the church practices didn't line up for me. Now through OM, through stroking, feeling, staying present and curious, I've found my own sense of connection to something bigger. It's what I've always longed for.